Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Developers meet valuers in search for common ground

Finger pointed at banks as some buyers struggle to raise enough loans

(SINGAPORE) Developers last week held a meeting with valuers amid recent complaints in some quarters that conservative valuations have derailed some home sale deals as potential buyers could not secure the required loan quantum from banks.

BT understands that the valuers disagreed with the developers that their valuations had been too conservative, and that it was the banks that were just not lending.

'Generally, if there are transactions, we'll match (with valuations). It's the banks that are more cautious about lending to certain profiles of borrowers like investors, especially if they are foreigners,' a valuer told BT.

The valuers also raised issues that they had been facing in recent months, such as a dearth of comparable transactions, and explained the methods that they use to arrive at valuations in such situations.

'We explained that some banks require valuers to look at three comparable transactions, and how we generally do not take into account outlier transactions that may perhaps reflect 'depressed' prices,' another valuer said.

Sources say that the meeting was amicable, drawing more than 20 valuers and heads of property consulting groups and the executive committee members of the Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore led by its president, Simon Cheong.

When contacted, a Redas spokesman said: 'We wanted to better understand issues that valuers may have in their day-to-day valuation and what else the profession may need from developers to enable them to give (as) updated and relevant (a) valuation as possible.

'The discussions were general in nature and discrepancies in valuations in some instances were highlighted and analysed. Valuers shared with us some of the constraints they are facing such as the lack of or insufficient comparable sales data and other issues.

'The session was fruitful as it helped us understand one another better and we agreed to look into areas where communication and interaction could be improved upon.'

A property consultant told BT that he found it odd that the same banks that were willing to give a 75 per cent or 80 per cent loan on a high-end residential unit when it was priced at $2,000 psf (thus assuming an exposure for about $1,500 to $1,600 psf) are now reluctant to give even 50 or 60 per cent loan when the property is going for a much lower price of $1,200 psf (which works out to $600-720 psf exposure for the bank).

'It's particularly difficult for foreign buyers, even PRs in some instances, to get loans for investment properties. Banks are more willing to lend to Singaporeans buying residential properties for owner occupation.

'Some of the bigger banks should take the lead and be more proactive in lending to property buyers, not just for entry-level but also luxury homes, given that spot prices have already come off about 40 per cent.'

Agreeing, another valuer said: 'We provide the valuations. It's up to the banks whether they want to lend, and how much. It's a commercial decision for them.'

Giving his take on the challenges facing the profession, a senior valuer said: 'We have to be as level headed as possible and (assign) a sensible value. Valuers play a very important role in the financial system and economy, as we're marking everybody's asset values.'

This was the first time Redas has met valuers as a group, at least in recent years, and this follows its maiden meeting in November with analysts in stockbroking research houses covering the sector.

Redas also holds regular dialogues with government agencies such as Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Building and Construction Authority. 'Such dialogues provide learning opportunities for Redas and promote better understanding across the industry leading to a healthy property market,' the association's spokesman added.

Source: Business Times, 29 April 2009

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