Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tender for Yishun DBSS site launched

THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) has launched a land parcel in Yishun for sale under its design, build and sell scheme (DBSS). Around 700 flats can be built on the site located at the junction of Yishun Avenue 11 and Yishun Central.

Analysts estimate that the top bid could be in the region of $132-166 million, which translates to around $160-200 per square foot (psf) per plot ratio. They added that the site should draw healthy interest from developers. ‘Developers, especially those with a construction arm, will be keen on the site,’ said Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak. ‘If the flats there are priced sensibly, they will be well taken up.’

The site will also be popular because it is in a mature housing estate, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail. He expects flats on the site to sell for around $400 psf eventually.

Others have pricier estimates. Eugene Lim, associate director for ERA Asia-Pacific, said that a three- bedroom flat of around 1,100 sq ft on the site could sell for around $600,000, which works out to $545 psf.

HDB also said that it will continue to monitor demand for public housing and release more sites for development under the design, build and sell scheme in coming months if there is demand.

Under the scheme, the developer who wins a site will enjoy some flexibility in designing, pricing and selling the flats. But flats will still be sold only to buyers who meet HDB eligibility conditions.

HDB has offered a total of 3,653 new flats under its build-to-order scheme in Q1 2010. Potential flat buyers can also look forward to another 1,200 flats in Punggol in April.

These launches are part of HDB’s plans to offer at least 12,000 new build-to-order flats this year – or even more if there is demand. The new projects will be spread across various locations such as Punggol, Sengkang, Yishun and Jurong West. The tender for the site in Yishun will close at noon on May 18.

Source: Business Times, 31 Mar 2010

Yishun site for tender

THE Housing Board (HDB) is launching a housing site at Yishun for tender today which will add another 700 homes to the housing stock.

The site, at the junction of Yishun Avenue 11 and Yishun Central, is being launched under the HDB’s design, build and sell scheme (DBSS).

This allows private developers to design, build and sell the homes directly to flat buyers. Such flats come with finishes similar to private property but are subject to HDB rules.

The site is a short distance away from the Yishun Town Centre, Yishun MRT station and bus interchange, and schools such as Huamin Primary School, North View Secondary School and Chung Cheng High School.

The leasehold site has a gross floor area of about 828,000 sq ft which includes 10,700 sq ft of space for commercial facilities and childcare centre.

This is the latest in a string of land sale tenders by the Government recently, which is moving to address concerns over the shortage of supply in the property market.

HDB’s latest site launch is in addition to its plan to offer at least 12,000 new build-to-order flats this year – or more if there is demand.

New projects will be spread across towns such as Punggol, Sengkang, Yishun and Jurong West.

HDB said yesterday it will continue to monitor the housing demand.

More sites for DBSS development will be made available in the coming months if there is demand. The latest tender will close at noon on May 18.

Source: Straits Times, 31 Mar 2010

Sales of new private homes double to nearly 4,000 in Q1

Overall prices rise 2-5%, with new highs in resale prices in some segments

Demand for new private homes in the first quarter of 2010 more than doubled compared to Q4 2009, according to a new report. Close to 4,000 new units were sold in Q1 2010, compared to only 1,860 in the previous quarter.

The report, by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), also said that overall private home prices rose by 2-5 per cent in Q1 2010. The price growth was supported mainly by resale transactions as developers maintained the prices of new launches in the same locations at last quarter’s levels.

In fact, resale prices in some segments hit new highs in Q1. Research from DTZ shows that resale prices of freehold landed homes as well as leasehold apartments outside the prime districts (a proxy for mass market homes) saw new peaks in Q1 2010.

Buyers continued to be out in force despite compressed yields, government measures and the large number of new land sites released during the quarter by the government.

‘Many investors are buying in anticipation of future rises in rents and prices as the economy is improving and the long-term fundamentals of Singapore are strong,’ said DTZ’s executive director for residential Margaret Thean.

In the prime districts of 9, 10 and 11, the average resale price for freehold landed homes rose by 5.7 per cent to reach a new high of $1,529 per square foot (psf) in Q1 – a 28.2 per cent rebound from the bottom one year ago. Resale prices of landed properties have now climbed for three consecutive quarters.

Prices of leasehold homes outside the prime districts (mass market homes) also hit a new peak. Non-landed resale home prices rose 2.1 per cent to $623 psf in Q1 2010, surpassing the $615 psf achieved in Q4 2007.

But the resale prices of luxury and prime freehold non-landed homes are still some 10.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively below their previous highs, DTZ said. Prices of luxury homes rose 4.2 per cent to $2,500 psf in Q1, while prices of prime homes climbed by a smaller 3.7 per cent to $1,456 psf.

The two segments still have room to gain as market interest has shifted from mass market to luxury and prime freehold homes.

‘Most of the new launches in the first quarter were freehold projects located in prime districts 9, 10 and 11,’ noted Joseph Tan, CBRE’s executive director for residential. These included Cube 8, Holland Residences, The Laurels and Waterscape. Sales were also strong for upmarket projects in the central business district. In Tanjong Pagar, the takeup at Altez and 76 Shenton Way was brisk because of their city locations and composition of small apartments.

The buyer profile for new units also changed substantially in Q1. Based on caveats lodged to date, about 33.7 per cent of the buyers in the first quarter of 2010 were HDB addressees (who can be considered HDB upgraders), CBRE said. The proportion of HDB upgraders in Q1 is lower than the 63.7 per cent of HDB upgraders who bought new homes a year ago in the first quarter of 2009, after the lull in 2008.

Added Mr Tan: ‘Most of the new launches then were mass-market type projects such as Caspian, Double Bay Residences and Mi Casa. In the first quarter of 2010, most of the projects launched were more upmarket and are located in the prime districts of Sentosa Cove and in the Downtown Core.’

Foreigners bought around 23.5 per cent of the new homes in Q1 2010. The top three nationalities were Indonesians, Malaysians and PRC Chinese.

CBRE expects the take-up of new homes to fall to around 3,000 units in the second quarter of 2010. Home prices are expected to rise at a gradual pace, held in check by the government measures.

Chua Chor Hoon, head of DTZ’s South-east Asia research unit, likewise said that if the buying fever and price increase continue or intensify, more government measures are likely to be introduced. She expects private home prices to climb by 5-15 per cent in 2010.

Source: Business Times, 31 Mar 2010

Soaring demand for HDB's new flats

FRESH evidence has emerged of Singapore's red hot property market with the Housing Board's (HDB) latest launches attracting six applicants for every available flat.

A staggering 5,015 bids were received for 828 new flats in Sengkang and Sembawang by the application deadline of midnight on Monday.

The high level of interest outstrips that of recent years, when about four applications were typically received for each new flat, according to housing analysts.

Demand was particularly intense for five-roomers in Sengkang, where 1,341 applied for the 126 flats on offer - more than 10 applications for each flat.

This high level of interest follows January's launch of four-roomers at Limbang Green at Choa Chu Kang, which attracted 14 applications for every flat.

The blistering demand for the developments at Fernvale Ridge in Sengkang and Sembawang RiverLodge is being attributed to the escalating prices of resale flats, which set a fresh record in the last quarter of last year.
HDB resale flat prices have risen by some 40 per cent over the past three years. 'Demand has shifted from the resale market directly to HDB's new flat queue, as many first-time buyers are likely to have been priced out of the resale flat market,' said Dennis Wee Properties director Chris Koh.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail was not surprised by the high level of demand given that new flats were priced about 30 per cent lower than resale flats.

'Couples who do not need flats so urgently will definitely join the queue,' he noted.

HDB launched the Sengkang and Sembawang projects under its build-to-order (BTO) scheme, which builds only when a certain demand is reached and has a typical waiting time of three years. Combined, the projects offer 266 three-room, 436 four-room and 126 five-room units.

Fernvale Ridge's 216 four-room flats attracted 1,671 applications, while its 180 three-roomers received 491 bids.

At Sembawang RiverLodge, the 220 four-room flats pulled 1,234 applications, while the 86 three-roomers drew 278.

