Slower decline in home prices in Q1

But property experts say public and private residential markets have not hit bottom yet

Observers say prices will still be pushed south by a record number of homes set for completion this year as well as a continuing curb on demand from cooling measures.
Observers say prices will still be pushed south by a record number of homes set for completion this year as well as a continuing curb on demand from cooling measures.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Public and private home prices here fell at a slower pace in the first quarter than the quarterly average last year but some analysts say the bottom may not quite be in sight.

Housing Board (HDB) flat resale prices eased about 0.1 per cent, while private home prices slid about 0.7 per cent to mark the 10th straight quarter of decline, according to flash estimates out yesterday.

The quarterly average price fall for HDB flats last year was a steeper 0.4 per cent, while that for private homes was 0.9 per cent.

But industry observers warn against calling a market bottom yet.

They note that prices will still be pushed south by a record number of homes set for completion this year as well as a continuing curb on demand from cooling measures.

A total of 25,000 HDB flats should be completed this year, broadly in line with 26,000 last year.

Another 21,906 private homes and 4,561 executive condominiums (ECs) will also be ready, well above the 18,971 private homes and 3,296 ECs last year.

"For the build-to-order flats completing, about 30 per cent of buyers are upgraders - which means they must sell their existing flats in six months when they get their keys to the new one," said Mr Lim Yong Hock, PropNex Realty key executive officer.

At the same time, 40 to 50 per cent of EC buyers are upgraders, while another 30 to 40 per cent of private home buyers are estimated to be upgraders.

"These are upgraders, not investors. When they get the keys to their new property, they would need to sell their HDB flat to finance their new home," he said.

All this will drive up resale market supply.

So, while HDB prices have been stabilising for some quarters, a bigger fall could show up in the second or third quarter, he added.

Still, steady HDB prices of late may have enticed some buyers.

HDB resale transactions in the first quarter rose about 10 per cent from last year to 4,137 in the first quarter, according to SRX Property.

Mr Eugene Lim, ERA Realty key executive officer, said: "Most transactions are done around valuation. Buyers are realistic and will offer around what has previously been transacted.

"If sellers push for above-valuation prices, they probably won't buy."

More are buying as prices are more stable and the fear of having to pay a cash premium is no longer there, he added.

In the private home market, non-landed home prices in the core central region (CCR) staged a surprising turnaroud.

They rose 0.4 per cent from last year, after falling 0.3 per cent in the fourth quarter.

This could be partly thanks to a strong take-up at Cairnhill Nine, which saw 134 units sold in its launch weekend last month.

Even before that launch, CCR prices had shown some positive signs. A basket of luxury non-landed properties tracked by Savills saw their prices rising 1.3 per cent in the fourth quarter, with average unit prices going up from $2,215 per sq ft (psf) in the third quarter to $2,243 psf.

But CCR prices are still not out of the woods and prices could again stagnate in the second quarter should there be no substantial new sales, said Mr Alan Cheong, Savills Singapore research head.

Non-landed home prices on the city fringes or rest of central region (RCR) fell 0.4 per cent, similar to the previous quarter.

Non-landed home prices in the suburbs or outside central region (OCR) fell 0.9 per cent. They were unchanged in the fourth quarter.

Landed home prices fell 1.5 per cent, after falling 1.8 per cent in the fourth quarter.

"We could be seeing a two-speed market with price declines in CCR and RCR moderating in 2016, while OCR and the landed segment continuing to soften at a higher pace," said Mr Ong Teck Hui, JLL national research director.

This is as CCR and RCR prices have already softened more significantly and are increasingly attractive to buyers.

The residential market does seem to show some resilience, with sellers able to hold their positions reasonably well and firm underlying demand from buyers, he added.

"If the interest rate environment remains benign and the economic slowdown does not affect buying sentiment too adversely, the residential market would probably be quite stable this year with prices easing gently. "

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'Slower decline in home prices in Q1'. Subscribe