Residential en bloc market poised to pick up: Analysts

The residential collective sales market is poised to pick up this year, with analysts citing the limited supply of private housing sites at state tenders and strong demand for land by developers as key factors.

A collective sale, also known as an en bloc sale, refers to a combined sale by the owners of property units to a shared purchaser with sale proceeds divided amongst the unit owners.

In 2016, three such en bloc deals valuing more than S$1 billion went through, up from S$380 million in 2015.

Market watchers told Channel NewsAsia the pick-up is due to the stabilising of private home sales following the imposition of property cooling measures, with new private home sales growing by 7.2 per cent year-on-year, from 7,440 units sold in 2015 to 7,972 units in 2016.

“Market conditions seems to support this confidence among developers to perhaps now look at en bloc sales,” said ERA Realty Network key executive officer Eugene Lim. “The residential private market is now seen to be bottoming out. The rate of price decrease has slowed down, and we are seeing a very steady pace in new project sales.”

“So we’re seeing a very steady momentum this year, and generally this has boosted the confidence of developers to perhaps increase their appetite to acquire more land for the future,” he said.

The residential en bloc market has also been boosted by a limited supply of residential sites released under the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme, with only five sites on the confirmed list in the first half of this year.

“The main source of land traditionally has been GLS sites, (which) are seeing huge competition, because amongst developers, especially those who do not have enough land, they are building up their land bank aggressively,” said Mr Lim.

“So it’s a push factor for developers to extend their options by looking at the en bloc sales market,” he added.

According to data provided by JLL Singapore, at least 21 residential projects are in the pipeline to go en bloc this year.

These include former Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) estate Eunosville, which has obtained majority approval from its residents to proceed with its sale, and Amber Park condominium, which is in the process of signing its collective sale agreement after failing multiple attempts at an en bloc.

Among them are 12 collective sale hopefuls, which are in the process of forming their collective sale committees, such as Lakeside Tower and The Balmoral condominiums.

NEED FOR “REALISTIC” EXPECTATIONS: MARKET WATCHERS

But while the outlook for the en bloc market may be picking up, market watchers also called for a tempering of expectations.

“What we are seeing right now is a situation where many developers are going after sites, but at the same time they are also blighted with the problem of moving the sales at a higher price,” said JLL Singapore capital markets director Tan Hong Boon.

“They need sites but they’re not going to pay exuberant prices … I think for en bloc sales to go successfully, owners’ expectations have to be realistic so as to meet bidders’ capability to pay for the site,” he said.

While a total of 25 sites were launched for en bloc between 2014 and 2016, only five sales were successful.

“Out of the 20 sites that failed, I would say that they failed because of too high an asking price in going to the market,” Mr Hong said.

Mr Lim agreed: “At the end of the day they are not going to buy the site now to build based on current market sentiments, it’s going to be the market that they’re probably going to probably launch two years down the road. So it’s something for the future and they’re going to be carrying the risks all the way.”

In total, 221 developments have been sold via collective sales over the last 10 years, with their value adding up to more than S$21 billion as of end-2016.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Apr 2017

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Former Hougang HUDC estate Rio Casa up for en bloc sale

Former HUDC estate Rio Casa was on Monday (Apr 10) put up for collective sale, announced its marketing agent Knight Frank in a news release.

Owners of the river-fronting estate along Hougang Avenue 7 are expecting offers above S$450.8 million for the property, which translates to a land rate of about S$586 per square foot per plot ratio, according to Knight Frank. The price includes about S$141.5 million for intensification of the site, as well as a top-up of about S$57.5 million for a fresh 99-year lease, it added.

The estate, with a site area of 36,811.1 square metres, comprises seven residential blocks of 286 apartment and maisonette units.

The required 80 per cent consensus from residents for a sale tender to be called was obtained in an unusually short period, in under three weeks, said Knight Frank Singapore’s executive director and head of investment and capital markets Ian Loh.

“For most developments, this can take up to a year,” Mr Loh told Channel NewsAsia. “Existing unit sizes range from 151 square metres to 166 square metres. Each unit will be getting in excess of S$1.5 million.”

Knight Frank added that it expects strong interest from developers for redevelopment opportunities, as the site has more than 200 metres of riverfront and greenery views.

