30 May 2016

Experts share suggestions for Fresh Start Housing Scheme

Experts hope that the 2016 Budget, which will be announced this Thursday (24 March), will solve some current problems with the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, reported Channel NewsAsia.

This scheme helps HDB tenants purchase their own flat, with a focus on families with young children, and those who previously owned a home.

But a key problem is fine-tuning the eligibility criteria to ensure that the beneficiaries really deserve such assistance, said DTZ’s Research Head Lee Nai Jia.

“I think this is a great scheme. The key problem is how we are going to identify this group and their income ceiling, and (how we are going to define) the type of benefits to give this group.”

According to Saktiandi Supaat, member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, the scheme provides a second chance to families currently leasing an HDB flat, particularly those who were forced to sell their original unit due to an unavoidable issue.

However, the support given should take into account the different circumstances of each household.

“There could be more support in terms of grants and there could also be some conditions for the grants to be disbursed,” said Saktiandi. For instance, families would first have to show proof that they have the means to pay for the new flats.

Aside from providing grants and the actual house, it is also important to educate families about responsible homeownership, financial management, and activities to keep their children in school, explained the Fei Yue Family Service Centre.

“We don’t want to come to a point where they are on the scheme, and then there is a setback, and they are penalised or thrown out of the scheme,” said the centre’s principal social worker, Lilian Ong.

“We could introduce some sort of readiness or transitional programme to prepare the whole family for this”, and this should run for six months, she said.

The Housing Board and the Ministry of National Development have held public consultations to gather suggestions on implementing the scheme. The feedback includes provision of concessionary loans and more grants, as well as shorter leases.

Picture Source: The Fresh Start Housing Scheme is targeted at families with young children.
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Wealthy Malaysians favour Singapore property

Singapore was ranked the second top choice for wealthy Malaysians who can afford offshore real estate, according to PropertyGuru’s latest market sentiment study.

Of 326 individuals surveyed online, 21 (seven percent) own a high-rise or landed home outside Malaysia. Of this, 20 percent have acquired a house in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Australia took the top spot, with 23 percent having bought a home there, while India and Germany were also among the most popular choices, with a respective 18 percent and eight percent of those surveyed owning homes there.

“According to other studies, many Malaysians choose Australia as their second home as it is located comparatively close to Malaysia at a few hours’ flight (away), and for its better working environment and better education system,” said the report.

Other countries favoured by those surveyed are Hong Kong (seven percent), Japan (six percent), China (five percent), Thailand (five percent) and the UK (four percent).

51 percent of the 23 respondents who own either overseas homes or non-residential properties noted that prices in those markets were cheaper than those in Malaysia, despite the softer ringgit.

The top reasons for buying offshore real estate are capital appreciation (30 percent) and children’s education (29 percent). 27 percent revealed that the overseas properties they have bought are situated in their countries of residence, while a similar percentage were attracted by good funding options.

Other reasons cited include favourable government policies (24 percent), retirement (23 percent), migration (20 percent), and relocation to a better environment (16 percent).

Moving forward, more Malaysians are now keen to purchase overseas properties, particularly in Australia, which continues to be the most popular market for 52 percent of 37 respondents. Other target markets for this group are Singapore (23 percent), Indonesia (15 percent), and the UK (14 percent).

Picture Source: Singapore is a popular property investment destination for wealthy Malaysians. (Photo: William Cho / Wikimedia Commons)
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Thai developers now building more luxury homes

Property firms in Thailand have already launched several residential projects targeted at the high-end market in the first quarter of 2016, reported The Nation. This is due to the high household debt, which continues to create uncertainty in other segments of the property market.

Anant Asavabhokhin, Chairman of Land & Houses’ Executive Board, reckons that the government should stimulate spending in the luxury segment, to help boost the overall economy. Land & Houses recently launched an upscale detached housing project in the Rama II area, and is one of a handful of developers hoping to cash in on the growing demand for high-end condos and detached homes.

And it doesn’t look as though this trend will subside anytime soon. Launching luxury units at this time helps developers to boost pre-sales, as banks are still reluctant to provide mortgages for the lower- and middle-income segments.

Sansiri’s most recent launch is a luxury condominium called 98 Wireless. The project is worth a total of THB 8.5 billion. It is understood that around THB1.2 billion has already been sold. Sansiri’s President Srettha Thavisin said while booking for the project isn’t scheduled to start till later this year, the company has accepted cash offers for two penthouses.

98 Wireless will only have a total of 77 units when completed, with prices starting at THB550,000 psm (S$21,425 psm). Sansiri will host an official grand opening ceremony once the development is ready in the second half of 2016.

Ananda Development is another developer that decided to launch a luxury condominium during the first quarter of this year. Ashton Silom is worth a total of THB5.8 billion, with prices starting from THB7.9 million (S$307,667) for a unit.

Picture Source: The interior of an apartment unit at 98 Wireless.
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Developers confident of disposing units before ABSD deadline

Some developers in Singapore are optimistic they can sell all the remaining units in their private residential projects before the stipulated deadline, even if they don’t offer huge discounts, reported The Business Times.

Under the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rules introduced in December 2011, these companies need to build, complete and sell all units within five years of purchasing the land. If there are any unsold units after that period, they need to pay a 10 percent levy, which was subsequently raised to 15 percent for land parcels purchased as of 12 January 2013.

According to SingLand’s General Manager Michael Ng, they are confident of clearing all units before the deadline, and they don’t intend to slash prices.

Last month, its luxury projects Mon Jervois and Pollen & Bleu in District 10 reported 61 and 94 unsold units respectively, while Alex Residences in Redhill had 173 unsold units. These developments will be penalised with an ABSD of 10 percent if there are any leftover units by February, June and December 2017, respectively.

“For boutique projects, our priority is to hit temporary occupation permit (TOP) quickly, as many interested parties for luxury homes want to see the completed units. For Alex Residences, we will clear all units before TOP,” he said.

Similarly, City Developments Limited (CDL) is bullish that they can offload all unsold units at Jewel@Buangkok and two joint venture projects, Bartley Ridge and The Venue Residences, before their respective ABSD deadlines in 2017. This is because the developments are located in established neighbourhoods, and the number of unsold units is low.

“There are no significant ABSD issues for the three projects which have been selling steadily,” said a CDL spokesperson. As of February 2016, there were three, 31 and 160 unsold units at these three developments respectively.

As of last month, the projects with the most unsold units are Malaysian developer IOI Properties’ The Trilinq (524 units), The Crest (365 units) by a Wing Tai-led consortium, and The Glades (331 units), jointly developed by Keppel Land and China Vanke.

Furthermore, SingLand or CDL could be hit with the heftiest ABSD penalty of approximately $70 million, based on their stakes in projects with leftover units, assuming there are still leftover units after the deadline.

Picture Source: Alex Residences in Redhill has 173 unsold units.
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Chinese nationals still buying Singapore homes for their kids

Despite facing weaker currencies and slowing economies, mainland Chinese and Malaysians remain the top foreign buyers of Singapore property, revealed DTZ.

Together, they bought 1,952 private homes in 2015, or 54 percent of total foreign purchases.

Specifically, sales to Chinese nationals fell slightly by 3.8 percent to 998 units, while Malaysian home purchases remained largely unchanged at 954 units.

“The devaluation of the Chinese yuan in August 2015 meant that mainland Chinese nationals found their purchasing power clipped, as their national currency weakened against the Singapore dollar,” said DTZ.

Still, both groups of foreign buyers posted healthy purchases last year compared to 2008, during the Global Financial Crisis, when mainland Chinese only purchased 362 private homes, while Malaysians bought 626 units.

“Singapore’s political stability, transparent real estate policies and strict rule of law positions the city-state ahead of many other countries as a place where investors enjoy a high level of certainty on returns. Many mainland Chinese also bought homes for their children studying in Singapore,” added DTZ.

Meanwhile, the number of Indonesian home purchases fell by 33.6 percent to 279 units, lower than the 618 homes bought in 2008.

Picture Source: Mainland Chinese and Malaysian buyers formed 54 percent of foreign home purchases in 2015.
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Katong bungalow put up for mortgagee sale

A single-storey bungalow in Katong, one of the few available freehold properties in the area with redevelopment potential, has been put up for mortgagee sale, revealed marketing agent DTZ.

Located at 85 Branksome Road, the house sits on 13,189 sq ft of land and has a gross floor area of around 9,000 sq ft. According to DTZ, the property has an indicative price of $16 million, or $1,200 psf.

Recent transactions of landed homes in the area have ranged from $1,200 psf to $1,400 psf. Last year, a 13,843 sq ft site at Branksome Road was sold for $16.3 million ($1,178 psf).

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Master Plan 2014, the site is zoned for residential use and could be redeveloped into a two-storey bungalow.

The plot can also be subdivided into a pair of bungalows or semi-detached houses, subject to the relevant authority’s approval, said the consultancy.

Nearby amenities include established schools and shopping malls. Dakota MRT station and two future MRT stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line are also within the vicinity.

Joy Tan, DTZ’s Head of Auction, expects strong interest for the subject property. “A landed housing redevelopment site of this size in the prestigious District 15 is rarely made available for mortgagee sale. The last known mortgagee sale was at least a decade ago.”

The sale is being conducted through an auction, which takes place on 30 March at The Amara Hotel.

Picture Source: View of the single-storey detached house at 85 Branksome Road. (Photo: DTZ)
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HLH launches phase two of Cambodian project

Singapore-listed HLH Group has launched phase two of its maiden mixed-use development in Cambodia, after the first phase was sold out.

A total of 437 units were released in the latest phase of the D’Seaview project in Sihanoukville, with one- to three-bedroom units on offer.

The waterfront development was first launched in September 2015. All 300 apartments released under phase one were snapped up by local and international buyers, with prices ranging from US$675 psm (S$922 psm) to US$1,943 psm (S$2,653 psm).

“The strong response to our project reflects the pent-up demand for good quality affordable housing in Cambodia. Given the country’s positive GDP growth of about six percent to seven percent annually, the Cambodian economy remains vibrant and attractive to both local and foreign investors,” said HLH Group CEO Dato Dr Johnny Ong.

“In view of this and the rising tourist numbers in Sihanoukville as well as the increasing disposable incomes of consumers in Cambodia, our plans for more developments will add greater vibrancy and activities to the area,” he added.

D’Seaview is a mixed-use development located near the popular Sokha Beach in Sihanoukville, which is expected to become Cambodia’s next hotspot, not only for property investments, but also for tourism. Aside from its potential as a major cruise ship destination, there are also more flights landing at the city’s international airport.

Piling work is currently underway and is expected to be completed by June this year. The apartments are being marketed under the CAMHOMES brand of HLH, which is targeting the mass market.

Looking ahead, the group plans to build more residential projects in other locations, including the capital Phnom Penh.

Picture Source: 437 units of D’Seaview in Sihanoukville have been released for sale.
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Singapore’s housing market among the weakest: Knight Frank

Prices of private residential properties in Singapore continued their downward trend, falling by 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 from the previous year, according to Knight Frank’s latest Global House Price Index.

On a quarterly basis, prices slipped by 0.2 percent from Q3 2015. Singapore was ranked 51st out of the 55 housing markets tracked by Knight Frank, which puts it among the weakest performers, Ukraine and Greece.

Between 2009 and 2011, prices of private units surged by 62.2 percent, but have dropped by 8.41 percent since then.

Analysts believe that a number of factors will continue to put pressure on the property market, such as the large pipeline supply of units, weakening demand amid low economic growth, and the market cooling measures which remain in place.

Meanwhile, the world’s housing markets recorded three percent growth on average in 2015. Turkey leads the rankings with prices ending the year 18 percent higher, said Knight Frank.

The consultancy added that its outlook for the year is muted. “We expect the index’s overall rate of growth to be weaker in 2016 than 2015. The global economy is experiencing a potentially dangerous cocktail of low oil prices, a strong dollar and a continued slowdown in China,” said Kate Everett-Allen, Head of International Residential Research at Knight Frank.

Picture Source: Singapore sits close to the Ukraine and Greece as having one of the world’s weakest housing markets.
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South Beach wins top design award

South Beach, Singapore’s biggest mixed-use development, has won the only Platinum SG Mark, presented at this year’s Design Business Chamber Singapore (DBCS) SG Mark awards.

Jointly developed by City Developments Limited (CDL) and Malaysian-based IOI Properties, the new project at Beach Road was built on a 3.5ha plot, and took eight years to complete. It faced design challenges that involved incorporating four conserved buildings with modern structures.

Several of the project’s green features impressed the judges, including a 280-metre long canopy that converts solar energy to electricity and collects rainwater to irrigate South Beach’s landscaping, as well as sky gardens which act as ‘green lungs’.

It is estimated that South Beach can save up to 17 million KWh of energy and 174,000 cubic metres of water annually.

“We believe that many of the principles behind this iconic building can be applied to future buildings to improve urban sustainability and overall aesthetic and practical appeal,” said Tai Lee Siang, President of the DBCS.

Several other local developments picked up SG Mark Gold Awards, namely the JTC Space @ Tuas development and the Singapore University of Technology and Design campus in Changi.

In total, 32 organisations picked up awards this year. Started in 2013, the SG Mark Awards are considered the Oscars of the design industry here. Previous winners include Gardens by the Bay, Botanic Gardens and Changi Airport.

Picture Source: South Beach was the big winner at the SG Mark 2016 awards. (Photo: Christopher Chitty)
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Malaysia’s property market has hit bottom, says developer

Home sales in Malaysia are expected to recover in the second half of 2016, said Mah Sing Group, the country’s third largest property developer by sales.

“We have reached the bottom of the downturn, and it will recover in the medium term,” as Mah Sing is witnessing signs of renewed confidence from home buyers, despite the negative reports on the weak ringgit, and allegations of corruption, said Group Managing Director Leong Hoy Kum.

“The bad news like 1MDB and the ringgit have already been digested; I don’t see anymore bad news coming out. It is back to work for everyone, to focus on economic growth.”

The ringgit has also strengthened 3.8 percent, making it Asia’s third best-performing currency.

Meanwhile, Mah Sing is set to hit its RM2.3 billion sales target for this year. The developer is confident it can sell more “medium range to high-end properties” in 2017, especially in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, its competitors are also posting strong sales. Earlier this month, Eco World Development Group found buyers for 85 percent of the units at its apartment outside the capital. Moreover, nearly all of the 341 units at a project by Sime Darby were snapped up in one day.

Given the turnaround, Mah Sing is now looking to acquire more land parcels with its record net worth of RM1.4 billion (S$467 million). It wants to replenish its land bank after holding back on such acquisitions in 2015.

“Every weekend is shopping time for me and sometimes, I charter a helicopter to look at land of 500 acres to 1,000 acres,” added Leong.

Picture Source: Mah Sing Group believes that Malaysia’s property sector will recover soon.
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Top property agents earn 66% more than average Singaporean

The median gross monthly commission earned by the top 300 property agents at ERA Realty Network hit $11,686 in 2015, according to latest statistics released by the property agency.

This is 66 percent more than the median gross monthly income of full-time employees in Singapore, which averaged $3,949 last year, based on data from the Ministry of Manpower.

These 300 agents are aged 23 to 65, with four of them above 60 years old, earning more than $133,876 annually despite being of retirement age, noted ERA.

At just 28, property agent Kavin Kuah, who joined ERA in 2012, has earned a median monthly gross commission of $119,873.

“Real estate is a good career path if you are someone who looks forward to no-ceiling income. There are always opportunities around; it’s all about commitment, passion and perseverance,” he said.

Jack Chua, ERA’s CEO, said the company remains resilient, despite the current market downturn and changes in real estate regulations.

“Media channels are reporting that many property agents quit the industry in 2015. However, statistics prove that the performance of (the) property sector is positive.

“Many individuals are lured by factors such as high salaries and work-life balance. However, selling properties has never been a simple sales job. It is a long-term, viable career that requires constant upgrading,” added Chua.

ERA remains the biggest agency in Singapore, even after its agent pool dropped by 6.6 percent to 5,947 agents in the October-to-December licence renewal period.

To further help its agents, ERA has rolled out a series of initiatives and policies, such as more professional development and market-focus programmes, as well as welfare and benefit schemes to encourage greater work motivation.

Picture Source: Real estate agents still command some of the highest-income jobs in Singapore despite challenging market conditions.
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Expats still paying top dollar for historic bungalows

Sales of black-and-white bungalows, a type of good class bungalow (GCB), are few and far between given their limited number, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Designed after the mock-Tudor architectural style, these houses come with whitewashed exteriors that contrast with black-stained timber details. To make them more suitable for the tropics, they feature broad verandas, wide eaves and tall shutters for shade, as well as masonry piers to elevate the structure and alleviate humidity.

According to historian and academic Julian Davison, these homes combine the ‘Tudorbethan’ style of Victorian England and the colonial-bungalow style introduced in Singapore by the British Raj in India.

These properties are favoured by expatriates due to the luxurious lifestyle they offer and their large area, which start from about 2,000 sq ft for one-storey bungalows to around 8,500 sq ft to 11,000 sq ft for the more exclusive villas.

“They are the perfect answer for people looking for a bit of greenery and some space,” said Diana Chua, a Singapore guide.

However, sales are rare as only a few are privately owned, and these include most of the 100 black-and-white bungalows slated for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The majority are currently being rented out by the Singapore government. Over 90 percent of the 500 units managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) are leased as homes, while some are used for commercial purposes. JTC Corporation also oversees around 150 units at the Seletar and Buona Vista industrial parks.

In addition, rents of black-and-white bungalows declined from their peak in 2010 to 2012, following the introduction of property cooling measures. For instance, monthly rents for the 33 bungalows at Mount Pleasant range from $8,600 to $23,500, said Ascott Ltd, the property manager.

Picture Source: Black and white bungalows offer a luxurious lifestyle.
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Colombian city wins LKY prize

Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city, has been named a 2016 recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Wednesday, 16 March.

It beat out four other finalists – Auckland, Sydney, Vienna and Toronto, which will be honoured with a special mention.

“Medellín’s transformation has been extraordinary. It has gone from being one of the world’s most dangerous cities into a liveable and innovative city,” said Kishore Mahbubani, Chairman of the Nominating Committee.

“Its success gives hope to many cities in developing countries, where the next wave of massive urbanisation will take place. Medellín can become a Mecca of learning for them. We are therefore proud to award the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize to Medellín.”

The city is no stranger to this prestigious award. In 2014, it received a special mention for its creative and non-conventional urban solutions, such as the world’s first cable car system for daily commuting, library parks that also serve as social nodes in the city’s poorest districts, and escalators that have greatly improved mobility in one of its most troubled neighbourhoods.

Medellín is the fourth recipient of the accolade, after previous winners Suzhou in China, Spain’s Bilbao and New York City.

A total of 38 cities were nominated for this year’s prize. They were screened through a two-tier selection process by the Nominating Committee and a Prize Council. The finalists were chosen based on levels of leadership, innovation, as well as the impact and durability of initiatives.

The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize comprises a gold medallion, an award certificate, and a $300,000 sponsorship courtesy of Keppel Corporation.

It will be awarded at the upcoming World Cities Summit, to be held from 10 to 14 July at Marina Bay Sands.

Picture Source: Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia.
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Developer sales down almost 23% from year ago

New private home sales in Singapore fell by 22.8 percent to 301 units in February 2016, from 390 units in the same period last year, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Tuesday, 15 March.

On a monthly basis, the sales volume fell by 6.8 percent from the 323 units sold in January 2016, even though new launches surged 31.4 percent to 209 units from 159 units previously.

According to JLL, the “slower developer sales were expected due to the Lunar New Year lull and the continuation of the volatility in the stock market from the previous month”.

By location, sales in the Core Central Region (CCR) fell to 25 units in February, just shy of the 26 units sold in the previous month, and the 30 units sold a year ago.

In the Rest of Central Region (RCR), transaction levels edged up to 82 units from 81 units in January 2016. But compared to the 185 units sold a year ago, this area witnessed the largest year-on-year decline of 56 percent.

Meanwhile, developers sold 194 units in the Outside Central Region (OCR). While this translates to a 10 percent drop from the 216 units moved in the month before, it is an 11 percent improvement from the 175 units sold in February 2015.

According to PropNex Realty, properties in the OCR accounted for 64 percent of total sales by developers, while those in the CCR and RCR made up nine percent and 27 percent respectively.

The best-selling private residential projects last month were The Panorama, where 18 units were sold at a median price of $1,211 psf, followed by Kingsford Waterbay and Principal Garden, which moved 18 and 16 units at median prices of $1,127 psf and $1,612 psf, respectively.

Looking ahead, new private home sales could fall by around 10 to 15 percent year-on-year to between 1,000 and 1,200 units in Q1 2016, the lowest level seen for the past three years, said Mohamed Ismail, CEO of PropNex.

Nevertheless, transaction volume could rebound in March due to the fairly good performance of two newly launched developments, Cairnhill Nine and The Wisteria.

For the whole of 2016, private home sales are expected to remain weak at around 8,000 units, as long as the property cooling measures remain.

Picture Source: The best-selling project in February was The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio.
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Economists cut growth forecast for Singapore economy to 1.9%

Economists polled by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) are cutting down their growth forecast for the economy for 2016 from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent, the central bank’s latest quarterly survey revealed Wednesday (16 March).

“As reflected by the mean probability distribution, the most likely outcome is for the Singapore economy to grow by between 1.0 to 1.9 percent this year, below the 2.0 to 2.9 percent range reported in the last survey,” the MAS said.

Manufacturing is now expected to shrink by 2.7 percent this year, worse than the previous median forecast of a 1.2 percent contraction compared to the same quarter last year, down from 1.8 percent forecast in the previous survey. In addition, economists also forecast a slower growth in the finance and insurance sector at 3.6 percent, compared to 5.9 percent previously.

The survey also showed that economists expect the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first quarter to come in at 1.6 percent.

Singapore’s GDP growth came in at 2 percent last year—the weakest annual growth since 2009—when it shrank 0.6 percent following the global financial crisis.

But analysts expect the GDP to expand by 2.5 percent next year.

“The most likely outcome is for the Singapore economy to grow by 2.0 to 2.9 percent next year,” MAS said.

Meanwhile, in terms of currency, economists expect the Singapore dollar to trade at S$1.45 against the greenback by the end of the year.

The survey conducted by MAS received views from 24 respondents from economists and analysts who closely monitor the Singapore economy.

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21 May 2016

Temasek overtakes GIC as Singapore’s biggest property firm

Temasek Holdings has been named the biggest real estate firm in Singapore, with total assets under management at US$39.9 billion, according to the latest Estates Gazette ranking, which pulled together the world’s top 100 investors.

The state-linked investment firm overtook the sovereign wealth fund GIC, last year’s top performer, for the number one spot. Temasek has stakes in major local and regional players such as CapitaLand, M+S, Mapletree and Pulau Indah Ventures.

