Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

June 4, 2008

Sales of strata offices down, may fall further

Filed under: Commercial,General,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:39 am

Prices holding for now but may suffer if wider market weakens

THE dispirited housing market has claimed another casualty: Sales of strata-titled offices have taken a nosedive this year.

And while prices are holding steady for now, they might start to dip in the coming months, predicted property firm CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).


 
It analysed data for seven major strata-titled office buildings and found that, in the first three months of the year, only 11 sales of strata office units took place. These properties are not sold as entire office blocks; instead, units are sold singly.

The figure is less than half of that in the previous quarter and a fifth of that for the same period a year ago. In the first quarter, most of the buildings saw only one sale or none at all.

The slowdown in deals comes despite a continuing shortage of office supply, which helped boost sales and prices of strata office units to record highs last year. Some $1.7 billion of offices changed hands last year.

Since the office crunch has not improved much, this implies that the sombre mood in the market is behind the lacklustre activity, said Mr Jeremy Lake, CBRE’s executive director of investment properties.

‘In the strata-titled market, most transactions are relatively small, so buyers are high net worth individuals or companies rather than property funds,’ he said.

‘They are more likely to be sentiment-driven, and no doubt, sentiment now is not as strong as it was a year ago.’

The stalled office activity echoes the current housing market situation in Singapore, Mr Lake added.

Homebuyers and sellers are at a stand-off now, after private property prices soared 31 per cent last year only to hit the brakes towards year-end following the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States.

‘For the secondary markets in the residential and office segments, most vendors will hold on if they can’t get their price,’ said Mr Lake.

‘Because rentals are very good and mortgage rates are low, investors have strong holding power.’

Across property types, offices saw the smallest increase in prices in the first three months of this year, perhaps because of the slowdown in activity. They inched up 1.1 per cent in the January to March period.

Mr Lake said he believes office prices are now ‘largely flat’ rather than on an uptrend.

CBRE data shows that in some buildings, the average price of offices sold has actually come down this year.

At International Plaza, for instance, the average price of units sold in January to March was $1,375 per sq ft (psf), down from $1,449 psf in the previous three months.

But Mr Lake said it is too soon yet to say if prices are peaking. ‘It’s a lull at the moment. Whether it will turn into a peak, we shall see.’

However, he added that investors ’should not expect to see exciting capital gains going forward’.

‘We’re likely to see easing of activity and easing of capital values with the market stalled as it is,’ he said.

Source : Straits Times – 12 May 2008

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