Singapore's new home sales last month surged more than 114 per cent from a year ago, defying the coronavirus outbreak and a looming global recession.
Posting the second-strongest February sales performance in eight years, developers moved 975 private homes - up 57.3 per cent from the 620 units they sold the month before, driven by competitively priced new projects. The latest figure is also 114 per cent higher than the 455 units developers sold in February last year.
The data excludes executive condominium (EC) units, for which there was pent-up demand, with Parc Canberra in Sembawang the only new EC launch so far this year.
Including ECs, which are a public-private housing hybrid, developers found buyers for 1,314 units last month, up 105.3 per cent from the 640 units they sold in January and 187.5 per cent more than the 457 units sold in February last year.
"While we remain cautiously optimistic about home sales, much would depend on the economic fallout from the (virus) outbreak and whether there are large-scale job losses, widespread retrenchments. (That) will certainly dampen housing demand," said Ms Tricia Song, head of research for Singapore, Colliers International.
But for now, persistently low interest rates are helping to support housing demand. The US Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates to near zero and restarted its quantitative easing programme as part of emergency stimulus.
"Mortgage rates based on the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor), on which most home loans are priced, have come off 30-40 basis points (bps), since the first 50-bps rate cut by the Fed, and should come off further," Ms Song said.
Urban Redevelopment Authority data yesterday shows the number of units launched jumped 56 per cent to 933 in February, from 598 the previous month, and up 56.5 per cent to 596 from a year ago.
February's top sellers included new launches The M, which sold 380 of the 522-unit condo project in Bugis, and the 496-unit Parc Canberra EC, which moved 324 units.
Many buyers were drawn to The M's location near Bugis MRT station, Bugis Junction and Suntec City. "Price quantum continued to be a driver, with 97.9 per cent of all sales in The M below $2 million," said CBRE head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia Desmond Sim.
Other top sellers included existing projects such as Treasure at Tampines (97 units), Parc Esta (53 units), Jadescape (46 units) and Parc Botannia (40 units).
Ms Christine Sun, Orange Tee & Tie's head of research and consultancy, attributed the robust sales to more investors diversifying their portfolios after the recent stock market rout.
"The increasing volatility of the financial markets may continue to propel investors to real estate as properties are regarded as safe-haven assets," she noted.
According to URA Realis data, Singaporeans snapped up 812 non-landed homes excluding ECs last month, up from the 413 units in January and 351 units in December last year. The number of foreign buyers also rose, to 149 last month from 116 in December last year.
PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor said: "With a total of three ECs expected this year, we anticipate the demand for OLA at Anchorvale and the EC at Tampines Avenue 10 will remain strong."
Ms Song noted that 79 per cent of the units sold at Parc Canberra are priced below $1.2 million, hitting the sweet spot for first-timers or HDB upgraders. "OLA reportedly received 1,163 e-applications, more than double the 548 units offered. Final pricing for the units is expected to be announced on March 19 or 20," she said.