Private home prices fall in Q2, but pace slows

Private home prices in Singapore fell for a third consecutive quarter in the longest losing streak in five years as cooling measures and mortgage restrictions continued to slow the market, but the rate of decline moderated, suggesting the curbs are likely to stay in place, analysts said.

Overall prices of private residential properties declined by 1.1 per cent in the three months to June from the previous quarter, the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) flash estimate showed on Tuesday. The pace was slower than the 1.3 per cent drop registered in the first three months this year.

Analysts said the second-quarter fall was not surprising as some developers had cut launch prices in recent months to boost flagging sales.

“The residential market has started to consolidate since the affordability of home buyers, especially that of the upgraders, is hurt by the measures, and home prices will need to come down in tandem,” said Ms Christine Li, head of research and consultancy at real estate agency OrangeTee.

“However, due to the current low interest rate environment and a keen interest in property investment, the price decline has been rather subdued,” she added.

The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), introduced in June last year, and the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), introduced in December 2011 and raised in January 2013, are frequently cited as the two most effective measures in curbing demand and causing prices to fall across the island.

The Core Central Region (CCR), or city centre, was the hardest hit in the second quarter, with prices falling for the fifth straight quarter, the URA data showed. The pace of decline accelerated to 1.5 per cent from the 1.1 per cent fall in the previous three months.

Home prices in the Outside Central Region (OCR), or suburbs, also suffered a quicker decline of 1.1 per cent, compared with the 0.1 per cent decrease seen previously. Meanwhile, prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR), or city fringes, fell at a slower pace of 0.6 per cent after a 3.3 per cent slide in the first quarter.

Ms Chia Siew Chuin, Colliers International’s director of research and advisory, said: “Strong buying interest in the 845-unit Commonwealth Towers and 212-unit Kallang Riverside provided some level of support for prices (in the RCR). These projects benefited from pent-up demand, as there has been little launch activity in these two locations.”

Analysts said the 2.3 per cent drop in the URA residential price index in the first half of this year is not likely to lead to the Government reviewing the cooling measures.

“The Government has said it is not looking to ease off the measures yet, and looking at the overall price level, it is still considered high. Overall real estate sentiment is still reasonably healthy, which means if any measures are eased, that might trigger a surge in interest again, not necessarily from just Singapore,” said Mr Tan Kok Keong, chief executive of consultancy REMS Advisor.

“So it’s in my opinion that it’s still early for the Government to relax the measures … A quarterly decline of around 1 per cent is reasonable in the current market conditions. We’ll probably see this persist for the rest of the year.”

With the property curbs remaining intact, private home prices are expected to continue on a downtrend in the next six months, with analysts projecting the annual decline at the lower end of a 5 to 8 per cent forecast.

The recent price cuts by developers have given buyers hope that there will be further discounts, noted JLL’s national director of research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui.

“Price cuts raise buyers’ expectations of further discounts and this feeds into a downward price cycle as we are seeing,” he said.

Source : Today – 1 Jul 2014

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