Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

August 7, 2008

18th floor of Peninsula Plaza sold for $15m

Filed under: Commercial,General,Land Sale — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:23 am

THE 18th floor of Peninsula Plaza near City Hall has been sold to a Taiwanese trading company for $14.9 million.

The price works out to $1,750 per sq ft (psf) of strata area. This is just below the last sale in the 999-year leasehold building – a single 1,485 sq ft office unit that went for $1,800 psf in January.

It is also well below what the seller Novelty Department Store, part of the Novelty Group, wanted – $17.5 million or $2,050 psf of strata area.

The six units have a total floor of about 8,500 sq ft and were put on the market in early March through an expression of interest exercise.

Rising rents here prompted the buyer, which has not been named, to buy the floor, said marketing agent Shaun Poh, a senior director at DTZ.

The firm will occupy two or three of the units when the tenancies expire in a few months.

The six units are tenanted at about $4 psf, but rents in the building have risen to as much as $8 psf so the firm can look forward to a better return when the time comes to renew the other leases.

The market for strata-office units has remained fairly active, considering how quiet the residential market has become.

While office rent increases have started to moderate, rents in general are still supported by demand from expanding firms and tight supply.

Source : Straits Times – 11 Jun 2008

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HDB pricing policy limits impact of rising costs

Filed under: Construction News,General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:19 am

Board trying to contain cost by simplifying some projects

CONSTRUCTION costs for Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats have increased but the impact on buyers is likely to be limited, due to HDB’s pricing policy and cost-control measures.

Speaking to the media at HDB yesterday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that ‘construction costs have gone up significantly both for the building of private as well as public housing’. According to him, construction costs may have risen 20 to 30 per cent in general.

‘HDB is trying to contain the cost as much as it can,’ he added. One way is to simplify some of its projects. The government is also withholding some projects to ease pressures on the construction sector.

Asked how much of the increase in construction costs would go to buyers, he said that ‘for new flats, it should not feed directly through to the buyers, but it will probably feed through indirectly as the market price of flats goes up’.

In a forum reply last year, HDB mentioned that the prices of new flats are based on the market prices of resale HDB flats, not on construction costs. ‘In order to provide affordable housing to Singaporean families, new HDB flats are priced below their equivalent market values,’ said the reply.

Mr Mah assured that the prices of public housing will remain affordable.

The squeeze in the construction sector is not likely to delay the integrated resort projects. Progress is ‘on track’, he said.

Mr Mah also expects demand for HDB flats to strengthen if Singapore’s population grows as it has over the last few years. ‘We are monitoring the situation, and as the demand grows, we are also increasing the supply.’

He pointed out, however, that ‘we must also always be careful that we do not overbuild.’

HDB yesterday launched 382 flats for sale at Straits Vista @ Marsiling under the Build-To-Order (BTO) system. The first HDB project in Woodlands town in recent years, Straits Vista forms part of the total BTO supply of 8,400 units planned for this year. The project will comprise 50 three-room units with an indicative price range of $116,000 to $164,000, and 332 four-room units from $184,000 to $257,000.

HDB will receive the United Nations Public Service Award for its home ownership programme on June 23 and Mr Mah was at the agency to celebrate the win. There are more than 800,000 HDB flats in Singapore, housing more than 80 per cent of the resident population. About 95 per cent of HDB households own their homes.

Source : Business Times – 11 Jun 2008

HDB’s challenge: low-cost housing, condo-like flats

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:17 am

Board has to find ways to cater to the poor as well as those better-off, says Mah

AS THE population grows and becomes more diverse, the Housing Board will have to find creative ways to keep its flats affordable for low-income families but attractive for the better-off.

As it tackles this task, one concern is rising construction costs, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

He said costs are estimated to jump a further 20 per cent this year and they could start pushing up the prices of HDB flats. ‘Construction costs have gone up significantly…HDB is trying to contain the cost as much as it can.’

These higher costs will not directly affect the selling prices of flats, as the Board prices flats at a discount to market prices rather than based on cost, Mr Mah said.

But building costs will boost the market prices of flats, so ‘there will be some feed through’ to HDB prices.

‘We cannot escape that. But the important thing is, as salaries go up and prices are fixed at a discount to the market, flats will continue to remain affordable,’ added Mr Mah, who made a special visit to the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh yesterday to congratulate staff on winning a United Nations (UN) Public Service Award.

