ABSD deadline fast approaching, but developers stay cool

Those with unsold units face additional buyer's stamp duty but fire sales unlikely

The Trilinq in Clementi could be one of the first projects in the firing line as the five-year ABSD deadline for developers looms.
The Trilinq in Clementi could be one of the first projects in the firing line as the five-year ABSD deadline for developers looms. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Time is fast running out for some developers, with a five-year deadline to complete and sell all units at their residential projects due next year.

Companies with unsold stock are ramping up marketing efforts to avoid multimillion-dollar penalties that stem from the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD), but home hunters should not expect a fire sale any time soon.

The clock started ticking back in December 2011 with new rules that developers must build and sell all units in residential projects within five years of buying the site.

If they fail to move the units, they face a 10 per cent levy on the site's purchase price plus 5 per cent interest. The levy was later raised to 15 per cent for sites bought from Jan 12, 2013.

The first projects in the firing line could be Bartley Ridge, built by City Developments (CDL) and joint venture partners, and The Trilinq by IOI Properties.

CDL said it is confident of clearing the remaining units before the deadline - January for Bartley Ridge and September for another project, The Venue Residences.

There were two unsold units at Bartley Ridge and 97 at The Venue Residences as of Oct 31. Failure to move all the apartments could attract an ABSD plus interest amounting to about $79 million for CDL.

"To further speed up sales, we have initiated various marketing and promotional activities such as the CDL Dream Draw, which is applicable to The Venue Residences and three other projects," said a spokesman.

IOI Properties, which did not respond to a Straits Times query, had 303 unsold homes at the 755-unit The Trilinq as of Oct 31. The estimated ABSD payable plus interest could come up to $50.9 million if it does not sell out by January.

Other ways to sweeten the deal for buyers include offering the deferred payment scheme, which may be considered at Singapore Land (SingLand). It has three projects facing ABSD liabilities amounting to about $70 million next year.

The ABSD deadline for its Mon Jervois in District 10 is in February, while the deadline for Pollen & Bleu comes up in June and in December for Alex Residences.

Mr Michael Ng, group general manager of UIC, SingLand's parent company, said: "For Mon Jervois, if we have to pay ABSD, I think our margins will be able to absorb that and still provide a decent profit.

"It may be better to hold on to the units and try to sell at a higher price later on as the market for this segment is improving."

Keppel Land said it will be able to clear unsold stock at The Glades in Tanah Merah, which has sold over 80 per cent of the 726 units.

Market watchers said developers that have sold at least 60 per cent of units in a project can consider setting up a company to buy the rest.

"(The new firm will) pay an ABSD - current rate of 15 per cent - on the total sale prices of those units. This may work out to be cheaper than the ABSD charge plus interest on the land purchase price," noted Mr Lee Liat Yeang, senior partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP.

Despite the ABSD deadline, analysts say, developers are unlikely to sell units on the cheap to clear stock.

"I don't think they will be slashing prices drastically as many of them still have some holding power," said Savills Singapore research head Alan Cheong.

OrangeTee head of research and consultancy Wong Xian Yang said "developers have been largely keeping prices steady in 2016 as the demand for new homes has picked up".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline ABSD deadline fast approaching, but developers stay cool. Subscribe