Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Interest absorption greasing market - selectively

(SINGAPORE) Is the interest absorption scheme (IAS) helping to grease home sales?

The answer seems to be yes, if there is no price premium charged by developers for the IAS.
However, if developers charge more in exchange for interest absorption, then the buyers' profile may decide whether they opt for IAS, industry players say.
Generally, buyers in projects targeted primarily at owner occupiers, such as suburban, mass-market condos prefer to buy on normal progress payment scheme (NPS) rather than IAS, under which they may pay only the initial 20 per cent with no further payments until the project is completed.
For example, slightly over a quarter of those who bought 626 units at Caspian near Jurong Lake since its release in February and 100 units at Waterfront Waves in the Bedok Reservoir area relaunched at lower prices since March have opted for IAS.
At Double Bay Residences in Simei, the proportion of IAS buyers is said to be higher, at 40-50 per cent. At Mi Casa in Choa Chu Kang, no buyer has opted for IAS. Those who bought on IAS in these projects paid 2 or 3 per cent more for their units. The thinking is that mass-market home buyers are usually more price sensitive and prefer NPS if it costs them less, say property pundits.
Projects that have drawn investors may see more buyers inclined to opt for IAS even though there is a price premium. Here, again, the quantum of premium may matter.
For instance, Frasers Centrepoint, which is charging 2 per cent more under IAS for Martin Place Residences, has found that 75 per cent of those who picked up the 80 units in the condo over the weekend opted for IAS. On the other hand, only 5 per cent of buyers of the 109 units that
CapitaLand sold since last Friday at The Wharf Residence (nearby) chose IAS. This could be due to the heftier premium of 5 per cent for IAS.
However, some observers suggest another reason: Wharf Residence could have drawn a fair number of short-term investors.
With IAS, buyers have to immediately sign up for a housing loan (even if they don't need to make a drawdown until much later). And they will have to pay a penalty if they redeem their loan early.
'So short-term buyers in an investment grade project may prefer to opt for NPS to avoid being tied down to a loan and having to pay a penalty to the bank for early loan repayment,' explains Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow.
Agreeing, EL Development managing director Lim Yew Soon told BT that feedback from some buyers who chose NPS for its Illuminaire On Devonshire project (despite the group not charging any price premium for IAS) indicates that they did not intend to hold their units till the project was completed.
The penalty for early loan redemption is typically said to about 1.5 per cent of the loan quantum. 'So it may be a deterrent for smaller speculators,' as Mr Lim suggests. However, this may not be a serious issue for deep-pocketed investors eyeing bigger gains.
'Investors are taking advantage of IAS, which is the old DPS (deferred payment scheme) all over again, except that you have to talk to the banks earlier. Essentially IAS, like DPS, provides a financial option on the real estate market. By paying just 20 per cent of the value of the property, you can take a (bet) that property prices will appreciate by when it's time to pay up,' said a property analyst.
Under IAS, buyers have to sign up at once for a home loan. This is unlike DPS, where they could wait much later, closer to the project receiving Temporary Occupation Permit, when they have to pay the bulk of the purchase price to the developer.
Still, some like Mr Ow argue that IAS does not encourage speculation. 'Whether speculation kicks in depends on the stage of the market. In today's condition, only the very brave will come in to speculate.
'IAS involves obtaining a bank loan approval upfront and banks are cautious about granting loans to property investors. It is quite unlikely banks will approve mortgages for those buying multiple units in a project.'
Others point out the current buying flurry does not stem from IAS. 'The buying interest seems spurred by positive sentiments about the market as people are drawn to buy/upgrade due to reasonable prices,' a spokesman for Far East Organization said.
Source: Business Times, 19 May 2009

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