The HDB’s 44-year-old Home Ownership Programme was honoured for improving transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the public service. HDB chairman James Koh Cher Siang and chief executive Tay Kim Poh will accept the award at a ceremony held at the UN headquarters in New York on June 23.

Mr Mah praised the agency for its success over the past 48 years in moving Singaporeans out of slums into clean and modern flats. In its first five years, HDB built 50,000 flats; now there are 900,000, housing more than 80 per cent of the population.

He also pointed out the new challenges the Board is facing, including the key issue of helping more low-income families buy a flat rather than rent one.

‘Those with income of $1,000 to $1,500 a month, although they are eligible to rent a flat, I much rather they own a flat because from there they can build a base and own some assets,’ he said.

The cheaper two-room flats the Government has been building over the past few years will be ready soon, with construction to be ramped up, he added.

For those who cannot afford to buy even the cheapest flats, HDB will make available 20 per cent more rental flats over the next three years, Mr Mah said.

On the other end of the spectrum, better-off Singaporeans should also get to enjoy the ‘HDB experience’. To this end, condo-like flats are being built under the Design, Build & Sell Scheme in areas such as Boon Keng and Bishan.

HDB also launched a new Build-To-Order project at Marsiling yesterday. Straits Vista @ Marsiling is near Woodlands Regional Centre and is the first new public housing estate in Woodlands in recent years. It will offer 50 three- room and 332 four-room flats.

Applications can be made until June 23.

Source : Straits Times – 11 Jun 2008

Sengkang West going for a makeover as recreation hub

Filed under: General — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:14 am

FROM ulu to cool. That’s MP Lam Pin Min’s plan for Sengkang West.

The aim is to redevelop the rustic town into a ’suburban recreational hub’.

There will be new parks, restaurants by the river and water-sport activities by next year.

He unveiled these plans for the ward at a press conference yesterday ahead of a visit to the area by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say.

Mr Lim will tour the ward, which is part of Ang Mo Kio GRC, on June 22.

Sengkang West, which was formed in the run-up to the 2006 General Election, is home to about 35,000 residents but is relatively undeveloped compared to the neighbouring Sengkang areas and Punggol.

But that will change. And it will be more than just having a different image.

The changes will cater to the needs and lifestyle of residents in the ward, more than half of whom are couples in their 20s to 40s.

These will include a Sengkang sports and recreation centre, which is almost complete. It will have, among other things, swimming pools, a sports hall, a gymnasium and dance studio.

A section of the Punggol River will be dammed so that there will be a calmer reservoir area where residents can take part in water sports activities.

A Sengkang riverside park will also be built nearby, and a waterfront deck, lined with restaurants, will overlook the river.

As water sports will be a new feature in the town plan, Dr Lam has also formed a ‘guardians group’ to look into safety issues for sports and water activities.

The group, made up of a dozen grassroots leaders, will ensure there is proper medical assistance on the ground.

Source : Straits Times – 11 Jun 2008

July 24, 2008

Let expat schools expand into vacant properties

Filed under: Education,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:11 am

I REFER to Monday’s article, ‘Expat schools make room for growing population’.

I suggest the affected schools use existing vacant schools as a temporary measure. One such school is the former Westlake Secondary School in Braddell Hill. It looks in relatively good condition with several buildings to house classes, lots of space and a reasonably good field. I am sure with a little creativity and resourcefulness, the school could be turned into a functional school.It is such a waste to see buildings like this. I am sure there are many other such schools in other parts of Singapore, not used efficiently and left to decay in land-scarce Singapore.

Source : Straits Times – 11 Jun 2008

Road Ahead for HDB: Meeting diverse needs of S’pore’s population

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:08 am

THE road ahead for the Housing Board (HDB) is to meet the housing needs of a growing population with increasingly different needs and aspirations, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Tuesday.


HDB will also have to make the flats attractive for the more educated and more well-off Singaporeans, so that they too can go through the HDB experience. — ST PHOTO: ALBERT SIM

As Singapore welcomes a larger and more diverse population into its fold, he said the challenge for HDB is to find innovative ways to accommodate everyone in a comfortable way, without compromising our living environment and social cohesion.

‘Globalisation and the changing economic environment have also led to such issues as structural unemployment and a widening income gap. We will need to ensure that public housing can help achieve the twin objectives of meeting the housing needs of the majority of the population, as well as providing a social safety net for lower income Singaporeans,’ said Mr Mah during his visit to the HDB Hub on Tuesday morning to celebrate the UN public service award won by the Board for its home ownership programme.