The tender for Rio Casa will close on May 23 at 3pm, the real estate consultancy said.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 10 Apr 2017

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Renewal plans for Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris finalised: HDB

Renewal plans for Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris have been finalised and are ready to be presented to residents to gather their feedback, announced the Housing and Development Board (HDB) on Sunday (Apr 2).

The rejuvenation of the three towns was first announced in 2015, under the Remaking Our Heartland programme. In drawing up the plans, HDB said it had actively engaged residents and stakeholders to seek their views and suggestions.

Residents of Woodlands, for instance, can look forward to an improved Woodlands Waterfront with a new rustic park and nature promenade, said HDB, adding that there will be “interesting landscaping, pocket greens, and more shaded areas”.

A new town plaza at Woodlands Central will allow the community to organise more large-scale activities for residents.

Pasir Ris Town Centre is also set to get a new town plaza, while Pasir Ris Park and Beach will be rejuvenated with more family-oriented spaces and recreational options, said HDB, providing a glimpse of what will be showcased to residents later this month.

As for Toa Payoh, HDB said the town centre’s pedestrian mall will be enhanced with more greenery, rest areas and shelters along selected stretches.

HDB said for the first time, residents from the three towns were invited in the early stages of planning to take part in focus group discussions in 2015. A total of 11 discussion sessions were conducted, involving some 400 residents and community stakeholders aged 17 to 81.

“The finalised plans take into account the local context and specific requirements of each town, so as to strengthen their identity,” said HDB in a media release, adding that the plans focus on strengthening the character, community and connectivity of each town.

To gather more feedback on the plans, three exhibitions – one for each town – will be held, starting on Apr 16 for the Woodlands showcase, Toa Payoh on Apr 22, and Pasir Ris on Apr 29. Each exhibition will run for two weeks.

“In terms of building up stronger community within the town, it’s not just about provision of hardware, but through the remaking plans, we also intend to build up and strengthen the ‘heartware’ of the town”, said HDB physical planning director Choo Chin Hua.

“We’re going to improve and enhance many more community spaces and facilities to let the residents bond and interact with each other,” he added.

Residents say they welcome the plans, such as longtime Woodlands resident Siti Mariam, who has lived in the estate for 18 years.

“I hope that (Woodlands Waterfront) will have more for senior citizens to come and have a chitchat, do some Zumba, exercise, then children (can) play around, then we have ponds and greenery,” she said.

The rejuvenation is expected to benefit more than half a million residents upon its completion within the next five to 10 years, after the plans are approved.

Launched in 2007, the Remaking Our Heartlands programme aims to rejuvenate public housing estates into “distinctive and endearing homes for Singaporeans”.

Earlier towns identified for renewal include Punggol, Dawson and Yishun in 2007, and East Coast, Hougang and Jurong Lake in 2011.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 2 Apr 2017

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HDB flats ‘good store of asset value’ for those who plan ahead: Lawrence Wong

A Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat is a “good store of asset value” for those who plan ahead and make prudent housing decisions, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said.

His comments, made in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Apr 12), come in response to online debate over his comments that not all HDB flats will be eligible for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

The minister said in a post on Mar 24 that he was “concerned” over the idea that some home buyers in Singapore were forking out high prices for older flats in the hope of benefiting from SERS. He also pointed out that when the leases for HDB flats run out, they have to be returned to the state.

On Wednesday, Mr Wong noted that Singaporean couples enjoy significant subsidies when they purchase a HDB flat for the first time – whether it is a new or resale flat.

“Take for instance a 30-year-old couple, with a combined monthly income of S$5,000, looking for a resale flat in Woodlands near their parents. They can get up to S$75,000 in grants off the resale flat price, and should easily afford a flat with a lease of 90 years.

“Thirty-five years later, the couple will be 65 and the remaining lease of the flat will be 55 years. They still have an asset which can be monetised for retirement,” he said.

He also noted that elderly couples can opt to sell their flat and “right-size” to a two-room Flexi flat with a shorter lease, to enjoy the Silver Housing Bonus of S$20,000 in cash and use their sale proceeds for their retirement.

