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HDB expects stock of unsold flats to drop to 2,200 units by year-end

THE stock of unsold Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, which stood at about 10,000 three years ago, is now down to 3,500, and the board expects the stock to fall to 2,200 units by the end of the year.

Speaking at a press conference to release the HDB Annual Report 06/07 on Tuesday, HDB CEO Tay Kim Poh said: ‘Positive growth has resulted in strong demand for HDB flats.’

Indeed, according to the figures in the latest annual report, demand appears to have outstripped supply.

For the financial year ended March 31, HDB sold 5,712 new flats, down from 10,100 flats in the previous year, a drop of over 40 per cent. But the number of flats completed in the year was also down, to just 1,764, a decline of nearly 60 per cent from the 4,378 flats of the 2005-06 period, perhaps explaining the recent spike of 6.5 per cent in HDB’s Resale Price Index (flash estimate) for open market flats.

As at March 31, 14,212 flats were under construction, compared to 12,571 in the previous year. These flats have already been launched, and Mr Tay said: ‘BTO (Built-to-Order) subscription is also very high.’ HDB’s latest bi-monthly balloting/walk-in sale exercise also suggests that demand is high, with the 489 flats offered now almost 10 times oversubscribed. Four thousand and eight hundred online applications have been received so far.

New supply of about 6,000 flats from BTO exercises and the Design, Build and Sell Scheme is expected over the next six months but managing supply and demand will be a challenge.

HDB said that a projected 6,300 flats will be completed in FY07-08, followed by 1,700 in FY08-09, 4,000 in FY09-10, and 13,000 in FY10-11.

Savills Singapore director (marketing and business development) Ku Swee Yong said: ‘Assuming about 5,000 to 7,000 flats are completed between 2008 and 2009, we are at best even on supply and demand.’

Mr Ku said improved economic conditions and population growth could have some impact on this balance.

It is, of course, difficult to predict future demand. A case in point would be the backlog of 10,000 unsold flats just three years ago.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak said that in the past, HDB built flats ‘speculatively’, hence the backlog. But, with the current practice of BTO exercises, the building programme has become more ‘market responsive’.

For now, any unsatisfied demand will have to be supplied by the resale market. ‘The resale market is very big and has great capacity to increase demand,’ added Mr Mak, but he also cautioned: ‘If the economy and job market continues to expand, we can expect demand for new flats to spill over into the resale market and this could impact prices.’

While resale prices have gone up, the HDB said that the number of resale applications actually fell 7 per cent in FY06-07. This could be because HDB buyers are still very price sensitive.

HSR Property Group senior vice-president Donald Yeo said that he does not believe a supply crunch is imminent because many potential buyers already own HDB flats. Based on feedback from HSR property agents, Mr Yeo said that about eight out of 10 buyers already own flats, so even if there is a desire to buy a new flat – regardless of whether it is to upgrade or downgrade – there is no dire need to.

‘Buyers who find resale prices too high are also prepared to wait for new flats rather than buy from the resale market,’ he added.


Source: Business Times 18 Oct 07

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