Sales of new private homes defied expectations to surge to a near four-year high last month, when some property cooling measures were adjusted for the first time since they were first implemented in 2009.
Developers sold 1,780 new units - excluding executive condos (ECs) - up about 82 per cent from the 979 homes booked in February. This was also more than double the 843 homes shifted in March last year
Last month's strong showing took new home sales in the first quarter to 3,141 - the best quarterly effort since the second quarter of 2013, said consultancy CBRE.
Analysts said the sales figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday further point to a gradual recovery in the private residential property sector and are a huge boost to market sentiment. "This is reflective of a broad-based improvement in demand, with buyers not just attracted to newly launched projects, but also to those launched previously as well," noted Mr Ong Teck Hui, national director of research and consultancy at JLL.
Ms Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield, said: "With liquidity aplenty, waning concerns over the supply situation, buyers are coming back to the primary market in droves, as many are buying into the idea that Singapore's residential market is moving a step closer to a turning point."
Indeed, the level of new home sales last month has not been seen since June 2013, when 1,806 units were sold. Monthly sales cooled substantially after the Government implemented the total debt servicing ratio framework in June 2013.
Number of new units sold last month, excluding executive condos.
Number of units sold in February
Last month's robust sales were partly due to the slight easing of some cooling measures by the Government, which "have injected a shot of optimism among buyers", said ERA Realty Network key executive officer Eugene Lim.
The Government unexpectedly announced last month that it will shorten the seller's stamp duty holding period for homes bought from March 11 to three years instead of four years. It will also cut rates for each tier by four percentage points.
The two best-selling private projects were both new launches: CEL Development's Grandeur Park Residences in Tanah Merah, which sold 484 units at a median price of $1,406 per sq ft (psf); and Lendlease's Park Place Residences At PLQ in Paya Lebar. This moved 217 units at a median price of $1,805 psf.
"Buyers are more prepared to make a purchase, in view of prices possibly bottoming out. The impetus to procure land is becoming more urgent for developers as the unsold inventory of projects in the market is steadily being cleared," noted Mr Joseph Tan, executive director of residential services at CBRE.
The URA data showed that suburban areas led sales last month with 1,123 new units sold, followed by 589 in the city fringe and 68 in the core central region.
In the EC segment, developers sold 578 new units last month, up by about 76 per cent from February. This was driven by healthy sales at the new iNz Residences in Choa Chu Kang, which moved 187 units at a median price of $774 psf.
March's sales momentum is likely to carry through to coming months as several projects are due to hit the market.
These include Seaside Residences in Siglap, Artra in Redhill and Martin Modern in Martin Place.
Despite the surge in sales and the positive sentiment, it is premature to conclude that private home prices will increase this year.
Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research at SLP International Property Consultants, said: "Some developers may try to up prices to test the market, but it is not enough to move overall prices because only very selective well-located projects can pull off this strategy."