En bloc sales notched a blockbuster performance last year with 35 residential deals valued at more than $10 billion, the highest in more than a decade.
Together with 27 deals valued at $8.13 billion in 2017 and three deals valued at $1 billion in 2016, this en bloc cycle has achieved 65 deals worth $19.1 billion so far, compared to the all-time record of $21.8 billion in the 2005-2007 cycle, according to Colliers International's data.
The top collective sale last year was Pacific Mansion, a freehold site in the upscale River Valley precinct, which was acquired for $980 million by GuocoLand, Intrepid Investments and Hong Realty. It was the biggest collective sale in more than a decade, and the second-highest on record after the sale of Farrer Court for $1.34 billion in 2007.
Tampines Court was sold for $970 million and Amber Park for $907 million.
Some observers believe the current cycle may continue, as it seems that sellers of some projects have not given up hope of selling en bloc despite the July 6 cooling measures.
After the measures kicked in, only one residential deal went through - the sale of the 32-unit Phoenix Heights for $33.1 million.
Some projects have either relaunched their tenders at lower prices or at the same price. Some mega sites even raised their asking price to achieve 80 per cent consensus to launch a tender.
Sold for: $980 million in 2018
Number of units: 288
Type: Freehold condo
Sold for: $970 million in 2017
Number of units: 560
Type: Ex-HUDC estate
Sold for: $906.7 million in 2017
Number of units: 200
Type: Freehold condo
"It's like those people who queue up to buy Toto," said Savills Singapore research head Alan Cheong. "The agent still needs to get 80 per cent to launch the tender, or all the expenditure on marketing and valuation would have gone to naught."
But critics call this a pyrrhic victory as developers are expected to give mega sites a miss due to higher land acquisition costs after the cooling measures.
Ms Tricia Song, head of research for Colliers International, Singapore, expects developers to "remain cautious in land acquisition, in view of the ample supply pipeline from public land tenders and private collective sale sites accumulated before the curbs".
"By the middle of this year, with the relatively healthy take-up since the July cooling measures, and assuming a benign economic outlook, developers could potentially be more active in land-banking again," she said.
Facing a cooling market, owners of the 226-unit Spanish Village in Farrer Road are in the process of signing a supplementary agreement to lower the asking price to $828 million from $882 million. The tender, which will be their third try this round, closes on March 11.
A Pre-Application Feasibility Study (PAFS) was carried out by an appointed traffic consultant and an in-principle approval of up to 703 units has been obtained from the Land Transport Authority on Sept 6 last year, according to its marketing agent Edmund Tie & Company.
Mr Terence Lian, head of investment sales for Huttons Asia, said: "They may stand a good chance because they cleared the PAFS, which means the developer knows how many units they can build. Plus they reduced their asking price.'
But International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong disagreed. "The developer will have to consider competition from the mixed-use GLS (government land sales) site in Holland Village and several en blocs that have completed, including Tulip Garden, and whether demand will be soaked up by the time the new project is launched for sale," he said.
Already, a number of en bloc projects have closed tender without a bid in recent weeks. Leonie Gardens, which launched for a second time at the same reserve price of $800 million, closed on Jan 22 without a bid. It was the same outcome on Jan 28 for Horizon Towers, which also launched for a second time at the same reserve price of $1.1 billion.
Even a smaller site - Park View Mansions - closed tender without a bid despite lowering its reserve price to $250 million from $320 million.
Yet some mega sites have raised their asking price to get the 80 per cent mandate to launch a tender. Among them is Pine Grove, which raised its price to $1.86 billion from $1.72 billion at the last minute, helping it secure the 80 per cent mandate.
Mandarin Gardens raised its asking price to $2.79 billion from $2.48 billion in November after owners discovered that the land parcel was undervalued. Signatures are at 64 per cent.
Braddell View, the biggest of 18 former HUDC estates, has reached the 80 per cent mandate at the reserve price of $2.08 billion.
But JLL regional director Tan Hong Boon said: "Many developers aren't looking at the big sites now. The risks are too high due to increased additional buyer's stamp duty, and they have to sell within five years."