Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Suburban condos drawing buyers

They could be paying prices seen in prime areas due to current euphoria

IN THE latest sign of the buoyant suburban property market, home hunters in Ang Mo Kio have been submitting cheques to buy homes at prices rarely seen outside Singapore's prime central areas.

Buyers are said to be paying prices starting from $1,150 per sq ft (psf) for the upcoming 329-unit Centro Residences by Far East Organization.

This means two-bedroom units cost more than $800,000, while three-bedroom apartments will cost $1.1 million and above.

Consultants said the Centro Residences is one of the few 99-year leasehold projects in the suburban areas that has crossed this level.

Jones Lang LaSalle's head of South-east Asia research, Dr Chua Yang Liang, said he was 'a bit shocked' by the pricing.

'I'm afraid at this moment there's a lot of euphoria, so there will be demand for this project even at this price,' he said.

Plus points for the project include its location in a popular mature estate right next to the Ang Mo Kio MRT station, as well as its proximity to international schools.

But Dr Chua voiced concern over the 'long-term sustainability of this pricing', saying that upgraders may not be able to afford it.

At another suburban condo, Optima, located next to the Tanah Merah MRT station, more than 40 people lined up yesterday afternoon to stake claim on the 297 units for sale, even before the showflat opens on Friday.

Many of those in the Optima queue were property agents holding places for their clients with blank cheques in hand.

However, some in the queue were possibly property agents lining up with a view to buying properties for their own investment purposes.

Pricing for the 99-year leasehold project has not even been finalised, according to developer TID, a tie-up between Hong Leong Group and Japan's Mitsui Fudosan.

Agents estimate that prices will be about $750 to $850 psf, with two-bedroom units going for about $600,000 to $700,000 and three-bedroom units from $700,000 to over $800,000.

They say buyers are so keen on the units that they have submitted blank cheques for them to fill in the amounts once the price list is available - a fairly common tactic in a boom market, and one that has resurfaced in recent weeks.

TID was alerted to the existence of the queue at about 5pm yesterday. At 10pm last night, TID representatives told those in the queue to go home, saying that the queue would not be recognised. The queue soon dispersed.

'We're not going to sell anything until Friday,' a Hong Leong spokesman had said earlier. A preview would be held for Hong Leong and TID staff on Thursday.

Last week, Hong Leong said in a press release that more than 1,000 inquiries have come in for Optima, which it said was 'the last condominium site available in the vicinity' of the Tanah Merah area.

With developers starting to tentatively raise prices for projects on the back of strong demand, Jones Lang LaSalle's Dr Chua warned that these price increases 'need to be supported by economic growth or wage growth in the long term', or they may lead to 'excess inflation' and a property bubble.

Far East will start its preview of Centro tomorrow and will release two-bedroom and three-bedroom units. Agents say some buyers have already written cheques to register their interest.

One reason for the relatively high price of Centro is the cost of the land. Far East bought the state-owned site in September 2007 for $601 psf of potential gross floor area, a record price for suburban condo land.

Over the weekend, suburban condos continued to do fairly well. Far East sold another 59 units at its Waterfront Key condo in Bedok Reservoir, bringing the total number of units sold to 278. The average price was $735 psf.

UOL Group also sold 70 units at Meadows@Peirce in Upper Thomson over the weekend, after selling 180 units on the first day of sales on Friday. The buyers, mainly Singaporeans, paid an average of $880 psf.

But weekend sales were slower at mid-tier projects closer to the city. Far East sold five units of Silversea in Amber Road at an average price of $1,380 psf, for a total of 59 units sold so far. At its Vista Residences in Thomson, seven more units were sold at prices starting from $1,100 psf, bringing total units sold to 144.

Source: Straits Times, 28 July 2009

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