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HDB resale market rides high

It’s certainly a seller’s market as prices trend upwards and demand for larger units rise

HDB resale prices have been recovering slowly but surely since a dip in late 2005 when anti-cashback measures were introduced to stamp out the illegal over-declaration of resale prices.

The recovery was based purely on the market fundamentals of an improving economy and employment market; as well as the actual play of supply and demand.

From Q4 2006’s 103.6 points on the HDB Resale Price Index, resale prices for HDB flats jumped 4.2 per cent in the first half of this year to reach 108 points in Q2 2007. Besides demand being fuelled by improving sentiment, the spate of collective sales in the private property market has unleashed a group of cash-rich house hunters, many of whom are opting for high-end resale HDB units. These buyers are willing to pay top dollar for flats that fit their criteria.

In June, wide media coverage of two five-room HDB flats that changed hands in the resale market at recordbreaking prices of $675,000 in Jalan Mebina (off Tiong Bahru) and $720,000 in nearby Kim Tian Place spun the HDB resale market into euphoria. It led hopeful sellers all across Singapore to hike asking prices overnight, some by up to $200,000 above valuation.

This led to a mismatch of price expectations between sellers and buyers as these high-priced deals are limited to fairly new, well-renovated, high-floor resale flats in coveted estates such as Tiong Bahru and Queenstown.

The HDB was quick to respond to concern among home buyers about runaway prices and released additional data on median resale prices and median cash-over-valuation in all the housing estates. Median prices give a more accurate picture of the market and minimise the distorting impact of headline-grabbing prices.

With these additional statistics, to be provided by HDB on a quarterly basis from the second quarter, home buyers have better information on which to base their decisions. Sellers are also able to use these statistics to price their flats realistically and competitively.

Going forward, HDB resale prices are expected to continue trending upwards. HDB’s Resale Price Index rose by 3 per cent in Q2 2007 over the previous quarter, with price increases across most flat types and towns. Seventy per cent of the resale transactions in Q2 2007 were transacted at an average of $7,000 cash-over-valuation. As at the end of the first half, HDB resale prices have increased by 4.2 per cent. With such positive market sentiment, prices are likely to continue to rise in the subsequent quarters and we may possibly see an overall price increase of 6-9 per cent for the full year.

Resale volume

With improving sentiment, the volume of resale transactions jumped 39 per cent in Q2 2007 to 8,708 units from an all-time market low of 6,258 units recorded in Q1 2007.

HDB’s data also indicates a strong preference among buyers for larger flats. Between Q1 2007 and Q2 2007, executive flats saw the largest increase in resale transactions of 67 per cent (343 units); followed by five-room flats at 64 per cent (903 units); four-room flats at 31 per cent (726 units) and three-room flats at 25 per cent (482 units).

The resale mix for H1 2007 showed three-rooms making up 29 per cent (down from 2006’s 32 per cent; four-rooms at 37 per cent (about the same level as 2006); five-rooms at 25 per cent (up from 2006’s 22 per cent); and executive flats at 9 per cent (up from 2006’s 7.5 per cent).

This preference for larger flats is likely to continue for the rest of the year as the demand is fuelled by those upgrading from smaller flats as well as buyers who have been priced out of the booming private residential market.

By year-end, we may possibly see three-room flats accounting for 25 per cent of resale transactions, four-rooms at 37 per cent, five-rooms at 28 per cent and executive flats at 10 per cent.

Assuming the current momentum holds, we are likely to see this year’s total resale volume surpassing last year’s 29,723 units, which was an all-time low. Some 30,000 to 32,000 are estimated to be transacted for the whole year.

Changes in housing policy

At last month’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a slew of housing policy changes.

These include:

Revised additional CPF housing grant: The Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) Scheme will be enhanced to provide more subsidy to lower-income families to help them buy their first HDB flat. The income ceiling for AHG will be raised from $3,000 to $4,000, while the maximum grant will be raised from $20,000 to $30,000.

The enhanced scheme can be used to subsidise the cost of buying a new or resale flat. It is expected to benefit an additional 1,300 first-timer households annually. In total, some 4,000 households are expected to benefit from this programme every year; and this may boost the demand for three-room flats which has been lessened in view of the current upgrading trend.

New HDB buy-back scheme: This scheme helps unlock the value of flats for elderly Singaporeans aged 62 and above, providing them with an income stream. HDB will buy back the tail-end of the lease on their two- or three-room flats, leaving them with a shorter lease of 30 years on the same flat.

The flat owner will then receive a payout from HDB in two parts – a lump sum upfront and monthly payments for the rest of his or her life which will serve as a form of annuity. This scheme is not expected to have a significant impact on the resale market as it focuses on the elderly.

Two new upgrading programmes: HDB will be introducing two new upgrading programmes, namely, the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP).

The HIP aims to address common maintenance problems in ageing flats, such as spalling concrete and ceiling leaks; while the NRP focuses on precinct- and block-level improvements.

These upgrading schemes are designed to improve the internal and external environment of affected flats. While the flats’ condition and aesthetics are improved, the possibility of fetching higher prices is basically dependent on supply and demand rather than upgrading per se.

With strong market fundamentals, supported now by added transparency in transaction information, the HDB resale market is expected to continue its uptrend for the rest of the year.


Source: Business Times 27 Sept 07

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