As Singapore’s population ages, the minister said the HDB will need to focus on meeting the housing needs of the more vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and the lower-income, so that they can level up with the rest of the population.

At the other end of the spectrum, it will also have to make HDB flats attractive for the more educated and more well-off Singaporeans, so that they too can go through the HDB experience.

‘This shared experience of HDB living will become all the more important, as we strive to develop a collective Singapore identity,’ said the minister.

Mr Mah referred to a recent marriage and parenthood survey by the Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports, which revealed that the purchase of an HDB flat is a rite of passage for most Singaporeans.

It showed that 89 per cent of singles preferred to live in their own homes after marriage. For most, this would mean setting up their first home in a new or resale HDB flat.

‘The challenges for public housing today are different, but no less formidable than what we faced in the early days. Today’s environment is far more complex, with a more diverse group of flat buyers that have varying aspirations and income levels,’ added the minister. ‘In response, HDB builds flats to suit different budgets and preferences, with a range of flat types, designs, and locations to choose from.’

Upgrading aging flats in old estates

He also identified the upgrading and rejuvenation of older housing estates as another key challenge for the HDB.

With nearly a-third of the flats built before the 1980s, there will be more flats reaching 40 to 50 years old within the next 10 years.

Mr Mah said new, middle-aged and old HDB estates will be transformed into vibrant homes for Singaporeans under the HDB’s ‘Remaking Our Heartland’ programme.

‘Giving our HDB heartlands a major makeover is a key part of the Government’s plan to develop and reshape the Singapore of tomorrow. In the next 10 to 20 years, HDB will be embarking on plans to build a new generation of public housing,’ he said.

‘The urban regeneration of HDB estates will go beyond the current upgrading programmes in terms of scale and scope. It will transform the existing public housing estates and mark a new milestone in Singapore’s public housing programme.’

Source : Straits Times – 10 Jun 2008

HDB launches 382 BTO flats for sale at Marsiling

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:04 am

THE Housing Board offered 382 flats for sale at Marsiling under the Build-To-Order (BTO) scheme on Tuesday.

The flats at Straits Vista @ Marsiling, near Woodlands Regional Centre, comprise 50 three-room and 332 four-room units.


Residents can also enjoy easy access to other amenities such as shops, parks, schools and a sports/swimming complex. — PHOTO: HDB

The three-room flats, with floor area of between 67 and 69 sq metres, are priced from $116,000 to $164,000, while the four-room units, with floor area of 93 to 95 sqm, will be sold at between $184,000 and $257,000.

They are expected to be ready by May 2012.

The HDB said the Marsiling flats are part of the 8,400 units planned for this year under the BTO scheme and are the first HDB project in Woodlands town in recent years.

‘It will help to meet the strong demand for flats in the northern part of Singapore, although the bulk of the new BTO flats will continue to be offered in Punggol and Sengkang,’ said the board in a statement on Tuesday.

The project is well served by Woodlands MRT Station and a bus interchange. Residents can also enjoy easy access to other amenities such as shops, parks, schools and a sports/swimming complex. It is just a 5-minute drive to the Bukit Timah and Seletar Expressways.

As BTO flats typically require a few years to complete, the HDB advises buyers to plan ahead for their housing needs.

Applications for the new flats can be submitted from June 10 to 23.

Wide range of affordable resale flats available

Buyers with more immediate housing needs can get a resale HDB flat, with eligible first-timers given a CPF housing grant of $30,000 to $40,000, as well as the additional CPF grant of up to $30,000.

The HDB says there is still a wide range of affordable resale flats available to meet the budget of most flat buyers.

Its records show that in the first quarter, 14 per cent of the resale transactions were conducted at or below market valuation.

Source : Straits Times – 10 Jun 2008

Developers to unveil more modestly-priced condos

Filed under: Developer News,General,Property Investment — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:58 am

Dakota slated for preview this month at under $1,000 psf average, lower than earlier indicated

Developers are getting ready to release mass- to mid-market condos, encouraged by the response to modestly-priced developments recently.

City Developments Ltd (CDL) previewed Shelford Suites about a week ago at an average price believed to be around $1,550 psf, although CDL’s spokeswoman said the average price for the five-storey freehold project in the Shelford/Adam roads vicinity is in the $1,500 to $1,700 psf range.


Testing the market: CDL previewed Shelford Suites about a week ago at $1,500-$1,700 psf. The group is also aiming to preview the first phase of Livia, a condo in Pasir Ris, by month’s end or early July.

