Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Developers dangle rent guarantees

Buyers respond well to scheme introduced at some projects

(SINGAPORE) Some developers here are turning to rental guarantees to lure buyers in the current down-market.

Under such schemes - which are offered only for certain units within selected projects - developers help buyers secure tenants, and also ensure that the owner gets a minimum pre-determined yield.

Far East Organization, for example, offers rental guarantees for selected units in selected projects such as Orchard Scotts, Vida, River Place, Tanglin View and Icon.

'Through our marketing efforts over the years, we found that investors do not have the time to lease out or manage the tenancy of their apartments that they have bought from us,' said Chia Boon Kuah, chief operating officer for property sales at Far East Organization.

'Therefore, in 2006, we rolled out the rental guarantee scheme to assist our investment buyers in leasing out their properties. With our own in-house leasing and estate management teams, we are able to provide a seamless one-stop service to our buyers.'

For Vida, which is located in Cairnhill Rise, Far East is now offering a guaranteed rental yield of 5 per cent a year. This, according to Far East, can potentially work out to a return on invested equity of about 10-13 per cent a year.

'Vida is a superior investment as we are offering a yield or return on invested equity of around 10-13 per cent per annum,' said Far East in a recent letter to potential buyers.

Several other developers are offering schemes along the same vein.

At Belle Vue Residences, Wing Tai Holdings is offering a guaranteed return of 20 per cent on the downpayment a buyer makes if he picks up a unit using the deferred payment scheme. (DPS).
Under the scheme, the buyer will have to pay 20 per cent of the property's price as the
downpayment. For a property worth $4 million, for example, this works out to $800,000.

But under Wing Tai's scheme, he will get some of that money back.

Buyers who use the DPS to buy units in Belle Vue will get a guaranteed income of 10 per cent a year for two years on their downpayments. The guarantee will kick in once Belle Vue receives its temporary occupation permit (TOP) at the end of 2010. Using the same example as earlier, the buyer will get some $160,000 two years after TOP.

Market watchers said yield guarantee schemes are generally well-received in a down-market.
Investors, for example, snapped up units at high-end residential development Gallop Gables after The Straits Trading Company offered a two-year guaranteed rental yield of 7 per cent on 10 units there in April. All 10 units at the freehold Farrer Road estate sold in three days.

Elsewhere, at its preview for The Mezzo, Soilbuild Group Holdings offered a 6 per cent annual rental guarantee for two years, apart from the interest absorption scheme. The rental guarantee kicks in right after the TOP date. Soilbuild said recently that the launch of the first phase of The Mezzo was 'met with an encouraging response'.

Market sources told BT that at least a few more new upcoming projects will offer variations of such schemes. Developers have historically offered such schemes to entice buyers when the property market is weak.

Hong Leong Group's 71-unit luxury development Cuscaden Residence had such a scheme when it was launched in 2004 shortly after the Sars scare. Wing Tai Holdings also offered something similar for Duchess Crest in Bukit Timah in 1998, during the Asian financial crisis.

However, yield guarantees are a popular option for developers, said Joseph Tan, CB Richard Ellis' executive director for residential. This is because such schemes force developers to manage units once they have been sold.

A check with Singapore's three largest listed developers - CapitaLand, City Developments and Keppel Land - showed that none of them are currently offering any kind of rental guarantee schemes.

Units with yield guarantees could also come at a higher price, said Peter Ow, executive director for residential at Knight Frank. For example, developers who offer the interest absorption scheme at their properties usually charge a price premium of 2-3 per cent for units sold under the scheme, Mr
Ow pointed out. This is because the developers have to absorb the interest costs that would otherwise have been borne by the buyers. The same principle applies for units offering yield guarantees, he said.

Source: Business Times, 26 May 2009

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