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Subsales may spike again as projects near completion

NEWS ANALYSIS

Prices could soften if ‘specuvestors’ are forced to offload properties

(SINGAPORE) Speculative activity took a breather in Q4 last year as the number of subsales as well as their share of total private home deals were down sharply from the preceding two quarters of 2007. However, many in the industry are wondering whether subsales will again spike closer to the physical completion dates for some highprofile projects sold substantially on deferred payment (DP) schemes.

Among the projects that will be keenly watched are The Sail @ Marina Bay, The Coast (at Sentosa Cove), The Grange, and The Suites at Central in the Devonshire Road area, all of which were sold amidst much hype. The first two projects are scheduled to receive Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) next year and the latter two, this year.

The coming wave of subsales – if there’s one – may not be so much a reflection of speculative froth in the market but rather of buyers seeking to offload their units before the DP expires.

Those who bought their properties on DP schemes would typically have paid 10 or 20 per cent of their purchase price to the developer with the next payment (of 75 per cent or 65 per cent, respectively) deferred till the project receives TOP. By TOP, the developer would collect 85 per cent of the sale price.

Such buyers can shop for a bank loan until closer to the project’s TOP date.

However, buyers who picked up multiple units in some of these developments on DP schemes and are still sitting on them may not be able to secure sufficient housing loans to foot the bills when the projects obtain TOP.

Banks may turn cautious over advancing loans for multiple property purchases. Some, for example, may only be prepared to lend up to 70 per cent – based on their credit assessment and servicing ability of the borrower – instead of 80-90 per cent, of the purchase price of the property or its current value, whichever is lower.

These ‘specuvestors’ may find that it makes more sense to sell their units in the subsale market before they receive a big bill from developers.

Such subsales, while apparently ‘forced’ by the difficulty of finding enough housing loans, could still yield handsome gains for such investors – given the huge rise in upmarket home prices.

However, if a sizeable number of such properties come on the subsale market, some sellers may be willing to accept below-market values. This will clip developers’ pricing power when they sell new projects in nearby locations.

Already, BT understands that some individual investors, anticipating ‘dumping’ from speculators, are teaming up to snap up some of these units at below-market prices.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s head of research (South-east Asia) Chua Yang Liang reckoned that some buyers who purchased units on DP during the initial launches may begin to review their options around five to six months ahead of TOP. ‘Supply of such properties in the subsale market could potentially increase from the latter half of this year, which could potentially see prices easing,’ Dr Chua said.

Of course, it may be a different story altogether if sentiment in the high-end market picks up again.

A lot will also depend on the holding power of those who still have units they’ve bought from developers. Some may not face problems getting housing loans, because they have the ability to service them. Such buyers may just go ahead and pay that big instalment when the project receives TOP.

Another factor that will bear on the extent of ‘forced’ subsales is the profile of buyers in each project – the mix of those who bought units with a view to living in them, and those who purchased with an eye on flipping before the project’s completion.

A seasoned property agent told BT that a condo in the East Coast area receiving TOP soon recently saw several buyers offering their units at prices considerably below what was being achieved just a few weeks ago – before the stock market plunge.

Then there’s another theory. While we may see a flurry of subsales for projects sold in the past on DP, it will be a different story going ahead.

With no new projects approved by the authorities for DP schemes since DP was scrapped in late October 2007, new launches going ahead will attract fewer potential speculators. This is because those who buy into projects without DP schemes know they will have to make regular progress payments to the developer and in all likelihood have to obtain housing loans.

‘You’ll see more genuine buyers in the market,’ as ERA Realty Network divisional director Andrew Soh said.

‘Developers may still be able to maintain current prices, or even achieve higher prices. But instead of weeks, it may take them months, or even years, to sell out projects.’

‘As new project launches attract fewer speculators, I may have to sell physical homes and not just paper (options),’ he quipped.

 

Source: Business Times 5 Feb 08

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