Bleak outlook for private home sales, estimates see Q1 figures plummeting

LIKELY BEST-SELLERS: The 281-unit The Hillford sold out on its launch day. Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale (above) are also likely top first-quarter sellers. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND LIM, FRASERS CENTREPOINT, UOL
LIKELY BEST-SELLERS: The 281-unit The Hillford sold out on its launch day. Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale (above) are also likely top first-quarter sellers. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND LIM, FRASERS CENTREPOINT, UOL
LIKELY BEST-SELLERS: The 281-unit The Hillford sold out on its launch day. Rivertrees Residences (above) and Riverbank @ Fernvale are also likely top first-quarter sellers. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND LIM, FRASERS CENTREPOINT, UOL
LIKELY BEST-SELLERS: The 281-unit The Hillford sold out on its launch day. Rivertrees Residences (above) and Riverbank @ Fernvale are also likely top first-quarter sellers. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND LIM, FRASERS CENTREPOINT, UOL
LIKELY BEST-SELLERS: The 281-unit The Hillford (above) sold out on its launch day. Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale are also likely top first-quarter sellers. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND LIM, FRASERS CENTREPOINT, UOL
LIKELY BEST-SELLERS: The 281-unit The Hillford (above) sold out on its launch day. Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale are also likely top first-quarter sellers. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND LIM, FRASERS CENTREPOINT, UOL

Estimates see Q1 figures plummeting some 68% from same period in 2013

Anyone trying to sell a private home in the first quarter would not need reminding that an air of gloom has settled over the market.

The number of new and resale homes changing hands plunged in the first quarter, according to latest estimates.

This is as stark a signal as any that the caution that enveloped the market after the introduction of tough home loan curbs last year has now morphed into pessimism, consultants said.

They added that the outlook for this quarter appears bleak as well.

A lack of major launches last month meant that developer sales for the first quarter could have fallen by nearly a third from the preceding three months, they noted.

CBRE research head Desmond Sim expects new home sales for March to be no more than 500 units due to the dearth of new projects that were rolled out.

"Developers are slowly drip-feeding supply into the market because they're aware the market is softer," he added.

SLP International research head Nicholas Mak said he expects the figures to be even lower, at between 360 and 410 new home sales for the month.

The bestseller in the first quarter was probably the 281-unit The Hillford in Jalan Jurong Kechil, which sold out completely on the day sales began in January.

The runners-up are likely to be the 495-unit Rivertrees Residences and the 555-unit Riverbank @ Fernvale, which are in Sengkang and next to each other.

Rivertrees sold 218 units and Riverbank 211 units in February.

R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng noted that the top three projects were priced at around $1,000 per sq ft (psf) to $1,100 psf on average, suggesting this could be the ceiling for suburban leasehold condominiums.

If developers did manage to sell 500 units in March, new home sales for the first quarter would have reached 1,789 units - a 32 per cent tumble from October through December.

It would also be a steep 68 per cent plummet from the corresponding period last year when developers moved 5,533 homes.

The year-on-year drop means that low sales in the first quarter this year were not merely due to seasonal fluctuations, Mr Ong said.

He added that sales activity in the first quarter last year was still stronger than this year even though property curbs were introduced in January last year while there were no fresh ones implemented this year.

This indicates that the debt-to-income ratio cap under a total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework imposed in late June last year managed to dampen demand far more effectively than the cooling measures, he added.

The TDSR has also put the brakes on the resale market, going by the most recent numbers.

An estimated 991 completed private homes were resold in the first quarter this year, according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX).

This was 16 per cent lower than the around 1,180 resales posted in the fourth quarter last year, and a sharp 49 per cent lower than the estimated 1,932 units resold in the corresponding period the preceding year, according to SRX.

Consultants said that while new home sales may pick up this quarter due to more launches, the resale market could stay weak due to keener competition from cheaper new projects.

Knight Frank research head Alice Tan predicts that 700 to 900 new homes could be sold every month in this quarter.

But as developers cut prices to attract buyers, home owners who want to sell may have to lower asking prices, she added.

melissat@sph.com.sg

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