CapitaLand took second place with US$33.3 billion of assets, followed by GIC with US$22.4 billion, Global Logistics Properties (US$16.7 billion) and City Developments Limited (US$14.9 billion). All five companies have a combined asset value of a whopping US$127.2 billion.

To make it on the list this year, firms have to own property valued at more than US$12.4 billion, said Estates Gazette.

This year, the top 100 companies owned a total of US$3.6 trillion worth of property, a US$400 billion increase over last year’s value.

Canada-based Brookfield Asset Management, remains the global leader, with almost US$130 billion of assets.

Samantha McClary, Head of Content at Estates Gazette, said: “Our Global 100 list, which is based on real assets rather than property securities and debt, shows how big a business the international real estate market is.

“The list, now in its third year, continues to grow with new firms appearing every year. The appearance of more property owners from new locations shows just how global a playground the real estate industry is.”

Read the full list here.

Picture Source: Singapore’s top real estate investors have been revealed in the latest rankings published by Estates Gazette. (Photo: Someformofhuman/Wikimedia Commons)
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MAS, China central bank renew bilateral currency swap arrangement

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on Tuesday (15 March) announced the renewal of the existing bilateral currency swap arrangement (BCSA) for another three years.

“The BCSA is a key pillar of cooperation between PBOC and MAS to strengthen regional economic resilience and financial stability,” said MAS. The arrangement aims to enhance banks’ confidence in carrying out their business in the two markets and enables both central banks to provide foreign currency liquidity to stabilise financial markets.

First established in 2010, the BCSA was first renewed in 2013, and the new arrangement is effective as of 7 March.

Under the arrangement, up to CNY 300 billion in Chinese Yuan liquidity will be available to eligible financial institutions operating in Singapore.

The renewed BCSA will also supplement the various initiatives announced at the 12th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation in October 2015 and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping’s state visit to Singapore in November last year.

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Pinnacle@Duxton prices unlikely to climb much higher

The Pinnacle@Duxton in Tanjong Pagar has recorded three transactions of above $1 million so far this year for its 5-room flats, similar to the four deals seen in the first three months of 2015.

The development has regularly made headlines in recent months. For example, a unit was sold for $1.08 million ($945 psf) in November 2015, the most expensive sale ever for a 5-room flat in Singapore. In January this year, a unit changed hands for approximately $1.07 million.

According to Eugene Lim, Key Executive Officer of ERA Realty, which helped to broker both deals, these flats commanded sky-high prices due to their unblocked, panoramic views of the city, and the Pinnacle’s status as a landmark project.

Aside from its proximity to MRT stations, another key selling point is the scarcity of such units. “Not everyone at the Pinnacle wants to sell. Those who have decided to sell are leveraging to get the maximum premium for their units,” Lim said.

Based on statistics from ERA, the two said transactions were three percent higher than the average transacted price of $977,846 for a 5-room flat at the project. But compared to older flats in the area, such as those at Smith Street and Tanjong Pagar Plaza, this translates to a premium of 25 percent to 46 percent.

The current resale prices are also a far cry from the original selling price range of between $345,100 and $439,000 for the 5-roomers during the project’s launch in 2004.

Nevertheless, Lim noted that these record flat prices are unique to the Pinnacle. “They do not represent the majority of resale HDB transactions, which are trading at around valuation in the current market environment.”

It’s also unlikely that prices of 5-room flats there will rise significantly higher or reach the $2 million mark, as home buyers could easily purchase a private apartment within the area for the same price, he said.

Looking ahead, prices of HDB resale flats are expected to remain stable, while transaction volume is expected to pick up as the reduced focus on cash-over-valuation (COV) premiums would attract buyers in immediate need of housing, or those who do not qualify for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, added Lim.

Picture Source: Three flats at the landmark project have been sold for over $1 million in 2016.
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900 families got a third HDB loan in 2015

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) granted a third housing loan to around 900 families last year, according to National Development Minister Lawrence Wong during a parliamentary session on Monday (14 March), reported Channel NewsAsia.

Of this, 25 percent are concessionary loans, while about 75 percent consisted of non-concessionary loans, which are based on market rates.

He explained that the agency is willing to help families obtain a third HDB housing loan, but it will only be allowed for exceptional cases, usually for households that cannot acquire mortgages from banks, but are in urgent need of such financing.

However, a requirement is that these families should have ample savings and stable incomes to repay their monthly loan instalments.

“As I said, HDB would want to assist applicants to buy a home. But HDB is also wary of people or families, who overstretch themselves, and end up with more debt. I don’t think we want that to happen just for the pursuit of buying a home,” Mr Wong added.

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JLL remains top in the region, data shows

For the fifth year in a row, JLL has been named the top real estate investment advisory firm in Asia Pacific, based on the total value of sales completed, according to data from Real Capital Analytics (RCA).

RCA is an independent body that monitors global real estate transaction volumes. JLL has been ranked in first place since RCA began releasing data in 2011.

In 2015, the consultancy advised on investment deals worth US$16.6 billion, which corresponds to a 27.8 percent market share in the region.

JLL also took top spot in the hotel sector for the fifth year in a row, with a total of US$2.9 billion in hotel sales last year, representing a regional market share of 57 percent.

“2015 was a stellar year for real estate investment in Asia Pacific thanks to continuing demand from investors wanting to buy into the growth story in the region,” said Stuart Crow, Head of Asia Pacific Capital Markets, JLL.

Picture Source: JLL is the region’s top dealmaker by volume for 2015.
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Solid weekend sales at The Wisteria, Cairnhill Nine

Two newly launched private residential projects reported brisk sales over the weekend, an indication that units within integrated developments remain popular despite the lacklustre housing market.

The Wisteria in Yishun sold more than 80 percent, or 116 of the 138 units released for sale.

Its developer Northern Resi initially launched 108 units on Saturday (12 March), priced from $1,030 psf to $1,050 psf on average. Subsequently, another 30 units were released due to keen interest for the smaller units, leading to more sales.

“Buyers are drawn to this project because of its affordability and its convenience of being above a lifestyle mall,” said Michael Leong, CEO of Keppel Land Retail Management, the project and marketing manager for The Wisteria.

The 99-year leasehold project features 216 condominium units spread across three nine-storey towers, built on top of a two-storey shopping mall. Prospective buyers can choose from one- to four-bedroom apartments, with unit sizes ranging from 441 sq ft to1,173 sq ft.

The Wisteria is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, CapitaLand’s 268-unit Cairnhill Nine development in the Orchard area has found buyers for 70 percent, or 134 of the 200 units launched on Saturday.

The 99-year leasehold condominium is part of an integrated development that includes a serviced residence called the Ascott Orchard Singapore.

The units sold include one, two, and four-bedroom units as well as penthouses, measuring between 591 sq ft and 3,864 sq ft. The one-bedroom+guest units have been the most well-received to date, with 80 percent of the 90 apartments sold.

Around 50 percent of the project’s buyers are Singaporeans, while the rest are from Indonesia, Malaysia and China.

Commenting, a spokesman from CapitaLand said: “We are pleased with the strong response to the VIP preview and official launch, and will be stepping up our marketing efforts by having roadshows in cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Solo, Shanghai and Hong Kong.”

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218 HDB flats were sold before MOP in 2015

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) allowed 218 flats to be sold last year, even though the owners did not fulfill the required minimum occupation period (MOP) of five years, reported The Straits Times.

But this figure only represents around one percent of the 19,306 flats sold last year, as this practice is only permitted under “exceptional circumstances”, said a HDB spokesperson.

Valid reasons include emigration, wanting to live near a terminally ill family member, and financial problems – like the death of a breadwinner.

ERA Realty agent Ken Lee noted that “others might also need to relocate to be closer to their relatives for childcare or eldercare purposes”.

However, the majority of these special approvals were granted due to divorce.

The HDB spokesperson explained that “some divorcees may not be eligible to retain the flat upon their divorce. Since the breakdown of the marriage is beyond the couple’s control, HDB may consider allowing them to sell the flat so that they can each move on with their lives”.

According to PropNex agent James Lin, the housing board’s consideration is helpful to flat owners facing genuine hardships. “But it’s good that they are strict with these approvals. If they give everyone the green light, people will abuse the system.”

“It shouldn’t be easy to sell one’s flat early. The MOP is there to safeguard the interests of other residents,” added Lee.

Picture Source: Flat owners facing hardships can seek HDB’s approval to sell their units before the five-year MOP. (Photo: Nikki De Guzman)
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Foreigners shying away from US property

The US National Association of Realtors (NAR) has stated that demand from foreign buyers is weakening, with the strong US dollar and rising home prices forcing some investors to look at other countries that offer more value, reported The Wall Street Journal recently.

Many experts had predicted that foreigners would flood the US property market last year, as they seek a safe haven from the volatile global economy. Realtors revealed that the Chinese had surpassed Canadians as the top foreign buyers of US property in June 2015.

However, it looks as though this trend is reversing and more foreign buyers are now avoiding the US market, as prices in preferred cities like New York and San Francisco have increased dramatically. This has been made worse by the strong US dollar.

According to research from the NAR, the median price of existing US homes increased by 14 percent for Chinese buyers in January 2016 compared to a year ago, once currency exchange rates are factored in.

Another reason for the waning interest in US real estate is that China’s government is now cracking down on buyers who try to evade a US$50,000 annual limit on how much money they can transfer out of the country.

Previously, Chinese buyers would transfer money overseas through friends, family members or employees, but the government is now monitoring such activity more closely.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, explained that it remains to be seen just how much Chinese demand for US homes will fall.

The country recently reported growth of more than six percent amid a tough economic climate. In addition, many Chinese residents are looking to diversify their investments, after having lost money in the stock market downturn.

Picture Source: Housing prices in US cities, such as New York, have skyrocketed.
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Wandervale’s sales outperform EC launches in 2015

The 534-unit Wandervale project in Choa Chu Kang, the first executive condominium (EC) to launch in 2016, has beaten market expectations after its developer managed to sell 50 percent of the units last weekend.

“Despite tepid market conditions, it was well received by the market,” said Wong Xian Yang, Senior Manager for Research and Consultancy at OrangeTee.

The good performance is unsurprising, given the lower prices of Wandevale’s units. Prices for a three-bedroom apartment start from $655,000. Based on the percentage of units sold in the first month of sales, Wong noted that it has outperformed all the seven EC launches in 2015.

However, only about 267 units were successfully transacted even though the project was more than 40 percent oversubscribed, receiving a total of 750 e-applications by the end of the application period on 28 February.

But Wong said that “a conversion rate of approximately 30 percent to 40 percent from e-applications to sales is common in the EC segment”.

He added that there could be several reasons for why more sales didn’t materialise, such as buyers changing their minds, their inability to secure an 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, and insufficient CPF funds to cover the next 15 percent of progressive payments.

Developed by Sim Lian Group, Wandervale comprises 130 three-bedroom, 322 three-bedroom premium and 82 four-bedroom units, spread across nine residential blocks. Unit sizes range from 958 sq ft to 1,249 sq ft, while prices average between $750 psf and $770 psf.

The 99-year leasehold EC is expected to be completed by 2019.

As to whether Choa Chu Kang will see an oversupply of EC units with three properties being developed there, namely MCL Land’s Sol Acres, Wandervale and the future launch of Qingjian Realty’s EC at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 5, Wong noted that these projects will inject a total of 2,350 units in the area.

“Sol Acres sold 259 units during the first month of launch in August 2015, and at least 10 units have been sold each month since. Likewise, we expect a steady flow of sales (for Wandervale) in the coming months.

“The introduction of another EC project by Qingjian may dilute demand, but we believe that the market should be able to absorb the additional supply, assuming that it is priced right.”

Picture Source: URA,OrangeTee Research
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Home price drop of over 20% unlikely, say experts

Analysts believe that private residential prices will continue to fall this year and into 2017, but the rate of decline is unlikely to exceed 20 percent, reported Singapore Business Review.

“We forecast private residential prices would dip five percent to 15 percent over 2016 to 2017 and that 2016 primary residential sales would remain muted at between 6,000 to 9,000 units,” said Eli Lee, an analyst at OCBC Investment Research.

At the same time, residential rental levels could drop by eight to 15 percent, while the vacancy rate could rise from the current 7.8 percent to around 10 percent by the end of 2017.

Nevertheless, a price correction of over 20 percent is improbable, given that demand rises as properties become more affordable, preventing prices from falling further, added Lee.

Echoing a similar sentiment is Maybank KimEng’s analyst Derrick Heng. He expects private residential prices to hit rock-bottom by the end of next year, decreasing by 13 to 16 percent from their peak.

Heng noted that developers appear to be winding down their construction activity to ease the supply glut. Data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) shows that home builders completed nearly 19,000 units in 2015, down from the projected 21,359 units for the year.

Picture Source: Private home prices could fall by up to 15 percent over 2016 and 2017.
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PropertyGuru’s Malaysia Property Show still attracting strong interest

Speculation has been rife of late that the Malaysian property market is going to have a quiet year. Analysts anticipate that demand will remain an issue despite property prices in key areas such as Penang, Johor and Klang Valley remaining relatively stable, with house-price indices holding up.

Nonetheless, this presents a good chance for Singaporean investors, as they can still strive to capitalise on existing opportunities in the market. This was evident at PropertyGuru’s most recent Malaysia Property Show (MPS), held last weekend at Marriott Hotel Singapore. The event saw over 430 potential buyers in attendance, eager to listen to what industry leaders had to say, as well as view prime Malaysian properties by renowned developers from across the causeway.

Malaysian exhibitors who participated in the show included UEM Sunrise, Rawhide, WCT, Andaman Property Management, Bina Puri Holdings and Hatten Group.

“Malaysia has always been the top-of-mind favourite for local investors searching for alternative investment options outside of Singapore. The multiple rounds of cooling measures have played a crucial role in boosting the attraction to properties across the causeway,” said Steve Melhuish, co-founder and CEO of PropertyGuru Group.

“Cooling measures have significantly affected the prospects for attractive investments in Singapore property. Moreover, the ringgit has fallen 30 percent against the Singapore dollar, making Malaysian properties even more affordable. Infrastructural developments, such as the upcoming Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail, have also given more reasons to invest, by not only shortening the travelling time between the two countries but also possibly growing the capital appreciation for properties located within its vicinity.”

Now in its sixth year, MPS is part of PropertyGuru’s international events platform, which showcases properties from cities across Asia, leveraging on the popularity of online property searches and actual investments, to enable investors to make quicker yet smarter decisions.

Melhuish said, “The latest edition of PropertyGuru’s Malaysia Property Show has once again proven to be a hit, with immense support seen from the steady number of visitors over the weekend. We are looking to host more investor events in the coming months.”

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Eye on Yishun: Ward of the north

As an HDB estate, Yishun is only 40 years old, but is one of the most popular towns in northern Singapore, thanks to the convenience afforded to residents by its accessibility and many amenities.

And though it is a fully developed residential estate with its own MRT stations (Yishun and Khatib), Yishun is continually being improved. From shopping and dining to education and housing, the estate seems to be in a state of constant development. Unsurprising, perhaps, when one considers the two words synonymous with Singapore’s reputation: growth and progress.

Drawn to the north

Ken Chan, Sales Manager at DTZ Property Network, explains Yishun’s appeal: “Yishun is one of the middle-aged housing estates that are being progressively rejuvenated by the HDB. It is also part of the URA’s Master Plan development for the northern region.

“The ongoing developments will make Yishun more well-connected by transportation. At the same time, they will provide many exciting lifestyle choices for residents.”

But even in light of its recent and current developments, Yishun, which was once a quiet, rural part of Singapore, still has much to offer its residents in terms of nature.

The Lower Seletar Reservoir is a splendid place for a relaxing evening stroll, and the three little-known waterways (the Seletar, Khatib Bongsu and Simpang rivers) are perfect for water sports and trekking on weekends.

Parks include the Lower Seletar Reservoir Park, Yishun Park and Nee Soon East Park; the former has a small water sports rental facility and occasionally sees dragon boat competitions held there.

For those who prefer the indoors, there are plenty of shopping, F&B and entertainment options to enjoy, be it with family or friends. Northpoint Shopping Centre is right next to Yishun MRT station, while Asia’s first multiplex, Golden Village (GV) Yishun, now boasts wheelchair-friendly berths and three 3D digital halls to cater to a wide variety of moviegoers.

Furthermore, Chong Pang City in Neighbourhood 1 has everything one could need: shophouses, a hawker centre, a market, supermarket, department store, drugstores and convenience stores.

Essentially complete

Apart from food, shopping and entertainment, Yishun’s eight neighbourhoods also have schools, community clubs and centres and country clubs, as well as medical and sports facilities. The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), named after the late Khoo Teck Puat after it received a hefty $125 million donation from his family, is located in the Yishun Central Area, next to Yishun Polyclinic. It boasts 590 beds amid comprehensive healthcare and specialist medical services and facilities, as well as a recently added feature that overlooks Yishun Pond.

The latest healthcare facility to have been developed in the area is the Yishun Community Hospital (YCH), which opened in late December last year. With approximately 425 beds, YCH’s primary purpose is to accommodate post-surgery patients from KTPH while they recover.

There are seven community clubs and two country clubs (SAFRA Yishun Country Club and Orchid Country Club) in Yishun, as well as the Yishun Stadium and Sports Hall and Yishun Swimming Complex.

Schools such as Ahmad Ibrahim Primary and Secondary, Chung Cheng High School (Yishun), ITE College Central and Yishun Junior College are also located in the region.

Reputable residences

Yishun has plenty of residential developments, from HDB flats to condominiums and executive condominiums (ECs). The area has been consistently popular amongst buyers, and developments such as The Wisteria and North Park Residences have been attracting a great deal of attention.

Chan says of the two aforementioned 99-year leasehold projects: “The Wisteria and North Park Residences are built by very reputable developers. The latter, for example, is known for its well-planned functional residential design.

“At the same time, both The Wisteria and North Park Residences are two of the newest local projects to feature the latest mixed development concept. Retail shops and restaurants in The Wisteria, for instance, are not sold as strata-titled units, giving the developers good control of the retail tenants’ marketing mix, and enhancing the overall value of the residential and commercial components of the project.”

Furthermore, North Park Residences will also be one of the first private residential developments to be integrated with a community club linked to the Yishun MRT station and bus interchange. Residents will be spoilt for choice when it comes to lifestyle options, as there will be over 500 retail and F&B outlets and healthcare establishments located just below their homes.

Where and how much

Yishun is an ideal place for both home buyers and sellers. It all simply boils down to two things: price and location. The former, when set at a price that takes into consideration the house’s market value, the seller’s asking price range and the buyer’s offered price range, can attract genuine buyers overnight.

Chan says, “We can observe from the well received Wisteria and North Park Residences that the correct pricing of a home really determines its selling power. For homeowners looking to sell, price your home right, and it will literally sell overnight.

“As for homebuyers, it’s always about location. A location generally popular with tenants / residents, either for transport convenience or a close proximity to lifestyle amenities or schools would be a great start. And of course, a website such as will make searching for that dream home so much easier.”

Positive prospects

With all its ever-changing and constantly improving amenities and infrastructure, Yishun’s foreseeable future looks bright. Residents have easy access to food, shopping, entertainment, healthcare, education, recreation, nature and sports, making Yishun highly convenient and therefore, attractive.

Chan is positive about the estate’s prospects: “I think Yishun is progressing towards (becoming) a very liveable suburban region in the north. Transport links are well integrated and lifestyle amenities are abundant. The latest mixed-use commercial and residential projects certainly support the transformation of Yishun into a rejuvenated and choice residential region.

“The residential market in Singapore and Yishun may be undergoing some adjustments in tandem with the global economy at the moment, but in the longer term, the attractiveness of Yishun as a choice home will ensure it will be a shining star in the future.”

Picture Source: Completed in 1986, Lower Seletar Reservoir is located to the east of Yishun New Town. (Photo: Balaji Dutt M V, Wikimedia Commons)/PropertyGuru Analytics,URA
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One of the most affordable homes above a lifestyle mall

Special Advertising Feature

Offering thoughtfully-designed residential spaces, state-of-the art facilities, as well as a good mix of retail and F&B shops under one roof, The Wisteria presents itself as the ideal space for live and play.

In recent years, mixed-use developments, which encompass both commercial and residential units in a single complex, have become increasingly popular, with a growing number of developers starting to roll out mixed-use developments across the island. This comes as no surprise, as the fast growing population in land-scarce Singapore has resulted in a surge in demand for homes and amenities alike.

Those looking to invest in a mixed-use development that offers utmost convenience, easy accessibility, as well as a slew of amenities within one location, should look no further than The Wisteria – a mixed residential and retail development in Yishun.

Jointly developed by Northern Resi Pte Ltd and Northern Retail Pte Ltd, the development comprises 216 residential units, which are built on top of the Wisteria Mall – a unique lifestyle mall comprising F&B and retail shops. There is a good mix of one- to four-bedroom apartment units that range in size from 441 sq ft to 1,171 sq ft. Discerning home buyers and investors will like that most units come fully outfitted with a fine selection of kitchen and sanitary fittings from reputable brands such as Electrolux and Hansgrohe, as well as a well-edited selection of fittings.

The 216 residential apartments will be spread across three blocks and will occupy the 4th to 12th floors, while the retail units will be housed within basement 1 and level 1 of the development. The lifestyle mall, with over 100 units of F&B and retail offerings, are held under one strata-owner, who will operate and manage the entire mall.

Smart living

One of the main highlights of The Wisteria is no doubt the in-built home automation system – ABB-free@home system – that is installed in each residential unit. With this innovative system, residents can intelligently control virtually any device in their home – lighting, air-cons at the dining / living area and master bedroom, and even main door locks via their smart devices.

Spaces to relax and retreat

Residents can expect to be spoilt for choice when it comes to leisure and relaxation pursuits. Equipped with an array of state-of-the-art facilities, fitness enthusiasts can choose to take a refreshing dip in either the 50m free-form lap pool or sweat it out at the aqua gym and gymnasium. For those who prefer to just sit back and lull the afternoon away, there are also plenty of spaces for you to do just that including the wine pod, jaccuzi, water lounge, steam room, sun deck and leisure deck among others. The specially designed BBQ Pavilion is also ideal for intimate parties or even just a spontaneous evening dinner outdoors.

A host of amenities and conveniences

Among the advantages of living in a mixed-use development, convenience ranks high on the list. And when it comes to convenience, The Wisteria – located at the juntion of Yishun Avenue 4 and Yishun Ring Road – is truly unbeatable. The development is situated within close proximity to various transportation links including Khatib MRT station and the Seletar Expressway (SLE), which make travelling to other parts of the island a breeze. The future North-South Expressway (NSE) will also reduce travelling time to and from the city – the NSE will connect the city centre with towns along the north-south corridor – Woodlands, Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh.