Another 126 two-room flats in Sembawang RiverLodge will not be offered for sale, but set aside for lower-income families at a later date, said HDB.

Mr Ismail said he expects the demand for new flats to remain high given that resale flat prices are likely to stay robust at least in the short-term.

But Mr Koh suggested that demand for BTO projects might be less than it seems if flat applicants do not take-up flats when they are finally offered to them.

'Some buyers who join the queue might be afraid to lose out, but are not that serious about buying,' he said.
HDB has offered 3,653 flats this quarter, with a further 1,200 BTO units to be launched in Punggol next month.

Source, Straits Times 31 March 2010

Property in China 'still affordable'

CAPITALAND president and chief executive Liew Mun Leong said at a forum yesterday that there is no widespread asset bubble in China, because outside certain major cities, people's mortgage payments have not become unaffordable relative to their incomes.

Mr Liew told students at the National University of Singapore Business School that there are 'speculative forces' in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

This can be seen from the so-called affordability ratio, which measures the proportion of the actual monthly cost of the mortgage to monthly take-home income, he said.

High numbers were flagged for Shanghai (47 per cent) and Beijing (45 per cent).

However, for the 'whole of China', it was only about 17 per cent - way below the 30 per cent to 40 per cent benchmark of debt service to income which experts regard as the international standard for housing affordability.

Mr Liew urged the Chinese government to continue to rein in speculation and increase the stock of affordable housing.

Affordable housing should come under a different set of policies from high-end housing because strong fundamentals underpin demand, he said. 'Income growth still exceeds housing price growth for affordable housing.'

Mr Liew's comments come at a time when new figures have shown that China's property prices rose at the fastest pace in almost two years last month.

Residential and commercial real-estate prices in 70 cities climbed 10.7 per cent from a year earlier, topping a gain of 9.5 per cent in January.

To cool speculation, the authorities in January re-imposed a tax on houses sold within five years of their purchase, after having cut the taxable period to two years in January last year to bolster the then-flagging market.

Mr Liew said while China has plenty of growth potential, human capital will pose the ultimate challenge.
'China will have 25 million tertiary students in 2010 but by this time, China will need 75,000 top level executives with global experience. Where will they come from? How will they be trained?' he questioned.
Still, the rise of China is unstoppable, at least for now, he said.

'There will be a rebalancing of global economic power between Asia/China and the rest of the world. The world has to adapt to this new rebalance of economic power and China too has to adapt to her new role in the changing economic world to sustain its renaissance growth.'

Source, Straits Times 31 March 2010

Private resale home prices up again

PRICES of private, leasehold resale homes have shot past their previous peak - in late 2007 - according to a new report by property consultancy DTZ.

The latest price rises for this segment, dominated by upgraders, while relatively modest, were enough to push average prices past the previous high. Landed resale homes saw the biggest price rises in the first quarter of the year to reach another new high while prime freehold prices edged nearer their previous peak.

Sales of new homes were strong too. A CBRE report said nearly 4,000 new homes were sold in the first quarter - more than double the 1,860 in the previous quarter.

Data from DTZ Research shows that prices of leasehold non-landed homes rose 2.1 per cent to $623 per sq ft (psf) in the first quarter, surpassing the $615 psf achieved in the fourth quarter of 2007.

DTZ said prices of these homes saw the least increase among the main property categories as they were already at high levels and there was more resistance to higher prices in the mass market.

Prices of prime freehold non-landed homes rose 3.7 per cent to $1,456 psf, 1.9 per cent below the previous peak. Luxury non-landed home prices rose 4.2 per cent to average $2,500 psf, which is 10.7 per cent below the previous peak, said DTZ.

The Singapore Residential Price Index shows private home prices rose a mere 0.2 per cent month-on-month last month after a 2.2 per cent rise in January.

Landed homes turned in another stellar showing in the first quarter, up 5.7 per cent to another new high of $1,529 psf.

This sector has now rebounded by 28.2 per cent from its bottom a year ago. It was already the star performer of the private home market last year, rising far more in price than other housing types, and lifting it safely above the 2008 peak.

Urban Redevelopment Authority data shows landed home prices jumped 7.7 per cent last year, compared with the 0.5 per cent rise in prices of non-landed homes.

The leasing market, DTZ said, was stable, with rental values remaining unchanged for the third straight quarter. The average rental value of prime non-landed homes was $3.32 psf a month, still 32.8 per cent below the high in the second quarter of 2008, it said.

The lower yields, however, had little impact on demand for new homes, as did recent government measures.
'Many investors are buying in anticipation of a future rise in rents and prices as the economy is improving and the long-term fundamentals of Singapore are strong,' said DTZ's executive director (residential), Ms Margaret Thean.

The firm's head of South-east Asia research, Ms Chua Chor Hoon, cautioned that more government cooling measures may be introduced if buying fever and price rises keep up - or intensify.

Said Colliers International director for research and advisory Tay Huey Ying: 'At the rate the market is moving right now, there is some cause for concern. But unless mass market prices continue to rise by more than 5 per cent a quarter, the Government may not step in.'

Ms Chua expects prices to rise more moderately - by 5 per cent to 15 per cent this year. 'The rise in landed home prices is expected to moderate this year, considering it has already risen quite a bit.'

CBRE puts the rise in first-quarter home prices at 2 per cent to 5 per cent over the fourth quarter of last year, supported mainly by resale transactions as developers have maintained prices of new launches in the same locations at last quarter's levels.

For instance, deals at The Sail @ Marina Bay averaged $2,213 psf in the first quarter, up from $2,101 psf in the previous quarter while Ardmore Park units sold at $2,982 psf, up from $2,936 psf.

The high volume of new homes sold this quarter compared with last quarter shows the resilience of residential demand from both owner-occupiers and investors, CBRE said.

Some new projects that did well recently include West Coast's The Vision, which sold 230 units, and 76@Shenton, which sold all its 202 units.

Most new launches in the first quarter were prime freehold projects; private home owners made up two-thirds of the buyers, with HDB upgraders accounting for the rest, said CBRE's executive director, residential, Mr Joseph Tan. The opposite was true a year ago, when most new launches were mass market ones, he said.
Foreigners bought 23.5 per cent of the new homes in the first quarter, with the top three nationalities being Indonesian, Malaysian and Chinese.

Up and up

  • Nearly 4,000 new homes sold in Q1

  • Resale leasehold non-landed: $623 psf

  • Resale prime freehold non-landed: $1,456 psf

  • Resale luxury non-landed: $2,500 psf

  • Source, Straits Times 31 March 2010

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    JTC tender for floating storage on the way

    Phase two project studies over; Pulau Sebarok likely site

    SIGNALLING practically a go-ahead for offshore oil/petrochemicals storage here, JTC Corporation said it is now progressing to prepare construction tenders for the very large floating structures (VLFS), following its completion this month of phase two project studies.

    ‘Moving forward, JTC is targeting to call a tender for the technical consultant in the second quarter,’ a JTC spokeswoman told BT yesterday.

    ‘The work scope for the technical consultant would include looking into the front-end engineering design as well as calling of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) tender,’ she added.

    She said this in response to BT queries on whether JTC had made a final decision to proceed with the floating oil storage project – as it had earlier said it would – following the completion of its phase two studies at end-March.

    But JTC declined to say more, including specifics like when it expects to embark on actual VLFS construction.

    Still, there is strong rationale to proceed with the project, given the limited land available here to satisfy traders’ demand for additional on-shore storage in the oil hub here. This has led to many Singapore-based trading firms setting up tankfarms in neighbouring Johor instead.

    The VLFS will most likely be anchored off Pulau Sebarok, which it earlier identified as a potential site for the project.

    Sebarok – currently being used for on-shore oil storage by Dutch tankfarm operator Vopak and PetroChina-owned Singapore Petroleum Company – is very close to Shell’s Bukom refinery and not far from Jurong Island, Singapore’s main oil and petrochemicals hub.

    JTC’s just-completed phase two studies covered environmental impact, engineering design, business model and security aspects.

    It followed phase one studies, completed in late-2007, which showed VLFS to be technically feasible and comparable in cost to land-based oil storage. Its earlier cost estimate for a VLFS was at least $180 million.

