Sunday, November 22, 2009

Private home buyers go slow

Year-end lull hits auction deals and new launches as buying sentiment cools

The auction market is seeing more sellers eager to beat the year-end lull as sentiment cools.

However, buyers do not seem to be in a hurry to commit.

Knight Frank’s auction on Thursday offered 23 residential properties for sale – its longest list this year, said executive director for auctions Mary Sai.

Among them was a rare 999-year leasehold, two-storey house in Pasir Ris Road that sits on 8,007 sq ft of land and faces a seafront park.

Even so, the bids came in below the opening price of $4.5 million, and the property was not sold. The counter offer was $4 million and the closing bid $4.24 million.

Only one residential property was sold at the auction. It was a low-floor, two-bedroom unit in freehold Regent Court which was sold for $700,000.

‘The auction attracted a large crowd of observers, but the results were disappointing as buyers remained cautious,’ said Ms Sai.

‘Of late, potential buyers have been making counter offers that are 10 to 20 per cent below the opening bids.’

Whether the sale goes through depends on whether the seller can accept such prices, she said.

These are not mortgagee sales.

Mr Shaun Poh, DTZ’s senior director for investment advisory services and auctions, said the mild slowdown in the auction market recently is partly a reflection of what is happening in the overall market.

Owners want to sell now as the school holidays are coming, and they worry that people might no longer be in the buying mood, said Ms Sai.

She added: ‘With all the government announcements, some also think it is better to sell now than later.’

The Government came out in mid-September with measures to calm the property market.

Two months later, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam warned that the Government would not hesitate to use every tool at its disposal in a calibrated fashion to prevent another boom.

Said Ms Sai: ‘People are still keen to buy, but they have become more cautious since there has been a strong word from the Government that there is no need to panic as there is enough supply.’

At Colliers International, deputy managing director of agency and business services Grace Ng said it had received fewer inquiries about properties put up for auction since the government announcements.

The number of auction deals has also fallen since prices have risen, she said.

‘At the beginning of the year, sellers were asking for prices above valuation, and buyers couldn’t get bank support,’ she said. ‘Now, they are asking for prices at valuation level, but values have since gone up, so there is some resistance.’

With the slowdown in the market, buying activities might pick up only next year, industry observers said.

The new launch market is fairly quiet too, with the exception of the posh Marina Bay Suites, which will hold a private preview on Wednesday.

The launch of the 99-year leasehold project – by a consortium made up of Keppel Land, Cheung Kong Holdings and Hongkong Land – has been delayed for nearly two years because of the global crisis. It has 221 large units (three- and four-bedders). The developers have not disclosed the prices.

CBRE’s executive director for residential properties, Mr Joseph Tan, said Marina Bay Suites is likely to be the last major condo launch this year.

Source: Sunday Times, 22 Nov 2009

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