The charge of the bungalows brigade

In a year fuelled by strong liquidity and economic growth, bungalows were the stars that led the surge in the Singapore property market in 2010. Data from URA shows that its price index for landed homes climbed 30.8 per cent last year. The sub-index for detached houses, or bungalows, soared 37.6 per cent against a 5.6 per cent rise in 2009.

The index for non-landed private homes rose 14 per cent last year, following a 0.5 per cent gain in 2009. The biggest price hike in 2010 in this segment was for completed non-landed homes in Core Central Region, which climbed 19.5 per cent last year, although prices of uncompleted units in the same region rose at a much slower rate of 10.6 per cent in 2010.

URA’s overall price index for private homes swelled 17.6 per cent last year, after posting a 1.8 per cent rise in 2009. It rose 2.7 per cent quarter on quarter in Q4 2010.

Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng observed that the index has appreciated by about 65 per cent over the past five years, translating to an average annual increase of 13 per cent. ‘This is a very significant increase considering that we had the biggest financial crisis during this period,’ he added. Developers sold a record 16,292 private homes (excluding executive condos) last year, up 10.9 per cent from 2009 and busting the previous high of 14,811 units in 2007.

The other sectors of the property market also saw sharp turnarounds last year, according to the latest URA numbers. For instance, the office price index rose 18.9 per cent in 2010, against a 16.4 per cent drop in 2009. Flatted factory and warehouse prices, too, shot up 23.7 per cent last year, compared with respective declines of 14.2 per cent and 16 per cent in 2009.

Looking ahead, market watchers expect some wind to be taken out of the residential sector following the latest property cooling measures. Investors are channelling their money to the commercial and industrial property segments, which were not the target of the cooling measures announced on Jan 13.

DTZ’s SE Asia research head Chua Chor Hoon is predicting a minus 5 per cent to 0 per cent change in URA’s overall private home price index this year. Others are more sanguine. Colliers International director of research and advisory Tay Huey Ying forecasts a 5-8 per cent rise with the increase led by mid and high-end properties.

Prices of mass market homes are expected to stay relatively unchanged or ease by up to 2 per cent given the ample new supply in this segment, she said.

As for the landed segment, RealStar Premier Property managing director William Wong, who had earlier predicted an average 10 per cent rise this year in Good Class Bungalow (GCB) prices – the creme de la creme of landed homes on mainland Singapore, now expects prices to hold in 2011.

‘Transaction volumes are expected to fall 20-30 per cent over the next 3-6 months. Owners are not prepared to adjust prices downwards while buyers are waiting for prices to go down. This may not happen.’

Another bungalow specialist, KH Tan, managing director of Newsman Realty, said that some sellers have started to withdraw GCBs from the market following the latest cooling measures as they would face longer holding periods on any replacement bungalows they may purchase because of the hikes in seller’s stamp duties.

Nevertheless, he predicts an increase of about 10 per cent in GCB prices this year, following last year’s appreciation of about 35 per cent, because of the limited stock of GCBs, wealth effect from new ultra high net worth citizens and low interest rates. On Sentosa Cove, where foreigners may buy landed homes, the price gain this year could be higher, about 15 per cent, as ‘there are still a lot of rich Chinese foreigners coming in’. Bungalow prices on Sentosa climbed 30 per cent last year on average, he estimated.

On URA’s numbers, CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho observed that while the price index for uncompleted non-landed homes in Outside Central Region (where mass-market condos are located) has surpassed the peak in Q2 2008 by 19.1 per cent, the equivalent index for Core Central Region (which covers the traditional prime districts, financial district and Sentosa Cove) is still 7.1 per cent below its Q1 2008 high.

Meanwhile, the National University of Singapore’s Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) flash estimate shows that prices of completed non-landed private homes in Singapore’s Central region (postal districts 1-4 and 9-11) appreciated 7.8 per cent last year, while the sub-index for the Non-Central region rose 15 per cent. As a result, the overall SRPI increased 11.9 per cent in 2010. In 2009, the three indices posted respective gains of 27.3 per cent, 19.5 per cent and 22.2 per cent.

URA’s data showed that 10,399 private homes were completed last year – close to the 10,488 units in 2009 and 10,122 units in 2008. The overall private residential rental index rose 17.9 per cent last year, a sharp reversal from the 14.6 per cent slide in 2009.

Savills Singapore director for residential leasing Patrick Lai said that overall residential rents may increase a further 5 per cent in 2011. ‘We believe that the rental rates for super high-end condominiums and GCBs will remain robust and are likely to increase by 6-10 per cent as more top executives relocate to Singapore.

‘For example, we have just leased out a 2,852 square foot unit at The Orchard Residences for $20,000 per month. We also recently handled the leasing of a GCB in the Peirce Villas/Swettenham Road neighbourhood for $40,000-45,000 per month.’

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