    Some industry officials, however, argue that the cost of building a VLFS – estimated at US$400 per cubic metre of storage – is slightly more than the US$300 per cu m cost of building an onshore tank, depending on steel prices.

    The JTC studies had ascertained that to be economical, the minimum storage capacity of a VLFS should be 300,000 cubic metres, or equivalent to that of a very large crude carrier. VLFS would comprise two rectangular modules, each measuring 180m by 80m by 15m and with 150,000 cu m capacity.

    JTC, meanwhile, has also started building the $890-million first phase of Jurong Rock Cavern (JRC) to store oil underground. Comprising five caverns, the JRC project – considered more for strategic oil storage – will offer 1.47 million cu m when completed in 2014.

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    Stamford Land may sell Perth tower for A$140m: report

    (SINGAPORE) Stamford Land Corporation could be selling its Grade A office tower in Perth's central business district for at least A$140 million (S$179 million).

    According to The West Australian, the 13-storey Dynons Plaza at Hay Street is under construction and Stamford Land is 'gearing up to place the asset on the market'.

    Industry sources told the Australian paper that the building has a value of A$130-140 million. Chevron will be leasing the entire place - which has 13,000 square metres of office space - when it is ready in the next few weeks.

    'It is a new building, a quality long-term lease, so those sorts of assets are attractive to the market,' said Colliers International director of investment sales Ian Mickle to The West Australian.

    BT understands that Stamford Land is expecting offers of more than A$140 million. This could reap a considerable profit for the company given that the total cost of buying, holding and developing the land could have come up to some A$80-90 million.

    Dynons Plaza is located next to Woodside Plaza, which serves as the headquarters for another energy firm Woodside Petroleum.

    The Dynons Plaza site is part of a bigger parcel which Stamford Land bought for A$20 million in 1996. The company has sold the other parts of the land.

    The West Australian reported that Stamford Land had originally planned to build a five-star hotel at the Hay Street site, but it later constructed an office block when there was no business case for a hotel.

    The change seems to be working in Stamford Land's favour. BT understands that Chevron's lease for Dynons Plaza lasts for ten years, and its rents are set to escalate every year. Despite this, Stamford Land is said to be selling the site to focus on its core business of running luxury hotels.

    Stamford owns and operates Stamford Hotels in Australia and New Zealand. The Singapore-listed counter gained 1.5 cents to close at 47.5 cents yesterday.

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    Slower rise for London luxury-home prices

    Prospect of lower bonuses for bankers, increased taxes for higher earners cited

    (LONDON) Luxury-home prices in central London increased at the slowest rate since a recovery started a year ago on the prospect of lower bonuses for bankers and increased taxes for higher earners, Savills plc said.

    The average value of houses and apartments costing more than £1 million (S$2.1 million) increased 3 per cent in the first quarter from the previous three months, according to the London-based property broker.

    Prices gained almost 17 per cent from the year-earlier period, when an 18-month slide ended.

    'Some of the heat has come out of the market,' said Yolande Barnes, head of residential research. 'We've also yet to see any significant influx of bonus money, suggesting buyers are still keeping their options open.'

    The British government announced in December a one-time 50 per cent tax on bonuses exceeding £25,000 paid to bankers in the current fiscal year. This was in response to the outcry over their compensation following state bailouts or aid that enabled banks to weather the financial crisis.

    Ms Barnes predicts that prices will decline one per cent this year, following an 8.8 per cent gain in 2009, as the fragile economic recovery and higher taxes on luxury properties damp buyers' appetite to buy homes in neighbourhoods like Chelsea, Kensington and Belgravia.

    For properties worth more than £10 million, prices were 6.8 per cent higher than a year ago. 'This sector of the market was far more resilient in the downturn, growing throughout most of 2008,' Savills said.

    Next month, a 50 per cent tax on earnings exceeding £150,000 also takes effect and the governing Labour Party will be campaigning to win a fourth term in legislative elections that must be held by June.

    Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling last week announced that the property transfer tax, known as stamp duty, for homes costing more than £1 million will be lifted to 5 per cent from 4 per cent starting in April 2011.

    'With the expectation of a second, more unforgiving Budget later this year, activity is already noticeable lower as buyers wait to see how the wind blows,' said Charlie Ellingworth, founder of Property Vision, the unit of HSBC Private Bank that advises wealthy buyers. -- Bloomberg

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    UK mortgage approvals fall to 9-month low

    (LONDON) UK mortgage approvals unexpectedly fell to a nine-month low in February, adding to signs that credit constraints are impeding the housing market's recovery.

    Lenders granted 47,094 loans to buy homes, compared with 48,099 in January, the Bank of England (BOE) said yesterday in London. That was the lowest since May. The median of 19 economist forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey was for 48,400.

    Britain's property market is showing signs of faltering as the economy struggles to cement its recovery from the worst recession since World War II.

    Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party, which faces an election by June, last week eliminated a tax for most first-time home buyers in a bid to unblock strains in the market.

    'This reinforces our belief that house prices will be no more than flat this year,' said Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Global Insight in London.

    'The government's stamp-duty holiday will probably give the market a boost but the economic fundamentals of the housing market are pretty poor at the moment.'

    Yesterday's mortgage approval figure compares with a low of 26,600 at the trough of the financial crisis in November 2008, though it's still less than half the 120,000 reading at the peak of the boom.

    Recent data on house prices have been mixed. Hometrack Ltd said on March 23 prices rose 0.3 per cent this month from February, while Lloyds Banking Group plc's Halifax division says the average cost of a home fell 1.5 per cent last month.

    Mr Brown's government, which is narrowing the gap in opinion polls with the opposition Conservatives, is trying to help potential homebuyers in the run-up to the election.

    Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling last week scrapped a tax on house purchases for first-time buyers spending £250,000 (S$524,273) or less. The tax previously started at one per cent for properties costing more than £125,000.

    Mr Darling said the policy will mean nine in 10 first-time buyers will avoid the levy.

    A ComRes Ltd poll conducted after Mr Darling ended his Budget speech on March 24 showed 33 per cent of respondents now trust him and Mr Brown to run the economy, compared to 27 per cent favouring the opposition Conservatives.

    The BOE said net mortgage lending rose £1.6 billion, the most since December 2008.

    Yesterday's report showed that households added to their unsecured debts in February. Net consumer credit rose by £528 million. Economists predicted a £400 million increase, according to the median of 15 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey.

    Credit-card lending increased £374 million, while personal loans and overdrafts climbed by £154 million. -- Bloomberg

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    JTC's eco-friendly industrial parks

    From Seletar Aerospace Park to Biopolis and Fusionopolis, estates showcase green technologies for a sustainable environment

    DEVELOPING industrial parks used to be relatively straightforward - clear the land, build the factory blocks and companies will come and set up their production lines.

    But JTC Corporation's job has got more complex over the years as Singapore's manufacturing sector moved up the value chain. Industrial space has had to move beyond drab buildings, to incorporate elements of good design and environmental sustainability to attract investors.

    This reflects the requirements of new economic clusters such as clean technology - sectors that need to be in areas that complement their business activities.

    Also, researchers, product designers and other talent vital to these sectors are looking for more than a job these days. Many are looking for a high quality of life - and green liveable workplaces count towards that.

    The wider green movement is hard to ignore. As the government puts more emphasis on sustainable development, JTC has to play its part by boosting the eco-friendliness of its estates. Examples include Seletar Aerospace Park, Biopolis and Fusionopolis.

    Preserving heritage

    JTC's green initiatives will be plain to see at the upcoming Seletar Aerospace Park, a 300-hectare centre for aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul and aircraft system design and production.

    The agency told BT: 'Great effort was made during the planning process to balance economic and infrastructural space needs with the preservation of the area's architectural and environmental heritage.'

    When JTC was developing the park's master plan, it consulted the National Parks Board and held dialogue sessions with the Nature Society on trees in the area. These discussions led it to retain nine heritage trees. Inevitably, some trees had to go for roads, and to ensure airport operations will be safe.

