‘Clearer picture of market next month’

More comprehensive data on the property market will be available from next month, enabling the Government and the public to better gauge the health of the sector, said Mr Mah Bow Tan.

There have been concerns that the recent increase in private home prices — more than 20 per cent in the last three years — is a bubble waiting to burst.

Even as more options such as executive condominiums (ECs) will be offered to keep private housing affordable, the Government has asked developers for more details about their sales, for a more complete picture of the market.

Said Mr Mah: “We look at the economy, we look at the various indicators. And it’s important for us to make sure that the data we get is accurate, is comprehensive, and is reaching us in a timely manner so that we can make those decisions.

“We will also push that data out into the market, to let the public know … then they will be able to make considered, rational, prudent decisions.”

The information will include pricing details and sales numbers for all new projects. Said Mr Mah: “The worst thing is for people to have incomplete information … create a panic, make people very anxious and they rush in.

“If we can provide the data — imminent supply, three-year supply, office space, residential — let this information go into the market so that people will know, ‘There’s this supply coming up, why are we rushing?’ — that’s what I hope for.”

By and large, property developers have been cooperative. He said: “We’ve explained to them that a transparent market is good for everybody. They understand that.”

And with the widening price gap between private and public housing, the Government will strive to provide more affordable options for young couples and HDB upgraders. These include ECs and Design, Build and Sell Scheme flats.

“I think 2005 was the last time we put up an EC site for sale. But now the gap is starting to widen, so it’s time for us to replenish the EC stock,” he said, referring to the recent release of a site in Punggol for that purpose.

Meanwhile, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said it is monitoring developments to ensure that banks not become overexposed to the property sector.

In response to queries from Thomson Financial, an MAS spokesperson said measures are in place, and added: “MAS is monitoring developments and has reminded banks to maintain prudent credit standards in their property-related loans.”

But analysts think it increasingly likely the central bank will step in to curb property developers’ practice of offering deferred payment schemes to property buyers, which shifts the financing burden to developers and construction companies.

Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin said loans extended to building and construction companies surged 27 per cent year-on-year in April. In contrast, mortgage loans had risen just 5 per cent in April compared to the year before.

The Government last imposed curbs on the property sector in 1996, in the form of a capital gains tax, restrictions on CPF use and limits on property purchases by foreigners.

Source: Today, 29 June 2007

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