Tweaks to some property cooling measures will not have significant impact: Analysts

The Government’s tweaks to some residential property cooling measures on Friday (Mar 10) are a timely move, but observers said these adjustments are unlikely to have a significant impact on the local property market.

Even as the announcements marked the Singapore Government’s first relaxation of the property cooling measures rolled out since 2009, market participants should not expect further easing, analysts told Channel NewsAsia.

In a joint statement on Friday, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Development and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said “calibrated adjustments” will be made to the seller’s stamp duties (SSD) and total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework.

With effect from Saturday, home owners will only have to wait three years before selling their properties to avoid paying the SSD, down from four years currently. This applies to residential properties which are bought on and after Mar 11. The rate will also be cut by four percentage points for each tier.

The TDSR will also be eased, with the 60 per cent TDSR threshold no longer applicable to mortgage equity withdrawal loans with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 50 per cent and below. These refer to loans where borrowers borrow against the value of their properties.

NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON PROPERTY MARKET ACTIVITY, PRICES: OBSERVERS

Cushman & Wakefield’s research director, Christine Li, said the cut in the SSD is timely given that newer measures, including the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), have “overlapped” with the SSD’s aim to clamp down on speculative property investments. The SSD was first introduced in 2010.

“There’s no need to have different sets of measures that do the same thing … but the Government will want to introduce changes gradually. They don’t want the market to have a knee-jerk reaction.”

Meanwhile, the SSD has been “rather punitive” for home owners looking to sell their properties in circumstances such as death, divorce and job losses. Amid a slowing economy with rising redundancies, this adjustment will be welcome news for people looking to cash out of their properties to tide over a difficult period, Ms Li added.

“The previous four-year holding period is just too long and such home owners have been hit by a double whammy. They have had to sell their properties at a loss and the SSD made it worse,” she explained.

Similarly, ERA’s key executive officer, Eugene Lim, said the lowered stamp duty will “bring relief and a way out” for home owners who have to dispose their properties within three years. But given that the new rule is only applicable to all homes bought on and after March 11, the adjustment is a “forward-looking measure” and is unlikely to have the effect of pushing up property prices in both the primary and secondary market, Mr Lim said.

“This is because there is still abundant supply in the residential property market and the demand-cooling ABSD rates and loan-to-valuation limits remain unchanged. Developers and sellers are expected to remain realistic when pricing their units for sale,” he explained.

PropNex Realty’s CEO Ismail Gafoor agreed, noting that the change is also unlikely to have a significant impact on transaction volumes. He attributed that to the presence of “minimal speculative activities” in the market, with most buyers now taking a “mid- to long-term view” towards property investments.

Likewise for the TDSR, most observers said the latest adjustment emulates previous rounds of “targeted tweaks”, such as the fine-tuning of refinancing rules in 2016 to allow borrowers more flexibility in managing debt obligations.

The latest tweak is similarly a minor change and will only affect a small group of home owners, said Mr Ismail. “We feel that changes to the TDSR framework will help home owners to monetise their properties in their retirement years.”

Still, some observers like R’ST Research’s director, Ong Kah Seng, think the cut in the SSD could have a “positive knee-jerk effect” on new home sales for some property developers.

“We may see developers (being) able to clear stock rapidly at least in these two months. This includes projects that were launched a while ago and saddled with substantial unsold stock, as well as projects with strong selling points.”

Mr Ong Teck Hui, national director of research and consultancy at JLL, echoed that view, noting that the adjustments are sending out a positive signal.

“The policy relaxation is likely to be seen as the beginning of the unwinding of cooling measures and this is expected to lead more buyers back to the market. Buyers would perceive the market as bottoming and be hopeful of a price recovery,” he wrote in a note.

FURTHER LIFT OF COOLING MEASURES IN THE PIPELINE?

Even with Friday’s surprise announcement, most observers noted that a broad-based easing of property market curbs remains unlikely in the near term.

