Week in Review – 28 August 2015

HDB raises housing income ceilings for singles, senior citizens 
One of the most memorable highlights of this year’s National Day Rally was the raising of income ceilings, as the government moves to enhance the affordability and accessibility of public housing. Income ceilings for new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats and Executive Condominiums (ECs) have been raised by S$2,000, to S$12,000 and S$14,000 respectively. Senior citizen income ceilings for monetising schemes—such as the Lease Buyback Scheme, the Silver Housing Bonus, and short-lease two-room flats—have increased from S$10,000 to S$12,000. Singles’ income ceilings increased from S$5,000 to S$6,000, enabling more to qualify for new or resale two-room HDB flats. 
This is in line with the rising real income of the populace and to bring more eligible people into the fold. The income ceiling required of the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) will also be reworked from the current S$6,500 to S$8,500. Similarly, the maximum housing grant amount has been doubled to S$40,000, helping to make homes more affordable for lower and middle income families.
Developers turn towards unique amenities to stimulate demand
In light of a series of cooling measures that has resulted in dismal home sales, developers have begun appealing to buyers by designing homes with a plethora of amenities. The High Park Residences Condominium in Fernvale boasts an array of 118 facilities over 366,000 sq ft of land. 
Prime location, a picturesque view, and resort-style living or standard pool, tennis court and gym facilities are insufficient. Developers are throwing in added value propositions such as cycling velodromes, indoor and outdoor theatres, boxing rings, and free lifestyle classes, which appear to be helping to increase sales volume. High Park Residences saw 78 per cent of its 1,390 units sold for a median price of S$989 psf within a week of being put on the market. 
Home sales expected to remain low for August and September
Analysts are expecting private home sales volume to fall in August and September due to the seventh lunar month commonly known as the hungry ghost festival. Buyers are less inclined to make major investment decisions during this period, which is believed to be inauspicious. On the other hand, developers are delaying new project launches, with most of their attention focused on watching for signs of policy easing, with regards to the infamous cooling measures introduced by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Australia real estate continues to attract investment
DTZ’s Investment Market Update Report has ranked Sydney as the tenth most attractive commercial real estate investment destination, given strong developer presence, coupled with favourable exchange and interest rates. In Q1 2015, Sydney’s property market saw over USD$8.2 billion worth of investment—a 16 per cent increase as compared to the previous year. In light of such heartening news, supply-side concerns have been raised as overwhelming demand may significantly inflate prices. 
In the residential property market, Singaporeans continue to pursue investments in Australian property especially with the weakening of the Australian dollar. As at June 2014, the top sources of foreign investment in Australia were China and the United States followed by Singapore. Channel NewsAsia quoted Reapfield Property Consultants as having 12 to 15 sales at their latest roadshows, up from the standard ten sales. This is in spite of stricter regulations imposed by Australia on foreign property investors, such as additional administrative fees for foreigner applications on property investments, as well as a harsher penalty for buying resale homes. Foreigners are only allowed to purchase new homes in Australia.
Malaysia: Iskandar’s Eastern Gate Development Zone a rising property hotspot
Iskandar Malaysia’s Eastern Gate Development Zone is growing in popularity given its favourable growth prospects resulting from its strategic location. Besides being closely situated to Pengerang’s multi-billion Integrated Petroleum Complex, at comparatively lower prices, the zone has direct access to three important expressways— New Pasir Gudang Coastal, Senai-Desaru and Pasir Gudang. 
The affordable prices for first-time buyers are a contributing factor as well, with average prices ranging between MYR200,00 (USD47,000) and MYR300,000 (USD70,500). As such, developers can capitalise on the approximate 600,000 residents in the area. Opportunities stemming from the middle-income groups are present as well, with developers offering premium projects. Developed by I&P Group Sdn Bhd, The Camwood at Taman Pelangi Indah will have 83 units in a gated community, with prices ranging from MYR620,000 (USD145,800) to MYR1.86 million (USD440,000).