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Demand for mass market projects shifts into higher gear

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Developers not keen to release high-end projects in shaky market, say analysts

DEVELOPERS’ housing sales figures for January reflect a change in strategy to focus more on mass market projects.

Despite the still lacklustre figures for overall developer launches and sales last month, an analysis by Knight Frank shows the number of private homes (excluding executive condominiums) launched and sold in January in the Outside Central Region (covering traditional mass-market/suburban locations) rose 190 per cent and 123 per cent respectively from December 2007.

In contrast, launches and sales in the Core Central Region and Rest of Central Region fell in January, compared to December.

Given the dearth of activity in high-end locations, the Core Central Region suffered the biggest drop in median prices for units transacted during the month, with the figure halving to $1,623 per square foot in January, from $3,200 psf the previous month.

Elsewhere, median prices held steady, edging up 1.6 per cent to $1,053 psf in the Rest of Central Region and $811 psf in the Outside Central Region. The median prices include private homes as well as ECs.

Property consultants expect developers to continue to push out mass market projects, since demand fundamentals are stronger in this segment than the high-end sector, where buying traditionally emanates more from speculators.

‘Despite the more dismal global economic outlook, the employment rate in Singapore is still high and this will continue to support demand for mass market homes,’ says Colliers International director of research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying.

‘As for high- end/luxurious projects, developers are quite cautious and not so prepared to release them amid the current, uncertain market conditions. They will want to wait for better conditions before they launch these projects,’ she said.

Monthly data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) show developers sold a total 316 private homes (excluding ECs) in January, up slightly from 305 units in December, which was the lowest figure since URA began publishing developers’ monthly sales figures and prices in June 2007.

However, Colliers’ Ms Tay says that stripping out the bulk sale of 97 units at Goodwood Residence in December, the January sales figure was roughly a 52 per cent improvement from December.

January volume was boosted by the launch of new projects like Waterfront Waves at Bedok, which sold 79 units during the month, and Wilkie 80, which saw 50 units sold.

‘We observed that luxury prices remained firm despite a decline in sales volume. In the prime districts, units in Grange Infinite, Helios Residences, Hilltops and Scotts Square were sold at median prices between nearly $3,300 psf and $3,700 psf.

‘At Sentosa Cove, units in Marina Collection and Turquoise were sold at above $2,650 psf,’ says CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho.

However, Knight Frank director (consultancy & research) Nicholas Mak points out that the number of homes priced above $4,000 psf sold by developers has fallen from 72 units last July to five units in December.

In January, there was not a single primary market transaction in this price range.

Colliers’ analysis shows the highest priced home sold in January was a $3,671 psf unit at Scotts Square, compared with $5,146 psf in December achieved at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, and the record $5,600 psf achieved for a unit at The Orchard Residences last October.

The number of new private homes (excluding ECs) developers launched in January sank to a low of 410 units, about 8 per cent less than the 446 units in December and about a fifth of the high of 1,885 units in August last year.

Property consultants suggest developer sales in February may be lower than those in January because of the Chinese New Year.

‘However, developers are likely to maintain prices at current levels as they monitor the market situation,’ CBRE’s Mr Li says.


Source: Business Times 16 Feb 08


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