    JTC has also kept 202 of the 378 heritage buildings on the site. It plans to convert some black-and-white houses into food and beverage establishments or training institutions.

    Seletar Aerospace Park will be a unique centre 'nestled in greenery and the charm of old Seletar', the agency believes.

    Besides preserving the character of the site as much as possible, JTC is looking at improving water quality there. It will test a gravel filtration system at the park, aimed at cleaning rainwater before it reaches drains and reservoirs.

    The stormwater management system will comprise layers of gravel, coarse sand and granite, which will remove pollutants from rainwater. This will help save water treatment costs downstream.

    The gravel filtration system will debut at the Business Aviation Complex. If it improves water quality, JTC could encourage other companies in the park to adopt it in their land parcels.

    The Business Aviation Complex will also have other green features, such as natural ventilation systems, vertical greenery and energy-saving lights. Construction of the building began recently and is expected to finish by the first half of 2011.

    Protecting environment

    Biopolis is another estate that showcases JTC's environment protection efforts. The first phase of the development at Buona Vista for biomedical research and development received the inaugural Green Mark Gold award in 2005.

    The Building and Construction Authority came up with the Green Mark scheme that year to recognise environment-friendly buildings. Such buildings not only provide good publicity for developers and designers, but also use fewer resources and can help tenants save water and electricity costs.

    Biopolis Phase One took the gold award for incorporating green technologies in its seven buildings. For instance, there is a district cooling system for centralised air-conditioning - water is chilled at one location and sent through a network of pipes to keep all seven buildings cool. This arrangement frees space that would have been needed for cooling equipment in each building and reduces maintenance needs.

    Phase One also makes use of a pneumatic waste conveyance system. Non-toxic waste from the seven buildings is sent to a central collection area using a network of underground pipes. This removes the need to transport waste around the site.

    The buildings are also test-beds for solar LED lighting, solar hot water systems and waterless urinals. For all these green measures, Biopolis phase one has won other accolades such as the PUB Water Efficient Building award and the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore's gold award.

    Providing green lungs

    Nearby Fusionopolis is not to be outdone when it comes to environmental sustainability. The two towers in the first phase of development have 13 sky gardens between them. These spots, some with ponds and water wells, allow employees to take a break from work in the infocommunications, media, science and engineering centre.

    The International Green Roof Congress in May last year recognised these efforts - the rooftop garden at Fusionopolis received the leadership award in the category for sustainable architecture.

    The upcoming Phase 2B will extend the green theme, with more roof gardens and spiralling green terraces. It is designed by Ken Yeang, an architect renowned for his work on eco-skyscrapers, and will be ready by the end of this year.

    Phase 2B will see 'a network of open interactive public and semi-public spaces, creative use of skylights and courtyards for natural light and ventilation, and cascading landscaped garden terraces,' JTC said.

    'It aims to inspire and meet the needs of its resident tenants in the creative industries with the provision of a wide range of intimate spaces with differing and flexible layouts.'

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    CleanTech One to be up by end-2011

    It will be a 'seed' building to testbed and showcase innovative green solutions

    (SINGAPORE) The first building at Singapore's CleanTech Park is expected to be up by end 2011 at a cost of $90 million, JTC Corporation said yesterday.

    With a gross floor area of 403,646 square feet, CleanTech One is expected to house about 40 green tenants, such as cleantech companies' headquarters, firms financing cleantech activities, as well as private and public research institutions.

    Nanyang Technological University, which is adjacent to the CleanTech Park, will be its first tenant.

    Surbana International Consultants beat 30 other entries to win the design tender JTC launched last December, with its ecological and commercially sustainable design.

    As the first development on the eco-business park launched last month, CleanTech One will act as a 'seed' building to testbed and showcase innovative green solutions for tropical, urban settings.

    These include solar panels, sky gardens, rainwater harvesting and sky trellises. If successful, these can then be rolled out to the rest of the CleanTech Park, Singapore and even the region, said JTC director for the aerospace, marine and cleantech cluster, Tang Wai Yee.

    Surbana said that green features aside, the building itself was designed to minimise 'cut and fill' of the sloping terrain on which it is located, and takes into account the direction of wind and sun so as to reduce energy consumption.

    Piling works will start around June while actual construction of CleanTech One should begin by August - an 'aggressive and accelerated timeline', Surbana said.

    The 50 hectare CleanTech Park, which will house cleantech research, innovation and commercialisation activities, is expected to draw $2.5 billion worth of investments in buildings by its 2030 completion.

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    Singapore ranked second most networked economy

    WEF report also shows big role govt plays in Republic’s high ranking

    Even before the full rollout of the ambitious Next Generation National Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN), Singapore has moved up two places to the second spot in the global Networked Readiness Index (NRI) ranking published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

    The NRI is part of the 2009-2010 Global Information Technology Report, a widely watched study that has been jointly published by the WEF and global business school Insead for the past nine years.

    Sweden has emerged as the most networked country in the world in the current NRI rankings, overtaking Denmark which occupied the top spot last year. Sweden was a runner-up in the last three editions of the report.

    This year, Denmark comes in at third place, behind Singapore. Denmark is followed by Switzerland in fourth place and the United States in fifth place.

    The NRI examines how prepared countries are to use ICT (infocomm technologies) effectively in three dimensions: the general business, regulatory and infrastructure environment for ICT; the readiness of the three key stakeholder groups in a society – individuals, businesses and governments – to use and benefit from ICT; and the actual usage of the latest information and communication technologies available, according to Soumitra Dutta, who is Roland Berger Professor of Business and Technology at Insead and a co-editor of the report.

    The current NRI covers 133 economies from both the developed and developing world, accounting for more than 98 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

    Singapore’s stock has been rising for the past three years. In 2008, it came in a disappointing fifth, while last year it was up one slot to fourth.

    When the rankings first started in 2001-2002, Singapore was ranked eighth. In 2004-2005, it jumped to the top spot before slipping to fifth in 2008.

    Irene Mia, senior economist of the Global Competitiveness Network at the WEF, and the other co-editor of the report, noted that Sweden, Singapore and Denmark’s superior capacity to use ICT for economic growth stems from the focus on education, innovation and ICT access.

    The report also shows the role that the government plays in Singapore’s high ranking.

    In the Readiness component of the NRI, Singapore has the world’s top ranking, driven by No 1 rankings in areas such as government’s prioritisation of ICT, government’s procurement of advanced technology products, and importance of ICT to the government’s vision of the future.

    The Republic also takes top spots in quality of education system, and quality of math and science education.

    Singapore also tops in the Political and Regulatory Environment component.

    Some of the areas where it doesn’t do as well are, for example, the infrastructure environment (where it is ranked 21st) and also in broadband Internet subscription (24th).

    However, the broadband result is based on 2008 data and, according to other measures and rankings, broadband penetration in Singapore has improved over the past year and it is expected to improve even further when the Next Gen NBN becomes fully functional.

    Some of the other Asia Pacific economies that figure in the top 20 this year are: Hong Kong (eighth), Taiwan (11th), Korea (15th), Australia (16th) and New Zealand (19th).

    The two largest Asian emerging markets – China and India – continue their progression in the NRI rankings, leapfrogging another nine and 11 places to 37th and 43rd respectively, Prof Dutta said.

    Europe remains one of the most networked regions of the world with 12 economies ranked among the top 20 performers in this year’s rankings.

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    More HDB families choose to live near parents

    FAMILY ties among public housing residents have strengthened over the years, the Housing and Development Board’s latest sample household survey shows.

    The survey, which covered 8,000 households, also revealed a growing trend among married couples to live near or together with their parents.

    The survey explored three main aspects of family ties – living arrangements, interaction and support and the well-being of family life.

    It showed the percentage of married couples aged between 21 and 54 who live with or close to their parents increased from 29.3 per cent in 1998 to 35.5 per cent in 2008, when the survey was carried out.

    Another finding was that the frequency of visits between children and parents increased marginally.

    The percentage of younger married people who visited their parents at least once a month rose to 90.7 per cent in 2008, from 87.8 per cent in 2008.