The star of this integrated residential and retail development has to be the Wisteria Mall, which offers residents a slew of dining and shopping options at their doorstep. Housing a handful of specialty cafes and restaurants, a FairPrice Finest supermarket, Kopitiam food court and many other lifestyle shops, residents will be able to indulge in an array of gastronomical delights and shop for their daily necessities without even having to set foot out of the development.

For families with school-going children, the development is located within a stone’s throw away of several established educational institutions, such as Chongfu Primary School, Naval Base Primary School and GEMS World Academy.

Great investment potential

The position of The Wisteria is further strengthened by its proximity to nearby commercial clusters such as Woodlands Regional Centre, Seletar Regional Centre and the upcoming Seletar Aerospace Park.

Seletar Aerospace Park, which is envisioned to be a world-class dedicated aerospace regional facility, is expected to create about 10,000 jobs upon its projected completion in 2018, while the Woodlands Regional Centre, which is part of a larger commercial belt called the North Coast Innovation Corridor, will house the first business park cluster in Singapore’s northern area.

In short, residents of The Wisteria can look forward to a wealth of job opportunities near where they live. The 99-year leasehold development is expected to receive its temporary occupation permit (TOP) in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Picture Source: Facade of The Wisteria and Wisteria Mall.
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Strong property potential for northeast Singapore

With the first quarter of 2016 well underway, property seekers were keen to find out about current property market statistics and what these data trends could tell them about the outlook for the local property market. This interest was reflected by the large crowd at the Kingsford Waterbay show suite, where the latest edition of PropertyGuru’s Guru Talk was held.

Guru Talk is a series of property knowledge empowerment seminars aimed at providing a comprehensive Guru View of the property market. The edition held on 27 February 2016 saw Eugene Lim, Key Executive Officer of ERA Realty Network, providing some highly regarded insight to the local property scene, as well his expert predictions for the rest of the year.

Giving attendees a holistic view of Singapore’s property market, Lim covered vast ground, sharing his views on data trends across both the government and private housing sectors.

Broaching the topic of the HDB resale market first, he pointed out that though prices had been on the decline for two consecutive years, this trend stopped in the last quarter of 2015. In fact, prices saw an increase. This, however, does not mean a quick price rebound but rather, price stabilisation.

“Property prices have been trending downwards over the last two years but what is interesting to note is that the price decrease stopped in the last quarter. In the final quarter of 2015, based on HDB statistics, prices have edged up by 0.1 percent.

“Is this going to carry on? Are we expecting a price rebound? As a homeowner, you would most definitely want to see that. However, the government has been ‘balancing’ the market with increased supply. We see that the HDB has been launching a lot more new flats, especially in mature estates. They will not be flooding the newer estates anymore, so on a high level, all this points to the stabilisation of HDB resale prices.”Continuing with his coverage of the local property market, Lim went on to speak about the private residential sector, where he pointed out trends similar to the HDB resale market — the rate of year-on-year price decrease had slowed down, indicating price stabilisation, something reflected in price points from recent months.

Continuing with his coverage of the local property market, Lim went on to speak about the private residential sector, where he pointed out trends similar to the HDB resale market — the rate of year-on-year price decrease had slowed down, indicating price stabilisation, something reflected in price points from recent months.

“Year-on-year, we see very little change (in private residential price points), which means the market has started to stabilise. The rate of decline has actually slowed down and monthly prices are quite stable. Now, with all the moderations in the market, you’ll find that price lines plotted across a monthly chart have stabilised, and the prices in the private property market are expected to maintain a status quo, ” Lim said.

He cautioned: “One thing we need to be aware of is that we are a very small country, and as a small country, we are a ‘price taker’. Any external shock will affect Singapore today, more so than in the past, as we continue to be a very open market.”

When asked to look into his crystal ball Eugene mentioned that the northeast region holds good potential for property investments, citing reasons such as the rise of nearby business and industrial parks, and estates in the region, like Hougang, which is part of the Remaking our Heartlands (ROH) programme. Furthermore, the Cross Island Line, which will cut through the region, will be complete by 2030.

As a bonus, fengshui master Jet Lee, Principal and Founder of Yi-Culture, shared with attendees his views on how fengshui can be involved in a property purchase. He also gave his Singapore property market outlook, while boldly predicting the lifting of certain cooling measures by Q3 2017.

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Small island, big plans

It is often said that a man’s reputation precedes him. In the case of Cui Zhengfeng, owner of Kingsford Development, part of the impression I had of him prior to our first meeting was that he took great pride in his work.

After all, he had decided this interview was to be conducted at the Kingsford Hillview Peak showflat in Bukit Batok, and seemed rather pleased that I had arrived slightly early to view the condominium, which happens to be Kingsford’s first project in Singapore.

Another trait that stood out was his ambitious streak. Though English is still the main challenge for the Chinese national, the language barrier has not stopped him from expanding the company’s operations from China to not only Singapore, but Australia as well. He says he relies on a translator when it comes to doing business with English speakers, and reading English-language documents.

In person, he comes across as friendly and chatty, eager to commence the interview and share his experiences with us. Speaking in Mandarin, his excitement is evident in his hand gestures, rapid speech and tone of voice.

From regiments to residences

A Shenyang native, Cui joined the army at the age of 18, before taking a job as a tax officer at age 30. Not long after, he decided to use his pension fund to invest in factories, venturing into property development in 2000. He eventually came to Singapore and, finding the market favourable, decided to start developing property here. Last year, the business expanded to Australia, though Singapore remains Kingsford’s primary focus, apart from China.

Cui says of his real estate journey so far: “It’s not an easy business. 20 years ago, there was no Kingsford, and you cannot study to become a CEO. In this industry, there are many responsibilities (because) what you sell is not just a product, but a family’s dream.”

Service-oriented strategy

When it comes to Kingsford Development, Cui is happy to talk about its portfolio. The company focuses mainly on China, Singapore and Australia, and its biggest undertaking so far is a 460,000 sq m project in China. After entering the Singapore property market with Kingsford Hillview Peak, it embarked on its second condominium development here, Kingsford Waterbay.

Throughout the interview, Cui emphasises repeatedly that in order to further build Kingsford’s brand, its priority must be to “help aspiring homeowners fulfil their dreams and get their dream homes”.

He says: “I am more concerned with service than with profit. I want Kingsford to have lasting power and a long legacy, and in order to achieve this, I must constantly provide high-quality homes for my customers.

Cui’s ambitions are clear. He says resolutely: “Kingsford is looking at the whole world. From China to Singapore to Australia, we keep up with the goings-on in all countries. Our main operations are in China, while Singapore is our base for overseas operations; Australia is the next country we have decided to explore, and have set up our business there.”

Uniqueness amid commonality

So what sets Cui apart from other prominent names in the real estate business? Well, he believes one must first determine what he shares with his industry peers before he can determine his unique selling point.

“In order to understand the difference between oneself and others in the same industry, we must first find common ground with them. We share the same goals and pursuits: to excel in our work and develop our businesses.

“More time must be focused on the quality of the property and your employees’ performance. We must respect every project and every person. And for us, as a young company, we need to learn from our predecessors and competitors, retaining the positive so we can be more professional and eventually, overtake them in the industry.

“What sets me apart is my dogged determination to succeed. I choose not to give up but to persevere, because the qualities of the head of the company represent the qualities of the company itself. Perhaps this statement is a little dramatic, but there is some truth to it. Once I have set my mind to something, I will do whatever it takes to achieve it. I am also grateful to my staff for their support.

“Kingsford is also unique because instead of being profit-focused, we focus on providing quality homes for our customers.”

Looking to the future

Going forward, Cui certainly has grand ambitions for Kingsford. He has plans for the business to expand into Vietnam and India, largely due to their recent respective GDP growth of over six percent. He is also eyeing Canada and New Zealand as potential candidates for Kingsford’s expansion.

The company still has over 600 units to sell in Brisbane, Australia, after which he will observe the market before making further decisions.

Back home in China, Kingsford is working on a development in Cui’s hometown of Shenyang. It will launch at the end of the year, and with 10,000 units and an area of 800,000 sq m, is purported to be 10 times the size of Kingsford Waterbay.

When asked for his predictions for Singapore’s housing market, he immediately gives an answer with which many Singaporeans are likely to disagree: “Even though home prices in Singapore are high, they should not be reduced. Doing so will hurt the economy and in turn, the people of Singapore.”

However, he does feel the government should relax the cooling measures. He explains, “Like Singapore, the Chinese government has been introducing many of its own measures and policies to cool the market. But because of the long period of government control of the market, even removing the measures now will not encourage more people to buy.

“Now it has to introduce another set of measures to encourage them to enter the market. The same might happen here if the government does not relax or remove some of the measures soon.”

Lessons and challenges

Cui’s foremost challenge is the language barrier he faces outside of his homeland. He says this was particularly trying when he first set up shop in Singapore. While he has not yet learnt the language, he still insists on handling all his research and documents personally, with a translator on hand to help him.

After 15 years in the business, his advice to younger property entrepreneurs is this: “It is most important to maintain the enthusiasm you had at the beginning. It is your career’s driving force. You must always remember why you started the business, and what your beliefs are.”

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Phnom Penh: Asia’s next top city

Cambodia’s real estate market is heating up, especially in its capital Phnom Penh, with foreign developers from China, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea looking to expand their footprint in the fast-growing city.

For Singaporean developers, restrictive cooling measures in the city-state, as well as the passing of legislation some years back allowing foreigners to own Cambodian property, have been the main pull factors for companies such as Oxley Holdings, Teho International and TA Corporation to develop large-scale commercial and residential projects in Phnom Penh.

Under the Foreign Ownership Property Law, foreigners can own upper-floor units, but not ground floor units, and up to 70 percent of a condominium project.

According to property consultancy CBRE, this restriction has little impact on foreign buyers, considering that apartments are usually not built on the ground floor.

Outperforming the neighbours

In its inaugural Cambodia Real Estate Highlights report, Knight Frank said it expects the country’s economy to grow at an average of seven percent year-on-year until 2018, outperforming other economies in the region. Much of the growth will come from the manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and construction sectors, with the latter helping to boost the fledgling property market.

Today the city of Phnom Penh is a hive of building activity, “dotted with mid- to high-rise projects under construction”, says Sofia Perez, Research and Consultancy Manager at Knight Frank Cambodia.

She notes that “11 condominium developments were launched in H2 2015, which will add 1,768 units to the existing stock”, in contrast to the 2009 and 2010 period, when only 732 condo units were put up for sale.

Over the next four years, Knight Frank expects the supply of new residential apartments in the city to surge by a whopping 641 percent. Meanwhile, CBRE believes that Cambodia’s condominium market offers great potential, and expects over 9,000 units to enter the market between 2015 and 2018.

However, with thousands of units expected to be ready in the next few years, some analysts are warning of a possible oversupply.

“There are growing concerns about a potential oversupply in the near future, with many anticipating supply to quickly outpace demand. This can be attributed mainly to limited local market demand coming from high-net-worth individuals and expatriates living in Cambodia, which has forced many developers to target the overseas market,” said Perez.

“Taiwanese, Chinese, Singaporeans, Japanese and Malaysians are some of the main overseas investors buying the majority of the residential units.”

In addition, Knight Frank revealed that many developers are looking to increase sales by offering incentives such as upfront discounts, furniture packages and guaranteed rental returns.

Condo prices up; still much cheaper than in S’pore

The recent launches of a few major projects have pushed prices of condo units upwards, noted Perez. But prices are still significantly lower compared to Singapore. For instance, high-end units in central locations are going for more than US$279 psf (S$386 psf), with some penthouses priced at US$465 psf (S$643 psf), said the consultancy.

As for rentals, high-end condominiums in the city centre can command anywhere between US$1,345 (S$1,859) to US$4,500 (S$6,219) for one- to four-bedroom units, according to figures from the fourth quarter of 2015, added the consultancy.

Meanwhile, property investors have been recording rental returns of between five and seven percent, and capital growth of between five and 7.5 percent per annum.

Foreign property firms move in

As confidence in the property market continues to grow, more real estate agencies are expanding into Cambodia to support marketing efforts. US-based Century 21 opened a representative office in Phnom Penh in 2014, while global firm Savills joined forces with Cambodia’s Keystone Property Consultants last year.

Property developers from Singapore are also recognising Cambodia’s great potential for growth.

“We are of the view that Cambodia’s property market exhibits the right fundamentals for growth: a robust GDP supported by foreign investments, translating into rising demand for office space; and the rising affluence of Cambodia’s young middle class, translating into demand for quality residences,” said TA Corporation’s Executive Director and CEO Neo Tiam Boon.

The group just launched The Gateway, a mixed-use development located in Phnom Penh’s central business district that comprises 299 strata-titled office units and 572 one- to three-bedroom apartments. It also comes with guaranteed rental returns of 12 percent over two years for the residential units, and 16 percent for the office units.

Currently, about 30 percent of the residential apartments and 40 percent of the office units have been sold or reserved. Aside from Singapore, the project will also be marketed elsewhere in Asia, including Taiwan and China.

Oxley Holdings is also seeing strong interest for its two mixed-use developments in Phnom Penh, The Bridge and The Peak.

So far, almost 100 percent of the residential units and more than 70 percent of the Soho apartments at The Bridge have been sold, said Oxley.

The developer also revealed that phase one of The Peak, comprising 507 residential units in Tower 1, is close to 50 percent sold. The 55-storey freehold project features two residential towers with a total of 1,014 units, a 15-floor office tower and a 300-room hotel, all above a five-storey retail podium.

Property buyers of residential units at The Peak are guaranteed a 12 percent net rental return for two years, subject to conditions.

“We have a good mix of local and foreign buyers for both The Bridge and The Peak. Cambodian buyers contribute close to 50 percent of the total sales. Other than Singaporeans, Taiwanese and Malaysians also form part of the foreigners who buy at these two projects,” a spokesperson for Oxley told PropertyGuru.


Population: Approximately 2.2 million

Total area: 678.5 sq km

Currency: Cambodian Riel

GDP per capita (Cambodia): US$1,220 (2015)

GDP growth: 7.5 percent (2016)

Future transport: Public train service by 2020

Home prices: S$255 psf to S$319 psf

Distance from Singapore: Approximately 1,140 km

Summary of major property related issues and taxes associated with real estate investment in Cambodia:


Take a peek at these two Cambodian mixed-use developments bound to entice Singaporean buyers.


The Gateway
Russian Boulevard, Phnom Penh

Type: Mixed-use development
Developer: TA Corporation
Tenure: Freehold
Facilities: Swimming pool, gymnasium, function room, barbecue pavilions
Nearby Key Amenities: Universities, foreign embassies, medical facilities, shopping and dining outlets
Nearest Transport: Major roads linking the Phnom Penh International Airport and the city centre
Starting Price: US$152,300 (S$210,927)

The Gateway by TA Corp is the developer’s first large-scale project in Phnom Penh. It consists of a 36-storey tower with 299 strata-titled office units, and a 39-storey apartment block with 572 residences, which sits on top of a retail podium.

The residential component features one- to three-bedroom apartments, with unit sizes ranging from 560 sq ft to 1,184 sq ft.

The Gateway also promises 12 percent returns on apartment rentals and 16 percent returns for offices. Slated for completion in 2019, the development is located adjacent to the Cambodian Prime Minister’s Office in the central business district.

The Peak
Samdech Hun Sen Road, Phnom Penh

Type: Mixed-use development
Developer: Oxley Holdings
Tenure: Freehold
Facilities: Infinity pool, yoga room, games room, sunset viewing deck
Nearby Key Amenities: AEON Mall, Naga World Hotel, convention centre, foreign embassies
Nearest Transport: Royal Railway Station, Phnom Penh International Airport
Starting Price: US$175,000 (S$242,377)

The Peak is the second development by Oxley Holdings in Phnom Penh. The 55-storey mixed-use project features two residential towers with a total of 1,014 units, a 15-floor office tower and a 300-room hotel, all above a five-storey retail podium.

The residential unit types range from studio apartments to one, two, and three-bedroom units and penthouses, each measuring between 463 sq ft and 1,970 sq ft. It faces the Mekong River and is close to Naga World Hotel and Aeon Mall.

The developer has guaranteed a 12 percent net rental return over two years for buyers of The Peak, subject to conditions. The development is expected to be completed in 2020.

Picture Source: View of central Phnom Penh./Knight Frank Research
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Budgeting tips for aspiring homeowners

1. Determine your type

First and foremost, there are two things to establish: the type of house you want, and your buyer status. Are you looking at a HDB flat, a condominium or a landed home? Are you single, or buying together with your spouse or spouse-to-be? Are you a Singapore citizen, permanent resident (PR), or foreigner? Regardless of your marital status or nationality, you can buy a condo or landed home if you are at least 21 years old. If you are single, you are eligible to purchase a HDB flat only if you are at least 35 years old; married or engaged couples can buy HDB flats as long as they are at least 21 years old. However, do note that foreigners cannot buy HDB flats, and PRs can buy HDB flats only if they are resale units.

2. A buyer’s duty

As a home buyer, you will be subject to a Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD), which is tax payable on the house’s selling price or market value, whichever is higher. The system of payment is as follows: one percent on the first $180,000 of the price agreed upon by both buyer and seller, two percent on the next $180,000 and three percent on the rest of the price. This applies to all buyers, regardless of nationality and marital status.

If you are a PR, you will be subject to five percent Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), whether you want to buy public or private housing. Foreigners buying private property will be subject to 15 percent ABSD.

3. Doing up your living space

Most new homes come with standard fittings, such as bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Many condos even come with wardrobes, cooker hoods, washers and more. However, you would still have to set aside a budget for furniture and décor. Your budget will depend on where you want to shop and whether or not you are planning to hire an interior designer. The former will likely cost less, but requires more time and effort on your part. The latter will cost more due to the design firm’s services, but you will spend less time shopping.

If you are buying a house from its current owner, you may wish to renovate it. This is the costliest, most time-consuming option; be sure to hire a reputable contractor and, if you so choose, a reliable interior design firm as well.

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Rental woes in our residential market

When we go out and speak to real estate agents, many of them tell us they need to work harder now, because of sluggish transactions in the real estate market. Many of them were used to earning a month’s income from one or two transactions, but had to turn to the rental market and work a lot harder, since commissions were smaller.

From afar, Singapore’s residential rental market looks like a bright spot in a lacklustre real estate industry. For both the HDB and private rental market, transactions actually moved upwards, even as sluggish sales led to many agents exiting the industry. Early indications this year also point towards the rental market doing brisk transactions as well.

Volume however, is only one part of the equation. The other is price.

Figure 1 shows the volume and median rental transactions per month over the course of 2014 and 2015 for the non-landed private residential market. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of transactions actually increased 10.4 percent, with the two year high taking place in Aug 2015.

However, prices are on a clear downward trajectory, with the year ending on a two year low of a median $3.29 psf per month across the island. While January this year did see upward movement, this is likely to be seasonal, as transactions pick up after the year-end holidays. January 2016’s overall median rental price is a 6.3 percent year-on-year decline from January 2015’s, an early indication that doesn’t bode well for rental prices this year either.

For landlords, this is a worrying trend. Singapore’s private residential property market traditionally has low yields due to our high prices. With rental rates heading south, net yields are likely to compress further, or even become

negative. For landlords dependent on rental income to pay for their mortgages, cash flow issues might force their hand and they might need to offload their assets at a time when property sales are soft.

The HDB rental market tells a similar story. Rental volumes started seeing increases in 2014, and stayed consistently high in 2015, hovering around the 10K mark per quarter, while rental prices slipped 5.6 percent over the past eight quarters (see Figure 2). 2016’s first quarter numbers will only be published this April, but what we hear from the ground is that rents remain soft, and tenants are driving hard bargains.

HDB landlords, in general, face less pressure compared to their private counterparts. Many HDB landlords are upgraders who chose to hold on to their units for rental income instead of selling them to get capital for their private property purchases. These landlords are often in a more stable financial position, especially for those who purchased their second properties after the implementation of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR). This is because their bank loans were calculated with more stringent criteria, and they are unlikely to default on their loans, even if their HDB units remain untenanted.

Explaining the numbers

The HDB and private non-landed residential market are seeing similar transaction and price trends, because the underlying macroeconomic causes are the same.

On the one hand, we are seeing an exuberant supply of housing units hitting the market. In 2015, over 48,000 residential units were completed and entered the market. This year, that number is expected to rise to over 51,000.

This is because in 2011 and 2012, the government set about increasing the supply of Build to Order (BTO) flats to meet the demands of couples and young families, who were unable to get a unit during the ballot. At the same time, they were priced out of the resale market, with HDB sellers generating tons of froth by chasing ever higher cash-over-valuations (COV). This has alleviated somewhat, with the authorities ceasing to measure COV.

In the private market, overly optimistic land bids by developers and record high enbloc sales also led to a huge supply of private units being launched for sale. We are now seeing the fruits of those efforts today, with construction completing and keys being handed over.

The entry of all these units into the market has led to an embarrassment of riches for tenants when it comes to unit choices. This gives tenants plenty of clout when it comes to tenancy renegotiations, with rental prices being pushed downwards. Landlords must learn to budge quickly, or risk having untenanted units. Private condo landlords, especially those who are highly leveraged and need rental income to stay afloat, would quickly find themselves stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

While the supply of housing stock is seeing sharp increases, the supply of tenants is taking a hit.

Figure 3 shows the number of Employment Passes (EP) and S Passes (SP) approved over the past four years, as well as their rate of growth. EPs are for foreign professionals, managers and executives, and require a minimum income of $3,300 per month, while SPs are for mid-level skilled staff, with a minimum of $2,200 a month. Over the past three years, the rate of growth has remained low, due to widespread angst among locals against foreign labour coming in to Singapore.

For landlords dealing with increased competition from the increased housing supply, the reduction in foreign workers entering the country is a double whammy, making it harder for rental stock to be absorbed. The problem is also compounded by a less than optimistic global economic outlook, with several firms in the finance and oil and gas sectors announcing layoffs.

For expatriate workers who remain employed, many see compensation packages being localised, and are seeing housing allowances being reduced or even removed altogether. With lower budgets to be spent on housing, many expatriates need to seek cheaper rental alternatives, i.e., moving from private condos to HDB rentals, or negotiate for lower monthly rents.

While this explains the falls in rents we are seeing, it doesn’t necessarily explain why rental transaction volumes are on the rise. The reason, however, is a lot more depressing for landlords than the numbers might otherwise tell us. What the numbers indicate are actually the number of contracts signed by tenants, which landlords are required to declare for tax purposes. The number of contracts signed, therefore, have increased, because contracts are being signed more frequently, with tenants signing shorter-term contracts of one year or even less.

