HDB resale prices edge up in Q4 'in continued stability'

HDB flats in Toa Payoh Central on Dec 18, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Resale prices for Housing Board flats rose for the first time in 10 quarters in the final three months of last year, but experts do not think the market has finally hit the bottom.

Values rose a modest 0.1 per cent in the quarter, compared with the previous three months, to leave prices down 1.6 per cent for the year.

That marks an improvement from 2014, when prices declined 6 per cent from 2013, according to HDB data yesterday.

Yet despite the fourth quarter's marginal uptick, experts said the picture is one of continued stability rather than a turnaround.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim noted that prices in the past three quarters have changed by less than 0.5 per cent each time. "This increased price stability could be pointing to a new equilibrium, indicating that the market may have found its support level."

R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said that resale prices will likely stay flat this year if cooling measures remain, as the market expects.

PropNex Realty chief executive Mohamed Ismail Gafoor is more optimistic, seeing a possible price rise of up to 2 per cent this year.

But the broader economic outlook could dampen things, said Mr Lim. "2016 will see the property market facing more headwinds, such as the increase in interest rates and slowdown of the Singapore economy, which could shake buying confidence."

He expects resale prices to decline by 1 per cent to 3 per cent this year.

At least the lower prices seemed to lure buyers out last year, with 4,992 resale deals in the fourth quarter, bringing the year's total to 19,306 - up 11.5 per cent from 2014's record low of 17,318. The rise might be due both to buyers enticed by low prices and those who have given up waiting for prices to tumble steeply, said Mr Ong.

More new flats coming on stream might draw some demand away from the resale market. The HDB will launch about 18,000 flats in four Build-To-Order exercises this year, up from 15,100 last year.

But the effect is likely to be marginal. The fourth quarter saw "significant resale demand" despite a bumper launch of over 12,000 new flats then, noted Mr Lim.

Resale transactions this year are expected to flatline at around 20,000 deals, comparable to last year's 19,306.

The rental market was also quiet last year. There were 50,264 HDB flats being sublet as of Dec 31, barely more than the 49,796 a year earlier.

Rents are expected to stay depressed. With more private homes being completed this year, HDB upgraders who choose to sublet will increase supply in what is already a tenants' market, said experts.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline HDB resale prices edge up in Q4 'in continued stability'. Subscribe