    Similarly, 90.8 per cent of older people said in 2008 that their married children visited them at least once a month, up from 90.4 per cent in 1998.

    Strong family support was also seen in 95 per cent of respondents who said support and care during sickness came from their spouse and married children.

    Respondents were also asked whether family life was important to them and whether they were satisfied with it.

    Although the response showed a slight dip from 1998, more than 90 per cent of younger married people and older people said family life is important and are satisfied with it.

    Overall, the survey indicated that family life among HDB residents is in a healthy state.

    The survey is carried out every five years by HDB to obtain feedback from residents and identify trends.

    The findings, which are used in HDB policy reviews, help identify which aspects of the HDB environment can be improved.

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    Mah to meet HK housing officials

    NATIONAL Development Minister Mah Bow Tan is on a three-day working trip to Hong Kong, starting today.

    He will meet senior officials from the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Hong Kong Housing Authority, and the Estate Agents Authority, to learn more about their experiences in regulating real estate agents, said the Ministry of National Development in a statement yesterday.

    The ministry had announced plans last October to improve the industry’s professionalism, including setting up a new regulatory authority, an accredited industry body and an independent tribunal for dispute resolution.

    Complaints against such agents have risen in the past few years in tandem with Singapore’s property boom.

    The ministry said yesterday the details of the new framework will be announced within the next few months.

    Mr Mah is being accompanied by ministry officials, and will also take the opportunity to update himself on public housing and other developments in Hong Kong, said the ministry.

    Source: Straits Times, 30 Mar 2010

    Why Clifford Pier had to be adapted

    I THANK Mr Thomas Toh for his letter last Tuesday, ‘Restore Clifford Pier to new glory’, in which he reminisced about the bumboats that used to ply Clifford Pier.

    Following the construction of the Marina Barrage, bumboats and other commercial vessels now operate from Marina South Pier. There are still small boats, water taxis and cruise boats that will ply Marina Bay to ferry visitors to and from the developments, including The Fullerton Heritage.

    We agree with Mr Toh that Clifford Pier has played a significant role in Singapore’s maritime history. Given its historical and architectural value, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) conserved the building in 2007.

    As Clifford Pier no longer serves its original function as a pier for commercial vessels, the building had to be adapted for reuse to remain relevant and useful.

    In addition to its heritage value, Clifford Pier is strategically located along the Marina Bay waterfront, and forms part of Singapore’s postcard signature skyline. URA’s vision was to transform this stretch of the waterfront at Collyer Quay, comprising Clifford Pier and the former Customs Harbour Branch Building, into a distinctive waterfront development.

    To achieve this, in 2006, the Collyer Quay site was sold for a commercial and hotel development. The successful tenderer decided to give Clifford Pier a new lease of life by adapting it as a restaurant.

    URA worked closely with the successful tenderer and his architect to retain the intrinsic and beautiful character of Clifford Pier. They were guided to keep part of the site open as a public plaza, allow public access along the decks around the edge of the development, and provide a passageway within the development for the public to directly access the waterfront and enjoy views across the bay.

    These developments at Collyer Quay form part of the necklace of attractions along the 3.5km waterfront promenade at Marina Bay. When fully completed later this year, visitors will be able to enjoy a continuous scenic walk along the waterfront from Clifford Pier to the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, the new bridge and art park, the floating platform and the Esplanade.

    Fun Siew Leng (Madam)
    Group Director (Urban Planning & Design)
    Urban Redevelopment Authority

    Source: Straits Times, 30 Mar 2010

    Horizon Towers lawsuit set to go on

    MINORITY owners will get to go ahead with their suit over the failed $500 million Horizon Towers en bloc deal.

    The High Court yesterday threw out an appeal by two former sales committee members who had applied to block the owners’ action against them.

    Three sets of minority owners are suing the pair – ex-committee chairman Arjun Samtani and ex-member Tan Kah Gee – over costs incurred in the course of trying to block the collective sale from the start.

    They want to be reimbursed for the more than $800,000 they spent, including the cost of hiring lawyers to advise them and other administrative costs.

    The sum is expected to be partially offset when the costs awarded to the owners by the Court of Appeal in a separate action last year, after the deal was quashed, are assessed.

    Senior lawyer N. Sreenivasan and Senior Counsel Tan Cheng Han, appearing on behalf of the two appellants, had urged the court to throw out the suit by the minority owners, claiming it was an abuse of the court process.

    They pointed out that the matter of costs had already been decided by the Court of Appeal in an earlier judgment and only the quantum remained to be determined.

    They argued that the damages sought for alleged breach of fiduciary duties were actually a disguised move for costs and ‘it would have been reasonable for them to raise the costs issues at the (earlier) hearings’.

    They added in court submissions that the minority holders would have incurred legal costs even if Mr Samtani had not done any wrong as their goal was to stop the collective sale.

    But lawyer Kannan Ramesh, acting for the owners, countered that this suit was aimed at different people than was the case with the costs awarded by the Court of Appeal at the earlier hearing.

    He argued that the alleged acts committed by the defendants were of a different category that called for different issues to be considered than the other consenting subsidiary proprietors’ decision to go ahead with the failed deal.

    Among other things, both had failed to disclose to the others their potential conflicts of interest arising from their purchase of additional units while spearheading the implementation of the sales process.

    Judicial Commissioner Steven Chong, who presided at last week’s closed-door hearing, ruled yesterday in a reserved oral judgment that there was no abuse of process by the minority owners in filing this suit as the subject matter was not covered in the previous court cases.

    The appeal was dismissed with costs. A pre-trial conference to move the case will be held next week.

    The Horizon Towers collective sale process spanned more than two years and involved two Strata Titles Board hearings and two High Court hearings before being thrown out by the Court of Appeal last year.

    Source: Straits Times, 30 Mar 2010

    From non-core to preferred asset

    It’s clear skies for the industrial investment market with the influx of foreign investors, say LEE PEI YING and DONALD HAN

    THERE has been a change in foreign investors’ perception of the industrial market over the last 10 years. Industrial properties have evolved from being a non-core investment product to a preferred asset class. This became more marked around 2008. Before that, en bloc industrial investment deals were dominated by local players, primarily Ascendas, A-Reit, Cambridge Industrial Trust and Mapletree Logistics Trust.

    Post-2008, foreign and institutional investors started paying more attention to this sector once ruled by the local Reits. For instance, prior to 2008, foreign investors accounted for only one per cent of the total value and number of en block industrial transactions.

    The change in attitude came about in 2008, when the proportion of the total value and number of en bloc industrial transactions jumped to 52 per cent and 24 per cent in favour of foreign funds. In the first three months of this year, foreign funds were responsible for almost 60 per cent of the en bloc industrial sales value and 67 per cent of the transactions.

    Higher yields derived from industrial properties were deemed as one pivotal reason. The lure of an improving economy is likely to see more foreign investors jumping on the bandwagon. This may lead to further yield compression in the medium term.

    Let’s analyse the reasons behind the increasing appetite of foreign investors for this asset class.

    Chasing higher yields

    Traditional asset classes such as residential, office, retail and hospitality properties yield between 3.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent annually. Average cost of funds for foreign investors range between 3.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent for a Sing dollar loan. Investors from the US and Europe need a higher hurdle rate to justify investing abroad. In their respective property markets, they can achieve yields of 6 per cent a year. For investors to venture abroad, they need a buffer of 100-150 basis points above their 6 per cent yield to justify undertaking the risk of a foreign investment risk. Industrial properties here can provide such high returns, and are deemed a safer bet.

    Syariah-compliant investments

    The buyers’ landscape changed significantly in 2008, when JTC Corp offloaded $1.7 billion of its assets to Mapletree Industrial Reit and the Bahrain-based Arcapita Bank. It was the latter’s first foray into the Singapore property market.

    Arcapita and its fund were on the lookout for Syariah- compliant investment opportunities in the region. Together with Mapletree, Arcapita bought into a majority 56.5 per cent stake. This comprised, among others, 39 blocks of flatted factories, six stack-up industrial buildings and three multi-tenanted business parks.

    Under Syariah mandate, investors are not allowed to invest in properties where the tenants are involved in the sale or consumption of alcohol and cigarettes or are in the business of banking and finance, since Syariah laws prohibit the collection of interest. This leaves out market sectors such as prime offices (where tenants are mainly financial institutions), shops and hotels. Investments in industrial properties provide the perfect gateway. Another Middle Eastern investment group, Dubai-based Emirates Tarian Capital, recently purchased 29 Tai Seng Avenue for $53 million, with a leaseback to its vendor, Natural Cool, for 10 years. This would generate an annual yield in excess of 8 per cent.

    Asset diversification

    Core investors such as German funds SEB and Union Investments Real Estate invest in prime office premises in the financial district. SEB bought a 50 per cent stake in 79 Anson Road and 12 floors of Springleaf Tower in 2007. Union Investments Real Estate purchased Vision Crest Commercial, including the adjacent Chicago School of Business, in 2007. In 2008, these investors turned to industrial property as part of an asset diversification strategy. SEB paid $200 million to buy Starhub Green, a 412,000 sq ft high-tech industrial building at Ubi Avenue 1. Union Investment acquired Applied Materials Building, located at Changi Business Park.

    Abundant industrial alternatives

    There is a lot of money in the market chasing prime office assets. The recently reported sale of Robinson Point and 1 Finlayson Green clearly demonstrates the amount of ready cash, liquidity and available buyers in the market eyeing prime office properties.

    Foreign (and local) investors are hungry for core office assets and there isn’t enough investment stock out there for sale. This inadvertently pushes up the sale price despite a softening rental environment, thus suppressing yields to the current sub-5 per cent level. It is estimated that there are no less than 20 foreign investors in Singapore looking for prime office investments (anything in the range of $20 million to $500 million) and they could not engage in serious negotiations over the past six months as sellers raised prices. The dearth of office investment deals has swung investors’ attention to industrial assets such as business parks and high-tech industrial buildings instead.

    Long leases

    Industrial properties, particularly owner occupied ones, are sold on a leaseback basis, often presenting investors with attractive long secured leases. Sale and leaseback premises offer the security of tenures from five years to as long as the land lease itself (up to 30 years). Such long leases are seldom found in office assets, and even if they exist, are seldom offered for sale.

    In 2007, when office rents hit the stratosphere, major office users such as DBS Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank started looking at minimising occupancy cost and decentralising backroom operations to suburban business parks. They would build to suit, lease back (almost) in entirety and monetise the assets by selling them to institutional investors, funds and Reits. Such assets remain one of the favourite investment options of foreign funds. These properties are usually leased back to reputable occupiers, providing financial warranties and a stable income base. These assets present defensive characteristics to investors, minimising risk of short term space vacancies and rental cycles.

    Niche asset play

    Foreign fund managers are always looking for a growing niche sector to put their investors’ money in. A niche play has benefits. Firstly, it provides the necessary product differentiation that helps separate one fund from another. Secondly, if the right strategy is adopted, one can be a substantial player in a niche sector, enabling some control over market pricing.

    Avery Strategic Investment did just that and invested in a niche asset class where there were hardly any competitors. They went in, took control of a niche market and raised standards. Their investment – workers’ dormitories – is classified under industrial use. The venture is controlled by US-based Morgan Stanley and Averic Capital Management, the asset managers with a stake of 97 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

    Together, they bought three foreign workers’ dormitories (Kian Teck Dormitory in Jurong, Woodlands Dormitory and Tampines Dormitory, totalling 13,544 beds) from JTC Corp in 2008 for $153 million. A $100 million ‘upmarket’ dormitory called Avery Lodge housing 8,000 workers was also built and is now the largest dormitory in Singapore. Amenities and features include dining and kitchen areas, bay windows, larger floor-to-ceiling heights and space per worker, gym, video game room, sick bay, Internet cafe, mini-mart, canteen, biometric card access and 24-hour guard patrols. Avery Strategic Investment is now one of the largest developers and owners of workers’ dormitories in Singapore.

    Investors with bigger appetites can embark on an Arcapita-style acquisition by buying stakes in a company. Investing via the company route allows the investor to gain control of a larger asset chunk instead of slowly accumulating properties on an organic basis. AMP Capital Investors, headquartered in Australia, recently made headlines by acquiring 16.1 per cent of MacarthurCook Industrial Reit, listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). The Reit was later renamed Aims AMPCI Reit and its portfolio consists of 25 industrial properties in Singapore and Japan, with an appraised value of $637.4 million (as at Sept 30, 2009).

    ARA Asset Management, an affiliate of the Cheung Kong group, recently made its maiden foray into industrial property through a joint venture with listed CWT. The company, known as ARA-CWT Trust Management and 60 per cent owned by ARA, will invest mainly in logistics properties in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific.

    This new regional logistics real estate investment trust – to be called Cache Logistics Trust when listed on SGX – will initially have a portfolio of six high-quality logistics properties, injected into the Reit by its operators and owners as part of a sale and leaseback arrangement, with an aggregate gross floor area of 3.86 million sq ft and a value of about $730 million.

    As Singapore strengthens its position as a premier logistics and value-add centre in the Asia-Pacific, we can expect more investment dollars to be pumped into this sector. More high value-add manufacturing businesses will be lured to set up operation in Singapore to take advantage of its seamless infrastructure and various tax incentives. Last year, the Economic Development Board brought in some $11.8 billion worth fixed asset investments. This figure is likely to rise in 2010 with the recovering economy.

    We expect more foreign investors to start taking notice of the industrial sector here. Local developers too are taking the cue from the active industrial investment market by re-igniting a slew of industrial development projects.

    Since July last year, three industrial sites have been successfully triggered and sold to private developers. Two more sites, in Woodlands and Yishun, have just been triggered after receiving minimum bids. Developers are likely to remain confident in the medium to long term with an improving leasing market. They can then offload completed projects to investors such as Reits and funds, ploughing funds back to develop more industrial properties.

    Right now, it’s clear skies ahead for the industrial investment market with the influx of foreign investors. What a remarkable transformation this sector has undergone over the decade.

    Lee Pei Ying is research analyst and Donald Han, managing director, of Cushman & Wakefield

    Source : Business Times – 30 Mar 2010

    New home price index makes a light splash

    Much-anticipated index shows private home prices edged up just 0.2% in February

    Prices of non-landed private homes held steady in February, a new index set up to track residential property prices here shows.

    The Singapore Residential Price Index, or SRPI, showed that private home prices across the island rose just 0.2 per cent month-on-month in February 2010, after climbing 2.2 per cent in January.

    But the gains come on the back of a 22.2 per cent rise in 2009 – putting the index’s current value just 0.4 per cent below its peak in November 2007.

    The new index, which is compiled by the Institute of Real Estate Studies at the National University of Singapore, was set up last week to serve as a resource for developing property derivatives in Singapore. It tracks month-on-month price movements in the private non-landed residential property market using a basket of 364 completed projects.

    By contrast, the official Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) private residential property price index, which is released every quarter, includes transactions at new launches and sub-sales.

    According to the URA index, private home prices hit a recent high in the second quarter of 2008 – before falling for the next four quarters. Home prices then recovered somewhat, rising 15.8 per cent in Q3 2009 and 7.4 per cent in Q4. But the URA index is still some 6.6 per cent off its recent Q2 2008 peak.

    Analysts said that the SRPI moved up only slightly in February as most of the market activity centred around new launches.

    Developers sold 1,196 new homes in February 2010 (slightly less than the 1,480 new homes sold in January). But market watchers said that in the resale market (sales of units in completed projects) there was a larger month-on-month fall in the transaction volume.

    ‘The new index is for completed properties and most of the price movements and market activity over the last few weeks have been seen for new launches,’ said Colin Tan, director of research and consultancy at Chesterton Suntec International. ‘Prices at completed properties are also more stable as these projects tend to draw a different type of investors as compared to new launches.’

    Tay Huey Ying, Colliers’ director for research and advisory, similarly said that the index was flat in February 2010 as only properties completed between October 1998 and September 2009 are included in the basket.

