SINGAPORE - More Housing Board flats changed hands last year, with a record 71 flats sold for more than $1 million.
This came as resale prices slipped for a fifth straight year, hitting a seven-year low.
In all, 23,099 resale flats were sold last year, 4.6 per cent more than the 22,077 transactions in 2017, according to HDB's quarterly report released on Friday (Jan 25).
Meanwhile, resale prices slipped 0.2 per cent in the final quarter of last year, making for a full-year decrease of 0.9 per cent - confirming flash estimates earlier this month.
OrangeTee &Tie research head Christine Sun noted that 2018's decline was less steep than 2017's 1.5 per cent dip. One factor behind this, she said, was that there were more transactions of newer HDB flats which have just reached their minimum occupation period and fetched good prices.
"More HDB resale flats were sold above $700,000 last year, especially non-standard ones... A record 71 flats were also transacted above $1 million," she said.
The number of such million-dollar flats has been increasing exponentially, with two such transactions in 2014, and 46 in 2017.
The majority of such flats are non-standard ones such as DBSS flats like The Peak in Toa Payoh, the CBD-located estate of Pinnacle@Duxton, or rare terrace houses in Jalan Bahagia or Stirling Road.
But over the last two years, more standard HDB flats have traded at eye-watering prices. Last year, "normal" four-room flats crossed the $1 million mark for the first time, with at least four such transactions taking place in Tiong Bahru.
Ms Sun said this could hint at a growing price divergence between HDB market segments, with the price weakness affecting some more than others.
"Smaller or older flats experienced greater challenges in finding a buyer as they are impacted by growing concerns about the depreciating value of ageing flats and a growing supply of newer HDB flats that are being put up for resale in the non-mature estates," she said.
But ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said the headline-making transactions remain an exception in the current market.
Given recent cooling measures, rising interest rates and an ongoing fear of paying more than what a flat is valued at, buyers are likely to remain conservative, with HDB prices rising by about 1 per cent at the most this year, he said.
Huttons Asia's research head Lee Sze Teck said it was "unlikely to be the end of the slide for the HDB resale market". He predicts that prices will fluctuate between -1 per cent and 0 per cent this year.
Mr Lee noted, however, that expected changes to the usage of Central Provident Fund (CPF) for older flats later this year could "give a fillip to the HDB resale market".
There will be about 15,000 new flats launched for sale this year, with the first exercise next month seeing 3,100 flats in Jurong West, Kallang/Whampoa and Sengkang on offer. There will also be a concurrent Re-Offer of Balance Flats exercise.