The property giant is also aiming to preview by the end of this month or early July the first phase of Livia, a 724-unit condo at Pasir Ris Drive 1.

The 99-year leasehold condo, near Pasir Ris MRT Station, is being developed by a joint venture involving CDL, Hong Realty and Hong Leong Holdings.

‘The average price will be revealed closer to the preview,’ CDL’s spokeswoman said.

However, market expectation is that CDL will price the project attractively, at below $700 psf for the initial phase.

Those taken in by the charms of riverfront-living close to the city can look forward to Ho Bee’s and NTUC Choice Homes’ preview of The Dakota later this month.

The average price of the 99-year leasehold condo is expected to be ‘under $1,000 psf’, BT understands. This is lower than than the $1,000-1,100 psf average price expectation Ho Bee had indicated in June last year when the developers emerged as the top bidder for the plot at a state tender.

The 348-unit project is expected to be 20 storeys high and will front Geylang River. It will also be close to Dakota MRT Station, which opens on the Circle Line next year. The Dakota will comprise six blocks with a mix of two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, and penthouses.

Over in Pasir Ris, CDL’s spokeswoman said that the company is in ‘in the final stage’ of preparing a phased soft launch of Livia. The condo is targeted at the mass market and will comprise several blocks of 15 to 16 storeys with two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, and penthouses.

Elsewhere on the island, freehold projects with tiny studio units dubbed ’shoebox apartments’ (ranging from under 400 sq ft to about 500 sq ft in size) in places like Sophia Road and Race Course Road, have been selling fairly quickly at around $1,100 to $1,400 psf in the past couple of months.

Over in the Botanic Gardens vicinity, UOL Group, Kheng Leong and Orix Corporation will officially launch today Nassim Park Residences condo.

Nearly 50 units have been sold at an average $3,000-3,200 psf since the preview began the week of Vesak Day, although this is expected to go up slightly from today.

Source : Business Times – 10 Jun 2008

No more cheap mortgages as banks raise rates

Filed under: Financing,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:51 am

Hike of up to 1 percentage point for some fixed rate packages to 3.98%

THE days when you could lock in cheap mortgage rates or the first year or two seem to be over, now that banks have quietly jacked up rates for new fixed-rate loans.

Just five months ago, banks were dangling teaser rates on the first year of their fixed-rate home loan packages. Maybank had a package that offered 1.68 per cent, while United Overseas Bank’s (UOB’s) FirstZero product carried zero per cent.

But now, homebuyers would be hard-pressed to find rates fixed on the first year of a mortgage at below 2.68 per cent, as some banks had already raised the rates of certain packages by up to 1 percentage point in recent weeks to as high as 3.98 per cent.

UOB and OCBC Bank have raised rates for their three-year, fixed-rate mortgages to 3.68 per cent from 2.98 per cent. Standard Chartered Bank has raised its rate for its two-year, fixed-rate package to 3.78 per cent a year from about 2.68 per cent.

This means new home buyers will have to grapple with much higher costs of borrowing, if they want the certainty of locking in their interest rates for the next few years.

A new customer will fork out about $3,500 more in interest for the first year on a loan of about $500,000, if the rate has been raised by 0.7 percentage point.

Banks may have turned cautious and are raising mortgage rates amid a slowing property market and an uncertain economic outlook.

They are facing ‘increased credit risks on housing loans’, suggested Mr Dennis Ng of mortgage consultancy portal www.HousingLoanSG.com

The higher fixed rates may prompt more buyers of new homes to take up loans linked to transparent rates that they can easily monitor. These include the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor) – the rate at which banks lend to each other – and the swap offered rate (SOR), which is Sibor plus a bank’s lending costs.

Existing holders of home loans, whose fixed or variable rates are up for renewal in the coming months, may also find floating rates more attractive, as the difference between fixed rates and those linked to Sibor or SOR widens.

Customers with loans linked to the 12-month Sibor, which is hovering at about 1.7375 per cent, are still enjoying rates as low as 2.4 per cent that is fixed for a year – a difference of 1.3 of a percentage point compared to some newly-hiked, fixed-rate packages.

Some banks, however, have also started to raise rates linked to Sibor and the three-month SOR, currently at 1.4307 per cent. Some banks have raised their SOR-linked packages by 0.1 of a percentage point, or more, to as much as SOR plus 1 per cent.

DBS Bank has not changed its rates – yet. Market sources say the bank is preparing to introduce new – and higher – rates for both its fixed-rate and Sibor-linked packages in a few weeks.