Traditionally, tenants sign two-year contracts, locking in rental rates for the period, allowing landlords to have some surety in their cashflow expectations. With one-year contracts, tenants have more leeway to negotiate their rental contracts downwards, or move to a cheaper alternative if their landlords refuse to budge. At the same time, with job security somewhat in flux, shorter contracts offer more wiggle room if they need to break their leases.

What can landlords do?

It is a tenants’ market, and landlords need to recognise that. For landlords that have holding power and who are able to absorb the reduced yields, they should be open to negotiating and reducing their rents. The key is to keep the units tenanted, even if they need to make concessions, in order to minimise what they need to fork out.

With most market watchers predicting that the property market will see the start of a recovery this year (provided the global economy doesn’t drag it down), landlords might want to relook their portfolios. Landlords who are overleveraged might need to bite the bullet and offload some properties, even if the capital appreciation is not yet where they would like it to be.

Alternatively, if a long term tenant is hard to come by, investors may choose to switch tack by using services like AirBnb to rent their units to tourists. In general, yields are better than long term tenancy, but there is a lot more hassle in managing the unit due to the turnover frequency. AirBnb, is also frowned upon by the authorities, and landlords should be aware that they are operating in a legal grey area. At the same time, the factors that would make a unit popular with tenants are the factors that would make them popular with tourists. If one’s unit has less cachet with tenants, it might be hard to attract tourists as well.

Quick tips for investors

No salesperson would ever tell you that the unit or project they are selling has no or low investment potential. It is therefore up to the individual investor to make their own assessment about the rental potential of their property. In general, investors are advised to look out for potential cachets of tenants within the vicinity, and should have a unit that is within walking distance to an MRT station. Walking distance is generally defined as 500 metres, or a five- to 10-minute walk.

In general, when looking out for areas with a larger potential tenant pool, it is also advised that landlords look for diverse industries and sources. For instance, investors like the Changi Business Park area, because of the technology, finance, and retail businesses in the area, as well as the faculty, students and staff of the Singapore University of Design and Technology (SUTD).

In Singapore, the government also publishes the Masterplan online. Investors should always refer to it and be familiar with what the government has planned for the future, to determine their potential capital appreciation, and what the tenant pool will look like in the future.

When looking at an investment unit’s price, it is also important to keep in mind what kind of rental pricing levels one would need to set. Most investors would want to set at a level that would be able to minimally cover their monthly mortgage payments. They should factor in their maintenance charges and other ownership fees as well. After doing the maths, if the desired rental sum looks far too outlandish when compared to the current rental prices, it might be better to walk away from the project, especially if holding power is an issue.

Picture Source: URA,PropertyGuru Analytics
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S’pore still the world’s most expensive city

Singapore has retained its status as the world’s most expensive city for a third consecutive year. However, its lead over the next two cities, Zurich and Hong Kong, has narrowed, according to the latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Geneva and Paris round out the top five cities, followed by London, New York and Los Angeles. The rankings list tracked 133 cities.

Despite Singapore topping the list, the report revealed that prices in the city-state were lower in some categories, such as basic groceries. Prices are 33 percent higher in Seoul, followed by Hong Kong (28 percent) and Tokyo (26 percent).

However, Singapore is considered more expensive in other categories.

“It is the most expensive place in the world to buy and run a car, thanks to Singapore’s complex Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system. Transport costs in Singapore are 2.7 times higher than in New York. Alongside Seoul, Singapore is also a very expensive city in which to buy clothes and pay for utilities,” stated the report.

The EIU survey compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help and recreational costs.

New York was used as a base for city-to-city comparisons; it has an index set at 100.

The purpose of the survey is to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances in order to put together compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers, said the EIU.

Read the full report here.

Picture Source: Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit
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URA revises rules for property developers

In a bid to promote accountability and protect the interests of home buyers, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) recently revised the criteria for issuing sales licences for home builders, reported The Straits Times.

First, the minimum paid-up capital or deposit for those applying for a licence, has been raised from $1 million to between $1 million and $4 million, depending on the project’s size.

Those intending to build and sell a housing project with up to 50 units must have a paid-up capital of $1 million, $2 million for developments with 51 to 200 units, $3 million for projects with 201 to 400 units, and $4 million for larger developments.

Second, developers can no longer cite non-residential projects in the track record, to be submitted as part of their sales licence application, as commercial and industrial projects differ from residential developments.

According to Nicholas Mak, Head of Research and Consultancy at SLP International, this would prevent some smaller players in the industrial sector from venturing into the housing market.

Third, the number of units that a developer can be allowed to build will depend on the size of the completed developments specified in the track record.

If a company has completed fewer than 10 units, it can only obtain a sales licence for a new housing project with less than 50 units. Those who have constructed 11 to 50 units are permitted to build fewer than 200 units. Those with 51 to 100 units under their portfolio are eligible for developments with less than 400 units, while firms that have built over 100 units have no restrictions.

This new rule will safeguard buyers from developers who want to launch many units, but don’t necessarily have the experience, said Augustine Tan, President of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS).

Finally, for developers applying for a sales licence based on the track record of their companies, at least one of its directors involved in the previous project must remain in his or her position.

“Developers can always disappear from Singapore after taking profit… But if they have a couple of people who are qualified directors, these people would hopefully behave more responsibly and can be held accountable,” noted Ku Swee Yong, Chief Executive, Century 21.

The changes will apply to all new licence applications received from 1 April 2016 onwards.

Picture Source: Construction in Singapore.
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More Singaporeans now living in condos: survey

More Singaporeans now own their own homes, according to results of the latest General Household Survey released by the Department of Statistics (Singstat) on Wednesday (9 March).

In 2015, homeownership among resident households reached 90.8 percent, up from 87.2 percent in 2010. Chinese households recorded the highest rate of homeownership at 93.1 percent, followed by Malay (86.9 percent) and Indian (84.1 percent) households.

Around 80.1 percent of households in Singapore lived in HDB flats last year, down from 82.4 percent in 2010. Four-room flats remain the most common property type, with 32 percent of households residing in them, followed by five-room and executive flats (24.1 percent), and three-room flats (18.2 percent).

The proportion of households who live in condominiums and other apartments also rose to 13.9 percent last year from 11.5 percent in 2010, while the percentage of those who stay in landed properties dipped from 5.7 percent to 5.6 percent.

Meanwhile, there were more singles among younger age groups. Between 2010 and 2015, the proportion of singles among residents aged 25 to 29 increased from 54 percent to 63 percent for females, and from 74.6 percent to 80.2 percent for males. For those aged 30 and above, the figures remain unchanged.

There were also more households with elderly members. The proportion of households with at least one resident aged 65 and above rose from 24.1 percent in 2010 to 29.1 percent last year.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s resident population reached 3.9 million in June 2015, comprising 3.38 million citizens and 0.53 million permanent residents (PRs).

The survey was conducted from May to July 2015. Of the 33,000 housing units selected for the initial sample, 27,804 households responded, translating to an overall response rate of 87.4 percent.

Read the full report here.

Picture Source: Apartment blocks in Singapore.
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PropNex bucks trend with $200m in commissions

Despite Singapore’s sluggish property market, PropNex Realty saw gross commissions soar to a record high of $200 million in 2015, while transaction volume surpassed 40,000 for the first time.

In a statement, the real estate agency said its strong financial results were achieved against a backdrop of rising interest rates, softer economic growth, falling prices and transaction volumes, oversupply worries and higher vacancy rates.

Developers also face hefty extension charges for unsold units, while the exodus of property agents continues. During the latest license-renewal period with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), the number of registered agents and real estate agencies fell by eight percent and four percent respectively from 2014’s numbers. Only 1,299 new agents joined the industry in 2015, versus 3,006 in the previous year.

In recent years, PropNex, which has a stable of over 6,000 agents, has been appointed as the marketing agency for more than 40 local projects.

Of these, there are still around 7,500 unsold units, which the company plans to help clear, including private condos, executive condominiums (ECs), landed homes, as well as commercial and industrial properties.

Meanwhile, PropNex has proposed a number of tweaks to the government’s property cooling measures. These include easing the loan-to-value (LTV) limits, reducing the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for local and foreign buyers, and raising the mortgage servicing ratio (MSR) for EC buyers to 45 percent, from the current 30 percent.

These recommendations are based on feedback and observations gathered from its 200,000-plus transactions since 2009.

PropNex believes that now is a good time to calibrate some of the cooling measures, as home prices have become more affordable, non-performing loans were at just 0.4 percent as at Q3 2015, and there is looming oversupply.

Speculative activity has also lessened, with quarterly sub-sales at just three to four percent of last year’s total volume. Furthermore, foreign demand has declined, with expatriates accounting for just eight percent of the overall volume in 2015, down from about 18 percent in 2011.

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Prime properties now more affordable: JLL

Prime residential property in Singapore is significantly more affordable now than in the rest of the world’s best cities, according to the latest JLL report.

“Singapore ranks amongst the top global cities, together with London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Forbes named Singapore the fourth most visited city globally. Mercer ranks Singapore the top city in Asia for quality of living and the fourth most expensive city in the world for expatriates,” said Regina Lim, JLL Singapore’s National Director for Advisory and Research for Capital Markets.

Still, prime home prices here are considerably lower than those in the aforementioned markets. Prices in Hong Kong are now 165 percent higher than Singapore, while prices in New York and London were higher by 80 to 90 percent in 2015, compared to a price advantage of just 10 to 30 percent in 2010.

Lim noted that the prices of prime residential properties here fell 20 percent from their peak in 2011 by 20 percent to S$1,991 psf in Q4 2015.

Among all the asset classes in Singapore, this segment has corrected the most in the last four years. On the other hand, office, retail and industrial property prices have fallen by just four to six percent, while prices of suburban homes have dropped by 12 percent.

On real terms, prime home prices here were also more affordable in 2015 than they were in 2003. Although last year’s prices were 70 percent higher than those recorded around 13 years ago, the median household income in Singapore has risen by 90 percent since then. Based on JLL’s estimates, prices are now equivalent to 5.6 years of income, versus 5.9 years in 2003.

In addition, the consultancy expects rents for such homes to rise after 2016 due to their limited supply, despite the existing the property cooling measures and sluggish transaction levels on the prime residential market.

There is also room for more growth, as rents are currently 40 percent below 2008’s levels and just eight percent above 2000’s levels. In contrast, Singapore’s median household income has risen 100 percent in the last 16 years.

Looking ahead, JLL believes there will be more opportunities to buy prime residential units in wholesale terms.

“For prime residential units completed in 2012, several developers have transferred unsold units to 100 percent Singapore-owned entities, or sold them in bulk at lower prices in 2014 to 2015. This further suppressed prices in a challenging market. We think developers could seek to sell around 1,000 units in bulk from 2016 to 2018 if the market does not improve expediently,” Lim added.

Picture Source: Singapore’s prime residential property is now more affordable than in other top global cities. (Photo: Erwin Soo, Wikimedia Commons)
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S’pore named best city for young professionals

Singapore was named the world’s best city for young people, in terms of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, according to a study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by the Citi Foundation, reported The Guardian.

Based on the Accelerating Pathways Youth Economic Strategy (YES) Index 2015, the city-state took the top spot in the rankings, considering factors like employment growth, availability of quality jobs and the ease of starting a new business.

“There does not appear to be any discrimination against young people, and the working environment is safe (in Singapore),” said the report.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) also works together with employers, unions and the government to create awareness and facilitate the adoption of fair employment practices for all.

“However, the cost of living in Singapore is high, and the youth cited this as a top concern in a 2014 poll conducted in the city (Mass Media Research survey).” Furthermore, over 60 percent of the youth surveyed have considered moving abroad to realise their employment and education objectives.

Meanwhile, Toronto was ranked second in the same category, followed by Hong Kong, Miami, and Chicago. Taipei landed in sixth place, with New York, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and London trailing behind.

The YES Index assessed the economic environment for the youth in 35 cities across the world by measuring the drivers and enablers that can improve their economic situation. The research was conducted between January 2015 and May 2015.

Read the full report here.

Picture Source: A new study has named Singapore the top city worldwide for young professionals. (Photo: Bahnfrend, Wikimedia Commons)
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15 May 2016

NParks seeks design ideas for Jurong Lake Gardens

Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks) is inviting consultancies to take part in the concept design plan for Jurong Lake Gardens (JLG) Central and East.

A key requirement is that the ideas must integrate well with the design guidelines for JLG West and the surrounding area.

JLG West is the new name for Jurong Lake Park. JLG Central consists of the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, while JLG East comprises a five-metre wide promenade fronting the new Science Centre and the northern part of Jurong Lake.

The Science Centre will be relocated next to the Chinese Garden MRT station, and will come with green roofs and landscape terraces.

The entire development must complement the existing Jurong Gateway area, the commercial hub of Jurong Lake District. The design must also incorporate green features, through the use of water and energy efficient practices, and recycled and renewable materials.

Another consideration for the appointed consultant will be to take into account the suggestions gathered by NParks in May 2015.

“Common suggestions included preserving the tranquillity of the area, retaining existing nature and biodiversity hotspots, provision of ample basic amenities, accessibility for elderly and the handicapped, affordable food and beverage options, and careful traffic planning to mitigate potential road congestion,” said the agency.

Interested consultants must submit their proposals by 25 April. Five firms will be selected for the second and final stage of the tender in June, with the winner to be announced at the end of this year.

Construction of JLG West will commence in April and is expected to be finished by 2018, while JLG Central and East will be progressively completed from 2020 onwards.

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HK home sales plunge 70% from last year

The number of residential transactions in Hong Kong plunged by 70 percent on an annual basis last month, as buyers shunned the housing market amidst falling prices and economic uncertainty, reported Bloomberg.

According to government data, only 1,807 units were sold in February compared to 2,045 in the previous month. This is a far cry from the 6,027 transactions recorded during the same period last year.

“The newspapers keep on saying the market is going down and buyers think they can get a cheaper house half-a-year later or one year later, and so are waiting,” said Centaline Property Agency salesperson Thomas Fok, who hasn’t sold a single unit at the city’s upscale Mid-levels West district this year.

In addition, home prices fell 10 percent from their September peak due to worries over China’s slowing economy and the plan by Hong Kong authorities to raise the supply of residential units in the next five years. Local officials also reiterated that the existing property cooling measures will remain in place.

As such, BOCOM International Holdings’ analyst Alfred Lau believes that home prices in the city could fall by 30 percent in 2016.

Given this challenging environment, Sun Hung Kai Properties slashed its sales target in Hong Kong by 18 percent to HK$27 billion for the whole of 2016. Sales by New World Development also plunged 79 percent during the first half of its financial year to HK$2.8 billion, which is just 28 percent of its full-year target.

Despite the challenging situation, some developers still see opportunities in Hong Kong. For instance, Goldin Financial Holdings’ Chairman Pan Sutong feels that prices of luxury homes will remain resilient, especially for those located in areas with limited supply.

Earlier this month, his company submitted the winning bid of HK$6.38 billion for a land parcel in the posh neighbourhood of Ho Man Tin, where a subway station is being built.

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Ascott to open serviced apartment in one-north

Serviced residence owner-operator The Ascott Limited has secured a serviced apartment at one-north business park through a lease awarded by JTC Corporation. The 50-unit property is currently operating and will be rebranded to Citadines Fusionopolis Singapore from 1 April 2016.

“With its choice location within the Fusionopolis, and its spacious loft apartments that appeal to expatriates on long stay, we are confident that Citadines Fusionopolis Singapore will further strengthen Ascott’s business in Singapore,” said Anthony Khoo, Ascott’s Head of Singapore Cluster.

The units feature high ceilings, separate living and dining areas, a kitchen and bedroom. The serviced residence is located within the 30ha Fusionopolis precinct of one-north business park, Singapore’s R&D hub that is home to over 400 companies.

It is also close to Star Vista shopping mall, National University Hospital, Singapore Polytechnic, and the one-north MRT station.

Following the opening of Citadines Fusionopolis, the 220-unit Ascott Orchard Singapore is expected to welcome guests in early-2017.

Situated within the Orchard Road shopping belt, the prime serviced residence is within proximity to the Orchard and Somerset MRT stations. It will be directly linked to Paragon shopping mall via a covered link-bridge and forms part of CapitaLand’s latest integrated development.

With the opening of Citadines Fusionopolis and Ascott Orchard, the company will have more than 1,000 units in Singapore, making it one of the largest serviced residence operators here, shared Khoo.

He added that the city-state is one of Ascott’s best performing markets after China, France and the UK. Its local properties have been achieving strong occupancy of above 80 percent.

Picture Source: Citadines Fusionopolis Singapore. (Photo: JTC)
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Johor to become an economic powerhouse

With four ongoing large-scale projects, Malaysia’s Johor state is set to become the next economic powerhouse in the country behind Klang Valley, reported The Star Online.

These mega developments comprise the multibillion-ringgit Forest City, the oil and gas facilities in Pengerang, the double-tracking project between Gemas and Johor Bahru, and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR).

“All these projects, together with good planning not just coming from Putrajaya but at the district as well as grassroots levels, I am sure that Johor’s future is bright despite the uncertain global economy,” said Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In fact, the state attracted RM31.1 billion in investments in the manufacturing sector last year, which accounted for 41.6 percent of the country’s total investments, based on data from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).

“Johor is an important state for the government. And I do believe that the state is in good hands and its aspirations to become a new economic powerhouse will soon become a reality,” he noted.

Najib also expressed his optimism that Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia will continue to flourish as it has attracted over RM200 billion in investments since its creation in 2006.

He said this after unveiling the Johor Strategic Economic Growth Plan (PPSJ) and Iskandar Malaysia Comprehensive Development Plan ii (CDPii) at Educity’s Indoor Stadium on Sunday (6 March).

Under the PPSJ, all 10 districts in Johor will have the chance to receive investments by showcasing their unique products to a larger market, ensuring that all areas will benefit from the state’s economic growth.

Picture Source: View of Johor Bahru.
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Johor’s Forest City given duty-free status

Forest City in Johor is set to become a duty-free zone, announced Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak at the project’s opening ceremony today (6 March), which was also attended by Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

Other packages unveiled include corporate tax incentives for qualified companies, or companies with Iskandar Development Region (IDR) status involved in the tourism, education and healthcare sectors.

Being a green development, there will also be corporate tax incentives for green developers and green development managers, and a waiver on company equity restrictions for foreign investors to claim these incentives.

Comprising four man-made islands in the Johor Strait, near the Tuas Second Link, the S$58.3 billion Forest City township is being developed by Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV), jointly owned by Chinese property giant Country Garden Holdings and Johor’s Esplanade Danga 88.

In his opening remarks, Datuk Md Othman Yusof, Executive Director of CGPV, said: “This is a historic occasion not only for Country Garden, but also Malaysia, and most importantly for Iskandar and (the) local people. We are confident that Forest City will immensely benefit our local economy, creating jobs and new business opportunities for all.”

By 2035, Forest City is expected to create 220,000 jobs for Malaysians in the finance and e-commerce sectors.

Agreements have already been signed with global partners including Shattuck St. Mary’s School and UIW/Christus, the fourth largest medical group in the US, to collaborate on international schooling and to provide residents with world-class medical services.

In addition, a duty-free shopping mall will be ready by the end of this year at Fisherman’s Wharf on Island 1, the first phase of Forest City. There will also be a five-star boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, the condominium units and high-rise coastal residences on Island 1 have already been launched for sale in Singapore, China and Malaysia. Unit sizes range from 753 sq ft to 1,862 sq ft, with prices averaging around RM1,200 psf (S$400 psf).

Forest City is Country Garden’s largest real estate project outside China. The group currently has more than 300 projects globally.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of Forest City.
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Residential land prices down 5.8% in 2015

The price of land sites in Singapore for prime residential and office projects did not change in the second half of 2015, according to Knight Frank’s latest Prime Asia Development Land Index.

But for the entire year, residential land prices in the city-state fell by 5.8 percent, while office prices grew by six percent.

“The soft demand in the housing and office rental markets as a result of both domestic and external economic challenges coincided with strong supply pipelines to weaken the demand for land,” said Knight Frank.

“Firms in Singapore continued to face challenges from economic restructuring in the face of weak demand, while home buyers’ confidence was hurt by the prospect of rising interest rates and volatility in financial markets.” The residential cooling measures were also a factor in curbing demand, added the consultancy.

The most recent prime development land transaction in Singapore was the sale of a site at Alexandra View to Tang Skyline for $376.9 million in November, which is expected to yield about 400 homes.

Meanwhile, prices of residential sites in Asia rose by three percent in H2 2015, up from 1.2 percent in the previous six months. Tokyo and Phnom Penh led the region, with prices shooting up by 14.8 percent and 26.2 percent respectively for the year.

Knight Frank’s index tracks land prices in 13 major cities across Asia.

Picture Source: A land parcel in Singapore. (Photo: Nikki De Guzman) – Knight Frank
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07 May 2016

Strong Indonesian interest for Cairnhill Nine

A significant number of condo units have been reserved at the 268-unit Cairnhill Nine development in the Orchard area, after its developer CapitaLand held a VIP preview in Jakarta on 20 to 21 February, reported The Business Times.

Potential buyers deposited cheques to secure the units they were interested in, but they may still cancel their bookings.

According to Tata Goeyardi of Religare Capital Markets, Indonesians were attracted to the luxury condominium’s direct linkage to Paragon shopping mall, which features a medical centre on top. The project is also close to Mount Elizabeth Orchard hospital.

The apartments are also spacious, with sizes ranging from 592 sq ft for one-bedders to 2,013 sq ft for four-bedders.

Another selling point is the competitive pricing. Average prices range from $2,400 psf to $2,500 psf, and large units could go for as low as $2,200 psf. In comparison, prime freehold properties within the vicinity are selling for $2,600 psf to $2,700 psf on average.

Although this is a 99-year leasehold development, Indonesians were not put off by its tenure, unlike Singaporeans who mainly favour freehold properties, said Goeyardi.

“What surprised us is the willingness of Indonesians to purchase, even with the 15 percent Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for foreigners. This has created a new hope for the residential market in Singapore.”

According to a spokesperson for CapitaLand, Cairnhill Nine will be officially launched on 12 March, and the developer plans to hold another round of viewings by appointment this weekend.

If it’s unable to sell all the units by 31 March, it intends to market the project in other Indonesian cities like Surabaya, and even in Hong Kong.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of CapitaLand’s latest development at Cairnhill.
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Singapore developers buoyed by Chinese demand

Amidst the lacklustre residential market in Singapore, the earnings of local developers have been boosted by strong sales in China’s largest cities, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

For instance, CapitaLand’s revenue surged by 21.3 percent year-on-year to US$3.41 billion (S$4.73 billion), driven by robust residential transactions in China. Despite the country’s softer economy, sales increased two-fold to US$2.36 billion (S$3.27 billion).

City Developments Limited (CDL), another major developer, has also reaped rewards for venturing into key Chinese cities.

