Singapore private home prices to rise by about 2% in 2020 and 2021: Fitch Ratings

Prices rebounded slightly in the second quarter of 2019, and Fitch Ratings projects minor growth for the rest of this year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Fitch Ratings sees Singapore private residential prices growing by around a "modest" 2 per cent in both 2020 and 2021, about the same as this year and down from nearly 8 per cent in 2018.

"We expect home price growth to reflect the recovering real GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates of 1.5 per cent in both 2020 and 2021 after growth decelerated to 0.6 per cent in the first half of 2019," the credit ratings agency said in its Global Housing and Mortgage Outlook 2020 report out on Wednesday (Dec 18).

Private home prices declined by 0.7 per cent from the third quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 after the July 2018 property cooling measures and mortgage rate increases, which both dampened market sentiment. Prices rebounded slightly in the second quarter of 2019, and Fitch Ratings projects minor growth for the rest of this year.

It said improving borrower affordability, as household incomes grow faster than home prices, and lower interest rates will contribute to rising home prices.

But it added that: "If the government views home prices as rising more than is justified by economic fundamentals, we expect the government would again cool the market through macro-prudential measures."

Fitch Ratings said it does not expect an increase in Singapore mortgage rates in the near future, which would support borrowers' ability to pay. Home loan rates rose rapidly to 2 per cent at the end of the first half of this year due to a sharp rise in benchmark rates such as the three-month Singapore Interbank Offered Rate or Sibor. However, Sibor has since dropped following a series of three rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve beginning in July.

Fitch Ratings also expects sour home loans to increase slightly but stay low with a housing non-performing loan (NPL) ratio of 0.4 to 0.5 per cent in 2020-2021, supported by the improving household debt to income ratio. Mortgage performance will also be supported by continued low unemployment of about 2 per cent in 2020 and 2021, it said.

For banks, Fitch Ratings forecasts mortgage lending growth to remain weak in the near term.

"After a projected small decline of 0.5 per cent in 2019, we expect 2 per cent annual growth in each of 2020 and 2021 in line with improving market sentiment. The lending growth slowdown in 2019 reflected the increase of the additional buyer's stamp duty and tightening of loan-to-value limits in July 2018."

However, the growth is expected to remain limited, reflecting expectations for a slowing annual population growth of below 1 per cent and the high likelihood that the Government would apply cooling measures if home prices show signs of overheating, it said.

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