What 2015 taught us about investing

Stabilisation, the key word in the property market

Mr Chua advises those looking to buy a new home to purchase within their means and to look at it as a long-term commitment so that they will not be forced to sell during a down cycle.
Mr Chua advises those looking to buy a new home to purchase within their means and to look at it as a long-term commitment so that they will not be forced to sell during a down cycle.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

JACK CHUA

Chief executive of ERA Singapore

Q What were the best and worst things that happened to you (financially) this year?

A ERA moved its office to Mountbatten Square early this year. It was a big move as we operated out of almost 60,000 sq ft of office space.

Despite initial concerns on how the move would affect our business in a generally slower year, it was a blessing in disguise as the move turned out to be an excellent decision.

Our clients and agents preferred the new office as it is more modern, spacious and located in an accessible location with ample carpark space. With this new and better office, ERA was able to expand its teams and increase its services to better cater to its clients and sales agents.

This year, we transacted more properties than last year. As most of ERA's agents were able to close more deals this year, they are more positive and motivated going into 2016.

Q How has 2015 been for your industry??

A Last year, the total impact of the Government's cooling and financial prudence measures affected the real estate industry quite significantly. Transaction volumes for all categories of residential properties were among the lowest historically.

Since then, as property prices stabilised, the resale market transactions increased this year, with the second half doing better than the first six months.

We are expecting a total of around 6,000 resale transactions for private residential and 18,000 to 20,000 resale HDB transactions. This would be about 10 per cent to 15 per cent higher than those of last year, although nowhere near the heydays before the cooling measures were introduced.

Q How do you see 2016 panning out?

A As the property market has largely stabilised, we do not expect the Government to introduce more cooling measures. Thus, we believe that 2016 will be a better year for us.

A home is a basic need as we all need to have a roof over our heads. Regardless of the market, people will still require a place to live.

With inflation, the rising cost of living and land scarcity, property prices will continually rise in Singapore over time, which makes property a great investment.

Due to the cooling measures, the property market here has softened significantly in comparison with 2013 and last year.

However, the market seems to have shown signs of improvement and stabilisation over the last quarter of this year.

•Resale HDB prices continue to remain flat (up marginally by 0.4 per cent last month, compared with October last year) but transaction volumes increased 16 per cent last month compared with September. Hence, with stabilised prices, transaction volume is forecast to increase.

•Bucking market trends, HDB units located in unique estates, such as Bishan and Pinnacle, have transacted at above market prices.

•Private apartment prices continued to dip 2.6 per cent year-on-year last month from a year earlier, and are expected to stabilise next year.

•However, new project development sales have picked up in the last quarter of this year and resale transaction volume has increased quarter-on-quarter.

•There will be few new project launches as few government land sales plots were released this year.

•Resale market activity will also increase as prices continue to stabilise.

Q What is one piece of financial advice you would give to property buyers/owners, looking ahead in 2016?

A Buying property is a long-term commitment but it is ultimately an attractive investment over the long run.

Always purchase within your means. Depending on the housing loan amount, monthly instalments must be comfortable and affordable.

If you are not able to hold over the longer term and you are forced to sell during a down cycle, you may incur losses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Stabilisation, the key word in the property market'. Print Edition | Subscribe