Demand for balance flats in latest launch

Competition is building at the latest Housing Board launch as buyers - including couples with young children - seek out completed new flats.

With a day left before the close of the exercise, 330 applicants were last night vying for Pinnacle@Duxton's priciest unit, which costs $769,000 and is its only five-roomer on offer.

The launch is proving popular as nearly half of the units are balance flats - that is, those left over from previous exercises. This means they are often close to being finished or are already completed, as in the case of Pinnacle@Duxton.

Analysts say they are also in high demand as this is the first exercise to feature the enhanced Parenthood Priority Scheme, which reserves half of balance flats on offer for married couples who are expecting a child or have one aged under 16. The Duxton units are expected to appreciate handsomely when they hit the resale market, they added.

Altogether, there are more than six applicants for every balance flat on offer across Singapore, according to data culled from the HDB's website.

"Many of these flats are in more established estates, so they draw groups like HDB upgraders looking for a bigger flat with better surrounding amenities," said R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng. Other hot areas include Queenstown and Toa Payoh.

But it was quite a different story for the Build-to-Order (BTO) flats up for grabs. There was less than one eligible applicant for every unit at the five non-mature towns of Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong West, Sembawang and Woodlands.

The 4,608 flats attracted just 4,077 bids, with the application rate of 0.9 looking set to be the lowest since at least the start of last year.

Property analysts cite three reasons for the low interest.

The first is location - none of the projects is within a 10-minute walk of an MRT station, said SLP International head of research Nicholas Mak.

The second is that the new flats have been overshadowed by the more attractive balance units - an important consideration as applicants can bid for only one flat per launch.

Third, said R'ST Research's Mr Ong, is the way demand seems to have been dampened somewhat by the strong supply in recent years. "It's getting more location specific, and the buyers that are left tend to be more selective."

First-timer Daniel Woon, 25, an engineer, said he is still keeping an eye on the numbers before he puts down his bid.

"A house is something for the long term," he said. "The more calculated the decision, the better." Applications close at midnight tonight.

darylc@sph.com.sg