Private home vacancy rates hit 16-year high

Landed properties at South Bouna Vista, Singapore.
Landed properties at South Bouna Vista, Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

30,310 units empty in second quarter, but analysts say market shows signs of stabilising

Private home prices fell again in the April to June period - the 11th consecutive quarter of decline - while vacancy rates are at a 16-year high.

As gloomy as the data released yesterday is, analysts generally feel prices could be nearing the bottom given improvements in sales volumes and certain market segments posting marginal price increases.

The 0.4 per cent price drop in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year is the slowest pace of decline since values started falling at the end of 2013.

Private home prices are now 9.4 per cent lower than their last peak in the third quarter of 2013.

It is much the same with HDB resale flats, with prices 9.8 per cent below their last peak though there was no decline in the second quarter.

Vacancy rates of private homes in the quarter shot up by 1.4 percentage points from the first quarter to 8.9 per cent, the highest since the second quarter of 2000, and came on the back of a jump in home completions in the quarter.

A total of 30,310 private residential units were vacant in the second quarter, a rise of 5,391 units from the first quarter.

They should continue inching up, with 11,385 private homes being completed in this half of the year, said Savills Singapore research head Alan Cheong. Yet, with prices in some regions showing nascent signs of stabilising, the market appears able to weather periods of high vacancy, he added.

He said one reason the correlation between prices and vacancies does not appear to play out this time is that current household liquidity is higher than in previous cycles.

"Also, with interest rates at low levels and expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, holding power among those in the resale market is further strengthened," he said.

More owner occupiers are house hunting these days, said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

Total transactions rose 11 per cent in the quarter from a year earlier to 4,550, the highest sales volume since the second quarter of 2013 when the total debt servicing ratio was introduced.

Prices of private apartments in the core central region rose 0.3 per cent while those in the rest of the central region rose 0.2 per cent, but suburban unit prices fell 0.5 per cent.

Mr Samuel Eyo, managing director of Singapore Christie's International Real Estate, said more genuine buyers of higher-end homes are coming back to the market because of attractive deals.

One is housing agent Kelvin Yeo, who bought a $1.48 million one-bedroom unit in OUE Twin Peaks in the Orchard area. "The price of $2,700 per sq ft was good value," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Private home vacancy rates hit 16-year high'. Print Edition | Subscribe