“The statement from the Government shows a holistic review, with the mention of other measures like the ABSD and how they remain relevant,” Ms Li told Channel NewsAsia. “With responses for recent property launches being quite positive, the Government will remain cautious and that’s why they’ve made the small moves today which will have minimal impact on the property market.”

For ERA’s Mr Lim, the odds of further easing remain a “wait-and-see game” after authorities maintained the current ABSD rates and LTV limits. “It’s a calibrated step-by-step approach that the Government is adopting so as not to unravel the stabilisation efforts that have (borne) fruit over the last three years. I do not think further easing will come so soon.”

UOB’s senior economist, Alvin Liew, expects the cooling measures to remain in place unless significant changes, such as a spike in Singapore’s interest rates and unemployment figures, occur.

For the former, Mr Liew expects the three-month Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (SIBOR) to follow US interest rates higher and reach 1.45 per cent by end-2017. But even so, it may not be “high enough for the Government to unwind some of the measures like ABSD or LTV”, he said.

SINGAPORE PROPERTY SHARES GET A BOOST

Nonetheless, shares of property developers, which have already been on an upward trend, got a further boost following the announcement.

Among the biggest gainers in the sector, City Developments (CDL) jumped 5.62 per cent to close at S$10.15. UOL Group rose 4.53 per cent to finish at S$6.92, while CapitaLand gained 3.64 per cent to S$3.70.

An index of 44 Singapore real estate companies rallied to the highest since July 2015, according to Bloomberg.

CDL said in a statement that it welcomes the adjustments, which are “both measured and prudent”. The revised SSD, in particular, “will provide flexibility for property investment and is expected to inject increased activity into the residential property market”, the spokesperson added.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 10 Mar 2017

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Seller’s stamp duties cut as Government eases some property cooling measures

Home owners will only have to wait three years before selling their properties to avoid paying seller’s stamp duties (SSD), down from four years currently, under several adjustments made to property cooling measures.

With effect from Saturday (Mar 11), those who sell their properties within three years will also pay less in SSD, according to a joint press release by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Development and Monetary Authority of Singapore on Friday. This applies to residential properties purchased on and after Mar 11.

The rate will be cut by four percentage points for each tier – properties sold in the third year will be subject to SSD of 4 per cent, while those sold in the first year will be subject to SSD of 12 per cent, down from 16 per cent currently.

According to the agencies, the decision to revise the SSD was made after the number of property sales within the four-year window fell significantly since the measure was introduced.

The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), which was implemented to encourage prudent borrowing by households, will also be eased. Currently, property loans should not exceed a TDSR threshold of 60 per cent.

However, some retirees have given feedback that because of the TDSR, they are unable to borrow against their properties to obtain more cash, the release said.

With the easing in rules, the TDSR will no longer apply to mortgage equity withdrawal loans with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 50 per cent and below.

NO CHANGE IN ABSD, LOAN-TO-VALUE LIMITS

The Government has decided to retain the current Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duties (ABSD) rates and LTV limits, the release said.

“Transaction volumes in the private residential property market remain healthy. There is firm demand for private housing, in part because of current low interest rates and continued income growth.

“While the growth in outstanding housing loans has moderated, it is prudent for households to further build up their financial buffers to protect against future interest rate increases or any losses in income. The Government is therefore retaining the current ABSD rates and loan-to-value limits,” it said.

The “calibrated adjustments” made to the SSD and TDSR are part of the Government’s review of conditions in the residential property market, the release said, adding that the current property measures are necessary to “promote a sustainable residential property market and financial prudence among households”.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 10 Mar 2017

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More co-working spaces sprouting up in CBD as demand rises

Property developers are leasing more space to co-working space operators, even as demand rises from businesses in the new economy looking for flexible work areas.

Currently, there are 53 co-working space locations in Singapore, almost one-third of which are in the Central Business District (CBD) – up from about one-fifth of the overall 40 co-working offices a year ago, according to real estate company Cushman and Wakefield.

