Don't succumb to marketing mind games of property developers

It is a known fact that property developers and their marketing agents are excellent marketers because they understand consumers' behaviour.

During the bull market, these marketers are able to create a lot of value for their products with advertisements portraying a lifestyle associated with successful people buying into their developments.

They are very good at playing into the minds and emotions of consumers, who are willing to pay a premium to buy into their story.

They also create "fear" in the market that prices would increase for their next launch. Stoking the fear of buying at higher prices works, and consumers would queue overnight or days before the launch just to buy their prized assets at a "special price".

Over the past two years, the property market has slowed, with sales volumes expected to decline further.

Developers and marketers continue to "stay positive" with their outlooks, often making comments that the Government could be removing some curbs soon and the market could well take off from there.

These statements are "powerful" because they play into the minds and emotions of consumers who may decide to buy now, for fear that prices will increase if the market takes off later.

They also play into the minds of sellers who may decide to hold on to their apartments and wait for the market to take off instead of selling them at a lower price.

The average Singaporean is mostly exposed to equity and property as a form of longer-term investment.

Many people stay away from the more volatile stock market and, hence, property investment is probably the only form of investment they are comfortable with.

Unlike the Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB), which limits the individual to $100,000 of investment, property investment allows buyers to leverage and, hence, the expected return is higher for the same amount they invest in SSB.

Therefore, property investment will continue to be in demand, given the lack of alternative investment instruments.

The Government has indicated that the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) would be a permanent feature to protect the average Singaporean from over-leveraging.

However, TDSR does not prevent parents from helping their children with the initial down payment on a property, to enable them to qualify for loans under the TDSR rule.

This was the case, too, during the bull market (before the TDSR kicked in), when parents helped to pay the inflated prices of apartments, for fear that their children would not be able to afford one if they did not buy then.

Given that property prices are highly inelastic and that the property market itself is highly inefficient, the Government must not cave in to external pressure from developers to relax property curbs.

With the market still flooded with liquidity and low interest rates, prices will just shoot up when property developers and their marketing agents start to play mind games again.

Patrick Tan Choon Hong