Those who prefer to stay in the same flat can apply for the Lease Buyback Scheme and sell part of the remaining lease back to HDB, Mr Wong said. They also have the option to rent out a room, he added.

These examples are simple, but typical of many HDB households, he said.

“The general point is that the HDB leasehold flat is not only a good home, but also a nest-egg for future retirement needs. That’s what we have achieved and that’s what we will continue to ensure – both now and in the future.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 12 Apr 2017

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Fewer than 60 China buyers want to withdraw from Forest City: Country Garden

Despite the temporary closure of China showrooms promoting the massive Forest City project planned in Malaysia last month, fewer than 60 buyers in China have asked about cancelling their bookings, Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings (CGH) said on Thursday (Apr 6).

The company said it sold more than 15,000 residential units under the project last year. Chinese nationals accounted for 70 per cent of its buyers for the 18 billion yuan (US$2.61 billion) worth of apartments, it previously stated.

The developer shut its sales galleries in China for the multi-billion dollar project in Malaysia’s ambitious Iskandar special economic zone from Mar 13 “to better fit with current foreign exchange policies and regulations” and as the firm looked to diversify its development strategy.

The temporary closure of the showrooms meant that mainland Chinese buyers interested in the Forest City project had to find their own ways to CGH’s sales gallery in Iskandar Malaysia.

The firm said in a statement on Thursday that it is “currently in discussion” with the buyers who had enquired about pulling out from the project.

A penalty clause ranging from 10 per cent to 30 per cent is applicable if the buyer decides to default on the payment or cancels the sales and purchase agreement after it is signed, as this is deemed a breach of contract, the developer stated.

The company also said that it was “on track” to build and deliver the residential commercial units for Forest City on schedule.

It added that it expects more diversified revenue from sales and rental for a variety of properties commercial and residential properties and is in “positive discussions” with more than 30 companies and investors in the tourism, education and healthcare sectors.

“Attracting businesses into Forest City paves the way for the formation of an economic hub at Iskandar Malaysia and we expect to make some announcements in the coming months.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 6 Apr 2017

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The Esplanade to build new S$30m waterfront theatre

Fourteen years after it first opened, the Esplanade has announced plans to build an additional waterfront theatre to address the growing need to expand audiences and further develop local artists.

The building will include a 550-seat flexible theatre as well as an outdoor plaza. Construction is set to begin in 2019 and expected to be completed by 2021, when another iconic arts venue, the Singapore Art Museum, will likewise reopen after its own revamp.

Situated along the Esplanade Waterfront, the 3,000 sq m space will be integrated into the art centre’s Annexe area, which comprises existing F&B outlets as well as the Annexe Studio, the revamped former Queen club that opened last year and serves as a venue for live music, immersive performances and rehearsals.

The project is estimated to cost around S$30 million, with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) committing S$10 million to kickstart the effort. The Esplanade will be raising the remaining amount through various fundraising activities, which will include reaching out to the public.

“The Esplanade has created shared experiences for Singaporeans from all walks of life, and has played a pivotal role in growing our performing arts scene over the past 14 years. It is truly a national arts centre that belongs to all Singaporeans and is loved by all. This new waterfront theatre will meet the needs of our theatre companies and community arts groups that often require a smaller venue to showcase their works,” said MCCY Minister Grace Fu in a statement.

A 550-SEATER GAMECHANGER

Esplanade chief executive officer Benson Puah described the addition of a mid-sized theatre as a “gamechanger”, which will bridge the gap between the arts centre’s available performance venues.

Currently, it has the Concert Hall and Theatre, which seat 1,600 and 2,000 people, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum are the 240-seater Recital Hall and 220-seater Studio.

A 550-seater space, which can be configured for various types of performances, will serve as an alternative option for local groups who want to go beyond intimate black box performances but may shy away from the bigger – and costlier – venues.

“How much work can we bring to a 2,000-seat theatre? And how many local companies are interested to do work on that scale?” said Puah.

“For the artistic community, (the waterfront theatre) is a space that will give them opportunities to hone their craft. You can do four or five shows.”

Esplanade deputy CEO Yvonne Tham added that the new space will also allow them to programme more productions for young children and students, work more with community and traditional arts groups, and encourage collaborations between regional and Singapore artists, who often create shows more suitable for mid-sized theatres.