This number is set to grow, with relative newcomers Spacemob jostling into the space with more established property players such as Frasers Centrepoint.

Industry watchers cited a growing interest among landlords to lease to co-working space operators, despite initial concerns that new players will not stay through their full tenure, which is aiding this growth.

Cushman and Wakefield’s Singapore research director Christine Li said “there is not a lot of track record” among these operators, and “the last thing landlords want is to get a tenant in, and after a few months, pre-terminate the lease”.

“Particularly when times were good and there was no shortage of tenants knocking on their doors, they did not have to go out to attract these co-working operators,” she said.

CHANGING VIEW ON CO-WORKING SPACES

However, as the property market has “softened”, she has seen a healthy take-up of such co-working spaces around the CBD.

In 2016 and 2017, Ms Li estimated that an average of 2 million sq ft of office space is expected to be completed each year in the CBD, double the annual average of 1 million sq ft over the past 10 years. And having such operators will help soak up the market supply, she added.

Industry watchers also note the new concept can help to optimise yield, while providing startups and freelancers access to prime locations and regional networks.

Frasers Centrepoint’s Singapore commercial head Low Chee Wah said that having a co-working space can give tenants more flexibility, particularly amid the changing nature of work.

“As work becomes more complex, the need to have discussions, brainstorm, and the need to work together increases,” Mr Low explained. “Because of that, a lot of companies are building more flexible work spaces – for example, break out areas within their office space.”

Having a serviced office provider or co-working space within the building, he added, provides tenants who are working with startups the space to “encourage their partners to occupy that area and work closer together on projects”.

TAPPING ON GROWING DEMAND

One operator that is hoping to tap on this demand is Spacemob, which recently signed a partnership with property developer Ascendas-Singbridge to open a new 14,000 sq ft office.

Located at Ascent in Singapore Science Park 1, the space is said to provide more than 100 companies with close proximity to key research and tertiary institutions, research and development, high-tech innovation and startup communities for as little as S$350 a month.

The new co-working space will open by end-March, adding on to Spacemob’s first office at Claymore Hill in Orchard.

Spacemob founder and CEO Turochas Fuad estimates that startups can save up to 40 per cent per employee by working out of a co-working office, “instead of spending their funding money on capital expenditure of building their own space”.

The Skype alum said he aims to set up 30 offices across Asia, with new co-working spaces slated to open in Jakarta, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan this year.

“It’s a platform that allows SMEs, MNCs, and freelancers to discover one another,” Mr Fuad said.

Frasers Centrepoint, too, has signed its first lease for its upcoming office building, Frasers Tower, with serviced office provider The Executive Centre. The new tenant will occupy approximately 20,000 sq ft at the Cecil Street building, which is expected to be completed in 2018.

The Executive Centre provides infrastructure to run a business including workstations, meeting rooms, and IT and telecommunications systems, but also allows for collaboration through shared and social workplaces, broad networks and interactive events.

The company’s regional director for Australia, Indonesia and Singapore Yvonne Lim said they chose Frasers Tower as the building will provide four common areas where executives can work from, and Wi-Fi will also be available throughout the building.

“The space is clearly designed with the users in mind and we see the potential of customising our space to meet our clients’ demand for exclusive corporate and recreational spaces,” said Ms Lim.

Homegrown space provider JustGroup had earlier shared that it was planning to open two shared offices with a combined floor area of more than 100,000 sq ft in the CBD come April, while property developer CapitaLand is also looking to provide more co-working spaces in its real estate portfolio.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 2 Mar 2017

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Refurbishment of Chinatown Street Market to start in May

The Chinatown Street Market will finally get its makeover from May 15, announced the Chinatown Business Association on Friday (Mar 10). Work is expected to take more than a year and finish by the end of 2018.

The refurbishment work will take place in phases to minimise disruption, especially during Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, to ensure that most of the market remains open, said the association in a media release.

