Public, private home prices down after govt curbs

Both public and private housing prices in Singapore have finally come down after a raft of government market curbs. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Both public and private housing prices in Singapore have finally come down after a raft of government market curbs. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Weak demand plus bumper supply could spell a buyer's market this year

Both public and private housing prices in Singapore have finally come down after a raft of government market curbs.

Prices in the once red-hot suburban private home market dropped in the fourth quarter of last year for the first time since 2009, new data yesterday showed. This dragged down overall private home prices.

Housing Board flat resale prices also tumbled in the October to December period, hard on the heels of a third-quarter decline.

This marked the first time public housing prices have slid for two straight quarters since 2005.

Consultants said weak demand for homes could mean that sellers will finally be at the mercy of home buyers this year, adding that a bumper crop of upcoming homes will swing things more heavily in favour of buyers.

"Beyond doubt, it is a buyer's market," said PropNex chief Mohamed Ismail. "Sellers today cannot dictate prices at whim."

Colliers International research head Chia Siew Chuin said buyers expect a correction this year - and this is likely to keep prices in check. Prospective home buyers want to wait for prices to fall further before buying, pointing to heftier stamp duties and tough debt-to-income ratio limits on loans imposed last year.

"There are a lot of new launches and they can't really sell, and rentals are softening. It's a good time to scout around," said Ms N.C. Ling, 59, an entrepreneur.

Overall private home prices sank 0.8 per cent in the fourth quarter from the third, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) flash estimates yesterday showed. This was the first overall slide since the first quarter of 2012, and a reversal of the 0.4 per cent gain in the third quarter.

The main factor was suburban non-landed private homes, previously the only segment propping up the overall price index amid lacklustre market activity.

Suburban private home prices slipped 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter - their first slide since the second quarter of 2009 - after climbing 2.2 per cent in July to September.

Falling HDB resale flat prices likely dented demand for mass-market private homes by shrinking the pool of HDB upgraders, said Knight Frank research head Alice Tan.

HDB flat resale prices fell 1.3per cent from the third quarter to the fourth quarter.

Ms Tan said stricter loan restrictions have forced buyers to tighten their belts.

Mr Alvin Leow, 45, a senior manager in the paint industry, said that prices would have to fall a little more before he would buy a private home in the suburbs, due to smaller home loan amounts. He lives in a five-room HDB flat.

The city centre had the sharpest price drop in the fourth quarter, with non-landed private home prices sliding 2.2 per cent.

OrangeTee research head Christine Li cited price cuts at new launches such as Duo Residences in Bugis that were priced "below market expectations".

The price declines in both the mass-market and luxury home segment outweighed a rise in non-landed home prices on the city fringe.

As a whole, private home prices grew 1.2 per cent last year, well down on the 2.8 per cent rise in 2012, the URA said.

melissat@sph.com.sg

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