Enhanced grants expected to lift resale HDB market

THE move to enhance the CPF Housing Grant for first-time buyers of resale HDB flats is expected to help sustain the recovery in resale transactions and stabilise resale prices.

While most market watchers were not surprised that the government chose against tweaking any property cooling measure, such a boost in housing subsidy for resale flats did catch many off guard.

Some consultants, including Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li, posit that this is to help soak up additional HDB resale supply as more people are taking possession of newly completed Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, executive condominiums (ECs) and private homes.

“The grant, targeted at the resale market, is timely as a large volume of BTO HDB units, totalling about 18,000, reached the end of their minimum occupation period (MOP) as at end-2016. This is 80 per cent higher than the number of units that reached MOP in 2015.”

Concurring, International Property Advisor key executive officer Ku Swee Yong noted that despite a recovery in resale transactions last year, the pace of sales was still slow for HDB upgraders who have to sell their existing flats within six months from collecting keys to their new ECs or HDB flats.

“Still, a property measure coming in this form in the Budget is largely unexpected,” he said. Mr Ku also foresees that there may be some cannibalisation of demand from first-timer families who are wavering between buying an EC or a resale HDB flat.

As part of the Budget 2017 measures announced on Monday, the government will increase the CPF Housing Grant for first-timer families and first-timer singles buying resale HDB flats.

With the enhancements, first-timer families can now receive up to S$110,000 in grants, including the Additional CPF Housing Grant (up to S$40,000) and Proximity Housing Grant (S$20,000).

Similarly, eligible first-timer singles buying resale flats can enjoy up to S$55,000 in housing grants, including the existing Additional CPF Housing Grant (up to S$20,000) and Proximity Housing Grant (S$10,000).

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in his Facebook post on Monday that this would help those who wish to live near their parents in mature estates where there are fewer BTO projects, or those who wish to move into their own home quickly to start a family.

The latest BTO exercise, which closed on Monday, saw overwhelming applications for flats in mature estates Clementi and Tampines, which were over three times subscribed. Flats in Punggol were about 2.7 times subscribed; 5-room flats in Punggol saw the highest subscription by flat-type at 5.2 times.

Last year, resale HDB transactions rose for the second year in a row – by 7.8 per cent from a year ago to 20,813 even as resale prices dipped 0.1 per cent over the same period.

JLL national director for research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui said that he did not see the latest measure as an intention to move the residential market, though a healthy HDB resale market with stable prices may lift the sentiment for upgrading, hence resulting in a positive spillover effect for private housing.

With the expected boost in demand arising from the increased housing subsidy, resale prices should either stabilise or rise slightly, Mr Ong said.

However, some market watchers were disappointed with the lack of relief on taxes on vacant land and properties or land slated for development.

“Any reduction in property tax would certainly help developers and owners of vacant properties cope with the slowdown in the property market,” said KPMG head of real estate Tay Hong Beng.

On property cooling measures, he felt that there was nothing to stop the government from reviewing the situation at a later stage. “Changes to the rules could probably be brought about in a gradual manner in order not to unintentionally create an immediate spike in demand in the property market.”

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