HDB resale market could be big winner of changes that raise grants for flat buyers

A photo taken in 2015 showing members of the public viewing models of housing projects at the HDB Hub.
A photo taken in 2015 showing members of the public viewing models of housing projects at the HDB Hub.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Young couples with high incomes and those looking to offload their Housing Board flats in the resale market are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new HDB policies announced on Tuesday (Sept 10), said observers.

And the resale market itself could get a lift with new incentives being extended to buyers, they added.

On Tuesday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced, among other things, that the income ceiling to buy HDB flats and executive condominiums (ECs) has been raised by $2,000, to $14,000 and $16,000, respectively.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said it is increasingly common for some fresh graduates to start with higher salaries, such as those in IT and finance.

"Couples in those sectors would hit the income ceiling quite early, so they might be priced out of the Build-To-Order market," he said, adding that the changes give such young people more choice.

"For those who don't want to spend too much on their first home, it is great. Getting your first HDB flat is a bit like national service for the guys - it is a Singaporean rite of passage."

Another major change is the new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to $80,000. It replaces two previous grants, but allows more people to benefit as it has a higher income cap and does not impose any restrictions on the flat size or location.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Wong said adjusting the grant structure might make resale flats more attractive and, in turn, help the authorities meet the demand for homes.

He noted that the previous incentives for Build-To-Order flats may have been a factor in why three in four, or 75 per cent, of first-timer families bought new flats instead of resale homes last year.

 
 
 
 

OrangeTee & Tie's head of research and consultancy Christine Sun said the change was timely, given that a large number of flats - about 25,000 a year - are expected to reach their minimum occupation period and go on the resale market in each of the next few years.

Without the change, sellers might see prices of their flats go down.

"But with more grants, some buyers will seriously consider resale flats, and this should help to absorb the supply," she said, adding that the latest moves will complement changes in May to let home buyers use more Central Provident Fund savings and get bigger loans to buy ageing HDB flats.

PropNex chief executive officer Ismail Gafoor said existing home owners may get to fulfil their upgrading dream once they sell their flats. Instead of one in four people buying resale flats, he expects the grants to increase the ratio to one in three.

"And once these owners sell their flats, they are likely to buy a private condo, so the whole property cycle benefits," said Mr Ismail.

Mr Louis Ng, MP for Nee Soon GRC, said the enhanced grant is a win-win for both buyers and sellers, adding: "The people who are trying to sell can sell, and the people who need a flat urgently can better afford it."

Other people who would benefit from the changes are those who are interested in ECs.

Mr Ismail said: "The increase of $2,000 will not only allow more people to qualify, but also allow them to get approximately an additional $120,000 of loan amount based on the current mortgage servicing ratio capped at 30 per cent."

"I would expect a number of people at the Piermont Grand showroom this weekend," he added, referring to the 820-unit Punggol EC - the sole EC launch of the year - which has only crossed the 50 per cent sales mark.

In the medium term, Huttons Asia research director Lee Sze Teck said the grant changes would ease the burden of owning a home for young couples.

"Hopefully, it will help nudge families to have more kids," he added.

Overall, analysts see the changes as a major boon for both buyers and sellers.

As ERA's Mr Lim put it: "I guess elections are coming, right?"