Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash upfront for HDB resale flats doubles in a month

Private property exuberance spills into public housing, with units selling $10k over valuation

THE amount of cash needed upfront to buy an HDB flat resale roughly doubled last month as the exuberant sentiment in the private homes market spilled over into public housing.

Three property agencies told The Straits Times that the median cash-over-valuation, or COV, has shot up across all flat types and has gone above $10,000 for some units.

In two of the more startling examples, a five-room flat at Depot Road sold for $70,000 above its $490,000 valuation, while an executive flat in Pasir Ris sold for $35,000 above its COV of $550,000, according to figures from PropNex and the HSR Property Group.

COV is cash that buyers pay to a seller over and above a flat's market valuation. It cannot be covered by a mortgage or CPF money, and so serves as an indicator of flat affordability.

What is surprising is the speed at which it doubled in a month, said Mr Colin Tan, Chesterton Suntec International's research and consultancy director.

Figures from the Housing Board (HDB) for the April to June quarter showed that median COV was zero for five-room and executive flats.

But data from PropNex, ERA Asia Pacific and C&H Realty for last month showed that this now ranged from $5,000 to $13,000.

The three agencies have a share of about 70 per cent of the HDB resale market between them.

There was a similar surge for three- and four-room flat types: HDB data put median COV at $5,000 in the second quarter, but the agencies said it rose to the region of $10,000 to $15,000 last month.

Based on ERA's sales, the median COV for three-room units rose from $6,000 in the second quarter to $14,000 last month. The median COV is a mid-point: Half the units were sold for a COV above that value, and half below.

Industry observers say that the COV rise was inevitable given that the optimism in the private market was bound to spread to HDB flats.

HDB flat prices have staged a surprising comeback amid the recession, reversing a first-quarter dip of 0.8 per cent to rise 1.4 per cent in the second quarter and reach a historical high.

Analysts now predict further price increases for resale flats for the third quarter on the back of climbing COVs - as long as buying momentum is sustained.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said high demand for resale flats is supporting surging COVs, as supply remains tight.

A cascading effect in the market is driving buyers to more affordable sectors.

Chesterton's Mr Tan said some buyers who are being priced out of the rebounding private market are turning to HDB resale flats.

Private home prices have started to climb, buoyed by high buying activity that saw a stunning 2,767 units sold last month.

This, in turn, has resulted in first-time HDB buyers, hit by soaring COVs, being forced out of the resale market and into new HDB flats, said ERA associate director Eugene Lim.

This is already evident: The HDB was flooded by 5,392 applications for 769 flats at the recent launch of Punggol Residences. Applications closed last week.

That is a subscription rate of seven times in a market where a typical rate is three or four times.

New HDB projects, which take three years to build, have not seen such numbers since the 2007 property boom.

However, C&H Realty managing director Albert Lu observed that most of the sales are still done at reasonable COV levels of around $10,000.

'There are some unrealistic sellers asking for high COVs as in the last boom, but buyers can choose not to bite,' he said.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak noted that mass market private properties have a strong link to HDB resale flats, and COVs will stop rising only when mass market buying interest dies out.

Banking executive Goh Hui Min, 25, is one HDB buyer who is glad she bought her five-room flat in Telok Blangah for $590,000 about a month ago before the latest COV rises.

'I paid $35,000 below the flat's valuation, which, given the current market, is quite a fabulous deal,' she said.

Source: Straits Times, 20 Aug 2009

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