New private home sales rose in 2016 as prices fell

8,136 units sold last year, up 9.4% from 2015 figure, as prices continue to slip

Buyers and their agents queueing to book a unit at High Park Residences, a 1,390-unit condo development in Fernvale. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Sales of new private homes defied forecasts and rose last year as upbeat buyers ventured back into the market to take advantage of lower prices and still-low interest rates.

The buoyant numbers came despite a dire December, when sales fell to their lowest level in 10 months. That decline was, however, expected as home-buying activity typically slows during the year- end holiday lull.

Developers sold 8,136 new units last year - 9.4 per cent more than the 7,440 shifted in 2015. The numbers exclude new executive condominiums (ECs). Sales last year also exceeded the 7,300 or so units transacted in 2014.

Many property experts had tipped 2016 as a slow year for real estate, given the slower economy and the cooling measures in place, but buyers leapt at the chance to snag units at lower prices.

Private home prices have been slipping in the past three years - falling by 3 per cent last year, 3.7 per cent in 2015 and 4 per cent in 2014 - in the wake of a raft of cooling measures.

Mr Wong Xian Yang, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee, told The Straits Times: "The pickup in demand for new homes comes on the back of improving sentiments and relatively low interest rates."

SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak noted that the sales boost last year could be partly due to more one- and two-bedroom units on the market that were popular with investors as they were more affordable.

However, the bumper total for the year is in stark contrast to last month's subdued sales.

Only 367 new homes were sold - a 57.3 per cent drop from the 860 new units transacted in November, and 4.4 per cent lower than the transactions in December 2015.

The decline came as developers launched just 90 new homes, compared with 1,363 launched in November, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority yesterday. It was the lowest number of new units launched in two years.

Despite the December slump, 2,480 new units were sold for the quarter, the strongest quarterly volume last year, said consultancy JLL.

"This reflects a moderate strengthening in demand from buyers driven by a perception of the market bottoming out, pent-up demand, buying opportunities at more realistic prices," said JLL national director of research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui.

The pace of sales last month was set by the suburbs, where 231 units were sold, followed by 112 in the city fringe and 24 in the core central region.

The Santorini in Tampines was the best-selling private residential project last month, moving 26 units at a median price of $1,047 per sq ft.

Sales of new EC units also fell last month, with 213 units shifted, down from 251 transacted in November.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline New private home sales rose in 2016 as prices fell. Subscribe