Launched in 2004, Chinatown Street Market was designed to offer visitors a more authentic experience by re-creating the street hawking scene of the past. However, some stall structures have worn out over time.

“This effort is aimed at enhancing Chinatown’s visitor experience and improving fire safety,” said the association, adding that shophouses will incorporate fire safety features such as water sprinklers and fire-rated shutters, which will be activated automatically when smoke is detected.

Standalone street stalls will have improved roof insulation to keep out the heat, as well as extended shelters and rain curtains.

All stalls at the street market, along Pagoda, Sago, Smith and Trengganu Streets, will be refurbished, said the association, adding that come end-2018, the Chinatown Street Market will be home to 140 stalls selling a mix of merchandise.

The Chinatown Business Association said it has engaged stall tenants, shophouse landlords and other stakeholders to help them understand key details of the project, seek feedback on new stall designs, address their concerns and make arrangements as necessary.

“Tenants have also been given a two months’ notice period and informed about the expected refurbishment timeline. The association will also continue to engage all stall tenants and shophouse landlords during the refurbishment period,” the release said.

During the renovation works, signs to various attractions and businesses will be put up around the market’s temporary hoarding. Fans and lights will also be installed along the five foot-way of affected shophouses.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 10 Mar 2017

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Upper Aljunied Road to be transformed into Bidadari Heritage Walk

From 12th of March, some stretches of Upper Aljunied Road will be permanently closed to traffic as part of plans to transform it into a heritage walk, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said on Friday.

The existing road will be turned into the Bidadari Heritage Walk to recount the history and stories of the estate’s heritage, including prominent personalities of the past, HDB said.

The 700m heritage walk will stitch the future Alkaff Lane with Bidadari Park, creating a park for residents to walk and cycle around the estate.

HDB has launched about 4,800 flats in six public housing projects in Bidadari since November 2015. Interest in these flats has seen strong response, averaging more than five applicants to one flat, HDB said. Another 1,340 units will be offered for sale in May, comprising a mix of two-room Flexi, three-room, four-room, five-room and 3Gen flats.

A mixed commercial and residential site in the estate was also launched on Monday. The site is expected to offer about 825 private homes and will also incorporate a community club and neighbourhood police centre.

REALIGNMENT OF UPPER ALJUNIED ROAD

With the closure of parts of Upper Aljunied Road, a new realigned road – with an additional lane in each direction – will open to traffic on Sunday.

The section between Upper Serangoon Road and Bidadari Park Drive, which is now under construction, and the section which joins Mount Vernon Road to the realigned Upper Aljunied Road will be closed.

The remaining stretch leading to Vernon Park Road and the Mount Vernon Columbarium and funeral parlours will remain open to traffic, and be connected to the new realigned road.

The junction at Upper Serangoon Road and Upper Aljunied Road will be removed, and a new dedicated U-turn provided underneath the Upper Serangoon Road viaduct. Barricades and diversion signs will be put up to guide motorists, HDB said.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 10 Mar 2017

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DBS Group selling PwC Building to Manulife

In the first transaction of an entire Singapore office building this year, DBS Group announced on Friday evening that it is selling PwC Building at 8 Cross Street to an indirect subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corp.

The deal values the 28-storey office block at S$747 million, which works out to S$2,100 per square foot based on its net lettable area of 355,704 sq ft.

The property is on a site with a balance lease term of 78 years.

Upon completion of the sale (which is scheduled to take place by the end of next month), DBS is expected to book about S$350 million net profit from the transaction. The sale is also expected to result in a contribution of the same quantum to the group’s consolidated net tangible assets, DBS said in a filing with Singapore Exchange after the close of trading on Friday.

CBRE brokered the transaction.

Savills Singapore research head Alan Cheong described the transaction as a “plain vanilla deal”. “Insurance companies have to abide by very strict investment criteria which leave very little room for structuring,” he added.

Manulife did not respond to queries by press-time.