“We hope to be able to present a greater diversity of works, and in terms of audiences, develop a wider taste,” she said.

When asked why the Esplanade has not considered using existing mid-sized venues such as the Drama Centre and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, which it is managing before the Arts House Limited takes over in August, Puah said: “The remit was we will not programme shows in those spaces.”

He added: “When we were first appointed (as place managers), the arts community were very concerned that if we did so, we would crowd them out.”

GETTING THE PUBLIC ON BOARD

The Esplanade will be putting out a call for design proposals later this year, but the idea is for the theatre space to be “casual, raw and porous”, said Tham.

“Lots of people walk by the waterfront everyday so it’s a great opportunity for any member of the public to connect with it.”

With the Esplanade’s spiked domes already a signature look, and the fact that the new theatre will face the architectural flamboyance of Marina Bay Sands and ArtScience Museum, should people expect an unusual structure?

“It will not be a designer building, we can’t afford that,” said Puah. “But being a performing arts centre, it will be tastefully done. It still has to fit in but it need not be expensively done.”

Budget is something that the Esplanade has had to compromise on since day one. In fact, the proposed waterfront theatre is actually a Plan B of sorts.

When the Esplanade was first mooted in the 1990s, the original plan was to build a larger complex that included venues and studios of various sizes. The lack of budget meant that it had to be built in phases, the first of which resulted in the current S$600 million arts centre, which opened in 2002.

A recent feasibility study revealed that it would be financially impossible to begin work at the moment on the second phase of development, which would cost around the same.

Said Puah: “We were meant to have all these spaces but the reality is, Phase 2 in today’s context will be tough. The government understands the needs of the arts community but the reality of today is there are other national priorities. Now is not the time to lobby for a large chunk of our national budget, so we looked at the waterfront theatre in lieu of a full Phase 2.”

With the need to raise S$20 million on the Esplanade’s part, Puah admitted the decision to build a waterfront theatre is a “calculated risk”.

“It will be challenging but not undoable. And this is important enough for us to really get it done.”

The Esplanade will be announcing several new fundraising initiatives in October, when it officially celebrates its 15th anniversary. Aside from wooing corporate sponsors, it will actively reach out to the public, possibly through crowdfunding.

Citing the enthusiastic public support for the defunct National Theatre, which included the “a-dollar-a-brick” campaign, Puah hopes people would also get behind the Esplanade’s new theatre.

After all, while it took a while for Singaporeans to warm up to the Durian at the start, it has since become a popular place, drawing to date 88 million visitors to thousands of performances.

“When we first started out, it wasn’t easy to go out to ask for donations without demonstrating where our heart lies and how relevant we are to the community. I think we’ve done enough to demonstrate that relationship to now go out and say, support us so we can do more,” he said.

Added Tham: “Because it’s a theatre that’s for everyone, we will explore ways in which members of the public can be part of it. We really want this theatre to be something where people can say ‘I helped build it’.”

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URA seeks feedback on study to turn Kallang Park Connector into seamless cycling route

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has concluded a study on improving connectivity along the Kallang River and is seeking public feedback on its recommendations, it said on Tuesday (Apr 11).

Ideas were sought in 2015 to see if the 10km Kallang Park Connector, which links Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Kallang Riverside Park, can be improved so that it can serve as a seamless cycling route.

Currently, there are certain points along the route where cyclists have to dismount, make long detours or carry their bicycles along overhead bridges.

Presenting details of the study, URA said findings include upgrading two existing underpasses under the Central Expressway (CTE) and at Geylang Road.

For example, the CTE underpass, which is now dimly lit and with a low height clearance, will be deepened and widened. It will also feature garden-like settings and public seating, turning it into a gathering space for the community, the authority said.

The study also suggested building four new underpasses at Kallang Bahru Road, Upper Boon Keng Road and Sims Avenue to make travel faster and more seamless.

In areas where underpasses are not feasible, such as along Serangoon and Bendemeer roads, the study proposes adding traffic junctions so that pedestrians and cyclists do not have to walk a distance to climb existing overhead bridges.

The most challenging crossing for cyclists, however, is the overhead bridge over the 16-lane Pan Island Expressway (PIE). Currently, cyclists have to carry their bicycles up and down flights of stairs on the bridge, then cycle a short distance on narrow sidewalks in a housing estate before rejoining the park connector.

That could soon change with the URA study, which noted that one solution is to create an elevated spiral crossing ending at an empty plot of land along the river which has the potential to be transformed into a park. The proposed bridge also has a gradual incline, making it wheelchair-friendly.

There are also plans to enhance that length of the river, by widening the now narrow sidewalk and putting in a boardwalk.

Last month, URA raised five broad ideas on the rejuvenation of the Kallang River as part of a preliminary conceptual plan for the rejuvenation of the Kallang River and announced that it would be seeking public feedback at an exhibition called A River Runs Through It.

The exhibition runs at The URA Centre Atrium from Mar 29 to May 2, 9am to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays.

URA is now seeking feedback on the recommendations raised in the study at the same exhibition and will refine the proposals after the exhibition ends.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Apr 2017

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Private home prices decline for 14th straight quarter

Private home prices in Singapore continued their decline in the first quarter of this year – the 14th straight quarter of contraction, according to flash estimates released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Monday (Apr 3).

The private residential property index fell to 136.5 points in the first quarter, down 0.7 point from the previous quarter. This represents a decline of 0.5 per cent, the same rate as the 0.5 per cent decline in the fourth quarter of last year.
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Prices of non-landed private residential properties fell by 0.2 per cent in the Core Central Region (CCR), compared with the 0.1 per cent increase in the previous quarter. Prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) remained unchanged, after declining 2 per cent in the previous quarter. Prices in the Outside Central Region (OCR) rose 0.1 per cent, after registering a 0.6 per cent decline in the previous quarter.

Prices of landed homes fell by 2.8 per cent, compared to the 0.8 per cent increase in the fourth quarter of last year.

The flash estimates are compiled based on transaction prices given in contracts submitted for stamp duty payment and survey data on new units sold by developers up until mid-March. The statistics will be updated four weeks later when URA releases the full real estate statistics for the quarter, which captures more data from the stamp duty records and the take-up of new projects.

“Past data have shown that the difference between the quarterly price changes indicated by the flash estimate and the actual price changes could be significant when the change is small. The public is advised to interpret the flash estimates with caution,” the URA said.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 3 Apr 2017

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Application rate for each 2-room Flexi BTO flat at 2.7 in 2016

The Housing & Development Board (HDB) received an average of 2.7 applications for every two-room Flexi Build-To-Order (BTO) flat offered in 2016, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday (Apr 3).

The applications came from a mix of families, elderly and singles, said Mr Wong who was responding to a parliamentary question by Dr Lee Bee Wah, Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon GRC.

According to Mr Wong, 40 per cent of two-room Flexi flats are set aside for elderly applicants, including singles aged 55 and above. The remaining flat supply is divided equally between non-elderly singles and families.

Meanwhile, any balance of flats not taken up by elderly or families will be offered to singles, he said.

Since July 2013, singles are allowed to buy new two-room flats in non-mature estates. To address the strong demand, the HDB has increased flat supply in non-mature estates from 320 units in 2012 to an average of 4,000 units per year between 2014 and 2016.

While “the situation for elderly singles is getting better”, Mr Wong noted that the application rate from non-elderly singles remain “very high” at 6.6 in 2016.

“There is still a backlog to clear and we are still clearing the backlog,” he said in response to a supplementary question from Dr Lee. “At an application rate of (nearly) 7, it means you have to try several times before you are successful in getting a two-room flat.”

He added: “The way to resolve this is to try to ramp up the supply of two-room flats which we are doing. We hope to clear the backlog over the next two years.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 3 Apr 2017

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HDB resale flat prices declined 0.6% in Q1: Flash estimates

Resale prices of Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats declined by 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to the previous quarter, according to flash estimates released by HDB on Monday (Apr 3).

The resale price index – which provides information on the general price movements in the resale public housing market – is estimated to have slid to 133.8 from 134.6 the previous quarter, HDB said.

HDB plans to launch about 4,600 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in Woodlands, Yishun, Bidadari and Geylang in May. It will also offer about 3,000 balance flats in the same month, it added.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 3 Apr 2017

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