Week in Review – 19 August 2016

Local Property News
Singapore plans to build public housing in prime locations; concerns on social stratification
Housing Development Board (HDB) flats are soon to be located in prime areas of Singapore such as the Greater Southern Waterfront to ensure the city remains accessible to all Singaporeans of different income levels. In ensuring the accessibility and affordability of these developments, Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong, said that plans include hawker centres, parks, and HDB flats to provide the HDB living experience even at the core of the city. However, this gives rise to the issue of equity – successful buyers of highly subsidised homes in prime locations will be able to enjoy huge capital gains, and there are concerns around how to ensure equal opportunities for those who were unable to purchase these flats. The government has yet to find a feasible solution, but is considering the implementation of different types of HDB lease terms as an option. Despite building public housing projects that are well designed and better built, the government remains focused on keeping public housing costs affordable for Singaporeans.
The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy published a paper in 2015 questioning whether the lack of public housing in prime locations would create “enclaves” leading to stratification of people from different wealth and social statuses. Mr Sing Tien Foo, Associate Professor at the Department of Real Estate, School of Design, and Environment at the National University of Singapore, told TODAY that the latest development in the government’s plans for HDB flats in prime areas may overcome social stratification. He said, “You don’t want the whole area to be only (for) private (housing), (only for) the rich people who live in the area. By bringing in some public housing into this area, you can also allow more … low- and-medium household income families to be able to live in the city area, and also enjoy some of these waterfront amenities”. 

URA puts residential site at Fernvale Road for tender, healthy bids expected

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has put a 99-year leasehold private residential site at Fernvale Road up for tender. Analysts expect this residential site tender to attract interest and competition from a number of developers due to its location and Sengkang’s lack of mass-market condominium project developments.
According to the URA, this 17,196-square-metre (sqm) site with a maximum permissible gross floor area of 51,590 sqm can accommodate approximately 605 homes.
Mr Nicholas Mak, Executive Director and Head of Research & Consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants, believes that the comparatively large size of the site and its relatively regular shape are the main factors that will attract developers. The site is also less than 100 metres away from Thanggam LRT Station. Mr Mak expects five to ten bids for the site, with offers between S$244 million and S$272 million (S$440 to S$490 psf ppr). High Park Residences and H20 Residences are located nearby, and transaction values at the properties were between S$970 psf and S$1,060 psf. The Fernvale Road site tender exercise will cease at noon on 27th September.

Hougang and Tampines flats in latest BTO Exercise draw crowds

The Housing Development Board (HDB) launched five new build-to-order (BTO) projects with a total of 4,841 BTO flats for sale on 17th August and an application deadline of 23rd August. Three projects are in non-mature towns of Hougang, Sembawang, and Yishun, while the remaining two are in Tampines. 
The two-room Flexi flats situated near Buangkok Green were almost fully subscribed by 5pm on the launch date, with 362 applicants competing for 364 units. Single applicants contributed to the bulk of applications, with 1.9 applications received for every unit that is available for singles to purchase. Of the 97 three-room units and 250 four-room units launched in Hougang, subscription rates of both unit types was 0.6, with 54 and 162 applications respectively. Units in Tampines saw subscription rates of 0.3 for four-room and five-room/3Gen units – 385 applications for 1,501 available four-room units and 265 applications for 879 five-room/3Gen units. 
Prices of flats in non-mature towns such as Hougang and Yishun start from S$79,000 for a two-room Flexi unit, and $311,000 for a five-room flat. In Tampines, which is categorised as a mature town, prices for a three-room flat start from S$202,000, while prices for a 3Gen flat start from S$428,000. This BTO exercise, the third in 2016, has increased the total number of BTO flats launched in 2016 to 12,781 units. A total of 17,951 flats have been put up for purchase from year to date including 5,170 units offered in the Sale of Balance flats exercise in May. According to HDB, another 5,090 BTO flats in locations such as Bedok, Bidadari, Kallang Whampoa, and Punggol – as well as an approximate 5,000 other units – will be offered in the Sale of Balance Flats exercise held concurrently in November. 