The transaction is understood to be an investment-driven purchase though the Canadian insurer is expected to occupy part of the building, which is at the corner of Cross and Telok Ayer streets.

Manulife currently operates at a few locations on the island, but principally at Manulife Centre in Bras Basah Road, where it is understood to have a lease for about 100,000 sq ft which runs out later this year.

What makes PwC Building a good acquisition for Manulife is that close to half of the building will be vacated when anchor tenant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) moves to Marina One, where it has signed a lease for around 180,000 sq ft.

Observers say that for Manulife, having a physical presence in Singapore’s financial district would be in sync with the increased market share that it is eyeing in the Republic following its 15-year exclusive bancassurance partnership with DBS which kicked in on Jan 1 last year.

DBS’s sale of PwC Building is being effected through a sale of the entire equity interest in DBS China Square (DCS), which owns the asset. DCS has accounted for the buildling on a historical cost basis, DBS Group said in its announcement. “The building was constructed by DCS in 1999 and is currently held for investment purpose,” South-east Asia’s largest bank said.

Giving details of the transaction, DBS Group said that its fully-owned subsidiary DBS Bank has agreed to sell its entire equity interest in DCS to an indirect subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corp for about S$358 million in cash.

The consideration was arrived at on a “willing-buyer willing-seller” basis and takes into account the unaudited book value of DCS as at Dec 31, 2016, adjusted based on an agreed property value of S$747 million for the building as well as the repayment by the purchaser of the shareholder’s loan of S$402.6 million to DCS.

“The consideration is subject to certain post-completion adjustments which are not expected to be material,” the group said.

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Higher CPF Housing Grant: No big increase in resale market prices, say analysts

Final-year university student Belle Low has been looking to settle down with her boyfriend of four years.

So far, her search for a first home has been concentrated largely on Build-to-Order (BTO) flats. But she said the increase in the CPF Housing Grant has opened up an additional option for them: the resale market.

In his Budget statement delivered on Monday (Feb 20), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced an increase in the CPF Housing Grant for first-timer couples looking to buy in the resale market. They used to get S$30,000 when buying a resale flat. But this amount has been increased to S$50,000 for couples who buy four-room or smaller resale flats, and S$40,000 for couples who buy five-room or larger resale flats.

“The additional amount is not very large, but it’s still money,” said Ms Low. “We would definitely consider looking at resale flats now.”

RESALE FLATS NOW MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR YOUNG COUPLES: ANALYSTS

Property analysts agree that the increased grant has made resale flats more affordable and attractive for young couples like Ms Low and her boyfriend.

PropNex’s Key Executive Officer Lim Yong Hock described the move as “an encouragement to young couples to settle down as soon as possible.”

“In most cases, resale flat purchases can be completed within a three- to four-month period,” he said. “Whereas with a new flat, you will have to wait a couple of years before it is ready.”

Analysts added that the number of flats changing hands in the resale market will likely enjoy a good boost.

“With more attractive grant amounts, this means resale flats are now cheaper,” said ERA’s Key Executive Officer Eugene Lim. “Buyers who are sitting on the fence may very well tilt towards a resale flat with this announcement.”

He added that together with the Proximity Housing Grant, there is more incentive for more young families to stay near their parents. “There will likely be an increase in demand for resale flats in mature estates, as this would be where the majority of the young couples’ parents would be staying.”

PropNex’s Mr Lim added that he believes transaction volume will increase more for four-room flats. “The increase is S$20,000 if you get a smaller flat, so it would encourage more people to go for a four-room rather than a five-room,” he said. “And for those who are currently looking at three-room flats, they could probably stretch their dollar a bit if the price isn’t too far away.”

The move is also a timely one, as Cushman & Wakefield Singapore’s head of Research Christine Li noted. “A large volume of BTO HDB units reached the end of their Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) at the end of 2016,” she said. “This is 80 per cent higher than the number of units that reached the MOP in 2015.”

“The grant can therefore help to soak up additional HDB resale supply, particularly for those who need to dispose of resale flats after they have taken possession of new BTOs, executive condominiums and private properties.”