For the 2015 financial year, CDL China sold 13 villas in Shanghai and nearly 700 units in Suzhou, with total sales amounting to 1.6 billion yuan (S$340.74 million). The company’s net profit inched up 0.5 percent last year to S$773.3 million.

“There have been signs of improvement, with increased buying activity in certain cities such as Shanghai and Suzhou after the government lifted several cooling measures and relaxed loan restrictions in 2015,” CDL said in a statement.

While the Chinese economy is not as vibrant as before, home builders have profited by focusing on first-tier cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, which are seeing higher growth than the rest of the country.

According to Joe Zhou, JLL’s Research Head for China, “residential sales volumes across 20 major cities in China shot up by 28 percent in 2015. Prices in Tier 1.5 and 2 cities are also gaining momentum”, but third- and fourth-tier cities are still saddled with excess supply.

The Chinese prefer to invest in first-tier cities as the quality of the properties there are generally superior to those found in other urban areas. Also, there’s limited investment opportunities in the country, explained David Ji, Knight Frank’s Head of Research and Consultancy for Greater China.

Chinese cities are categorised into tiers based on their population, gross domestic product and other factors.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of Lotus Mansion, a residential development by CapitaLand in Shanghai.
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No respite from mounting extension charges for developers

Property developers forked out $24.9 million in extension fees last year for failing to dispose of all the residential units in their developments within the mandated period, reported The Straits Times.

While this is lower than the $29.98 million recorded in 2014, a recent report from Swiss bank Credit Suisse forecasts that extension charges could rise significantly this year.

Based on Qualifying Certificate (QC) rules, overseas developers are required to offload all the units in their private residential projects within two years of receiving the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP). Otherwise, they must pay extension charges pro-rated to the percentage of remaining units.

The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rules, implemented in December 2011, also stipulate that developers need to build, complete and sell all units within five years of buying the land. If there are any unsold units, they would be penalised with a 10 percent levy, which was subsequently increased to 15 percent for land plots purchased from 12 January 2013.

According to estimates from Credit Suisse, the total QC and ABSD charges could soar to $226 million in 2016 and $1.3 billion next year.

In particular, the jointly developed Nouvel 18 by CDL and Wing Tai could take the biggest hit this year, with charges amounting to $38.2 million if all of its 156 units remain unsold. This is followed by $15.2 million for China Sonangol’s TwentyOne Angullia Park near Orchard Road, and $14.6 million for Wing Tai’s Le Nouvel Ardmore at Ardmore Park.

However, experts feel that the figures reported by Credit Suisse could drop as they only cover unsold units as of 31 December 2015.

“The QC fees estimate is based on the assumption that developers do not sell any more units. That’s unlikely. As they continue to move units, the fees payable will drop.” Likewise for the ABSD charges, said Ku Swee Yong, CEO of Century 21 Singapore.

Wong Xian Yang, OrangeTee’s Senior Manager for Research and Consultancy, reckons that developers with more unsold units may pursue other means of selling their projects instead of just reducing prices. They may consider bulk sales, which is being done for iLiv@Grange.

Property firm Heeton Holdings has been seeking a buyer to purchase the 30-unit condominium. If it fails to secure a deal by October 2016, it will have to pay its second QC extension.

Picture Source: Luxury apartments in the Orchard area. (Photo: Cheryl Marie Tay)
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New overseas projects launching in Singapore

Two new overseas properties are set to launch in the city-state this weekend (5 to 6 March). Homegrown developer TA Corporation will unveil its first large-scale project in Phnom Penh, while Chengdu Galencia will showcase Chelsea Residences, the first one in Singapore from a mainland Chinese developer.

TA Corp’s twin tower project, called The Gateway, was officially launched last Sunday (28 Feb) in Cambodia’s capital.

It consists of a 36-storey tower with 299 strata-titled office units and a 39-storey apartment block with 572 residences, which sits on top of a retail podium. The residential component features one- to three-bedroom apartments with sizes ranging from 560 sq ft to 1,184 sq ft.

Indicative prices start from US$247,000 (S$346,467) for the office units and US$152,300 (S$213,631) for the residential units.

The Gateway also promises 12 percent returns on apartment rentals and 16 percent for the offices.

“We are of the view that Cambodia’s property market exhibits the right fundamentals for growth: a robust GDP supported by foreign investments translating into rising demand for office space; and rising affluence of Cambodia’s young middle class translating into demand for quality residences,” said TA Corp’s Executive Director and CEO Neo Tiam Boon.

Currently, about 30 percent of the residential apartments and 40 percent of the office units have been sold or reserved. Aside from Singapore, the project will also be marketed elsewhere in Asia, including Taiwan and China.

Meanwhile, Chengdu Galencia said the launch of Chelsea Residences was timely as there are growing Singaporean (private and institutional) interests in China.

Located within the heart of Chengdu’s High-Tech Park, the development will be operated like a serviced apartment, and comprises 430 high-end fitted units. Prospective buyers have the choice of one- to two-bedroom units, from 947 sq ft to 1,453 sq ft. Prices start from RMB1,653 psf (S$352 psf).

Chelsea Residences forms part of the developer’s integrated development known as “Chinese Financial Centre”. With a gross development value of more than RMB4 billion (approx. S$1 billion), it consists of four towers, a five-story commercial centre, and four levels of underground parking spaces.

It is within proximity to a subway station, the offices of 300 Fortune 500 companies, and over 2,000 foreign SMEs.

The Gateway’s launch will be held at the Hilton Singapore Hotel, while the exhibition for Chelsea Residences takes place at Raffles City Convention Centre Level 3.

Chelsea Residences is slated to be completed in December 2017, while The Gateway is expected to be ready in 2019.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of The Gateway in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
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Wandervale’s prices start from $655,000 for a 3-bedder

Sim Lian Group has released prices for the 534-unit Wandervale executive condominium (EC) in Choa Chu Kang, the first major property launch this year.

In a statement, the group said prices start from $655,000 for a three-bedroom unit, $753,000 for a three-bedroom premium unit, and $896,000 for a four-bedroom unit. The project has an average price of $755 psf.

“Wandervale is competitively priced against other ECs in the market,” said Sim Lian. The EC units range in size from 958 sq ft to 1,249 sq ft, across nine residential blocks.

Located near Choa Chu Kang MRT station, Wandervale was more than 40 percent oversubscribed, receiving a total of 783 e-applications over 11 days.

The showflat at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 3 saw more than 5,000 visitors during the e-application period, which ended on 28 February.

According to Sim Lian, potential buyers were mainly attracted to the location, spacious units and overall design of the project.

The balloting and sales booking exercise for the EC starts on 5 March at the showflat.

The 99-year leasehold project is expected to receive its TOP by 2019.

Picture Source: The showflat at Wandervale. (Photo: Yasmin Beevi)
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$1 million buys you 452 sq ft in Singapore

For US$1 million (S$1.4 million), you can purchase 452 sq ft of prime real estate in Singapore (or a small studio apartment), making it the world’s seventh most expensive place to buy luxury property, noted findings from Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2016.

The city-state fell two places from last year’s report due to property price declines. According to the firm’s Prime International Residential Index, luxury prices here dropped by 2.1 percent in 2015. This year, Knight Frank expects prices to slide further by 3.3 percent.

“Singapore luxury property prices have dropped for several years now. The reasons for the fall are still in place – overall slowing economy, volatile financial markets, rising rates, and government cooling measures,” said Tay Kah Poh, Executive Director and Head of Residential for Knight Frank Singapore.

In the report, Singapore was named the number two Asian city, behind Hong Kong, with the most number of super-rich individuals. In 2015, there were 2,360 ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) living here, with this figure expected to grow by 48 percent over the next 10 years.

Alice Tan, Research Head at Knight Frank Singapore, said “a conducive business environment, clear regulatory framework and a progressive ecosystem of financial and business services have augmented its status amongst the wealthy as a preferred location to live and do business in Asia”.

Despite the various measures put in place to curb excessive investment by foreign buyers, property investment remains a favoured asset allocation among the super-rich. In fact, 79 percent of those surveyed would invest in Singapore and UK homes.

The report also found that the three main concerns among UHNWIs in Singapore are succession / inheritance issues, the global economic situation, and stock market volatility.

The report polled 400 private bankers, including 30 from Singapore.

Picture Source: Aerial view of luxury apartments in Keppel Bay, Singapore.
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79% of young couples will consider a smart home: survey

Around 79 percent of young couples in Singapore will consider living in an executive condominium (EC) enabled with smart technologies, according to results from an online survey carried out earlier this year by Qingjian Realty.

The study polled 100 respondents between 20 to 40 years old, to measure their attitudes towards smart living.

Among those surveyed, 63 percent said they are willing to pay $30,000 to $40,000 to furnish their home with smart technologies, including security features, electronics and appliances.

Convenience, energy efficiency and safety were listed among the top smart home features that would appeal to them. Other features that respondents would like to see are smart lighting, smart air-conditioning and smart security.

“We are working on translating this idea of a model futuristic home into one where a home is fitted with smart technologies that are available and practical for people in Singapore,” said Li Jun, General Manager, Qingjian.

“The inputs from these young couples have further enhanced our understanding of potential homeowners’ views.”

The survey was conducted amid plans by Qingjian to launch Singapore’s first Smart EC, The Visionaire in Sembawang in April.

Several new private condominiums launching this year are also adopting smart home technologies. For instance, The Wisteria condo in Yishun, which launches in March, will have features that allow homeowners to remotely control door access and air-conditioning via a smart device.

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20% of HDB loan applicants asked for larger loans

There were about 200,000 qualified applications for an HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter from 2012 to 2015, revealed National Development Minister Lawrence Wong during a parliamentary session on Tuesday (1 March), reported Channel NewsAsia.

Flat buyers need to request for an HLE letter before they can obtain an HDB concessionary housing loan for their flat purchase.

Of this figure, 20 percent, or 40,000 of those who applied for the letter, appealed for a higher mortgage. Most did so to increase their housing options without stating an exact loan amount. Mr Wong was responding to a query from Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera.

“Over one in three of such appeals were successful,” he said in a written reply. The rest were not granted as the applicants could not prove that they have the resources to repay the larger loan.

“As a flat purchase is a long-term financial commitment, it would not be prudent for potential home buyers to take on additional financial burdens that they are unable to sustain,” he added.

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Completed condo prices up 0.1%

Prices of completed condominiums edged up by 0.1 percent in January 2016 compared to the previous month, according to latest flash estimates of the NUS Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI).

Based on the Index, prices of completed units in the central region (districts 1 to 4 and 9 to 11) dipped by 0.5 percent, while those in the non-central region rose by 0.5 percent. As for small units measuring up to 506 sq ft, prices climbed by 0.6 percent.

In comparison, the revised index for December 2015 shows that prices in all three segments fell on a month-on-month basis. Values in the central region fell by 0.8 percent, those in the non-central region posted a smaller decline of 0.6 percent, while prices of small units decreased by 0.3 percent. Consequently, prices across the island slid by 0.6 percent.

Notably, the revised index for December is based on the previous Basket 7, which covers a total of 78,877 units across 429 private non-landed developments in 26 postal districts completed from October 2003 to December 2013.

On the other hand, the flash estimates for January were derived from the current Basket 8, which covers a total of 111,811 units across 574 residential projects completed between October 2003 and September 2015.

According to a statement from the NUS Institute of Real Estate Studies (IRES), Basket 8 includes newer projects with better quality amenities compared to the previous basket. It also tracks 7,120 small units versus 3,092 units for Basket 7.

The usage of the new basket took effect on Monday (29 Feb), and the composition will be adjusted every two years.

Picture Source: Condominiums in Singapore.
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Yangon looks to rebound in 2016

According to latest research from JLL, Yangon’s budding real estate market is expected to show moderate growth in 2016 as it recovers from the uncertainty of last year, reported The Nation.

The market cooled in 2015 as foreign investors waited to see the results of November’s historic elections. This caused office rents to fall while residential sales came to a standstill.

Andrew Gulbrandson, Research Head at JLL Thailand, is responsible for coordinating much of the firm’s consultancy work in Myanmar. He said this year will likely bring about stabilization in the overall market, and added that demand could soon pick up while new launches are expected to slow down after sharp growth.

“Though many challenges remain, we believe the outlook for this dynamic landscape in 2016 to be positive,” Gulbrandson explained. “So far, the formation of the new government has been smooth, easing concerns over the post-election political uncertainty. Ongoing ambiguity over the structure of the new government that has built up a legislative backlog affecting a number of regulations should be eliminated when the new government is formed.”

Many business activities in Myanmar were put on hold due to these concerns, but they are now expected to get back on track. This will likely help improve demand in Yangon’s real estate market. The city has been seeing a high level of real estate activity in recent years as military rule decreased and the process of liberalization started to take shape. However, ongoing uncertainty caused rents to drop last year.

“In addition, a more cautious approach that investors and developers have taken should lead to a decline in future project launches, allowing the existing supply to be gradually absorbed,” said Gulbrandson.

Picture Source: Aerial view of Yangon city. Photo: Flickr
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Govt cuts development charges amid soft market

UPDATED: The development charge (DC) rates paid by developers to enhance a site or build bigger projects on them were trimmed by the Ministry of National Development (MND) for the period of 1 March to 31 August 2016.

The review is carried out on a half-yearly basis, with consultation from the Chief Valuer, said the MND.

Desmond Sim, Research Head at CBRE, said the consultancy is unsurprised by the downward revision in rates.

“This is on the back of a softening real estate market, both on the commercial occupier end and a general weakness on the residential front, due to the cooling measures.”

The DC rates for the industrial sector fell the most by an average of three percent. The largest decline of 16 percent was seen in areas such as Jurong West, Tuas and Lim Chu Kang.

The commercial and non-landed residential sectors also saw corrections in their DC rates, by an average of two percent and one percent respectively.

For the residential sector, the largest decrease of four percent applies to a number of areas including Bukit Timah, River Valley Road and Sentosa.

“Any further corrections in future revision of DC rates could encourage owners to intensify use and unlock the potential of the land,” added Sim.

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5-room Bidadari flats more than 75 times oversubscribed by 2nd timers

As of 5pm on Monday (29 Feb), the 236 five-room and 3Gen flats at Alkaff Oasis in Bidadari have emerged as the most popular units in the February Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, with an application rate of 7.6 for first-time buyers and 75.6 for second-time buyers, according to the HDB.

An application rate of 75.6 means that for every one flat available, there are over 75 applicants vying for the unit.

In mature estates such as Bidadari, up to 95 percent of the supply of three- to five-room flats are set aside for first-timers, while five percent are reserved for second-timers.

So far, there are a total of 2,537 applicants for the five-room and 3Gen flats. The 71 3Gen flats at Alkaff Oasis are specially designed for multi-generation families, said the HDB.

The project’s four-room flats also attracted keen interest, with 4,018 buyers applying for the 800 units on offer, which translates to an application rate of five times.

Mohamed Ismail, CEO of PropNex Realty, had earlier predicted that despite the higher prices, larger flats at Bidadari would be much sought-after due to its central location.

Excluding grants, prices start from $440,000 for the four-room, $546,000 for the five-room and $553,000 for the 3Gen flats.

Eligible first-time buyers of the four-room flats will enjoy up to $55,000 in housing grants, and up to $10,000 for the five-room and 3Gen flats.

Situated at the junction of Bidadari Park Drive and Alkaff Crescent in Toa Payoh, Alkaff Oasis consists of 16 residential blocks with sky terraces and roof gardens. To encourage a ‘green’ lifestyle, the project will have several eco-friendly features, including motion sensor-controlled energy-efficient lighting at staircases, and regenerative lifts to reduce energy consumption.

In its first BTO exercise of 2016, the Housing Board launched 4,170 flats for sale last Wednesday (24 Feb).

Spread across three projects in the estates of Bukit Batok, Sengkang and Bidadari, they make up the first crop of 18,000 flats that will be launched this year, the HDB said.

Interested applicants have until midnight of 1 March 2016 to apply for the flats, and can do so on the HDB InfoWEB.

They are advised to apply for a BTO flat in the non-mature estates of Bukit Batok and Sengkang to increase their chances of securing units.

About 4,070 new flats will be offered in the next BTO exercise in May, noted the HDB.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of the Alkaff Oasis BTO project in Bidadari. Source: HDB
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Wandervale EC more than 40% oversubscribed

The application period for the Wandervale executive condominium (EC) closed on Sunday (28 Feb) after receiving 750 e-applications, said its developer Sim Lian Group.

This means that the 534-unit project is more than 40 percent oversubscribed. OrangeTee and ERA are the marketing agents for the 99-year leasehold EC.

Priced at approximately $750 psf to $770 psf on average, the Wandervale showflat at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 3 has attracted more than 5,000 visitors since e-applications started on 18 February.

The first major launch this year, the EC features 130 three-bedroom, 322 three-bedroom premium, and 82 four-bedroom units, ranging from 958 sq ft to 1,249 sq ft, across nine residential blocks.

The larger three-bedroom premium and four-bedroom units were more popular amongst potential buyers, said the developer, adding that the location, spacious units and overall design were the main reasons they chose the project.

“There was a balanced mix of first-time and second-time home buyers, primarily HDB upgraders, at the showflat,” noted Sim Lian.

Wandervale is within proximity to the Choa Chu Kang MRT station and bus interchange, Bukit Panjang MRT station on the newly opened Downtown Line 2 (DTL2), Lot One Shoppers’ Mall, and South View Primary School. The project is expected to receive its TOP by 2019.

Wandervale will open for sales booking on 5 March 2016.

Singapore-listed Sim Lian Group has launched 23 developments to date, including three projects in Malaysia.

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Median household income on the rise

Singapore’s median monthly household income from work rose to $8,666 in 2015 from $8,292 in the previous year, revealed data published by the Department of Statistics (SingStat) on Friday (26 Feb).

This represents a rise of 4.5 percent in nominal terms. With inflation taken into account, this translates to a gain of 4.9 percent in real terms, according to the agency’s annual Key Household Income Trends survey.

In comparison, the median monthly household income from work climbed 3.8 percent per annum in real terms from 2010 to 2015, resulting in a cumulative gain of 20.4 percent.

Household income from work includes employer CPF contributions.

“Taking household size into account, median household income from work per member recorded a 5.0 percent nominal growth or a 5.4 percent real growth in 2015,” said SingStat. This occurred amidst a tight labour market and higher employer CPF contribution rates.

“From 2010 to 2015, the annual growth in real median household income per household member was lower at 3.6 percent.”

Workers with the lowest salaries saw the largest growth due to ongoing government initiatives to boost their wages. Those at the bottom 10 percent of the income bracket saw their income soar by 10.7 percent, followed by 8.3 percent for those in the second lowest decile.

The third highest increase of 7.2 percent was posted by the top 10 percent of households and the 21st to 30th percentile group. For the remaining percentile groups, the income growth ranged from 5.7 percent to 6.7 percent.

Households, including those with no working person, also received $3,985 per member on average from various government schemes in 2015 compared to $3,515 in the year before.

Furthermore, there has been virtually no change in the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, over the past three years. It was 0.463 in 2015, 0.464 in 2014 and 0.463 in 2013. After adjusting for government aid and taxes, the Gini coefficient in 2015 fell from 0.463 to 0.410. A lower figure suggests there is more equal distribution of income.

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Tanah Merah site awarded

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Friday (26 Feb) awarded the tender for a residential site at New Upper Changi Road/Bedok South Avenue 3 (Parcel B) to CEL Residential Development, a subsidiary of Chip Eng Seng Corporation.

Launched for sale on 20 January, the property developer had offered the highest bid of $419.38 million for the 2.4ha site. This translates to about $761 psf on the gross floor area.

The tender for the land parcel closed last Tuesday (23 Feb) after attracting eight bids.

Located within an established private housing estate, the site is close to Tanah Merah MRT station, Changi Business Park and the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

The 99-year leasehold site is expected to yield about 570 condominium units, said the URA.

Picture Source: Map of the Tanah Merah residential site. Source: URA
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30 April 2016

5 tips when navigating Singapore’s property market in 2016

The Singapore property market faces a lacklustre year ahead as the various cooling measures, interest rate hikes and more unsold units continue to put pressure on rentals, while developers are faced with hefty extension fines.

According to fourth quarter data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), prices of condominiums in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) declined the most by 0.3 percent, followed by those in the Core Central Region (CCR) by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the Outside Central Region (OCR) remains unaffected.

The government has so far made no indications on whether it will remove the cooling measures, which include the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), which have had a significant impact on local and foreign property investors.

As a result, developers may have to pay $238 million for unsold units this year, up from the $90 million incurred in 2015.

Since 2014, the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas) has been calling on the government to lift the cooling measures which have severely impacted sales of new units.

According to the URA, as of the fourth quarter, 23,271 private housing units remain unsold out of the total supply of 55,638 units.

Including executive condominiums (ECs), the total supply in the pipeline is 67,765 units.

Of this, 6,744 EC units remain unsold.

So what does this mean for you as a consumer? We give you the lowdown.

​Tip 1: Good time for prospective tenants to look for rental bargains

According to the URA, the stock of completed private residential units (excluding ECs) increased by 5,299 units in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the vacancy rate rose to 8.1 percent in the same period, up from the 7.8 percent in the third quarter.

Figures from the URA show that rental declines were observed across all segments of the private residential market.

The rental market is currently facing three challenges – the tightening of foreign worker quotas and expatriates looking to secure employment passes (EPs), restrictions on the granting of permanent residencies (PRs), and an oversupply of private units.

With landlords outnumbering rental seekers, tenants are calling the shots in an already weak rental market.

Condominiums located in the OCR experienced the steepest decline of 1.8 percent, followed by the RCR and CCR at 1.6 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.

For tenants, this is an opportune time to dictate their terms and conditions and to negotiate for better prices amid the slowdown.

Tip 2: It’s a buyers’ market – bargain hunt for prime properties

New launches and take-up rates remained weak in the fourth quarter with fewer units launched.

According to the URA, 1,333 condominium units were launched in Q4 compared to the 2,435 units in the previous quarter.

Take-up rates also fell sharply, with 1,603 units sold in the fourth quarter compared to the 2,410 units in the previous quarter.

In view of the large supply coming onstream, sellers must be realistic in their asking prices and may have to sell at a loss, especially for those who had purchased properties in prime areas.

For buyers, this presents a good time to start their property hunt in the secondary market.

Tip 3: Buyers/tenants spoilt for choice in the HDB market

In November 2015, the HDB launched 12,000 new flats to meet the housing needs of Singaporeans.

This has taken some pressure off from the resale market as many buyers opt to buy directly from the HDB as it is significantly cheaper.

Still, transactions in the resale HDB market increased by two percent in the fourth quarter to 4,992 transactions, up from 4,893 transactions previously.

For the whole of 2015, the number of resale transactions reached 19,306 units. This was an increase of 11.5 percent compared to 2014.