Still, the banks’ rate increases may raise eyebrows since the Sibor and United States Federal Reserve rates appear unlikely to climb sharply in the coming months.

Market talk that the Fed might soon raise interest rates to curb inflation was quashed last week, with an unexpectedly sharp surge in the US unemployment rate to 5.5 per cent last month.

One banker, who declined to be named, said the Singapore banking industry’s motives for raising fixed rates this time, however, might ‘have less to do with current Fed rates than expectations that Sibor is close to bottoming out’. Thus, market players may now be raising rates to squeeze higher margins from new loans.

A banking analyst said banks had enjoyed a roaring mortgage business in the past year, and some had already hit most of their 2008 targets.

‘So, they may now be focusing on credit quality and growing their margins for any new loans,’ he said.

The question on the minds of home owners is whether this fixed-rate mortgage hike is an ominous signal of an eventual rate hike for all other packages. This may cool the already lukewarm property market further.

Bankers, however, kept mum about their pricing strategy, pointing out instead that the current mortgage rates were still at historical lows.

COPING WITH A DOWNTURN

Banks are raising mortgage rates amid a slowing property market and an uncertain economic outlook. They are facing ‘increased credit risks on housing loans’, suggests Mr Dennis Ng of mortgage consultancy www.HousingLoanSG.com

Source : Straits Times – 10 Jun 2008

Good investment deals in Thai market

Filed under: General,Property Investment,Thailand — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:50 am

THAILAND offers some of Asia’s best real estate investments. High-quality contemporary properties in prime locations continue to drive prices and build the country’s position regionally, but players say government barriers for overseas buyers are crimping growth.


Royal Phuket Marina: The resort towns of Phuket and Pattaya are the most popular locations outside Bangkok for foreign investors. Thais show less interest buying there

Bangkok’s luxury condominium market achieved record prices six months ago when a penthouse suite at The Sukhothai Residences sold for 408 million baht (S$17 million) or 342,000 baht per square metre (psm). But while more than double the average cost of luxury accommodation in Bangkok, this was about half the cost of a similar apartment in Singapore or Hong Kong, where prices range from 655,000 to 667,000 baht psm, according to Jones Lang Lasalle.

The research also shows Bangkok properties generate more profit. Average rental yields are 4.8 to 5.1 per cent of the initial purchase price per year, compared with 3.1 per cent in Hong Kong and 2.7 per cent in Singapore.

More than 10,600 units will be completed in downtown Bangkok this year, of which 34 per cent will be high end, says CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).

Investing in quality properties close to Bangkok’s underground and skytrain routes is the safest bet, says Songkran Issara, managing director of Charn Issara property developers.

‘There is strong demand if a project is in the right location and of the right quality,’ says Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, managing director of CBRE (Thailand). ‘People are prepared to pay a high price for such products.’

She says Thai buyers at the top end of the market will typically pay up to 150,000 baht psm. And they will pay even more for top-end projects like The Sukhothai Residences, where 30 per cent of buyers are paying an average of 200,000 baht psm.

Developer Raimon Land says sales at The River, an 842-unit twin-tower development being built on the banks of Bangkok’s Chaopraya River, demonstrate Thailand’s investment potential. Prices there have risen from 145,000 to 250,000 baht psm since the sales launch in March 2007.

And some players reckon there is plenty of upside yet. ‘The market is still undervalued and I expect significant growth over the next five years, especially at the high end,’ says Darren White, president of real estate consultancy Binswanger (Thailand). ‘Prices would rise again if young expats living here were able to borrow locally.’

Thai law prevents foreigners owning land, but non-Thais can buy 49 per cent of available freehold space in any condominium. Leases are a maximum 30 years, compared to a minimum 99 years in Singapore and other regional markets.

Bank of Thailand guidance advises financial institutions against loaning money to foreigners wanting to buy property locally. ‘We’d like the government to drop restrictions on foreign ownership of condominiums,’ says Raimon Land chief executive Nigel Cornick. ‘Failing that, then a percentage increase or zones where there could be 100 per cent foreign ownership.’

The resort towns of Phuket and Pattaya are the most popular locations outside Bangkok for foreign investors, with Thais showing less interest in buying there. Mr Cornick says Raimon’s Northpoint beachfront development in Pattaya has already hit the 49 per cent quota after its launch last November. ‘If 100 per cent could be owned by overseas investors, we would have sold the whole project by now,’ he said.

Source : Business Times – 10 Jun 2008

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