NO DRASTIC INCREASE IN PRICES FOR RESALE FLATS

It is for this reason that the analysts do not think prices will increase much in the resale market, with PropNex’s Mr Lim noting that the supply of resale flats is “still very good.”

He said there may be a marginal increase in prices within the next few months, but there is unlikely to be any drastic increase.

“Affordability is still a question, and those who are eligible for the maximum grant amount will likely have a budget to work on,” he added. “Newcomers are generally low-budget buyers. They’re not cash rich and cannot offer a sum much higher than the market rate.”

ERA’s Mr Lim said there is likely to be a “gradual uptick” in prices over this year, adding that price increase will benefit sellers of flats with “excellent attributes and in locations where sellers are few.”

Nonetheless, he cautioned against sellers raising their asking prices immediately and expecting matching offers.

“Many HDB flats are largely similar in design, space and attributes,” he said. “If a seller increases his price rashly, prospective buyers can easily turn to other sellers who are offering a similar flat at a lower price.”

“It is still very much a buyer’s market, and buyers don’t want to perceive themselves as getting a ‘bad’ deal.”

Furthermore, it is unlikely that the new grants will cause a plunge in demand for BTO flats, according to director of R’ST Research Ong Kah Seng.

“Young couples will still appreciate BTO flats which are heavily subsidised, and only those who have urgent requirements to immediately move into a completed property will purchase a resale flat with the grant,” he said.

“Young couples also tend to have higher lifestyle requirements and many of them will find a resale flat is less likely to offer them the opportunity to have a flat which is in a comprehensively planned new housing estate or precinct,” he added. “Some new housing estates or new growth suburban corridors like Punggol also offer an exciting waterway living concept.”

Hence, while Ms Low and her boyfriend welcome the new grants, she said they are likely to stick with their original plan of a BTO flat.

“The three years’ lead time I need to wait to get a flat will give us time to save up for costs like renovations and the wedding,” she said. “The property market has been depressed recently, so it makes more sense for us to go in now rather than to wait for it to bounce up again, and we end up getting a resale flat at a higher price.”

“Most of my friends are still considering BTO over resale,” she added. “The new grants just open a door, but I don’t think it will sway our decision significantly.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 21 Feb 2017

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Retail investors more cautious about overseas property deals

Two recent charges against local real estate firms promoting overseas residential investments have put the spotlight back on such risky purchases.

A financial penalty was imposed on property agency Square Yards last month after it failed to to provide a written note to an investor telling him about the risks involved in a foreign purchase, according to a media release by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) filed on Jan 19.

The company was fined S$7,500 and will not be able to sell or promote any overseas property for six months from March of this year.

Just in the month prior, CEA announced that a former agent from SQFT Global Properties Singapore was given a S$6,000 penalty when she misrepresented one of the ventures in Auckland, New Zealand. SQFT also had to pay S$10,000 in damages.

SQFT declined to be interviewed, while a representative from Square Yards could not be reached.

CEA said it received 20 verifiable complaints related to foreign property purchases from 2012 to 2016. The complaints logged include inaccurate advertisements, the involvement of unregistered agents, misrepresentation of information and failure on the part of the property agent to provide a written advisory to the buyer on the risks involved in a foreign property purchase.

However, these cases do not encompass all the deals that had gone south in Singapore. The CEA’s regulatory framework only allows them to investigate and take action against intermediaries like property agencies and agents, but not developers.

Mr Chan Mun Kit, the deputy executive director of the CEA, said that estate agents have to put in more effort to make sure retail investors know about all the risks involved.

The companies have to do their own due diligence before making any promises, he said, and “the property agents and agencies need to (check) on the background of the developer, making sure that the property title is valid”.

“(Also, look at) the tenure of the property, and … the claims that the foreign developer may have promised to the purchasers,” he added.

