Thursday, April 16, 2009

HDB prices on their way down

GOOD news for home buyers eyeing the resale flat market: About one-third of HDB sales in the first quarter were struck at or below the flat's valuation price.

The level in some areas was far higher. In Sengkang, for instance, up to three in four five-room flats sold by ERA Asia Pacific were done at or below valuation.

This means those buyers did not need upfront cash to buy their dream home.

Analysts say the trend indicates HDB flat prices are now coming down at a quicker rate after holding up better than many private residential properties.

In the recent market boom, many sellers sought prices well above valuation - a figure set by an independent valuer.

Buyers can use Central Provident Fund savings to pay for a flat only up to its valuation amount.

They must stump up cash for any premium they pay above valuation.

The property agencies surveyed by The Straits Times, HSR Property Group, PropNex, ERA Asia Pacific and C&H Realty - which together account for almost the entire HDB market - said a significant 30 per cent to 40 per cent of first-quarter sales were done at or below valuation.

The agencies' data showed prices crumbling for bigger flats such as five-roomers and executive flats. In Clementi, for instance, a five-room flat was sold for $70,000 below valuation at $500,000, while an executive flat in Tampines sold for $65,000 below its valuation at $515,000.

Industry observers say the HDB market, whose price trends typically lag behind those of the private sector, is finally reflecting the weakened economy.

Recent flash estimates showed HDB prices dipped 0.6 per cent in the first three months, compared with the fourth quarter of last year. It is the first fall since 2006.

Demand for resale flats has eased as the recession bites, while the HDB has been ramping up the supply of new flats, said Chesterton Suntec International head of research and consultancy Colin Tan. Home buyers also have more options now as prices of mass market condominiums are more affordable, he added.

ERA associate director Eugene Lim said home hunters were reluctant to pay more than $500,000 for HDB flats.

'The longer these highly priced flats stay on the market, the more over-exposed they become. Consequently, some had to be sold at big discounts due to buyer resistance,' he added.

The balance of power has now clearly shifted from sellers to buyers, with analysts saying this could be the time for buyers to do some bargain-hunting.

ERA's first-quarter data showed that in locations such as Sengkang, a whopping 74 per cent of transactions for five-roomers were done at or below valuation. In Tampines, they accounted for 55 per cent while, at Jurong West, it was 42 per cent.

Even for smaller flat types like three-roomers in Ang Mo Kio and four-roomers at Woodlands, 42 per cent to 44 per cent of sales were at or below valuation.

Experts point out that while more flats are now selling below valuation, this does not mean people are selling at a loss as HDB prices rose a hefty 31.2 per cent in the property boom of the past two years. But first-time buyers, priced out of the resale market during the boom, will now find the flats more affordable.

The current discounts to valuation will eventually diminish when valuations catch up, which usually takes three months, said Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

But there is a possibility of valuations and price falls chasing each other, further eroding prices, he said.

Source: Straits Times, 16 April 2009

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