Condominium sales 'down 60% after mid-2013': Study

Study finds stiffer loan curbs hurt demand; more buy resale units

New evidence has emerged that condominium sales dived by 60 per cent after mid-2013 when tough home loan restrictions came in.

And experts do not expect sales to pick up this year, adding that they might even fall further as buyers hold out for lower prices.

An analysis by consultancy JLL found that in the first six months of 2013, condo sales were 12,909, based on caveats lodged.

By the second half of last year, that figure had nosedived 60.3 per cent to just 5,126 sales.

In both six-month periods, buyers with private addresses made up just over half - about 54 per cent - of the combined sales totals, JLL found. The rest had Housing Board addresses, so some would have been upgraders.

Buyers with HDB addresses bought 2,336 units in the second half of last year, a 60.8 per cent drop, while buyers with private home addresses bought 2,790, a 59.8 per cent dive, said Mr Ong Teck Hui, JLL national research director.

The fact that the decline is roughly equal across both categories of buyers is a pleasant surprise as the formula for the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) applies fairly to both, said Mr Ku Swee Yong, Century 21 chief executive.

"Some people might have expected private home buyers to be less hit as they may have higher incomes. But private property owners may also be of an older age on average, and so cannot borrow for as long a tenure."

Apart from the TDSR, lower cash-over-valuation (COV) figures have also contributed to the decline in transactions.

"COV used to be the catalyst to upgrading. In the past, inflated COVs - as much as 50 to 60 per cent in 2012 and 2013 - allowed the owner to use the cash as down payment to move into the private home market," said Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE research head for Singapore and South-east Asia.

Low COVs under the new valuation system affect both upgraders and those already in private homes, he said. "It's a domino effect as upgraders move into suburban two- or three-bedders, perhaps in the resale market, pushing those already there to move to a higher value property."

JLL found that while the TDSR has led to a reduction in demand with weaker buyers dropping out, affordability for those buyers still in the market has not changed significantly.

Between the first half of 2013 and the second half of last year, median prices for private buyers ranged from $1.28 million to $1.46 million, while those for buyers with HDB addresses were from $950,000 to $1.09 million.

Both categories of buyers have also been increasingly turning towards the resale market.

In the first half of 2013, 76 per cent of HDB buyers bought new units but the proportion declined to 57.8 per cent in the second half of last year.

The proportion of private buyers in the primary market fell from 66.9 per cent to 47.4 per cent over the same period.

"The lack of attractive price discounts or prices being maintained in the primary market (could be why), while resale units appear more attractive, offering bigger floor areas. Their sellers may also be more flexible on pricing," said Mr Ong.

The lure of larger units could be seen in the median unit size purchased by HDB buyers, which rose from 893 sq ft in the first half of 2013 to 926 sq ft in the second half of last year, while that for private buyers rose from 1,065 sq ft to 1,119 sq ft.

Overall transactions this year are expected to be similar to those of last year, with 6,000 to 7,000 units being sold in the primary market and 4,000 to 5,000 in the resale market, said Mr Sim.

"There will be more pressure in the resale market, as higher cash upfront is required for resale purchases... There are still buyers, owner occupiers or newly formed families, but these buyers are taking a longer time to make a move as time is on their side."

wrennie@sph.com.sg