Transaction of private residential units reach 12-month high in July 

In July this year, sales of private residential units hiked to a one-year high as developers managed to sell more than twice the number of new private residential units sold in June. This was likely influenced by the launch of Lake Grande in Jurong and greater emphasis by developers to sell remaining units in previously launched projects before the Hungry Ghost Festival in August.
According to the URA, 1,091 new private residential units were sold in July as opposed to 536 units sold in June. Sales volumes also hiked to the highest since July 2015, when 1,655 transactions were recorded. In July, 624 new homes were added into the market, while just 234 residential units were launched the month before. A year-on-year comparison, however, showed a 57.5 per cent decrease in the number of new units launched this July compared to the 1,469 units launched in the same period last year. 
Head of CBRE Research in Singapore and Southeast Asia, Mr Desmond Sim, told TODAY that July’s sales figures show continued interest for unsold units from ongoing projects. Furthermore, a reduction in new supply helped to move inventory since buyers remain interested in purchasing homes. However, analysts believe sales figures in August will likely drop due to the Hungry Ghost Festival, which some believe is an inauspicious time for large transactions.

Global Property News

Los Angeles offers the wealthy luxury living with a city view

A new Los Angeles apartment tower with 40 storeys and 283 units is set to command monthly rents of up to US$25,000, a test for the market’s appetite for high-end living. Ten Thousand, a luxury apartment which includes chauffeured Rolls-Royce and in-house Botox, stands out from the sprawling mansions Los Angeles is known for. Roman Speron, Vice President of Crescent Heights, developer of Ten Thousand, told Bloomberg he believes that the luxury living market is deep with potential because renters of luxury apartments prefer to have their daily errands taken care of. Rents at Ten Thousand start from US$8,500 a month, a rare figure in Los Angeles considering a mortgage payment of the same amount can pay for a six-bedroom villa in Hollywood Hills worth US$2.1 million. However, Ten Thousand offers renters something alternative – luxury living with daily hassles taken care of by a team of servants. Furthermore, tenants will have no need to venture beyond the building since it offers amenities such as boardrooms for business meetings, a bar, and even staff who can walk your pets and help with grocery shopping.

Brexit and market uncertainty takes a hit on residential rents and luxury property in London

According to a study published by Countrywide estate agents, residential rents in London have fallen for the first time since 2010. Despite an increase in the number of tenants, the increase in supply of homes has slowed the growth of rental prices in London. That’s together with stock levels increasing as a result of buy-to-rent investors who rushed to purchase houses before April of this year when new tax laws commenced. Potential sellers have also adopted a defensive stance by opting to rent their homes rather than sell them, following the UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU. The decision has caused widespread uncertainty in the market. As a result, residential rents in July contracted 0.5 per cent year-on-year to £1,280, dipping by approximately £7 compared to 2015.
The UK’s decision to leave the EU has impacted London’s luxury property market as well. Prices are dropping, with many contracts cancelled – a result of uncertainty towards the long-term prospects in the country. In London’s Kensington, a luxury five-bedroom townhouse that would have cost £7 million pre-Brexit was sold 4.45 per cent below valuation, Sarah Birch, an agent with Savills real estate firm, told the Washington Post. Three homes out of 12 that were under contract with Savills during the Brexit vote saw price drops of up to 10 per cent, while four other deals out of the 12 were called off. Merely four deals out of the original 12 continued at the price agreed prior to Brexit. Post Brexit, property prices in prime central London have seen the steepest falls since October 2009, with a 1.5 per cent dip in July.  

Tighter lending criteria and higher taxes on foreign investors to hit Australia’s housing sector

According to ANZ economists, Australia’s housing sector will likely start playing a smaller role as a key engine of the country’s economic growth. The housing sector is expected to experience smaller growth for the rest of 2016. Meanwhile, 2017 is likely to see an impact from more restrictive lending criteria and an influx of housing supply. Lenders in Australia have either stopped lending to foreign investors or added restrictions such as requiring a larger deposit and lower overseas income when calculating the ability of foreign investors to service their loans.
Furthermore, states such as New South Wales and Victoria have increased taxes on foreign buyers in their budgets for 2016-2017. Under a new policy, New South Wales will impose a four per cent stamp duty surcharge and an additional land tax surcharge of 0.75 per cent on foreign residential property buyers. In Victoria, the three per cent foreign stamp duty surcharge has been increased to seven per cent. With demand expected to cool, ANZ expects a similar slowdown in property price growth. The last peak for property price growth was in September 2015 at 12.8 per cent, but has since dipped to the current 8.1 per cent level. ANZ expects national house prices to grow even slower – at 6.7 per cent in 2016 and 1.7 per cent in 2017.