    Associate Professor Lum Sau Kim, who leads the group that compiles the new index, said one key feature of the SRPI is that it is not too affected by new launches. It is also designed to not be unduly influenced by low transaction volumes in a quiet market.

    She attributed the marginal movement in the index for February to the Chinese New Year season, when buying activity traditionally tapers off.

    The SRPI also showed a drop in home prices in the central region (postal districts 1-4 and 9-11) in February. Prices there fell 0.1 per cent last month after climbing 1.6 per cent in January.

    For the whole of 2009, prices in the central region rose 27.3 per cent. But prices in the central region are still around 10 per cent off the pre-crisis peak, according to the index.

    Elsewhere, prices in the non-central areas rose 0.5 per cent in February after climbing 2.7 per cent in January. Private home prices in the non-central regions have now exceeded the pre-crisis peak.

    Analysts predict that when the URA flash estimates are released early next month, it will show that private home prices climbed 5-8 per cent in the first quarter of 2010.

    Source: Business Times, 30 Mar 2010

    District 15 still the top draw

    Attractions include sea views and food haunts

    WHETHER the property market is up or down, some areas are always popular, according to new analyses from property consultancy Savills Singapore.

    Its list of perennial property hot spots includes one surprise locale far from the city centre.

    District 15, which includes the Katong, Joo Chiat, Amber Road, Marine Parade and Tanjong Rhu areas, consistently topped all 28 regions in terms of the number of non-landed resale homes sold from 2007 to February this year. Savills Research found 4,289 resale non-landed deals were done in the three-year period.

    District 10, consisting of the Ardmore, Bukit Timah, Holland Road and Tanglin areas, was No. 2, with 3,622 transactions.

    District 23 came in a surprise third, and registered the highest price growth of the top 10 hot spots, with prices rising 25.5 per cent. It takes in Hillview, Dairy Farm, Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang, and had 2,837 sales.

    If transactions in 2007 were excluded, District 23 would have surpassed District 10 in popularity. In other words, District 23 has become the second most popular hot spot for non-landed resale homes since 2008.

    Ms Christine Sun, Savills’ senior manager for research and consultancy, said demand in District 23 could be due to attractive pricing, as the average unit price registered from 2007 to last year was still within the $500-$600 per sq ft range. Average prices reached $649 psf in the first two months of this year.

    Given its proximity to the Bukit Timah belt and the nature reserves, this district has an edge over other areas in that price range, such as Tampines, Pasir Ris, Serangoon Gardens, Hougang and Punggol, Ms Sun added.

    There are also a lot of developments in the area, such as The Warren, The Petals, The Madeira, Cashew Heights, Dairy Farm Estate, Regent Heights, Hillview Regency and Guilin View.

    Ms Sun said the popularity of resale homes in District 15 may have been driven by the many launches in the area. Prices have risen in line with the launches, which draw attention to the area, she explained.

    New launches since 2007 include Aalto, Parc Seabreeze, Silversea and The Seafront on Meyer. ‘People think the area is becoming hot and they start to see value in the area,’ she said.

    Property experts said the area’s appeal lies in its sea views and proximity to well-known food places, the airport and the city. ‘It is an established residential area with ample amenities,’ said DTZ head of South-east Asia research Chua Chor Hoon.

    ‘There’s also a wide range of prices to suit different budgets, from the bigger, higher-priced condos in Tanjong Rhu to the small developments in Telok Kurau.’

    Said Ms Sun: ‘In general, the next best areas to live in outside of Districts 9, 10 and 11 are in District 15, largely because of the sea view and the many good schools there such as Tao Nan School, CHIJ (Katong) Primary, Victoria Junior College and Chung Cheng High School.’

    Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak said: ‘District 15 has quite a big catchment of private homes so that may be why it has a high number of resale deals.

    ‘It has also been popular with the middle class and the upper middle class for a long time.’

    Popular projects in District 15 include Water Place, The Waterside, Neptune Court, Mandarin Gardens and Cote D’Azur, Ms Sun said.

    It came as no surprise that District 10, as a prime location, is popular with foreigners. Demand for homes in this area fell significantly in 2008 but has recovered somewhat since, she added.

    Still, District 10 resale non-landed homes showed just 2.3 per cent growth in prices since 2007, from $1,386 psf in 2007 to $1,417 psf in the first two months of this year.

    District 15 registered 14.8 per cent price growth, from $783 psf in 2007 to $899 psf on average in January and February this year.

    Source: Straits Times, 30 Mar 2010

    60 Goodwood Residence units sold in past 2 weekends

    However, at Sentosa Cove, buyers spoilt for choice from 3 projects on offer

    Malaysian tycoon Quek Leng Chan’s GuocoLand has sold 60 units at the freehold Goodwood Residence along prime Bukit Timah Road over the past two weekends at prices ranging from $2,355 psf to $2,555 psf for typical units.

    Mr Quek himself picked up the biggest unit in the 12-storey project – a penthouse – for $18.8 million. His brother Leng Hai purchased another penthouse for slightly over $13.8 million and their sister Guat Kim bought an apartment on the eighth floor for about $6.03 million, according to statutory filings by Guoco-Land to the Singapore Exchange.

    However, it was a mixed bag of results last week at Sentosa Cove for developers of three 99-year leasehold condo projects as they laboured to move units to savvy buyers who were comparing the relative merits of the three developments against their pricing.

    Of the three Sentosa Cove projects, the best sales result was achieved by the joint venture between Ho Bee and Malaysia’s IOI; it sold 25 of the 40 units released at the 151-unit condo The Seascape. The development has a better orientation – directly facing the sea and located in Sentosa Cove’s choicer Southern Residential Precinct – than the other two projects on offer in the waterfront housing precinct.

    The Seascape units sold comprise 18 three-bedroom apartments, six four-bedders and a penthouse. The Seascape does not have smaller units such as two bedders. The majority of the buyers were Singaporeans. About a quarter of the units were purchased by foreigners – from the US, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

    The 25 units fetched an average price of about $2,700 psf, with achieved prices ranging from $2,619 psf to $2,880 psf. The sole penthouse sold was a four-bedroom unit of 4,252 sq ft on the sixth level; it sold for nearly $12 million. The Seascape is an eight-storey project with an attic level.

    City Developments Ltd (CDL) said it has sold 14 of 56 units units released at the weekend at its 228-unit condo, The Residences at W Singapore Sentosa Cove. The units were released at $2,500-$3,000 psf. The condo comprises two- to four-bedroom apartments as well as penthouses. BT understands the units snapped up were mostly two and three bedders.

    Lippo Group, which relaunched Marina Collection last week, is understood to have received expressions of interest from potential buyers but these have yet to translate into sales. Some potential buyers are said to have tried to seek discounts off Lippo’s $2,500-2,700 psf pricing.

    ‘This is the first time buyers have a choice of three new projects from developers at Sentosa Cove, whereas in the past, it was usually one launch at a time. So for now, buyers have the luxury of choice and the time to think about their purchase,’ said a property agent.

    Buyers who visited Goodwood Residence’s showflat were drawn by the greenery of the location as well as within the proposed development, GuocoLand Singapore managing director Trina Loh told BT yesterday.

    The site shares a 150-metre boundary with the Goodwood Hill tree conservation area. The development will also have about 500 trees planted to complement the existing 58 preserved tree. A manicured lawn of about 60 metres by 30 metres, greenwalls, two tennis courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool are among the other offerings.

    GuocoLand has previewed the 12-storey project this month in Hong Kong and Singapore. Of the 60 units sold lately, 40 per cent were clinched by foreigners, led by Indonesians. Other foreign buyers include Malaysians, Australians, Indians and Europeans.

    Two-bedroom apartments (of about 1,100 sq ft) in the development cost about $2.8 million on average, while the four-bedroom deluxe units – which have been popular – are priced at about $7.5 million on average. The average price of typical units among the 60 units transacted lately is $2,409 psf, according to Mrs Loh. In June 2008, Kuwait Finance House acquired 36 units in the condo at an average price of $2,800 psf. The project has a total 210 units.

