Monday, June 18, 2012

'Sky Habitat effect' lifts sales in other estates


Straits Times: Sat, Jun 16
INCREASING numbers of buyers are turning their interest back to some housing projects that seemed to have run out of puff, thanks to what some agents are calling the Sky Habitat effect.

Sky Habitat is the CapitaLand's 509-unit project in Bishan Central that grabbed headlines in mid-April with record high prices of about $1,700 per sq ft (psf).

That level of pricing put it on a par with prime condos and while sales have been tepid since its launch, it seems to have ignited interest in some estates launched before Sky hit the market.

City fringe and city centre projects with comparable or lower prices now look increasingly attractive while similar suburban estates have also gathered more attention.

While new home sales were buoyant in March and nearly hit a three-year high in April, consultants do say that if a new project is launched at a record price it often creates a ripple effect which lifts both new sales and resales in neighbouring developments.

Buyers told The Straits Times they came across many property agents using the Sky Habitat pricing as a benchmark comparison.

Thomson Grand and Rochelle at Newton and My Manhattan in Simei were launched before Sky and have all recorded increased sales in recent months.

GPS Alliance chief executive Jeffrey Hong noted that the 361-unit Thomson Grand, which is near Sky Habitat, enjoyed higher sales once the CapitaLand project came into the picture.

'We've heard of some agents calling back old clients, marketing Thomson Grand to them again. The price difference between both projects is about $500 psf; this means savings of $500,000 for a 1,000 sq ft apartment,' he added.

The 99-year leasehold project found only three buyers in January but sales gradually climbed to 52 in February, 54 in March and finally sold out with the remaining 68 units snapped up in April. Median prices were about $1,300 psf.

OrangeTee managing director Steven Tan said projects such as Rochelle at Newton have recorded sales spike in recent months.

While only about 12 units in Rochelle were sold in all of last year, more than 20 were sold in March and April alone at average prices of $1,400 psf - well-below Sky Habitat's pricing.

Similarly, 301-unit My Manhattan, quiet on the sales front for a while, moved about 45 units in the past two months.

Archipelago in Bedok Reservoir has also seen a revival. Between 30 and 40 units were sold in January and February, followed by a spike in sales in March and April with more than 90 units going as the market got wind of Sky Habitat's record pricing a few weeks before its launch.

Even projects launched shortly after 99-year leasehold Sky Habitat was previewed have recorded robust buyer interest.

For instance, UOL's 244-unit Katong Regency in Paya Lebar, priced at an average of $1,500 to $1,600 psf, was sold out within a few days. It launched four days after Sky Habitat. The mixed-use project built on top of a shopping mall, with its freehold status and city fringe location, looked very attractive in comparison with Sky, experts said.

'It is quite common that agents are using Sky Habitat's pricing as a market indicator,' OrangeTee's Mr Tan noted. 'Some buyers have been waiting for prices to come down but when they see a new benchmark price being set in the market, they have decided to commit now instead.'

The irony is that Sky Habitat itself has not been a star performer.

The condo, designed by renowned Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, moved 125 units during its first weekend of launch in mid-April but sales have since flatlined with only an additional four units sold as at the end of May.

Urban Redevelopment Authority data show that prices ranged from $1,435 to $1,893 psf.

Last month, some buyers also had a change of heart, returning 10 units they had bought...
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Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
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