HDB quarterly resale prices hit new record, but analysts say prices stabilising

HDB resale prices have hit a fresh record in the first quarter of this year rising by 2.8 per cent compared with the previous quarter. But the latest figures show signs of a market that’s finally stabilising after months of runaway prices.

Some analysts expect demand to continue to rise in the next few months but said cash premiums are unlikely to go much higher than the current median of S$25,000.

The official figures confirm estimates released earlier this month.

Resale transactions have dipped by about five per cent while median cash premiums, or COVs, have risen at a much slower pace than in previous quarters.

They went up S$1,000 in the last three months compared to the jump of S$12,000 between the third and fourth quarters last year.

They now stand at S$25,000, with flats in Bishan fetching the highest COVs, of about S$32,000.

Strong demand for newer estates has also translated into high premiums.

Towns like Punggol and Sengkang are seeing premiums of about S$30,000.

Eugene Lim, associate director, ERA Asia Pacific, said: “If you compare Punggol, Sengkang prices vis-a-vis mature HDB estates, they are still cheaper. Even though with high COVs of around S$30,000, you find that S$30,000 actually is the average COV nowadays for most flats. So, if you’re paying thereabouts, why not get something newer versus something older?”

Analysts said measures to cool the market have worked including the launch of more HDB projects.

Other measures include restricting the cash portion of the second concessionary home loan, channeling the loan through the buyer’s CPF account.

Moving forward, ERA’a Eugene Lim said the government may consider further measures to ease demand.

And while some observers say possible interest rate increases later this year will hit buyers’ pockets, others disagree.

Jeffrey Hong, executive director, HSR International Realtors, said: “In general they don’t look at, ‘At the end of 30 years of loan, how much do I actually pay for my flat?’ The first-time buyers are more concerned about how much they pay on a monthly basis. So if the increase in the interest is not much, the increment of the monthly payment is probably S$20 to S$50 a month more.”

In the rental market, demand between January and March increased sharply, with transactions up 69 per cent over the previous quarter.

The HDB said subletting transactions went up from 3,902 in the last three months of 2009, to 6,606 cases.

Analysts said this is partly driven by foreigners returning to Singapore to work as the economy improves.

However, rents remain relatively stable, with median prices for four- and five-room flats hovering just under S$2,000 a month.

Analysts said this is partly driven by foreigners returning to Singapore to work as the economy improves while the HDB said the spike is also due to an increase in renewals of rental flats.

In the last three months, 2,323 flatowners applied to continue renting their flats, 19 per cent more than the previous quarter.

The HDB added that more homeowners are also aware that they have to apply to the HDB for approval which could add to the increase.

However, rents remain relatively stable with median prices for four- and five-room flats hovering just under S$2,000 a month.

ERA’s Eugene Lim said strong demand will not likely translate into escalating rents because the supply of flats that can be subletted is high.

Under HDB rules, flats can be sublet after a minimum of three years.

But analysts said there is no similar jump in demand in the private rental market, suggesting that rental budgets remain low.

In the private residential market, prices were up 5.6 per cent, marginally higher than the 5.1 percent hike initially estimated.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 23 Apr 2010

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