BUYERS shrugged off tough new cooling measures and an uncertain economic outlook to snap up a record 3,138 new private homes last month.
The record number includes 725 executive condominium (EC) units - the highest monthly figure since EC sales resumed in October 2010. Take those out and last month's sales number falls to 2,413 homes - second only to the 2,772 non-EC private units sold in July 2009.
Transactions shot up last month after developers launched a string of projects, putting far more homes up for grabs than in January and far ahead of the drought in December when the latest round of cooling measures kicked in.
That rush of new supply ignited the market and sent sales soaring above the already robust level of 2,077 in January.
But the large number of projects in the market meant that the number of launched but unsold units also hit an all-time high of 7,586.
Last month's uptick was mainly from the city fringe, where sales increased more than fivefold compared with January, while suburban home sales of 1,830 units held firm. Mass market sales made up more than 75 per cent of the market.
Experts said developers are building on January's strong sales momentum and launching projects while buying sentiment is still positive. Low interest rates, the flush of liquidity in the market and the lack of alternative investments also continue to support new home sales.
When asked at a leadership talk yesterday to comment, CapitaLand chief executive and president Liew Mun Leong noted that the underlying demand for homes was still strong. 'If you look at the statistics, the last five to six years, there was an increase of 320,000 people but the increase in completed homes was only 73,000, so there is still a gap between actual demand versus what is available.'
Mr Alan Cheong, director of research and consultancy at Savills Singapore, said the run-up in the stock market last month could have been key in boosting sentiment although low mortgage rates remained the main demand driver.
Developers also held back on launches in December, especially after the shock of the additional buyer's stamp duty, said PropNex Realty chief executive Mohammed Ismail.
Developers launched almost 3,600 units last month, 35 per cent more than in January, noted Mr Lee Sze Teck, senior manager of research and consultancy at Dennis Wee Group.
'The strong buying interest was probably sparked by well-located projects and attractive pricing by developers. The buying momentum could probably continue for a few months,' he added. 'It remains to be seen whether the Government will step in with more cooling measures.'
ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said one- and two-bedroom apartments that have a relatively low overall quantum of between $400,000 and $900,000 sold well. Buyers are typically investors or owner-occupiers.
The top-selling projects Parc Rosewood, which moved 380 units last month at a median price of $994 per sq ft (psf), and Guillemard Edge, which sold 275 homes at $1,215 psf, both have a large number of smaller homes.
Experts said that barring any unexpected events, this month's sales figures are expected to remain strong, powered again by mass-market homes. Demand in the city centre is expected to remain subdued, with only 11 homes priced above $2,500 psf sold last month.
Separately, the Government released four sites for sale that can yield 2,415 homes this month. These consist of two EC sites in Woodlands Avenue 5 and Tampines Central 7, launched yesterday, that can yield about 1,300 housing units.
Another two sites in Tampines Avenue 10 - one on the confirmed list and the other on the reserve list - will be launched for sale on March 28. A total of 1,115 homes can be built on them...
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Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang