A good year for the housing market

Buyers can hold the key to landing an affordable HDB resale flat.

After many young couples hit the roof over prices scaling new heights, the government came up with a slew of measures that have since reined in prices.

The public and private housing markets were success stories this year as Singapore emerged from the financial crisis.

The HDB’s annual report for the year ended March showed 39,320 resale transactions, a 38% jump from the previous financial year.

The strong demand has continued, firming the trend of sellers of HDB resale flats demanding high cash over valuation (COV).

Janson Choo, 31, spent more than a year house-hunting before buying a 15-year-old executive apartment in Bedok Reservoir. He paid $554,000, including around $25,000 COV. ‘Many tell me COV is cheap but it’s still a lot of money in cash. The seller actually asked for $40,000.’ he said.

The highest COV demanded was $220,000 for a Bishan executive maisonette, on sale for $950,000.

In mid 2010, COVs in mature estates like Queenstown and Redhill were a dizzying $50,000 and $60,000. Many asked if HDB flats had become unaffordable.

In August, the government tightened rules on financing and home ownership. Private property owners were no longer allowed to simultaneously own HDB flats.

The measures seem to have worked. According to National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, the median COV for resale flats dipped to $22,000 last month. The number of resale transactions also dropped 30per cent in the fourth quarter.

The government also unlocked more sites for private housing, timely given record sales. As of November, the number of private homes sold this year was 15,025. The previous record was 14,811 for the entire year in 2007.

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