Friday, February 26, 2010

Developers ‘limited by land bank’

PROPERTY developers say they are eager to bring forward project launches to ride the buoyant market but are being held back by their limited land bank.

They were caught by surprise at the rapid market recovery, they say.

‘Many of us are now caught with a depleting land bank,’ the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas) president Simon Cheong said.

‘We believe the long-term solution to a sustainable and stable market is still adequate supply,’ he added.

Credo Real Estate’s deputy managing director Tan Hong Boon summed up the mood: ‘You never know what will happen. While the going is still good, developers will want to launch quickly. This is particularly so for mass market projects.

The Government recently stepped up the supply of development sites after a lull, and believes supply is adequate.

Yesterday, a 3.02ha site at Hougang Avenue 2 was offered to developers. If interest is adequate, a tender will proceed.

Another reserve list site will be offered by May, on top of confirmed list sites, which are tendered without precondition.

The comments by Mr Cheong and Mr Tan at the Redas Chinese New Year lunch at Capella Singapore yesterday came a week after market cooling measures.

The Government imposed a duty sellers must pay if they sell within a year of purchase. It also capped bank loans at 80 per cent of a sale price, from 90 per cent.

Mr Cheong said developers want land supply fast-tracked to satisfy buyer demand to minimise speculation to ease the pressure for more anti-speculative steps.

‘Given the unexpected return of an active property market, developers over the next few months would also be actively bidding for more land,’ he said.

Redas members look forward to more confirmed list sites to replenish land banks, he said. They are looking to Government land, given limited sources of private land. A developer who declined to be named said private land owners were asking for the sky ’so we can’t buy’.

Mr Cheong said developers would rather have this problem than the bleak effects of last year’s meltdown in the banking system. ‘Managing upside is always easier than managing downside.’

The anti-speculative steps were a timely reminder, said Frasers Centrepoint chief executive Lim Ee Seng at the lunch. ‘Exceptional jumps in prices are not good for us.’ Still, he said: ‘No matter how high it gets, it will still obey the law of gravity.’

An anonymous developer said the measures had hurt sentiment a little. ‘If there are 100 buyers, maybe 10 will change their minds. I expect volume to moderate a bit.’

Still, so far the measures appear to have had little or no impact on recent sales. ‘The market is still hot,’ said an industry observer. The 608-unit The Estuary in Yishun, whose preview opened on Wednesday, has sold over 200 units.

The average price for the 99-year leasehold condo is $750 per sq ft, with units facing the Lower Seletar reservoir costing around $800 psf on average.

Separately, City Developments boss Kwek Leng Beng said at a results briefing for CDL yesterday that sentiment would remain strong among genuine buyers, despite the government measures.

Mr Cheong addressed guest of honour Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, saying developers were disappointed at being left out of the Budget.

But they were happy at the productivity push given the long-term gains. Redas called this ‘a deferred payment hongbao’.

Looming launches include the 151-unit Seascape in Sentosa Cove and Cheung Kong Holdings’ 295-unit The Vision. Far East Organization and Frasers Centrepoint plan to release Waterfront Gold in Bedok Reservoir soon. Allgreen may launch RV Residences in River Valley and unsold units at Cascadia in Bukit Timah.

Source: Straits Times, 26 Feb 2010

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