Hungry ghosts, recession no match for Singapore buyers as new home sales hit 11-month high

More new units were launched - particularly those from Forett at Bukit Timah, ahead of the Hungry Ghost month. PHOTO: FORRET AT BUKIT TIMAH/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Bucking Singapore's worst recession and the Hungry Ghost month, new home sales in Singapore continued to rise for a fourth straight month, reaching the highest since September 2019.

Developers in August sold 1,256 private homes, up 16.3 per cent from 1,080 units in July, according to figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Tuesday (Sept 15).

Year on year, sales rose 11.8 per cent from 1,123 units in August 2019.

The figures exclude executive condominium (EC) units, which are a public-private housing hybrid.

More new units were launched - particularly those from Forett at Bukit Timah, ahead of the Hungry Ghost Festival, which started on Aug 19. There were 1,582 private homes launched in August, up 82 per cent from 869 units in July, and nearly 56 per cent higher than 1,015 units a year ago.

Instead of slowing during the typically quiet Hungry Ghost month, new home sales grew faster than expected after the circuit breaker period ended on June 1. The two-month lockdown had upended sales and planned launches in April and May with show-flat closures.

Including EC units, 1,307 new homes were taken up last month, up 14.4 per cent from July, and about 12 per cent higher than 1,168 a year ago, the URA data showed.

New sales were driven mainly by Forett at Bukit Timah, Treasure at Tampines, Parc Clematis, The Garden Residences, The Woodleigh Residences, Jadescape and Whistler Grand.

Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie, noted that last month's sales were the best August performance in eight years.

Case in point: 325 new homes were sold in August 2008 amid the global financial crisis. After fresh rounds of cooling measures were implemented, 756 units were sold in August 2013 and 617 units in August 2018.

The rising economic uncertainties and volatile equity markets "seemed to be fuelling the boom for properties as more buyers seek shelter in safe-haven assets" amid record low interest rates, Ms Sun said.

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Mr Ong Teck Hui, senior director of research & consultancy at JLL cited bright spots in the economy where some businesses are stable or even growing.

These include technology, biomedical, healthcare, electronics and precision engineering. "Those in more stable employment would have greater confidence in purchasing a property despite the recession," he said.

The 0.3 per cent increase in the URA private residential price index in the second quarter may fuel the perception that prices at worst, may soften only slightly. As a result, some homebuyers may feel it isn't worthwhile waiting for a major price correction, he added.

Ms Tricia Song, Colliers International's head of research for Singapore, said August's sales also showed buyers' strong interest for attractively-priced freehold city fringe projects.

In August, the city fringe projects accounted for the bulk of sales at 49.5 per cent, compared with 38.8 per cent in July. The suburbs, or Outside Central Region (OCR) - the proxy for the mass market segment - made up 40.3 per cent of total sales last month, compared to 50.7 per cent in July.

Colliers International estimated that 81 per cent of the total developer sales in August were priced at the median price of $1,000-$2,000 psf, compared to 83 per cent in July.

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