Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hundred Trees defies market chill elsewhere

Sales taper off at many projects as cooling measures start to seep in

(SINGAPORE) City Developments Ltd (CDL) sold a whopping 316 units last week at its Hundred Trees condo in the West Coast, a quarter of them on interest absorption scheme (IAS). Demand for most other projects, however, seemed to falter.

'Hundred Trees is amongst the last few developments where buyers may opt for IAS,' CDL noted in its press release yesterday. The developer has raised the 956-year leasehold condo's average price from $895 psf initially to about $910 psf. Those who buy on IAS pay a 2.5 per cent price premium.

It was a different story elsewhere as house-hunters ponder the implications of the Sept 14 measures by the government to cool the market. These include scrapping IAS and restarting confirmed list government land sales in first half 2010.

One property consultant even hazarded a guess that 'a pull-back in demand of 10 per cent is not unrealistic'.

BT understands that CapitaLand and its partners last week sold fewer than 20 units at The InterLace condo which will be developed on the Gillman Heights site, after selling 233 units the preceding week. No IAS is being offered for the 99-year leasehold condo.

Analysts point out that the project's pricing is also not compelling. Prices range from $850 to $1,150 psf though market watchers say that on average, the price is about $1,000 psf. The project's unique design may appeal to some but not others, they added.

InterLace also does not have any one-bedroom units, which typically involve a lower lump sum investment and tend to sell off fastest in projects, a market watcher said.

In the Marine Parade location, GuocoLand sold another 21 units at its freehold Elliot At The East Coast project last week. This brings total units sold to 66 units. The developer has released 80 of the total 119 units in the five-storey project at an average price of $970 psf. It is offering IAS in exchange for a 2 per cent price premium. So far four buyers have taken up the scheme. GuocoLand began selling the condo on Sept 19.

Sales at projects that have been on the market longer have tapered off. For instance, NTUC Choice Homes last week sold five units at its 99-year leasehold Trevista condo in Toa Payoh bringing total units sold to 478 units in the 590-unit condo.

So far this month, the developer appears to have sold 65 units. The average price currently is $935 psf, higher than $898 psf initially. The price premium for IAS buyers is 2 per cent. So far 21 per cent of the total 478 units sold have been on IAS.

Far East Organization sold 24 units last week at its various projects across the island. Its top selling projects were Waterfront Keys and Waterfront Waves in Bedok, Floridian in Bukit Timah, and Mi Casa in Choa Chu Kang.

BT understands several other projects on the island saw sales of just one or two units over the weekend. Meadows @ Peirce is said to have seen sales of two units and Trizon in the Mount Sinai area, just one unit.

A seasoned property consultant said: 'The market had cooled off slightly even before the Sept 14 measures as price resistance set in after rapid price increases between May and August. People throng showflats of newly released developments, looking for the best units and buy what they can afford. After that, it can be a slow climb in terms of sales volume.'

Most developers and agents have been arguing that the removal of IAS will not make a big dent on home sales as only a minority of buyers in projects where it is offered at a price premium have been taking up the scheme in recent months.

'However, it is not the removal of IAS but the overall message, that the government is monitoring the market closely and ready to do more if necessary, that is having a psychological impact,' reckons DTZ's South-east Asia research head Chua Chor Hoon.

'The Sept 14 package was a warning to market participants and a reminder to potential buyers to be careful,' she added.

A property agent told BT that some people have walked away from buying units in new condos from developers recently as prices at some just-completed developments nearby or projects which are nearing completion are about 20 per cent less in some instances.

CDL said yesterday that 85 per cent of Hundred Trees' buyers were Singaporeans.

'There was a balanced mix of HDB upgraders and buyers who hold private property addresses,' it added. All 22 one-bedroom units, priced from $500,000, and 66 two-bedroom apartments, priced from $701,000, have been sold,' it added.

All six penthouses costing between $2.4 million and $2.6 million have also been taken up. So far, CDL has soft launched 350 of Hundred Trees' total 396 units.

It will release the remaining units this weekend, when it does an official launch, involving an ad campaign.

Source: Business Times, 29 Sep 2009

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