Woodlands recorded the lowest median quantum price for three-room resale flat transactions at $273,000, while the central area (Queenstown, Redhill and Tanjong Pagar) recorded a median price of $425,000.

Moving forward, the HDB plans to launch four Build-To-Order (BTO) exercises in 2016 that will bring the total supply to about 18,000 flats. The February BTO exercise saw 4,170 flats offered in Bidadari, Bukit Batok and Sengkang.

This presents good news for buyers as they will be spoilt for choice with significant cost savings when they buy directly from the HDB, inclusive of the various grants that they could be eligible for.

For buyers who cannot wait, this means they will be able to purchase their flats at a good price from the resale market.

Tenants will rule the HDB market in 2016.

Tip 4: HDB sellers must be more realistic in their asking prices

The public housing market recorded an increase in the Resale Price Index (RPI) in the last three months of 2015, up 0.1 percent from 134.6 points in the quarter before.

In comparison, the RPI registered a decline of 0.3 percent in the previous quarter.

For sellers, the new supply coming onstream in 2016 on top of the BTO launches announced by the HDB means they need to be more realistic in their asking prices.

Buyers are now spoilt for choice and will have the upper hand.

Tip 5: HDB landlords – be prepared to drop asking prices

Landlords will need to drop their asking prices in view of the higher number of units coming onstream this year.

As mentioned, the HDB plans to launch four BTO exercises in 2016 that will bring the total supply to about 18,000 flats.

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UOL reports 43% profit drop, no condo launches in 2016

Singapore-listed UOL Group, a major player in the local property market, reported a 43 percent slump in net profit to $391.4 million for the 2015 financial year.

In a statement released on Friday (26 Feb), the group blamed the profit fall on lower fair value gains for its investment properties, as well as the absence of a large one-time profit made from the sale of a land site in Malaysia in 2014.

UOL also incurred losses of $22 million, mainly from impairment charges for a hotel in Tianjin and a mixed-use development in London.

Despite the depressed market conditions in Singapore, group revenue was up 12 percent to $1.28 billion. Specifically, revenue from property development, the group’s largest revenue generator, rose 27 percent to $557.5 million, mainly from local residential projects.

About 850 housing units in Singapore were sold last year by UOL, with a sales value of more than $900 million. In 2015, it launched two condominiums – Botanique at Bartley and Principal Garden in Prince Charles Crescent, which have sold over 70 percent and 21 percent of their units at an average price of $1,286 psf and $1,601 psf respectively. No new launches are being planned for 2016.

Under its pipeline for residential projects is a 99-year leasehold site in Clementi Avenue 1 which could yield over 500 condo units. As this is expected to be the tallest Prefabricated Pre-finished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) building in the world, UOL is adopting a conservative approach and plans to launch it next year.

Meanwhile, revenue from property investments grew 11 percent to $219.4 million for the fiscal year.

“(The) Singapore residential market remained challenging in 2015 amid an economic slowdown and the dampening effects of the government’s cooling measures. Despite this, our property development and investment business performed credibly,” said UOL Deputy Group CEO Liam Wee Sin.

“We expect market conditions to remain subdued in 2016 and will continue to build recurrent income from rentals of offices and shopping malls, and from our hospitality business,” he added.

The group’s directors have proposed a first and final dividend of 15 cents per share.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of Botanique at Bartley. Source: UOL Group
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Riverbank @ Fernvale – an unbeatable choice

Special Advertising Feature

A convenient location coupled with a slew of outstanding facilities, UOL Group Limited’s residential project Riverbank @ Fernvale is hitting all the right notes with home buyers and investors alike.

These days, when it comes to purchasing a new property for investment or as a residential home, there’s little doubt that home buyers are pretty much spoilt for choice. There’s plenty of new project launches available in the market, with each development offering a list of impressive features catering to various needs, tastes and budgets. However, if the criteria for your ideal home includes exclusivity, proximity to nature, close walking distance to a slew of conveniences, coupled with impressive recreational facilities, look no further than Riverbank @ Fernvale in Sengkang.

Strategically located at Sengkang West Way, the 555-unit development comprises a good mix of one- to five-bedroom units ranging from 495 sq ft to 1,389 sq ft. To date, the one-, two-, as well as five-bedroom units have all been sold out, and only a limited number of three- and four-bedroom units are left. For those who require a bigger space to stay, they can opt for the three- or four-bedroom units, which range from 947 sq ft to 1,238 sq ft. And for those who are buying to invest, they can choose the three-bedroom dual-key units, which range from 990 sq ft to 1,044 sq ft.

Regardless of which unit buyers pick, they can be assured that every unit housed within the development not only features a chic and stylish interior design, but has also been outfitted with top-of-the-line fittings and functional appliances.

Raising the bar on outdoor facilities

Long gone are the days of enticing home buyers solely with location, views or the usual trappings of tennis courts, Jacuzzis, steam rooms, and state-of-the-art gymnasiums. In a bid to attract more buyers amid softer market conditions, developers are upping their game – some have introduced new types of facilities in their projects, while others are offering interest-based classes, and UOL is no exception.

Besides the requisite pools, playgrounds and BBQ pits, Riverbank @ Fernvale also features a unique bicycle sharing facility – the first-of-its-kind in condominium developments in Singapore, with UOL supplying 50 bicycles to be shared by the condominium’s residents.

Residents, especially nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, will be pleased to know that they can book the bicycles for free, and enjoy rides to a slew of nature spots including Lorong Halus Wetland, Punggol Park, Riverside Park Connector, My Waterway@Punggol, Pulau Ubin, and Coney Island – all of which are easily accessible from the development.

Seamless connectivity

Whether by public transportation or by car, those living at Riverbank @ Fernvale will get to enjoy more options for shorter and more comfortable journeys between Sengkang and the rest of Singapore as the area is well served by major roads and expressways, including the Central Expressway (CTE), Seletar Expressway (SLE), Tampines Expressway (TPE), and the newly unveiled Seletar Aerospace Flyover. For those who rely on public transportation, they will appreciate that Sengkang MRT station, as well as the Layar and Oasis LRT stations, are all within walking distance from the development. Residents can also use the bicycles to commute to the nearby MRT or LRT station.

Endless amenities at your doorstep

For families with school-going children, they will definitely appreciate the convenience of the development’s location, with top institutions like Nan Chiu Primary and Nan Chiau High School situated in the vicinity. In addition, the development is close to various shopping malls and eateries, such as Seletar Mall, Compass Point, Rivervale Mall, Waterway Point and Jalan Kayu.

It’s easy to see why Sengkang is fast becoming one of the more sought after housing estates in the north-eastern part of Singapore – more young families are choosing to settle down there as the area not only features a well-connected public transport network and a slew of amenities, but it is also located close to several nature spots.

That is not all, as new residents can look forward to even more amenities in future, such as the upcoming Safra Punggol (slated to be ready by April 2016), new childcare centres in approximately 1,000 places (by mid 2016), and The Oval @ Seletar Aerospace Park (SAP). Comprising a cluster of 32 black and white colonial bungalows that were gazetted for conservation under the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan 2014, The Oval @ SAP will be used for an array of lifestyle businesses, including restaurants. Families with young children will also be drawn to this place as the development will include a slew of lifestyle facilities such as a playground, a boardwalk that fronts the runway, an open lawn, picnic tables, and an open hard court – perfect for family outings and events.

Strong investment potential

The position of Riverbank @ Fernvale is further strengthened by its close proximity to nearby industrial clusters such as Woodlands Regional Centre, Seletar Regional Centre and the upcoming Seletar Aerospace Park.

Seletar Aerospace Park, which is envisioned to be a world-class dedicated aerospace regional facility, is expected to create about 10,000 jobs upon its projected completion in 2018.

In short, residents of Riverbank @ Fernvale can look forward to a wealth of job opportunities near where they live.

The 99-year leasehold condominium development is expected to get its temporary occupation permit (TOP) at the end of 2016 or early 2017.

Prices start at $905,000 for three-bedders and $1.023 million for four-bedders.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of the Riverbank @ Fernvale condo. Source: UOL Group
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Oxley launches final phase of London project

Homegrown property developer Oxley Holdings will launch the final phase of its Royal Wharf waterfront township development in London to Singaporean buyers next weekend (12 to 13 March) at Regent Hotel Singapore, following today’s launch in London and Hong Kong.

Dubbed Mariner’s Quarter, the new phase of properties comprises 207 one- to three-bedroom apartments across two buildings.

Prices at Mariner’s Quarter start from £395,000 (S$773,921) for a one-bedder, said the developer.

Commenting, Eric Low See Ching, Executive Director and Deputy CEO of Oxley said: “London offers unparalleled opportunities for development and is a natural choice for Oxley’s first venture overseas. It has all the fundamentals for a sound real estate investment: a resilient, diverse economy and a growing, thriving population.”

The site was purchased by Oxley in November 2013 for £200 million. At the time, Ian Loh, Executive Director & Head of Investment and Capital Markets at Knight Frank, which brokered the sale, said the various rounds of cooling measures in Singapore may have prompted local developers, such as Oxley Holdings, “to eye overseas development opportunities”.

Royal Wharf is at the heart of efforts to revive London’s Royal Docks near the River Thames. Stretching across nearly 40 acres, the development features 3,400 homes, a new school, a shopping street, and spaces for offices, restaurants, cafés and bars.

In 2018, a new Crossrail station will open in the area, reducing the travelling time to Heathrow Airport and the West End.

Royal Wharf was first launched to buyers in London and Singapore in early 2014, attracting strong market response with over 50 percent of the 811 units in phase one being sold on the first day of its launch in each city.

The 999-year leasehold project will be progressively completed from this year.

In addition, Oxley Holdings has a portfolio of 28 local projects and two mixed-use developments in Phnom Penh.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of Royal Wharf in London.
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Third mixed development in Yishun launched

As a sign of developers’ confidence in the growth potential of Yishun, a new mixed-use development comprising residential and commercial units will be launched on 12 March.

Located at Yishun Ring Road, The Wisteria and Wisteria Mall is the third mixed commercial and residential project to launch in the area since the end of 2013, following Nine Residences and North Park Residences, both of which are also integrated with shopping malls.

Zoned for commercial and residential use, the approximately 105,054 sq ft site was awarded for $185.09 million in January 2015.

Located on levels 4 to 12, The Wisteria condominium comprises three nine-storey towers of 216 one- to four-bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 441 sq ft to 1,173 sq ft.

The residential units will incorporate several smart-home features, enabling homeowners to remotely control door access and air-conditioning via a smart device.

Northern Resi and Northern Retail, wholly-owned companies of NorthernOne Development, are the project’s joint developers. Array Realty, an entity of Keppel Land, is acting as a consultant.

To be launched in phases, the first phase will see 50 percent of the condominiums (108 units) being released to buyers, a spokesperson for Array Realty told PropertyGuru.

“The units will have an initial average price of $1,030 psf to $1,050 psf, inclusive of a five percent early bird discount,” she said.

Sources told PropertyGuru that the project’s average price is around 20 percent lower than North Park Residences, where recent transactions have been in the range of $1,300 psf to $1,400 psf. Units at Nine Residences have gone for an average of $1,100 psf.

A VIP preview of The Wisteria will begin this weekend at the project’s showflat at the junction of Yishun Central and Yishun Avenue 9. “We will have a better gauge of buyers’ interest levels after the VIP preview. As for the actual prices, they will only be released on the day of sales booking,” noted the spokesperson.

In addition, the residential component will adopt the Prefabricated Pre-finished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) method, which helps to speed up construction significantly and minimize dust and noise pollution in the vicinity.

“This is one of the first projects in Singapore to use the prefab method,” the spokesperson said.

According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), this is a new construction method that involves modules complete with internal finishes, fixtures and fittings being manufactured in factories, then transported to the site for installation in a Lego-like manner.

Meanwhile, the commercial spaces are about 40 percent leased, the anchor tenants being NTUC Finest and Kopitiam Food Court.

“This is the only commercial project in Yishun South,” said the spokesperson, adding that it will help cater to the growing number of future residents.

The 99-year leasehold project is expected to obtain TOP in end-2018.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of The Wisteria and Wisteria Mall.
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Govt may ease property measures this year, says CDL’s Kwek

The government may ease some of its property cooling measures this year in light of the sizeable upcoming supply, according to comments made by Kwek Leng Beng, Executive Chairman of City Developments Limited (CDL), and reported by Bloomberg and TODAYonline.

“Developers hope that the government presses the button sooner than later,” he said after announcing the company’s latest financial results on Thursday (25 Feb).

“I would think that they would do something this year. That’s my speculation, especially this year, when you have a lot of mid-end and low-end homes coming up. I suspect it will be the abolishing the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).” Another existing measure is the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework.

The TDSR limits mortgage repayments to 60 percent of a borrower’s monthly income, while ABSD are stamp duties that individuals have to pay based on their residency status and the number of properties owned. The ABSD rules also impose a fine of 10 to 15 percent of the land cost if developers fail to build, complete and dispose all units within five years of acquiring the land.

With the aforementioned curbs and heftier real estate taxes, the government has been able to bring down the high cost of housing.

In Q4 2015, prices of private homes fell by 8.4 percent from their peak in Q3 2013, while the number of transactions plummeted by around 50 percent from three years ago.

However, the overall drop in home prices following nine straight quarters of declines is still short of the over 60 percent surge seen in the aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

On Wednesday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said it wasn’t the right time to relax the cooling measures.

Looking ahead, Kwek believes that prices of mid- and low-end homes could fall further this year, while weakness in the high-end segment will likely persist.

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S’pore still top city for Asian expats, but haze worries persist

Singapore has been named as the best place to live in for Asian expatriates for the 17th consecutive year, taking the number one spot globally, according to the latest rankings published by human resources consultancy ECA International.

The city-state scored highly in several categories, like housing, personal security as well as diversity in culture and language, said Lee Quane, ECA’s Regional Director for Asia.

“Solid infrastructure, decent medical facilities, low crime rates and health risks have contributed to Singapore maintaining its position at the top of the global ranking for quality of living for Asian assignees.”

However, a number of factors could drag down Singapore’s position in the rankings in future, namely health risks and air pollution.

“Singapore’s proximity to Indonesia means that the haze is a very clear and present danger here,” he noted. Given its location, the city-state is also at risk from tropical diseases endemic to this region.

Meanwhile, Adelaide, Sydney and Osaka are tied in second place. Brisbane and Wellington shared fifth spot while Nagoya and Perth are tied in seventh place. Completing the top ten are Canberra and Tokyo, while Hong Kong has moved up to 28th place in the global rankings.

Globally, the hardest locations to adapt to living and working in are the Afghan locations of Kandahar (275th) and Lashkar Gah (276th).

Updated annually, ECA’s study assesses the overall quality of living in over 460 locations worldwide based on a variety of factors. These include climate, availability of health services, housing and utilities, access to a social network and leisure facilities, infrastructure, personal safety, political tensions, as well as air quality.

Picture Source: Someformofhuman/Wikimedia Commons
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Borey Penghuoth sweeps inaugural Cambodia Property Awards

The inaugural Cambodia Property Awards were held last night at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, where leading property players around the world were recognised at a black-tie gala dinner and awards ceremony.

The Phonm Penh-based Borey Penghuoth Group was the night’s biggest nominee and winner with five awards, coming out tops in all the categories in which it had been nominated. Its awards included Best Developer (Cambodia) and Best Residential Development (Cambodia, category Grand Star Platinum).

The group also won received Special Recognition in Corporate Social Responsibility, thanks to its modern housing development initiatives for Cambodians, especially in the aftermath of the civil wars that have ravaged the country.

Other notable nominees were Olympia City Development Co Ltd, which received a total of three nominations and won the Best Mixed-Use Development award for Olympia City, and Urbanland Asia Investment Co Ltd, which won the Best Condo Development (Central Phnom Penh) award for Embassy Residences.

Around 300 industry leaders and VIPs were in attendance, including the Secretary of the State Ministry of Land Management, Urbanisation and Construction, His Excellency Dr. Pen Sophal, representative of His Excellency Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim, who delivered the keynote speech.

Associate director of CBRE Cambodia Simon Griffiths, who led the judging panel, said the awards have set a precedent for developers to continue enriching the local property market with high-quality commercial and residential developments.

“What will become a more exciting time for Cambodia is when the developers really start to differentiate within sectors — and that has yet to come in most sectors — so there are definitely more exciting times ahead,” he said.

The winners and highly commended were selected by an independent panel of judges of top experts from all segments of the industry, after a six-month nomination and judging process overseen by BDO, one of the world’s largest accounting firms.

The Real Estate Personality of the Year award went to property and e-commerce entrepreneur Rithy Sear, chairman of Worldbridge Land. Unlike the other awards, which were chosen by the judging panel, this one was selected by the editors of Property Report.

The Best of the Best winners will competing in the grand finals of the South East Asia Property Awards 2016 in Singapore this November, alongside their peers from seven ASEAN markets.

Congratulating the winners and highly commended, Terry Blackburn, founder of the Asia Property Awards and publisher of Property Report, presenter of the awards, said, “After over 10 years of organising the Asia Property Awards, tonight’s event represents a milestone — the awards are now part of PropertyGuru, Southeast Asia’s leading real estate media group.

“Cambodia now joins the other leading economies of ASEAN in hosting its own awards programme. We are grateful to all the developers, sponsors and partners who have participated this year, and we look forward to a bigger awards gala in 2017.”

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Ho Bee suffers $34.7m impairment loss from Sentosa condo stake

Ho Bee Land, a leading developer of luxury homes in Sentosa Cove, revealed on Thursday (25 Feb) that the group has suffered an impairment loss of $34.7 million due to its 35 percent interest in the Cape Royale development in Sentosa.

The Singapore-listed firm also reported a 23 percent slump in full-year net profit to $242.2 million from 2014.

In a statement, Ho Bee attributed the profit fall to a lower gain in fair value investment properties which amounted to $186.4 million, down from $281.7 million in the year before.

However, group turnover for 2015 rose 30 percent to $129.9 million, due to stronger recurring income from its portfolio of commercial properties in Singapore and London. This includes The Metropolis in the one-north precinct in Singapore and six developments in London.

Meanwhile, earnings per share for the year was 36.3 cents, as compared to 47.2 cents previously.

“Operating conditions in 2015 have been very challenging. Despite this, our robust business model built over the last few years with a strong recurring income stream has enabled us to deliver a set of sound financial results,” said Chairman and Group CEO Chua Thian Poh.

“To reward shareholders, we will be proposing a special dividend of two cents per share, in addition to a first and final dividend of five cents per share.

“The group foresees a more challenging year ahead. However, with The Metropolis at full occupancy and the rental income from the six commercial properties in London, the group will have substantial recurring income to face the headwinds. Moreover in FY2016, we expect profit contribution from the completion of development projects in Australia and China,” he added.

Picture Source: Cape Royale condominium in Sentosa Cove. (Photo: Jacklee/Wikimedia Commons)
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URA launches site in Sembawang

A residential site at Jalan Kandis in Sembawang was launched for sale by public tender this morning (25 Feb) by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Released under the confirmed list of the first half 2016 Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme, the 75,851 sq ft plot has a gross floor area of 106,197 sq ft. Offered on a 99-year lease, the site could yield about 110 low-rise condo units.

Located within an established residential area, the site is next to Sembawang Park, and within proximity to established schools and the Sun Plaza shopping mall.

Earlier reports had indicated that developers’ bids for this site are likely to be much lower than other prime sites closer to the city. The nearby Brownstone executive condominium (EC) site at Canberra Drive was awarded to CDL for $226 million in January 2014.

The tender for the land parcel at Jalan Kandis will close on 7 April 2016, said the URA.

Picture Source: Map of the residential site at Jalan Kandis in Sembawang. Source: URA
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21 April 2016

ECs offer good profits: report

While demand for executive condominiums (ECs) have slowed down since 2014, data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) shows that this property type is generally a profitable investment in the long run, with prices catching up with private condos, according to an OrangeTee report.

In 2012 and 2013, 14 of the 16 new EC projects sold at least 33 percent of their units during the first month of launch. But in 2014 and 2015, only one of the 11 developments managed to do this due to the tougher property cooling measures, such as the 30 percent Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) and the resale levy for second-time buyers.

Nevertheless, prices of EC units are almost on par with that of private condos after being fully privatised, based on historical data.

Notably, ECs can only be sold in the open market after the buyer has completed the minimum occupation period (MOP) of five years. After 10 years, it becomes fully privatised and can be sold to foreigners.

“Based on an analysis on a basket of comparable ECs and condos, the average price gap between new condominiums and ECs starts at around 20 percent or more. Upon fulfilment of MOP and at privatisation, the discount narrows to nine percent and five percent respectively,” said the report.

By matching caveats, OrangeTee also estimated the percentage profits of EC buyers at the end of the five-year MOP and after 10 years. Currently, there are 21 EC developments in Singapore that have been privatised.

“The results show that not all ECs are ‘sure win’ investments at MOP. Out of 21 projects, 13 projects made a loss after MOP completion, and the remaining eight projects managed gains of over 20 percent,” noted the report.

“Market timing was the main differentiating factor between the ‘losers’ and ‘winners’. The 13 projects that sold at a loss at MOP were launched during 1996 to 1999, just before the Asian Financial Crisis, when property prices were at their peaks. Projects which were launched during 2001 to 2005 – a period of sluggish growth, managed to achieve returns of at least 25 percent. These projects benefited from the subsequent upturn of the Singapore property market.”

After privatisation, all the EC projects were profitable. The top three earners – Nuovo, The Dew and Bishan Loft – recorded gains of 120 percent, 123 percent and 166 percent respectively. These three achieved better returns due to their locational attributes and surrounding available supply.

On the other hand, Windermere, Chestervale and Pinevale posted the lowest gains of two percent, five percent and 10 percent respectively. These three EC projects struggled to achieve substantial profits as they were launched when prices were at their peak.

Picture Source: View of the Bishan Loft executive condominium.
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Foreign buyers of UK property face overwhelming tax challenge: expert

Many property agents and developers marketing prime London homes in Singapore like to espouse the benefits of investing in the British capital, such as its global-city appeal, prospects for capital appreciation amid a housing shortage, and the British pound’s weakness in recent years, but very few investors here are aware of the increasing complexity of the UK’s taxation system.

Steven Knight, Chairman of Gibraltar-based Castle Trust Group, a financial services firm, told PropertyGuru that Singaporean buyers face an “overwhelming challenge with new taxes being introduced gradually, cancelling out the advantages that non-UK residents had in the past”.

For instance, they will have to pay £3,500 a year in annual tax on enveloped dwellings (Ated) for properties bought for at least £500,000 from April this year. First introduced in 2013, the previous payment threshold started at £2 million, but was expanded last year to include residential properties owned by foreigners worth more than £1 million, said Knight, adding that the amount of tax payable increases with the property’s price.

