Demand picks up for BTO flats in January

An artist's impression of Punggol BayView's Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, one of two Punggol projects launched this month. ''Buyers are generally excited about the waterway living concept in Punggol,'' says R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng. -- PHOTO
An artist's impression of Punggol BayView's Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, one of two Punggol projects launched this month. ''Buyers are generally excited about the waterway living concept in Punggol,'' says R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng. -- PHOTO: HDB

This year's first launch of new Housing Board flats has met with a slightly warmer response than the previous one, ahead of its close at midnight last night.

As of 5pm yesterday, there were 1.6 first-timers applying for each available unit in this month's Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise. This was up from 1.3 in November.

The rate for second-timers was also higher, with 3.5 applicants for each unit, compared to 2.7 in November.

But analysts said this was expected as demand in November had been dampened by the joint sale of balance flats (SBF).

"With no SBF flats launched, the application rate (this time) is higher compared with November's BTO numbers," said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

Location also played a part, said R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng, noting that January's launch includes two projects in Punggol.

"Buyers are generally excited about the waterway living concept in Punggol," he said. In contrast, the previous exercise had flats in "less exciting areas" such as Jurong West and Sembawang.

After three years of record supply, the HDB is releasing fewer three-room and larger flats but more two-room flats this year to meet demand from singles. Such demand remains strong. As of 5pm yesterday, there were 27.7 singles vying for each two-room flat open to them.

The competition was especially fierce in Punggol, with 39 singles applying per unit.

One of them was public servant Abdul Hamid Abdullah, 59. "Most of my relatives live there," he said.

He is tempering his expectations, having applied and failed twice for a two-room flat. "I hope I can get it, but I think it'll be very difficult," he said.

Though still high, application rates are down from the peak of 57.5 in July, when singles were first allowed to buy from HDB.

"Then, there were many singles trying their chance to have such a unit, but some might have dropped out for various reasons," said Mr Ong.

He considers the current application rate as a better reflection of "true demand from singles".

January's BTO also included 455 studio apartments. Response was muted in Bukit Batok and Jurong West, but better in the mature estate of Serangoon.

"I think as many potential buyers of studio apartments know that there will be more... to be offered in the 2014 BTO exercises, they are becoming more selective," said Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research at SLP International Property Consultants.

janiceh@sph.com.sg