Property market emerging from the doldrums?

Slowly but surely, the property market is emerging from its slumber, with more activity expected in coming months, going by recent data.

Both private apartment and Housing Board flat resale volumes last month were the highest in about three years, according to flash estimates from SRX Property.

Some of the resale transactions included developer sales of completed stock, where price cuts and creative methods of structuring payments have proved successful in selling units.

And in the new sales market, developers have been pricing to sell, although many launches fizzle out after an initial surge in sales.

Still, turnout at two of the latest launches seems promising. Cheung Kong Property got about 4,000 visitors at its Stars of Kovan VIP preview at the weekend, while Gem Residences in Toa Payoh has drawn 1,036 expressions of interest since its April 29 preview.

A key factor is that buyers and sellers have been waiting to see what would happen to cooling measures and prices and, having waited long enough, are starting to move.

Post-Budget, there appeared to be confirmation that there would be no changes to cooling measures, encouraging investors who have been on the sidelines to act.

Developers, too, have been under increasing pressure to sell and so have priced reasonably.

They are also aware that buyers have many options. In the Orchard Road area for instance, buyers can choose between Ardmore Three, a freehold property selling at effective prices of $2,600 to $2,700 per sq ft; 99-year leasehold OUE Twin Peaks, at about $2,300 psf; and upcoming freehold launch Gramercy Park at about $2,600 psf.

OUE's move to introduce a deferred payment scheme for Twin Peaks seems to have worked, with close to 100 units sold since late March.

More developers are set to take reference from this. TG Development, the developer of Lloyd SixtyFive, is introducing an "experimental purchaser scheme" under which the buyer pays 12.5 per cent of the purchase price for an option that will let him occupy the unit without paying maintenance fees and property tax for a few years. This will hopefully let him defer the purchase until such time as the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty is lifted or reduced.

On the resale front, individual sellers have adjusted expectations, encouraging buyers in the process.

In the HDB resale market, prices have barely shifted in the past nine months. "From a buyer's and seller's perspective, they are clear it is a stable market. Buyers are not worried if prices will drop further should they buy," said PropNex Realty chief executive Mohd Ismail Gafoor.

Indeed, despite plenty of bargain hunting in the resale market - buyers today view as many as 10 or 15 properties before committing - there is no shortage of interest, said Mr Eugene Lim, ERA Realty key executive officer. "In the last two years, people were not even prepared to buy," he said.

Ultimately, buyers are savvy, experts feel. They have monitored the market for some time and, when the price points are not right, they do not go in - a fact sellers are increasingly bearing in mind.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline Property market emerging from the doldrums?. Subscribe