Oversupply risks in Outside Central Region

The outlook for the Singapore residential property market lacks clarity and the murkiness does not seem to be clearing any time soon. Investors are looking for signals, direction and leadership. One major topic of discussion that has gained traction over the past year is pipeline supply.

It began with a discussion about the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s quarterly reports on the expected completion of units, and recently, there seems to be wider acceptance that the coming supply will be massive. But questions remain as to where the potential oversupply will be and whether it will lead to price declines.

In my previous contributions to Today, “Massive Supply to hit outskirts” (June 24) and “Let’s take a closer look at the numbers” (July 8), I highlighted concerns that the oversupply in 2013-2015 will be weighted towards the mass market segment, or Outside Central Region (OCR). Since end 2009, price increases in the OCR have outpaced the other two areas: Core Central Region (CCR) and Rest of Central Region (RCR). The price increases were partly caused by new launches in the OCR that were priced at a premium to the neighbouring projects.

OCR market hots up

The rising prices in the OCR fed upon themselves. Almost all of the Government Land Sales were concentrated in the OCR and as the new projects launched sold fast and prices achieved new highs, developers were more willing to bid higher for land. These led to higher costs which meant that the new launches had to be priced even higher.

Data compiled by property agency Singapore Condo shows 3,931 apartments and condominium units changed hands in the OCR in 2Q2011. Some 28 per cent of these transacted at S$1,000 per sq ft or higher and the average price per unit in OCR rose past S$1 million. Mr Vince Chen, chief investment officer of Singapore Condo, said 175 units, or more than 4 per cent, sold above S$1,300 psf and that more than half of the properties transacted were still under construction.

Investors are used to seeing residential prices around S$1,000 psf across Singapore. However, most would be surprised that significant numbers transacted in OCR have increased to these levels. During the previous peak four years ago, OCR locations were transacted at S$600 psf on average and today, they are at S$S887 psf.

Punggol, Sengkang and Pasir Ris stand out

The numbers in Table 2 and Table 3 indicate continued strength in OCR transactions and prices. Yet the risks seem compounded when we view the rising prices alongside the threat of oversupply in OCR. Three adjacent planning areas, when taken together, stand out as having the highest concentration of residential units in the pipeline: Punggol, Sengkang and Pasir Ris.

Some 25 per cent, or 8,102 units, of the private home supply within OCR (32,751 units) is concentrated in these three areas. The proportion rises to 38 per cent (estimated 28,000 out of 74,185 units) when we include the strong supply of public housing.

We must be mindful that this is a simple snapshot of the seemingly high supply and a casual observation that the concentration of this supply falls within the three planning areas of Sengkang, Punggol and Pasir Ris. Without a detailed look at population growth and potential demand, we are not able to infer that it may translate into downward pressure on prices.

However, one point does worry me: With 28,000 households coming up in Sengkang, Punggol and Pasir Ris, will the quality of life be compromised? Will there be enough schools and medical facilities in these neighbourhoods? Also, will the already stretched transport infrastructure in these areas be tested to the extreme?

I leave you to digest the data and draw your own conclusions about the risks. In the next few years, I will be sticking with the five- to 10-year-old properties in the central regions.

By Ku Swee Yong – founder of real estate agency International Property Advisor. He is the author of Real Estate Riches: Understanding Singapore’s Property Market in a Volatile Economy.

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