The Ated aims to deter foreign buyers from avoiding stamp duty and inheritance tax by holding properties through corporate entities, which many have been doing.

From April 2017, non-UK residents and offshore companies owning UK homes will also be subject to UK Inheritance Tax, currently at 40 percent on death, which Knight called “a big wake up call for Singaporean and other Asian buyers”.

Other recent changes also mean that capital gains are now subject to tax.

“I have noticed a large number of overseas buyers who have not been filing their tax returns, which results in fines and penalties for unpaid taxes, while interest continues to accrue on the unpaid balance,” warned Knight.

“Planning can reduce exposure to taxes, in some cases entirely, but it needs careful consideration.”

He revealed that the group offers a range of structures to help overseas nationals with properties in London address these tax issues, one of which is an international pension plan. How it works is an international tax advisor would review the tax exposure of the client and come up with an independent report on how best to proceed, and whether such a plan is needed, said Knight.

“A lot of foreign pensions are tax-free. In Asia, foreign pensions are not taxed and are compliant with HRMC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). The more expensive a property, the more urgent the need for planning.”

Other structures available include a dual trust arrangement, multi-generational wealth planning and insurance coverage.

Citing data from the UK Land Registry, Knight stated that buyers with Singaporean addresses are the second most prolific buyers of prime London properties, after those with local addresses.

Picture Source: Apartment buildings in London.
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HDB launches 4,170 new flats

UPDATED: In the first Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise of 2016, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) launched 4,170 new flats for sale on Wednesday (24 Feb).

Spread across three projects located in the non-mature estates of Bukit Batok and Sengkang, and the mature estate of Bidadari, they make up the first batch of 18,000 flats that will be launched this year, the HDB said in a statement.

According to Mohamed Ismail, CEO of PropNex Realty, this is “about 20 percent more than the 15,100 units which were launched last year”.

A range of 2-room Flexi to five-room and 3Gen flats are being offered, with prices ranging from $85,000 for a 2-room Flexi flat at West Plains @ Bukit Batok to $553,000 for a 3Gen flat at Alkaff Oasis in Bidadari (Toa Payoh), excluding grants.

The 2-room Flexi flats were first launched in the September 2015 BTO exercise. This scheme replaced the previous 2-room and studio apartment schemes, and allows elderly buyers to opt for shorter leases.

Meanwhile, eligible first-time buyers of new flats enjoy up to $80,000 in housing grants, comprising up to $40,000 in Special CPF Housing Grants and up to $40,000 in Additional CPF Housing Grants. With these grants, buyers of 2-room Flexi flats pay as little as $4,000, said the HDB.

It added that applicants are advised to apply for a BTO flat in non-mature estates to increase their chances of securing a unit.

“We foresee flats in Bidadari to be more popular; the higher prices might not deter buyers due to its central location – especially the larger four- and five-room flats. Such larger flats are likely to see application rates of about five times. But the overall application rate for the Bidadari BTO project will be about four times. As for Sengkang and Bukit Batok, we predict the application rate to be about two to three times,” noted Ismail.

Applications can be submitted online on the HDB InfoWEB from today to 1 March 2016.

The next BTO exercise will take place in May, with around 4,070 new flats in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Merah, Bukit Panjang and Sembawang being offered for sale. In addition, 5,000 balance flats will be released in a concurrent Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of the Anchorvale Plains BTO project in Sengkang. Source: HDB
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Australia is the favourite among S’porean property investors

Australia, the UK and Japan have emerged as the top three destinations for Singaporeans looking to invest in overseas property, according to a survey commissioned by property investment firm IP Global.

Australia topped the list with 32 percent of respondents saying they would consider investing there. This was followed by the UK (16 percent) and Japan (13 percent).

These countries are considered favourable for investment due to their political stability, strong rule of law and ease of access. “Property prices in these countries have also been rising, making them an attractive destination for investors looking at medium to long term capital gains,” said Alex Bellingham, Director of IP Global.

For instance, the Australian cities of Melbourne and Canberra recorded the highest annual house price growth in six years during Q4 2015. In the UK, the average residential price increased by 7.7 percent year-on-year in November 2015, with prices in London up 9.8 percent, according to the Office of National Statistics. As for Japan, prices of condos have soared by over 20 percent since 2013, based on data from Japan Macro Advisors.

Moreover, the strengthening of the Singapore dollar against other currencies has been a key factor for many investors seeking out overseas assets, noted Bellingham. Over the past 12 months, it has strengthened against the Australian Dollar, British Pound and the Japanese Yen, making it more affordable for Singaporean investors to purchase properties in these countries.

The Singapore dollar has risen by nearly 30 percent versus the Australian Dollar and more than 14 percent against the Japanese Yen since the start of 2013. It has been rising steadily against the British Pound, gaining eight percent in just the past five months.

The online survey, which was carried out from 12 to 20 January 2016, involved 1,041 respondents from Singapore.

Picture Source: Melbourne’s city skyline.
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S’pore still top for safety, quality of life in Asia

Singapore has retained its position as the safest Asian city and for offering the best quality of life within the region for expatriates, according to Mercer’s 18th Annual Quality of Living Survey, which ranked 230 cities worldwide.

Globally, the city-state remained in 26th spot for quality of living, beating out its Japanese rivals Tokyo (44th), Kobe (46th), Yokohama (49th) and Osaka (58th).

Singapore also surpassed other Southeast Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur (86th), Bangkok (129th), Manila (136th) and Jakarta (142th), as well as Chinese cities such as Hong Kong (70th), Taipei (84th), Shanghai (101th) and Beijing (118th).

Meanwhile, the top five cities with the best living standards are Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich and Vancouver. On the other hand, Khartoum in Sudan, Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, Sana’a in Yemen, the Central African Republic’s Bangul and Baghdad landed in the bottom five on the list.

The data was largely analysed between September and November 2015.

According to Mercer, a global human resources consulting firm, personnel safety is a key factor in determining expats’ quality of life. Ensuring that workers of multinational firms are safe is also an essential part of talent retention and recruitment strategies of these companies.

“Managing safety and health issues is of utmost importance, especially for employees who relocate with a family,” said Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer, who is also responsible for the quality-of-living research.

“Other elements that add to safety costs in the host location are obtaining suitable and well secured accommodations; having an in-house comprehensive expatriate security programme and providing access to reputable professional evacuation services and medical support firms, and finally, providing security training and guarded office premises,” he added.

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Top bid of $419.4m for Tanah Merah site

The tender for a 2.4ha residential site at New Upper Changi Road/Bedok South Avenue 3 (Parcel B) closed on Tuesday (23 Feb), after attracting eight bids from property developers, revealed the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Launched for sale on 20 January this year, the site was originally on the reserve list of the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme. The URA had, on 7 January, accepted a successful application for the site to be triggered for sale.

The highest bid of $419.38 million was submitted by CEL Residential Development, a subsidiary of Chip Eng Seng Corporation. This translates to around $761 psf on the gross floor area.

Offered on a 99-year lease, the land parcel could yield about 570 housing units.

“The plot benefits from its proximity to the Tanah Merah MRT station in a relatively mature and established estate,” said Desmond Sim, CBRE Research Head, Singapore and South East Asia.

“That the site was triggered from the reserve list indicates developers still maintain healthy interest in sites, especially in sites with a relatively palatable quantum and with time on their side. Some developers are diversifying their risk by entering joint ventures, which some of the bidders have done in this tender,” he added.

A number of condominium developments such as Stratford Court, East Meadows, Casa Merah, Optima@Tanah Merah, and the upcoming The Glades are located in the vicinity.

A decision on the award of the tender will be made after the bids have been evaluated, said the URA.

Picture Source: Map of the Tanah Merah residential site. Source: URA
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Singapore homes seriously unaffordable: report

Singapore’s market cooling measures have been effective in reducing the prices of HDB flats and private homes over the past few years, but housing costs here are still seen as too high, revealed findings published by a global report last month.

According to the 12th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Singapore has a “seriously unaffordable” rating of 5.0, no change from last year’s survey.

The report used the median multiple indicator, which is the median house price divided by gross annual median household income, to rate housing affordability across 367 cities in nine countries.

A grade of 3.0 and below is considered affordable, 3.1 to 4.0 (moderately unaffordable), 4.1 to 5.0 (seriously unaffordable) and 5.1 and over (severely unaffordable).

Despite being seen as expensive, the report noted that “Singapore has been far more successful in controlling housing affordability than in markets that have followed the British urban containment model”.

Specifically, the HDB was recognized for ramping up the supply of new flats and reducing new home prices.

“One strategy has been to increase what are effectively “across the board” subsidies for all new houses (not counting special grants, such as for first home buyers).

“Should the present policy continue, it is likely that resale house prices will rise slower or even fall in the future, improving Singapore’s housing affordability,” said Demographia.

Eligible first-time buyers of new HDB flats currently enjoy up to $80,000 in housing grants, comprising up to $40,000 in Special CPF Housing Grants and up to $40,000 in Additional CPF Housing Grants.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has the least affordable housing in the world, with a median multiple of 19.0. This rating is also the highest recorded in the 12 years of the Demographia Survey.

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CapitaLand to launch integrated project in Orchard

UPDATED: CapitaLand will launch an integrated development consisting of residential apartments and serviced residences in the Orchard Road district to the public next month.

At 122 metres tall, it is set to become one of the tallest buildings in the area, and will be directly linked to Paragon via a covered link-bridge.

Located at Cairnhill Road, the 30-storey Cairnhill Nine is the first condominium to launch in the Orchard area in the last three years, and features 268 one, two and four-bedroom apartments and penthouses.

Unit sizes range from 591 sq ft to 3,864 sq ft, with prices starting from $1.35 million for a one-bedder, $2.49 million for a two-bedder, and $3.68 million for a four-bedder. The project’s average price of around $2,500 psf was benchmarked against neighbouring projects.

“Cairnhill Nine is targeted at young professionals, families and foreign buyers who enjoy living amidst the buzz of Singapore’s world-renowned shopping belt,” said Wen Khai Meng, CEO of CapitaLand Singapore.

“We have identified the profiles and lifestyle choices of potential buyers after conducting extensive research on the preferences of those seeking homes in the heart of Orchard Road.”

Last weekend, the property developer held a roadshow in Jakarta targeting Indonesians, as the Orchard area has traditionally been popular with this group of buyers, shared Wen.

Aside from premium finishings, quality fittings and built-in storage systems, the units will also incorporate smart home technologies.

“We will provide our home buyers a smart home starter kit which allows them to remotely control Internet-of-Things (IOT)-enabled home devices such as the air-conditioning system, digital lock with biometric access, and security camera,” noted Wen.

The 99-year leasehold project is close to the Orchard and Somerset MRT stations, as well as shopping malls, established schools and medical facilities. It is expected to be completed at the end of this year.

A VIP preview of Cairnhill Nine will be held at the project’s showflat at Indus Road this Saturday (27 Feb), while viewings by appointment will start next weekend.

Adjoined to Cairnhill Nine is the 20-storey Ascott Orchard Singapore. The serviced residence will feature 220 luxury apartments ranging from studios to two-bedroom units and penthouses. Scheduled to open early next year, the property will offer short- and long-term stays.

CapitaLand’s other integrated development in the vicinity, ION Orchard shopping mall and The Orchard Residences condominium, was completed in phases from 2009. During the launch of the first phase, 98 of the 175 residential units were sold for an average of $3,213 psf.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of CapitaLand’s latest development at Cairnhill.
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Pound hits 2.5-year low against the Sing dollar

Amidst rising fears that the UK will leave the European Union (EU), the pound sterling dropped to a two-and-a-half year low against the Singapore dollar on Monday (22 Feb), after a prominent politician announced his support for Britain to exit from the 28-nation bloc, reported TODAYonline.

London Mayor Boris Johnson pledged to back the ‘Brexit’ campaign in opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron, who wants the country to remain within the EU.

“The fact that prominent members of the Conservative Party announced they will campaign for Britain to leave the EU likely underscored investors’ concerns that Brexit risks could increase,” said Valentin Marinov, Head of Group-of-10 currency strategy at Credit Agricole.

According to Bloomberg data, the pound fell to S$1.972 early Monday morning – the lowest level since 30 August 2013, when the exchange rate sank to S$1.9702. So far this year, the British currency has dropped by 5.5 percent against the Singapore dollar.

Its exchange rate versus the US dollar also declined to US$1.4067, the weakest since February 2009. This erased the gain made on Friday when Mr Cameron secured a deal on membership terms with EU leaders in Brussels.

Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs projected that the pound may slump to US$1.15 to US$1.20, the lowest levels last witnessed in 1985, if it leaves the EU. On the other hand, the currency may rise to US$1.60 by year-end if the UK remains a member, stated HSBC in a forecast last month.

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Over 400 applications for Wandervale EC

The Wandervale executive condominium (EC) by Sim Lian Group has received more than 400 e-applications since its launch on Thursday (18 Feb), sources told PropertyGuru.

This figure accounts for more than 75 percent of the 534 units at the 99-year leasehold project, which sits on a large land parcel measuring about 205,138 sq ft.

Crowds were seen streaming into the showflat located at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 3 when PropertyGuru visited the site on Sunday afternoon (21 Feb).

The EC consists of 130 three-bedroom, 322 three-bedroom premium, and 82 four-bedroom units, ranging from 958 sq ft to 1,249 sq ft, across nine residential blocks.

Wandervale is within proximity to the Choa Chu Kang MRT station and bus interchange, Bukit Panjang MRT station on the newly opened Downtown Line 2 (DTL2), Lot One Shoppers’ Mall, and South View Primary School. The project is expected to obtain its TOP by 2019.

Jointly marketed by OrangeTee and ERA, the project is priced at approximately $750 psf to $770 psf on average. The actual prices of the units will be released two days before the sales booking, which starts on 5 March.

PropertyGuru understands that the larger three-bedroom premium and four-bedroom units were more popular with buyers.

According to Doris Ong, ERA’s Chief Operating Officer, the response has been better than expected.

“We’ve seen a good level of interest from first-time buyers and HDB upgraders living nearby, as well as those working in this part of Singapore.”

She noted that the spacious layout of the units is a key selling point.

Calvin Fobrogo, a prospective buyer, said he was drawn to the project’s location and price, and was considering upgrading from a five-room HDB flat and moving his family into a four-bedroom unit.

“This EC is near my house and the price is lower than the Sol Acres EC,” noted the 39-year-old engineer.

A recent Credit Suisse report revealed that MCL Land’s Sol Acres project in Choa Chu Kang has sold 28 percent of its 1,327 units at an average price of $800 psf.

Notably, HDB upgraders have to pay a resale levy of up to $50,000 for EC units bought directly from a developer, where the land sale was launched on or after 9 December 2013, when the ruling took effect.

More Singaporean couples are now eligible to buy ECs after the income ceiling cap was raised to $14,000 in August 2015. First-time buyers are also eligible for CPF Housing Grants of up to $30,000.

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15 April 2016

Larger resale condos selling for less than $1m

With the various property cooling measures in effect, buyers are spotting homes in the private resale market for $1 million or less, reported The Straits Times.

And these homes are not all shoebox-size. Some of the bigger units in good locations like Bayshore Road have been going for this amount.

“In 2010 to 2012, $1 million was a sort of standard or expected price to pay, and it was unlikely buyers could get something good for less than that,” said R’ST Research Director Ong Kah Seng.

“Now, opportunistic buyers are referencing it as a ceiling price. They are scouring for properties significantly lower than $1 million. It is still not easy to get these deals, but definitely much easier than before.”

In fact, the proportion of freehold or 999-year leasehold homes resold at this price range climbed to 17 percent from 2014 to this month, from just six percent from 2010 to end-2013.

Aside from the resale market, bargains are also being seen in the auction market, where mortgagee sales are taking place.

Since the start of Q4 2015, units on auction with opening prices of below $1 million included the mortgagee sale of a 790 sq ft apartment in Tiong Bahru and an owner’s sale of a 527 sq ft unit at Dunearn Suites, revealed data from Colliers International.

In 2016, mortgagee sales are expected to be on a stable uptrend, potentially exceeding 270 in number, which is more than what was recorded during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, noted Grace Ng, Deputy Managing Director at Colliers.

“The rising interest rate will add further strain on borrowers, particularly for those holding multiple properties. However, the numbers are not expected to spike as the employment rate in Singapore remains high, enabling most owners to service their mortgage loans,” she said.

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S’pore property investments up sharply in Q4

Property investment volumes in Singapore’s residential sector rose 14.8 percent to $1.69 billion in Q4 2015 from $1.47 billion in the previous quarter, revealed a Colliers International report.

“The $999.98 million transacted from the sale of three public residential state land parcels helped sustain the overall investment sales value for the residential sector during the final quarter, enabling it to claim its second top spot on the quarter’s sales chart with a market share of 28.4 percent.”

The total value of property investments in Singapore stood at $5.96 billion in Q4 2015, up 39.3 percent from Q4 2014.

In the private residential market, investment sales amounted to $688.83 million in the last three months of 2015. The good class bungalow (GCB) segment led the activity in this sector, with nine GCB transactions worth $160.67 million recorded during the period under review.

“Overall, the transactions involving large landed homes (with each worth above $5 million) contributed 70.1 percent of the $662.75 million accumulated in the private residential sector.”

Colliers noted that the most significant transaction was a two-storey freehold GCB at 61 Dalvey Road. Sold for $26 million, the bungalow is situated on an elevated plot opposite the Israeli Embassy and features five bedrooms and a swimming pool.

Meanwhile, no collective sales were recorded in Q4 2015 as tighter regulations softened end-user demand.

“Collective home sellers, on the other hand, are generally still holding on to their high asking prices. This mismatch in price expectation will likely stall the collective sales market in 2016.”

The consultancy expects public land sales this year to fall below 2015’s level as the government cuts back on public land supply.

“Given that a lower supply of land is available through the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme, the public sector’s contribution to the total investment sales value in 2016 is likely to fall below the $5.27 billion concluded in 2015.”

Picture Source: A good class bungalow in Singapore.
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Landmark launch in Singapore

Landmark Place, the latest UK development, is hoping to attract buyers from Singapore with a property exhibition being held here next weekend (27 to 28 February) at the Four Seasons Hotel, revealed marketing agent Knight Frank.

Located within the prime London city district, the 165-unit development consists of two interconnected buildings, one of nine storeys and the other eleven storeys, which appear to be wrapped in glass. The project gets its name from three landmarks bounding the buildings – the Thames, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

A mix of one- to three-bedroom apartments and penthouses are available, with prices ranging from around £650,000 (S$1.3 million) for a one-bedroom suite to £10 million (S$20.14 million) for a penthouse.

Landmark Place is served by the Tower Hill, Fenchurch Street and Cannon Street tube stations, as well as the Thames Clipper commuter and other leisure river services.

Linda Chern, Director, International Project Marketing, Knight Frank Singapore, said: “The UK remains one of the preferred foreign investment destinations for Singapore investors. Within close proximity to amenities, the development (Landmark Place) is easily accessible to the city and the financial district.”

UK property portal Rightmove recently revealed that London home prices rose 5.4 percent month-on-month in February 2016, bringing the average price to £643,843 (S$1.3 million). Prices in inner London climbed almost eight percent to £848,000 (S$1.7 million) during the period.

Picture Source: Artist’s impression of Landmark Place in London. Source: Knight Frank
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Developers call for cooling measures review amid hefty $100m charges

Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas) President Augustine Tan has urged the government to review the property cooling measures as developers face potential charges of $100 million for unsold private residential units, reported TODAYonline.

“The real estate market is reeling from the compounding effects of an oversupply situation, rising vacancy rates, weak demand and increasing interest rates,” said Tan at the association’s Spring Festival Lunch.

“There is therefore an urgent need for action to bring stability and ensure a soft landing to prevent further damage to the fragile economy,” he added, citing turmoil in financial markets, Singapore’s own restructuring journey and weak global growth as risks to the economy.

As at end-2015, there is a supply of more than 60,000 units in the pipeline and a record 25,000 vacant units, noted Tan, who also serves as Far East Organization’s Executive Director for Property Sales.

Aside from the mounting supply, developers also face pressures from measures like the Qualifying Certificate (QC) and Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).

First introduced in 2011 and revised in 2013, the ABSD is a tax imposed on both developers and individual property buyers.

The amount paid by individuals depends on the number of properties they own and residency status, while developers have to pay 10 to 15 percent of the land cost unless they complete and sell all the units within five years from the date of land acquisition.

Developers with foreign holdings will also have to meet the QC rules, in which they are required to complete the project in five years of acquiring the land and sell all units within the next two years. Those who need more time to meet the requirements can pay extension charges that are pro-rated according to the proportion of unsold units. Land sold on Sentosa Cove and through the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme do not need QC.

In 2016, Tan estimates that around 700 unsold residential units across 13 developments will be affected by the QC, with charges amounting to almost $100 million.

Moreover, the ABSD remission clawback for projects with unsold units will kick in by end-2016, putting further pressure on prices. He revealed that around 6,000 unsold units in 33 developments will be affected by the ABSD remission clawback in 2017 and 2018.

As a result, several developers have been lobbying for the removal of the ABSD, arguing that the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework will help ensure that buyers stay prudent with their acquisitions even without the ABSD.

“Since 2009, the successive introduction of the government’s property measures has cooled the market, bringing down transactions and prices. With safeguards in place such as the continuation of the prudent TDSR measures together with the current economic situation, property prices will be kept in check,” said Tan.

“It is therefore timely to consider a calibration of the cooling measures.”

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Too many malls in Singapore?

According to the latest data from the government, Singapore currently has over one hundred shopping malls spread across the island. Just along Orchard Road—the country’s world-famous shopping belt—are at least 40 retail malls, with many standing side-by-side along the 2.2 kilometre shopping boulevard.

For a country known as one of the hottest shopping destinations in Asia, the number of malls currently operating in the Republic might be an indicator of how the retail property market has performed over the years. However, as always, there is a flip side to everything, a common observation among locals and tourists alike is that there are a lot, if not too many malls in Singapore already.

In fact, RHB Research reported in September 2015 that the Republic has 1.08 sqm of retail space per capita. That’s one mall for every 53,000 people.

It also stated that the city-state has the highest level of retail space per capita among ASEAN countries – significantly above Bangkok which has 0.8 sqm per capita, and nearby Kuala Lumpur with 0.71 sqm per capita.

But what does this mean for the local retail market? What are the implications to mall operators, tenants and consumers?

Here, there, everywhere

While almost half of the country’s retail supply can be found in the downtown Orchard area, a number of malls have also started sprouting up outside the shopping enclave in recent years.

As reported previously in Issue 91 of PropertyGuru News & Views, mall decentralisation in Singapore has started to pick up, and the market is seeing more retail malls dominating some areas.

