Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Property players look beyond black January

Some see light at end of tunnel for home sales volume if pricing is right

(SINGAPORE) As they say, it is always darkest before the dawn. So it may be with the 107 private homes that developers sold last month.

The number is the lowest since the government started making available monthly home sales data in June 2007, and could mark the nadir in sales volume, property industry players reckon.

House-hunting season has just begun for the year, and buyers are expected to scoop up units in projects with appealing locations, as developers continue to price projects attractively, especially in the mass-market segment. Interest absorption schemes being offered by developers will help ease home purchases in the months to come, property consultants say.

In the first two weeks of this month alone, developers are estimated to have sold around 800 to 850 private homes, mostly from the newly launched Caspian and Alexis condos; even assuming there are no other major new launches for the rest of February, the full month's tally is expected to reach around 1,000 units. This would be the highest monthly sales figure since August 2007, notes Colliers International director Tay Huey Ying.

Home buyers can expect more offerings soon. UOL Group is said to be readying for launch next month its Double Bay condo in Simei; Far East Organization and Frasers Centrepoint, too, are expected to release a new batch of units at Waterfront Waves in Bedok in March. The latest units, which will mostly have pool views, are expected to be priced in the low-$600 per square foot (psf) range and be more appealing price-wise than the average $750 psf for reservoir-facing units released last year.

The number of 204 private homes that developers launched last month was higher than the December 2008 figure of 157 units.

'Going forward, there'll be periodic bursts of launch activities as there would be some buyers willing to commit to a purchase if they believe the price is affordable,' says Knight Frank director Nicholas Mak.

DTZ senior director (research) Chua Chor Hoon predicts developers will launch 5,500 to 6,500 private homes this year, mainly in the mass-market segment. Primary market home sales could come in at about 5,000 to 6,000 units - higher than last year's 4,264 units.

DTZ forecasts that prices in the mass-market segment could slip about 10-15 per cent this year, after a 10.5 per cent fall last year. It is predicting bigger price drops of 15 to 20 per cent for the prime districts and about 30 per cent in the luxury segment this year.

Colliers' Ms Tay says: 'Pent-up demand is expected to surface in the coming months, albeit buyers' cautious stance amid the grim economic outlook will contain demand to properties worth below $800,000 as evidenced by the good take-up for the 712-unit Caspian (in Jurong Lake District) and the 293-unit Alexis at Alexandra Road.'

Frasers Centrepoint Homes chief operating officer Cheang Kok Kheong, who estimates developers could sell 5,000-odd private homes this year, says: 'The three key factors that will affect home sales in 2009 will be interest rates on housing loans, jobs and pricing.'

Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow says there's probably more leeway for developers to price new projects attractively than to chop prices of a project already on the market as they will face pressure from earlier buyers

In any case, chopping prices is not always a cut-and-dry affair for a developer, as a property consultant points out: 'It's a delicate balance. If you cut prices just a little, people may not buy; but if you cut too much, you may frighten off potential buyers.'

Urban Redevelopment Authority's data yesterday on developers' launches and sales showed that overall median prices for most private residential projects continued to ease in January over the preceding month 'as developers were more realistic in their pricing in the hope of maintaining demand', according to Jones Lang LaSalle's head of research (SE Asia) Chua Yang Liang. For example, the median price for The Aristo
@ Amber eased 1.2 per cent month on month to $990 psf in January. Nova 88 in the Balestier area too saw its median price soften 4.2 per cent to $947 psf, while Rosewood Suites in Woodlands recorded a 16.7 per cent contraction in median price to $545 psf in January.

'This analysis doesn't factor in price differentiation as a result of differences in the unit's orientation, floor level, size, etc,' Dr Chua adds.

Property consultants were not surprised by January's weak homes sales, attributing it to the Chinese New Year festivities and potential buyers being further drawn to the sidelines with their
eyes glued to the Singapore Budget announcement.

Only 13 units were sold in the Core Central Region last month; Rest of Central Region and Outside Central Region had similar shares, at 49 and 45 units respectively.

Source: Business Times - 17 Feb 2009

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