The Consumers Association of Singapore received six complaints in 2016 regarding overseas property transactions as well, although the organisation does not handle such disputes.

Last year’s complaints are lower than the 16 cases in 2015 and eight in 2014, according to the consumer watchdog’s figures.

HOMEWORK FOR INVESTORS

Nonetheless, retail investors have to read the fine print and study the risks involved before they put their money down, especially if they are unfamiliar with the city that the house is located in, Mr Chan said.

Since every country’s laws and culture are different from Singapore’s, foreigners could be subjected to additional taxes or there could be minimum buy-in sum, for example.

Additionally, the initial downpayment may appear low but progressive payments may add up to a heavy commitment, while foreign exchange rate risks may affect the overall financial commitment in the long run.

Mr Chan added that amenities in the area may also seem closer than they really are and that one should also talk to the land and planning authorities for the land use surrounding the property, as planning perimeters for development sites may change over time.

And with the introduction of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio, or TDSR, framework in June 2013, loans taken from local financial institutions (FIs) to refinance a property abroad are covered under the scheme. The framework does not apply to loans taken from overseas FIs.

Investors that have been misled should first find out which country’s laws the contract is under, and if they need to seek local or foreign legal help, said Mr Kenneth Szeto, a real estate lawyer and partner at Colin Ng and Partners LLP.

“The investor should probably speak to the agent helping them, whether it’s the developer’s agent or their own agent. If they can’t resolve it with the agent then they might need to take the dispute to the country where the developer is based and speak to the lawyers there in that country,” Mr Szeto said.

OVERSEAS INVESTMENTS POPULAR AMONG SINGAPOREANS

Nonetheless, such unsuccessful investments are a minority among the foreign property deals marketed in Singapore.

In fact, according to real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield and Real Capital Analytics, Singaporeans’ appetite for homes offshore is the second highest among Asian investors.

Singaporeans invested US$3.5 billion in residential properties overseas in 2016, making up 16 per cent of all overseas property investments.

Analysts pointed out that this could be due to the possibly larger yields in other countries.

Mr Stephen Ho, the regional director of international project marketing in Asia at CBRE, said that Singaporeans are searching for locations that will give a higher return and “in Singapore it is probably slightly limited”.

He added that more Singaporean families are sending their children to study abroad, so buying a place overseas rather than renting one during their stay make more sense to some of them.

The strength of the Singapore dollar and current housing policies have also pushed Singaporeans to look outside of the country, Ms Christine Li, the director of research for Cushman and Wakefield, said.

“I think in recent years, particularly in the past three, four years, it is more policy-driven because of the push factors… (such as the) Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty and the Total Debt Servicing Ratio,” Li said.

She added that some of the popular destinations include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan, although those with a larger threshold for risk also look at Malaysia and the Philippines.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 19 Feb 2017

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Airbnb ‘committed to working with Govt’ to adopt model that works for Singapore

Home and room-renting site Airbnb said it is “committed to working with the Government to adopt a model of home-sharing that works for Singapore” even as laws prohibit private property owners from renting out their homes for less than six months.

On Monday (Feb 6), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in Parliament that the Government is considering creating a new class of homes where short-term rentals are approved.

In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, a spokesperson for Airbnb said it recognises that Singapore has “unique needs and challenges”.

“We have repeatedly offered our support to relevant agencies to develop a framework that promotes responsible home-sharing. Nearly two years since the URA’s public consultation, it’s disappointing that the discussion has not moved forward,” Airbnb said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) had launched a public feedback exercise in January 2015 on whether private residential properties in Singapore should be allowed to be used for short-term stays.

Airbnb said a Bill passed in Parliament laying out penalties for unlawful short-term rentals is not compatible with Singapore’s vision “to stay ahead in an age of disruption and innovation”. Under the law, home owners who flout the rules on short-term rentals face a fine of up to S$200,000 or jail for up to a year.