Jurong East, for example, has changed dramatically in recent times. Just in the last five years, Jurong East saw the opening of four shopping malls—JCube (2012), Jem (2013), Westgate (2013) and BIGBOX (2014)—that feature specifications that are typically only seen in those located in Orchard Road.

It can be observed that these malls are situated quite close to, if not side-by-side each other, and just like those in Orchard, allow seamless connectivity to other malls around the area. Specifically, JCube, near Jurong East MRT station, is connected to it via a pedestrian crossing. Just across the station is the 7-storey mall Westgate, which provides a covered link—J-Walk—to Lend Lease’s mixed-use development, Jem.

From Jem, consumers can access Singapore’s warehouse shopping mall, BIGBOX, via a link bridge. Also in Jurong is the outlet mall IMM Building, which provides patrons shuttle services to and from Westgate and JCube, and via a link bridge to the train station.

It is noted that these malls—JCube, Westgate and IMM Building—are owned and operated by CapitaLand Malls.

Responding to an enquiry by PropertyGuru, CapitaLand discussed how they tackle the challenges of remaining relevant to consumers and how they keep their malls competitive among other malls.

“We position our malls differently to cater to different shopper segments, even though they may be located near one another,” shared Teresa Teow, Head of Retail Management for Singapore at CapitaLand Mall Asia.

“To illustrate, the three CapitaLand malls in Jurong Gateway are positioned differently to complement one another. Westgate is the premier lifestyle and family mall, offering the best of downtown shopping with brands that in the past were found only in malls along Orchard Road.

“JCube is the leisure and entertainment hub… IMM Building nearby is Singapore’s largest outlet mall which has 85 outlet stores,” Teow said, adding that these three malls “offer the equivalent of a three-in-one mega mall” forming a retail destination where there is “something to offer every shopper.”

Experts said having many malls in one location is not entirely a bad thing. “The more diversity, the more vibrant the shopping scene,” said Sulian Tan-Wijaya, executive director of retail and lifestyle at Savills Singapore.

“The upside (of having many malls) is the ability to create a critical mass and large enough cluster of shopping and lifestyle experiences for a shopping destination. This is how Orchard Road helped position Singapore as a shopping capital, where global retail giants coexist with independent, eclectic small retailers to complete the shopping experience,” she added.

However, the property consultancy also warned of the downside with an oversupply of malls. “(There is) a dilution of tenant mix, and duplication of brands. Landlords compete for the same tenants and too many retailers compete for the same pool of shoppers,” she said.

Too many, too similar

And because a lot of the malls here target the same consumers, it has resulted in a market with too many malls that are too similar.

Last year, a number of retail groups, particularly those in the fashion line, announced shop closures and consolidations. One of them is Al-Futtaim Group which manages Robinsons, John Little and Marks & Spencer in Singapore.

The group announced the closure of some of Singapore’s best-loved department stores last March, saying it’s the group’s “ongoing business strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of our businesses”.

“There is not enough differentiation in the store,” said the group’s head of business in Asia, Kesri Kapur, as quoted in TODAY. “For such a small market, if it’s to be viable in the longer-term and sustainable, there has to be some differentiation (among) the stores.”

Among the over 100 malls in Singapore, many overlap in terms of tenant mix and offer the same brands, services and entertainment to consumers. However, there are still a number of shopping malls that stand out when it comes to their tenant mix and concept. These include Funan DigitaLife Mall at North Bridge Road, which mainly houses shops selling computers and other electronic merchandise, and Velocity in Novena, which offers an extensive range of active-lifestyle stores.

All ahead

With the current economic conditions here and overseas resulting in slower retail sales from both locals and tourists, coupled with other existing challenges such as the manpower crunch and rising business costs, analysts say that for malls to survive these challenges here, the key is to ensure competitiveness.

“Landlords will find it harder to attract tenants to their mall and will be competing amongst themselves for the same tenants. An over-supply can also lead to downward pressure on rents without increase in demand from new retailers,” Savills said. “If they are willing to lower their rents to attract the right concept for the mall, they will eventually regain their higher rents when the market recovers.”

Savills added that mall operators should be quick in “spotting new trends, customer preferences and consumption behaviours”.

“The slowdown in retail sales, competition from online retail and over-supply of malls in some areas are all negative near-term factors for malls in these locations,” said Tan-Wijaya, adding that only if these malls are responsive and receptive enough to changes emerging in the retail landscape will they be able to “strengthen their competitive position in the long term and enjoy the fruits of their efforts during the difficult times.”

CapitaLand Malls agrees with this sentiment and looks to ensure that its malls meet the needs and aspirations of consumers. “To this end, we continually reinvent our malls to ensure that they stay relevant and attractive to shoppers. This includes asset enhancement initiatives to optimize the retail offerings and refreshing the tenancy mix, as well as carrying out attractive promotions to draw shoppers to our malls.”

Looking ahead, Savills believes that the current number of well-managed retail malls here “will remain proactive in managing their tenant mix”, and expects these malls to replace weaker tenants with newer concepts or better-performing retail brands.

And while there could be some businesses that are casualties of the growing number of retail malls here, analysts believe that “the clear winner” in this scenario is the consumers as they will continue to be spoilt for choice for retail options.

Meanwhile, Knight Frank’s Q3 2015 report estimates that 4.2 million sq ft of retail space of net lettable retail space will come on-stream in Singapore until 2019 (Table). However, JLL said the retail supply in the republic, not including Jewel @ Changi Airport, would be at a 10-year low from 2016 to 2018. This comes after the government disapproved the initiation of new retail space since 2013, the property consultancy said in its 2016 market outlook.

Picture Source: REALIS,Knight Frank Research
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Commercial property outlook 2016

A year ago, the commercial market was a lot more optimistic and buoyant, on the back of tight supply, and rising rents, especially in the tight CBD area. Coupled with the outflow of capital from a residential property market seized up by 13 rounds of cooling measures, the commercial property market seemed like a bright spot in Singapore’s frigid real estate market.

In the space of a year, this optimism has become a lot more muted, with the tumbling of oil prices, a bearish Mainland Chinese economy and a weakening Eurozone. It’s time to take a good hard look at the commercial sector, and see what we can expect in the coming year.

Office Space

As an open economy that’s a regional financial hub for several companies in banking, financial services and commodities, the various crises have taken their toll on the office segment.

In 2015, high profile layoffs in companies such as Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland and Morgan Stanley made headlines. In the coming weeks and months, Barclays and Credit Suisse, amongst several others, are also expected to announce job redundancies.

With many financial institutions cutting back on overhead costs to stay buoyant, rents are taking a pummeling. Figure 1 shows the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Office Rental Index, for both the Central and Fringe Areas. Between Q2 and Q4 of 2015, rents in the Central area fell 9.1 percent, while those in the Fringe fell 8.3 percent over the course of 2015.

With overall pessimism leading to lowered demand for office space, rent prices are likely to continue falling over the course of 2016. However, the sub-segment most likely to be affected by the economic turmoil is likely to be office spaces in the city fringe.

Figure 2 shows the different vacancy rates across the key office areas of the island, including the prime Downtown Core and Orchard Areas, as well as the Rest of Central and Fringe areas. From Q4 2014, the vacancy rate in Fringe areas have remained consistently high, around 13 percent, suggesting that more than one in 10 of completed stock is unoccupied or untenanted.

In contrast, vacancy rates for the Downtown Core and Orchard Areas have been on a decline over the course of 2015. Real estate consultancy CBRE suggests that this is a “flight to quality,” with corporate tenants taking advantage of lowered rents to move their operations into more prime areas. This is in contrast to past years, where tight supply and high rents in the prime areas led banks to move their back room operations into regional centers and business parks.

Supply in the fringe-CBD saw a boost in the second half of 2015 with the earlier than expected completion of South Beach. It is likely to increase in 2016 with Guoco Tower, part of the integrated Tanjong Pagar Center, and Duo at Beach Road, completing construction and entering the supply pool. These developments will likely continue to apply pressure on office rents outside the city fringes.


The industrial property sector is facing strong headwinds, buffeted on almost all sides. The global economic uncertainty translated to declines in manufacturing output in Singapore, with the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) dipping to a 49.0 in January 2016. In fact, for most of 2015, the PMI stayed mostly below the 50.0 mark, suggesting an overall lack of confidence.

With output on the decline, demand for industrial property space is falling as manufacturers scaling back operations. This is exacerbated by an oversupply of industrial property space. Between 2013 to the end of 2015, JTC Corporation and URA, sold 61 sites, totaling over 583,000 sq metres of land, for both B1 (light industrial) and B2 (heavy industrial) purposes. This fi gure does not include some of the smaller industrial buildings that were collectively sold over the past two years.

URA predicts that by the end of 2016, a total of 2.2M sq metres of factory space is likely to be completed. Because this is currently beyond what the market can absorb, URA has also tapered down the supply, with a much lowered 789,000 sq metres of factory space to be completed in 2017, and then another 623,000 sq metres in 2018.

The combination of weak sentiment and oversupply has led to a vacancy rate of just over 10 percent and 6 percent for privately owned industrial property and government leased industrial property respectively (refer to Figure 3). From the charts, it is quite clear that the vacancy rate for both segments are on an upward trajectory.

Weak manufacturing sentiment and a slowing global economy will reduce demand for industrial space, suggesting that the vast upcoming supply will find it difficult to be absorbed. We might see vacancy rates increase to around 12 percent or even higher, for factory space by the end of 2016.

This has also negatively aff ected the sale prices and rentals of industrial property. Over the course of 2015, both the sale price index and rental price index of industrial properties have seen quarterly declines, ending the year at 105 and 100.6 respectively (refer to Figure 4).

These prices are likely going to tumble even further as 2016 progresses, and will be a buyers’ and tenants’ market. Investors who fl ocked to this segment, and who do not have adequate holding power, or are dependent on rents to repay their loans, are likely going to have to slash rental or sale prices.

Picture Source: A worm’s eye view of CBD buildings.
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Malaysia: Down, but not out

With the Malaysian ringgit falling 30 percent against the Singapore dollar, an uncertain economy, and the political scandal affecting Prime Minister Najib Razak, many Singaporeans are left wondering whether this is the right time to enter Malaysia’s property market, or whether they should adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

According to Ryan Khoo, Founder and Director of real estate consultancy Alpha Marketing, the current bearishness on Malaysia stems from oil price drops and the fallout from the 1MDB crisis.

But despite all the negative news reports about Malaysia, the country has been registering a GDP growth of four to 4.5 percent in the last few years, said Khoo. “Even with the recent oil price drops, GDP growth rate forecasts for 2016 are still at four percent. Compared to Singapore, which narrowly escaped a technical recession in 2015, I think Malaysia as an economy is quite vibrant and often misperceived.”

For prospective investors looking to buy Malaysian property for their own use, retirement, or passive income, Khoo explained that the sliding ringgit has made property across the causeway much cheaper and therefore, more attractive.

However, currency alone is not enough to make a buying decision, he said. “For investors today, they are generally more concerned about other factors, such as politics and oil prices, which may impact the ringgit further.

“If you want to buy Malaysian property, you must have a five- to 10-year view of how a particular location, local economy and type of property will fare, not just look at currency.”

A time to buy

Khalil Adis, founder of Khalil Adis Consultancy and brand ambassador for Iskandar Malaysia, believes that it is a good time to invest if you’re looking at fundamentals.

“Under investment fundamentals, you buy at a low,” said Adis, adding that there is still some demand for housing units and people are still renting.

“Foreigners don’t live there, so they’re spooked by the political situation, particularly the 1MDB saga. But there are good investment opportunities, such as hotel suites in areas like Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, which see many tourists but not enough hotel rooms.”

Khoo stated that contrary to popular belief, there is still a healthy rental market in Malaysia. “It’s always about location, pricing, furnishing and how you market your property. Many buyers from Singapore have to take note that managing property from a distance is not easy unless you have someone managing it for you.

“Some property types will rent faster than others. It is also becoming more popular in Malaysia to rent properties on a short-term basis via platforms such as Airbnb, as yields are higher.”

In general, high-rise properties can fetch rental yields of five to six percent at current prices, while rental yields for landed properties are in the range of four to five percent, noted Khoo.

He feels that Malaysian properties will always be on the radar of investors here due to the proximity and the fact that both countries are closely linked, culturally and economically.

His advice for investors is to look at commercial property, which has more upside potential than residential property. “Industrial property prices are at a low base, just above S$100 psf, so it’s difficult to see it dropping lower.”

He cited Iskandar Malaysia as one area that has been seeing record investments in manufacturing over the past three years that have translated into demand.

Optimism remains despite oversupply

Although the threat of an oversupply of homes in Iskandar continues to weigh heavily on the minds of investors, CapitaLand, South East Asia’s biggest property developer, remains optimistic about the potential of the region.

The Singapore-based developer is moving forward with plans to build a premier waterfront residential community on A2 Island in Danga Bay, comprising high-rise apartments, landed homes and other supporting amenities and facilities.

A statement released by the company last year said: “CapitaLand takes a long-term view of this project and is confident of the long-term prospects of Iskandar Malaysia. The development will be paced and executed in phases over a period of 10 to 12 years according to market conditions, as originally envisaged.”

During a parliamentary session in May 2015, then Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, warned of a future housing glut in Iskandar that could devalue homes.

“Based on data from Malaysia’s National Property Information Centre (Napic), there are around 336,000 new private residential units in the pipeline — more than the total number of private homes in Singapore,” said Wong.

He added that buyers have become more cautious, with surveys showing that the number of Malaysian properties purchased through local property agencies plunged from 2,609 units in 2013 to 838 in 2014.

Adis has also observed that many Singaporeans are still waiting on the sidelines. “They are attending a lot of seminars but not purchasing property. In my opinion, they are doing their research first and waiting for the market to bottom out before jumping in.”

The HSR effect

In addition, with construction work expected to start in the next two years on the high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and the rapid transit system link between Johor Bahru and Singapore, Khoo believes that confidence will grow and buyers will return in huge numbers.

“Property prices in Iskandar Malaysia are still a fraction of Singapore’s, and the rail links will remove all the bottlenecks that plague the Causeway and Second Link.”

As such, “picking the right properties should ensure that you get the first choice of buyers or tenants, and that separates an average investor from a good one,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Adis reckons that Kuala Lumpur is another area worth looking at, with several upcoming mega projects, such as three MRT lines and Tun Razak Exchange. The latter is touted as Malaysia’s new financial hub, set to boost property values in the city.

Financing not an issue

For buyers looking to obtain financing, Khoo noted that while banks in both Malaysia and Singapore are tightening their lending standards for home loans, he does not see it as a major issue for overseas buyers of Malaysian property.

“Singaporeans and Malaysians earning Singapore dollars have a much easier time getting a loan, as the currency exchange is considered when factoring your repayment capability.”

But Adis thinks it is easier to get financing in Malaysia, as the banks there do not check the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) of borrowers. Introduced by the Singapore government in June 2013, the TDSR limits the amount of a borrower’s gross monthly income that can be spent on debt repayments to 60 percent. In addition, Singaporeans buying property in Malaysia can obtain financing of 70 to 80 percent on the property’s value.

To get financing, Khoo explained that Malaysian banks require copies of the last three months of payslips, copies of bank account statements for the last three months, and past two years of IRAS tax notices.

For those who want to know more about Malaysian property investments, PropertyGuru will be hosting its first Malaysia Property Show for 2016 at the Marriott Hotel in Singapore on the weekend of 5 to 6 March. The two-day property exhibition will feature several new project launches and seminar speakers, including Adis, who will be providing insights on Malaysia’s commercial property market.

Pre-registration for the show is recommended, and those interested can do so at:


Population: 30.5 million

Total area: 329,847 sq km

Currency: Ringgit

GDP per capita: US$25,833 (2015)

GDP growth: 4.9 percent (2015)

Future transport: High-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

Average house price: US$72,519 (Q3 2015)

Distance between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur: 354 km

Summary of major property related issues and taxes associated with real estate investment in Malaysia:


Our picks of residential properties in Malaysia prospective buyers should consider.


Estuari Gardens
Estuari, Nusajaya, Johor

Type: Strata landed homes
Developer: UEM Sunrise Berhad
Tenure: Freehold
Facilities: 24-hour security, children’s playground, exercise area, cycling path
Nearby Key Amenities: Legoland Malaysia, Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club
Nearest Transport: Malaysia-Singapore Second Link, Puteri Harbour International Ferry Terminal
Starting Price: RM1.39 million (approx. S$468,200)

Launched in April 2015, the freehold Estuari Gardens is a gated community consisting of 350 units of two-storey super-link houses with luxurious and spacious built-up areas ranging from 2,708 sq ft to 3,780 sq ft.

Scheduled for completion in 2017, the project’s facilities include 24-hour security, a children’s playground, exercise area and walkways/cycling path. Located in Puteri Harbour, Estuari Gardens is the first phase of the sprawling 390-acre Estuari development, which has a total gross development value of RM7.4 billion.

Branded as an eco-living community, it will comprise 2,858 residential units of mixed landed and high-rise strata properties.

Opus Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Maharaja Lela, Kuala Lumpur

Type: Serviced apartment
Developer: Bina Puri Properties Sdn Bhd
Tenure: Freehold
Facilities: Infinity pool, Jacuzzi, gymnasium, F&B services, concierge
Nearby Key Amenities: KL Sentral, Midvalley, Pavillion, KLCC
Nearest Transport: Maharaja Lela and Hang Tuah monorail stations
Starting Price: RM943,500 (approx. S$317,800)

Construction work has already started on this freehold serviced apartment project. Developed by Bina Puri Properties Sdn Bhd, it is expected to be completed by early 2019 and will comprise two high-rise tower blocks of 357 units.

The units range in size from 692 sq ft to 1,071 sq ft, and come furnished with Calvin Klein furniture. Residents will also enjoy a slew of facilities such as an infinity pool, Jacuzzi and gymnasium.

Located in the Jalan Maharaja Lela area, the development is just next to the upcoming KL118 tower, which is set to become the second-tallest building in the world when completed in 2020.

Picture Source: Landed homes in Malaysia.
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Eye on Ang Mo Kio: In the red

Singapore has no shortage of residential estates, what with more than 80 percent of its population living in HDB flats. In this regard, Ang Mo Kio is no exception.

A brief history

Unlike many other mature estates in Singapore, however, Ang Mo Kio as we know it today remained largely undeveloped till the late 20th century, after being mostly uninhabited in the 19th century. It wasn’t till the beginning of the 20th century that settlers started arriving in Ang Mo Kio because of its rubber plantations. This also meant it was called Ang Mo Kio Forest Reserve back then.

The name “Ang Mo Kio” came about only after land was cleared in the area to make way for a village, with the largely Hokkien Chinese immigrants there involved in rubber-planting and tapping. In fact, Ang Mo Kio New Town was once called Cheng San Village, which was a massive rubber plantation.

In the decade between 1922 and 1932, market gardening, as well as pig and poultry farming, became more common in Ang Mo Kio, thanks to the drop in world rubber prices. This proved useful during the second World War, when the Japanese Occupation caused many to move to the estate to take up farming as a form of livelihood.

Steady progress

Like most other mature estates in Singapore, Ang Mo Kio has flourished and is today a thriving residential estate of approximately 200,000 residents, as well as a satellite town and urban planning area. It is perhaps best known as a PAP Group Representative Constituency (GRC) under Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Its development started only in 1973, making it the seventh new town to be built in Singapore (the estate also has seven neighbourhoods). Just a decade later, the town’s design won the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Outstanding Buildings Award. Three years later, the tetrahedral skylight feature at the Avenue 1 swimming complex won it the 1986 SIA Architectural Award.

As a mature estate, Ang Mo Kio today not only is home to HDB flats but also private residential projects, with certain pockets of land having been cleared to make way for new housing developments.

Everything at your doorstep

With one bus interchange, one hospital, one park, two MRT stations, four shopping malls and over 20 schools, Ang Mo Kio is undoubtedly a highly convenient estate in which to live.

Agnes Goh, Executive Adviser at Knight Frank Property Network, says: “In my opinion, Ang Mo Kio is attractive because of its mature infrastructure: a wide range of school choices, ranging from primary to tertiary education, including reputable primary schools like CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, Ai Tong School and Catholic High School.

“It also has a well-established transport network connecting to all parts of Singapore — two MRT stations (Ang Mo Kio and Yio Chu Kang), and a fully air-conditioned bus interchange directly connected to the MRT station and a large shopping mall, AMK Hub. Ang Mo Kio is also within close proximity to a few expressways, which means its residents can travel to other parts of Singapore conveniently. Its central location also allows residents a fast commute to town, as well as to Woodlands for visits across the causeway.”

In addition to the aforementioned features, Ang Mo Kio has plenty of amenities catering to residents’ convenience and well-being: Thye Hua Kwan Hospital, Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. There are a large number of markets and food centres as well, and three other malls besides AMK Hub: Djitsun Mall, Broadway Plaza and Jubilee Square.

At the same time, Ang Mo Kio is rather close to a few international schools, such as Lycée Français de Singapour (Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3), the Australian International School (Lorong Chuan) and the Singapore American School (Woodlands), making the area attractive to expatriates who have school-going children.

New and next

In addition to the Ang Mo Kio and Yio Chu Kang MRT stations already serving the estate, Ang Mo Kio will see two more stations, Lentor and Mayflower, both on the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL). This means residents can enjoy direct commute to key employment nodes like Shenton Way, Maxwell and Orchard.

A new North-South Expressway will also cut travelling time from Ang Mo Kio to the city, and a 20 km cycling path, the longest in any residential estate in Singapore, is to be in place by 2018.

Furthermore, three Integrated Programme (IP) schools will form a new junior college in Ang Mo Kio in 2017, and a brand new Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic is scheduled for service in 2018.

Fair warning

Though its existing and upcoming developments make Ang Mo Kio a generally attractive place to live in, Goh warns: “Do expect some inconvenience due to construction works for the upcoming infrastructure. However, given the benefits and convenience which residents can enjoy for years to come, I believe it will add value to Ang Mo Kio and the properties in the estate.”

Bright future

The outlook for the estate is generally positive, due to the existing amenities that already makes life relatively easy for its residents, as well as its upcoming infrastructure that promises to make day-to-day living even more comfortable and convenient.

Goh says, “Personally, I feel that the value of the private residential sector in Ang Mo Kio has potential for even better growth, given the limited supply within the mature estate. There hasn’t been any new property launch or land release within Ang Mo Kio for the past year, while neighbouring estates like Yishun have seen only a few.

“Property values in Ang Mo Kio are likely to remain stable, with positive, steady growth, thanks to its well-established infrastructure. The major new developments coming its way will also strengthen the property value in Ang Mo Kio.”

Picture Source: Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is one of the largest urban parks in central Singapore. (Photo: Atelierdreiseitl, Wikimedia Commons), PropertyGuru Analytics,URA
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