Saturday, October 6, 2012

Singapore takes new steps to cool housing market


SINGAPORE: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will restrict the tenure of loans granted by financial institutions for the purchase of residential properties, effective from 6 October.

MAS' move is part of the government's broader aim of avoiding a price bubble and fostering long-term stability in the property market.

The new rules impose an absolute limit of 35 years on the tenure of all loans for residential property. This will apply to loans to both individual and non-individual borrowers, as well as refinancing loans.

In addition, loans exceeding 30 years' tenure will face significantly tighter loan-to-value (LTV) limits.

Furthermore, MAS will lower the LTV ratio for new residential property loans to borrowers who are individuals, if the tenure exceeds 30 years or the loan period extends beyond the retirement age of 65 years.

For these loans, the LTV limit will be: 40% for a borrower with one or more outstanding residential property loans; and 60% for a borrower with no outstanding residential property loan.

The new rules will apply to both private properties and HDB flats.

"Over the last three years, the average tenure for new residential property loans has increased from 25 to 29 years. More than 45 percent of new residential property loans granted by financial institutions have tenures exceeding 30 years," MAS said.

"The new rules aim to curb continued upward pressure on residential property prices, driven by low interest rates and rapid credit growth," the central bank added.

Previous rounds of measures have had a moderating effect on residential property prices. There is also significant supply of housing that will come onto the market over the next two years.

However, prices in both the HDB resale market and private residential property have continued to rise in Q2 and Q3 of 2012.

Private home prices rose 0.5 percent in the third quarter from the April-June quarter, when prices increased by 0.4 percent, while HDB resale prices gained 2.0 percent quarter-on-quarter following an increase of 1.3 percent in April-June.

MAS will also lower the LTV ratio for residential property loans to non-individual borrowers from 50 percent to 40 percent.

For re-financing facilities, the rules will apply where the application date of such facilities is on or after 6 October.

The outstanding loan may be either a loan from HDB or a financial institution regulated by MAS.

Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of MAS, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said: "Monetary conditions worldwide are far from normal. QE3 and low interest rates have made credit easy, but this will eventually change. We are taking this step now to require more prudent lending, and will continue to watch the property market carefully. We will do what it takes to cool the market, and avoid a bubble that will eventually hurt borrowers and destabilise our financial system."

QE or quantitative easing is an unconventional monetary policy used by central banks to stimulate the national economy when conventional monetary policy has become ineffective.

Analysts do not expect the government's latest measures to have a major impact.

HSR special advisor, Donald Han, said: "The buying would continue despite the recent measures because of liquidity and because of low interest rate environment. I think buyers are still active. I don't expect too much of a dent in the total volume sales. In terms of actual impact, I think ABSD (Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty) had a more earthquake-like (impact). These (latest measures) are more like a tremor."

The Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore (REDAS) also does not expect a significant impact from the latest measures, because few buyers have undertaken long tenure loans.

Amongst the local banks, OCBC says it will reduce its maximum home loan tenure from 40 years to 35 years with immediate effect.

DBS says the bulk of its home loans have repayment periods below 35 years.

UOB, which offers loan tenures of up to 50 years, declined comment.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
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