Developers had a bit more reason to cheer last year than in 2018, thanks in part to Housing Board upgraders.
Owners selling up in the public housing sector to buy in the private market gave a much-needed boost to sales numbers. There were 10,104 units shifted in 2019 - 14.9 per cent more than the 8,795 transacted in 2018.
Six of the top 10 projects last year were in the outside central region, with the remainder in the rest of central, noted Mr Lee Sze Teck, Huttons Asia director of research.
"This is unsurprising as the bulk of the demand will come from HDB upgraders," he said. "With the HDB resale market bottoming out in 2019, this segment of buyers will likely bolster the buying volume in 2020."
PropNex Realty chief Ismail Gafoor said: "Against the backdrop of the cooling measures and the uncertain economic climate, crossing the 10,000 mark is commendable."
He noted that his data showed about 55 per cent of these sales were at projects that had been launched in prior years, adding: "Previously launched projects are in strong demand due to their attractive price points."
There were signs the market gained momentum later in the year. Developers sold 2,635 units in the fourth quarter, a 43.5 per cent surge from the 1,836 homes moved in the same quarter in 2018, Urban Redevelopment Authority data showed yesterday.
But sales in December hit the usual festive roadblock, with just 538 private homes shifted, amid a dearth of new launches. That was well down on the 1,147 units sold in November, but still 10.6 per cent higher than in December 2018.
The latest data excludes executive condominiums. If these are factored in, developers moved 551 units last month, down 53.5 per cent from November and 8.9 per cent lower than in December 2018.
December's lower sales volume was expected because of the year-end holidays and the lack of new launches, said Mr Lee.
Only 370 units were launched last month, compared with 947 in November. Many developers held back launches in anticipation of a resurgence in buying interest, which usually occurs at the beginning of the year, when buyers return from their holidays, said Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at Orange Tee & Tie.
About 30 launches have been lined up for the first half of the year, with about half in the core central region or prime districts and the rest evenly spread between the rest of the central region or city fringes and the outside of central region.
Top-selling projects last month included Parc Botannia, with 49 units sold at a median price of $1,345 per square foot (psf); Parc Esta, with 45 units sold at $1,666 psf; and Parc Clematis, with 40 sold at $1,638 psf.
There could be up to 50 launches and 11,000 new units put on the market this year, Mr Lee said, with total sales of between 9,000 and 10,000, much like last year.
Ms Sun said demand for new homes could lift prices by 2 to 4 per cent this year.
THE BUSINESS TIMES
• With additional information from The Straits Times