Said Airbnb: “More than 50 per cent of hosts in Singapore are sharing their primary residence – the home in which they live. For a lot of Singaporeans, the opportunity to list their home on Airbnb – for an average of S$5,000 per year – makes a real difference paying off the mortgage, electricity bills and other daily expenses.”

The company added that it supports “a common sense approach to regulation that helps these hosts share their extra space”.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia in October 2015, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk had said he hoped there would be a policy change in Singapore that would allow public and private homeowners to become Airbnb hosts. Mr Blecharczyk said then that his company democratises travel accommodation for both travellers and hosts.

According to its website, Airbnb is active in more than 34,000 cities and has more than 2 million listings worldwide.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 6 Feb 2017

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4,056 flats on offer in February BTO exercise

A total of 4,056 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats were launched in Punggol, Clementi and Tampines on Tuesday (Feb 14), the Housing and Development Board (HDB) announced.

This is the first tranche of 17,000 flats to be launched in 2017, it said.

Flats offered in this BTO launch range from 2-room Flexi to Three-Generation (3Gen) flats. The price range for these flats range from S$81,000 for a 2-room Flexi at Punggol’s Waterway Sunrise II and Northshore Cove to S$571,000 for a 5-room flat at Clementi NorthArc and Clementi Peaks, excluding grants.

The wide selection of flats will meet different budget and needs, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in a Facebook post this morning.

He pointed to the bumper crop of 200 3Gen flats offered in this launch and schemes like the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme for couples who wish to live close to their parents. “Besides flats for home-ownership, we continue to promote mutual care and support for families through our flat offerings and schemes,” Mr Wong wrote.

Eligible first-timer families can enjoy up to S$80,000 in housing grants, comprising up to S$40,000 under the Additional Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant and up to another S$40,000 under the Special CPF Housing Grant, the agency said.

A project in Woodlands, originally planned for launch in February 2017, has been deferred. Due to the site conditions, further review is needed to better integrate it with surrounding developments before it can be launched, HDB said in its press release.

Interested applicants for the current exercise may submit an application online at HDB’s InfoWEB from Tuesday to next Monday. They can also apply at HDB Hub or any of HDB’s branches.

In the next exercise in May, HDB will offer about 4,600 flats in Bidadari, Geylang, Woodlands and Yishun. Concurrently, it will also offer 3,000 sale of balance flats.

FAMILIES CAN LOOK FORWARD TO FRESH START

In the February exercise, families under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme will also be able to apply for 2-room Flexi flats for the first time since the scheme’s launch in December last year.

The Fresh Start scheme is intended to help second-timer families staying in public rental flats with young children own their own flats again.

Eligible families will be able to buy a 2-room Flexi flat, with lease options ranging from 45 to 65 years, within one year of being placed on the scheme.

They will enjoy priority allocation of up to 10 per cent of the 2-room Flexi units on offer, according to HDB.

INTEREST EXPECTED TO BE CONCENTRATED IN MATURE ESTATES: ERA

“The flats in Clementi will probably be the most popular in this exercise … and will appeal to families”, said ERA key executive officer Eugene Lim, noting that these were located near many family friendly amenities such as the Clementi Mall, with educational institutions of various levels such as the National University of Singapore (NUS), NUS High, Singapore Polytechnic, Nan Hua High School and School of Science and Technology in the area.

The Tampines flats stand out because of their affordability, considering their location in a mature estate, said Lim who highlighted that these will appeal to families with members working in the east, such as at Changi Business Park and Changi Airport.

The Punggol flats are expected to be popular among young families because of the affordable quantum and seeing that they are well served by the Punggol LRT system and newly opened Town Square, Lim also mentioned. “However, the 2-room flats are expected to see strong demand from singles, as seen from previous sales exercises,” he added.

Referring to the next BTO sales launch in May which will see an estimated 4,600 flats in Biddadari, Geylang, Woodlands and Yishun, Lim said this is expected to have a limited impact on the current sales exercise, given that those flats will be offered in quite different locations.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 14 Feb 2017

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