    Property giant Far East Organization sold a total 25 homes last week. The units span the group’s portfolio of projects, from the upgrader market to the luxury segment, and last week’s take-up was comparable to the preceding week, says the developer’s chief operating officer, property sales, Chia Boon Kuah.

    High-end properties were also in demand at property auctions last week. An auction conducted by DTZ saw a one-bedroom unit of 775 sq ft at the freehold Claymore Plaza sold for $1.55 million or about $2,000 psf. A fourth floor studio apartment of 882 sq ft at The Beaumont, a freehold development at Devonshire Road, changed hands for $2,131 psf or $1.88 million at the same auction. Colliers International at its auction sold a 16th floor, 5-plus-1 bedroom apartment, of 2,701 sq ft for about $2,007 psf or $5.42 million. The buyer is Malaysian.

    This weekend, market watchers expect CapitaLand to release new units at The InterLace in the Alexandra Road area.

    Source: Business Times – 30 Mar 2010

    Colliers launches tender for Kim Keat site

    Property consultancy Colliers International has launched the tender of a freehold industrial site at No.21, Kim Keat Road at an asking price of S$42 million.

    That works out to S$734 per square foot per plot ratio. This includes a possible development charge of S$25 million.

    Under the 2008 Master Plan, the site is zoned for ‘Business 1′ use. But the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) would consider re-zoning the site from industrial to residential use with a gross plot ratio of 2.8.

    The site, located near Lorong Ampas, is currently occupied by a seven-storey light industrial building.

    Collier’s executive director Ho Eng Joo said he expected the site to attract a pool of keen buyers.

    That’s because it is located at the city fringe and in a mature enclave, well-served by a host of amenities.

    He said the site could be redeveloped into a residential development consisting of 182 apartments with sizes ranging between 500 and 1,000 square feet.

    The tender closes on 28 April.

    Source: Channel News Asia, 30 Mar 2010

    HDB launches site in Yishun for public tender under DBSS scheme

    The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is launching another residential site for public tender under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS).

    The latest project is located at Yishun Avenue 11 and Yishun Central.

    It is near a range of amenities such as educational institutions, a sports stadium and a swimming complex.

    Some 700 units are estimated to be on offer when the project is completed.

    Under the scheme, the developer tenders for the land and enjoys flexibility in designing, pricing and selling the flats, subject to the relevant legislation and rules to preserve the character of public housing.

    Upon completion of the building, the developer will hand over the entire development site to HDB for lease administration, and to the Town Council for maintenance of the common areas.

    DBSS flats are sold to buyers with a 99-year lease and under similar HDB eligibility conditions.

    Ninety-five per cent of the flat supply for public applicants will be set aside for sale to first-timers.

    The tender will close at noon on May 18.

    HDB has so far offered a total of 3,653 units of new flats under the Build-to-Order (BTO) programme in the first quarter of this year.

    Come April, flat buyers can look forward to another 1,200 BTO flats in Punggol.

    These launches are part of HDB’s plans to offer at least 12,000 new BTO flats this year, or more if there is demand.

    The new BTO projects will be spread across various locations such as Punggol, Sengkang, Yishun, Jurong West, etc.

    HDB said it will continue to monitor the housing demand, and make available more sites for DBSS development in the coming months if there is a need.

    Prospective tenderers can contact the Land Sales and Lease Administration Unit in HDB for enquiries relating to the tender for the sale site at Yishun.

    They can also e-mail

    Source: Channel News Asia, 30 Mar 2010

    Strong demand for private homes in Q1 2010

    Demand for new homes in the first quarter of this year more than doubled that of the fourth quarter of 2009.

    Property consultancy CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) said response to new projects launched in the first three months of the year chalked up close to 4,000 homes compared to only 1,860 in the previous quarter.

    This is despite the introduction of another set of property curbs in February.

    The property consultancy firm said this showed the resilience of residential demand from both owner-occupiers and investors.

    Nevertheless, CBRE said the property measures seemed to be effective in weeding out short term speculators.

    The strong take-up in the first quarter was anchored on selected new projects with strong locational and product attributes such as the Altez, Cube 8 and Holland Residences.

    CBRE’s Joseph Tan said most of the new launches in the first quarter were freehold projects located in prime districts 9, 10 and 11.

    Based on caveats lodged to date, about a third of the buyers in the first quarter of 2010 were HDB upgraders.

    Foreigners bought around 23.5 per cent of the new homes in the first quarter, the top three groups being Indonesians, Malaysians and Chinese.

    On the whole, CBRE said home prices in the first quarter rose about 2 to 5 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2009.

    Separately, Head of DTZ South-east Asia Research, Ms Chua Chor Hoon said private home prices are expected to increase a more moderate 5 to 15 per cent this year.

    Source: Channel News Asia, 30 Mar 2010

    JTC unveils cleantech building

    INDUSTRIAL landlord JTC Corp has unveiled the first cutting-edge building to be built at Singapore's recently announced Cleantech Park for green businesses on Nanyang Avenue.

    The $90 million building - called Cleantech One - will offer about 404,000 sq ft of office space that can house up to 50 green businesses when it is completed by December next year.

    The building will incorporate state-of- the-art green features such as solar energy systems, rainwater harvesting, sky gardens and sustainable construction, said JTC at a briefing yesterday.

    'If the solutions we implement are successful, we will replicate this throughout the rest of the Cleantech Park and share it with the rest of Singapore and the region,' said JTC's director of aerospace, marine and cleantech cluster, Ms Tang Wai Yee.

    The masterplan for the Cleantech Park - which will be Singapore's first business park catering to green firms - was announced last month by JTC and the Economic Development Board (EDB).

    When fully completed in 2030, the 50ha park will create 20,000 'green-collar' jobs. It will be built in three phases at an infrastructure cost of $52 million, which does not include buildings.

    The park will also serve as Singapore's first large-scale integrated development, allowing firms to test-bed cleantech products and solutions - especially those catering to the tropics - before they are commercialised for the market.

    JTC launched a design competition for the park's first building last December and local architecture firm Surbana International Consultants emerged the winner from 31 entries.

    JTC said Surbana's entry won for its ecological features and highly compact design, which will offer office and laboratory space specially catering to cleantech firms.

    Surbana senior vice-president (architecture) Frven Lim said yesterday that the building's main features include a green corridor to connect tenants to the green centre of the Cleantech Park.

    'Cleantech One will also feature a 'living atrium' where tenants can interact in a lush, green landscape that is well- ventilated and makes use of natural lighting,' he said.

    JTC is aiming for the building to achieve the highest accolade for environmental performance - the Green Mark Platinum award.

    Construction of the six-storey building will begin in June.

    The park is located next to the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which will be Cleantech One's first tenant.

    JTC said it is in discussions with other firms which may be interested in taking space at the building.

    Source, Straits Times 29 March 2010

    Sentosa Cove condos post strong sales

    ABOUT a quarter of the 56 units released for The Residences at W Singapore Sentosa Cove were sold over the weekend for prices starting at $3.4 million.

    This upscale condominium, which is part of the trendy 'W' boutique hotel brand, is being built by City Developments. Its spokesman said the price achieved during the exclusive by-invitation-only preview was in line with its launch price of between $2,500 per sq ft (psf) and $3,000 psf.

    He said 40 per cent of the buyers were foreigners who were drawn by the project's 'unique lifestyle concept', particularly its strategic location in Sentosa Cove. It is located within the only integrated development in Sentosa Cove - the Quayside Isle, which will house trendy cafes, restaurants, speciality shops and entertainment spots.

    The condo will boast 228 apartments. It has two- to four-bedroom units and penthouses, all with 99-year leases. Two bedders start from 1,227 sq ft, three bedders from 1,625 sq ft, and four bedders from 2,067 sq ft.

    It is expected to be completed before year end.

    Buyers will have to pay at least $3.4 million for the smallest unit of the seven, six-storey blocks.
    Also at Sentosa Cove, Ho Bee and IOI said they sold 25 out of 40 units released for the 151-unit Seascape condo over the weekend. The units were sold for an average of $2,700 psf. In terms of absolute price, they were transacted between $5.7 million and $12 million.

    The eight-storey development is expected to be completed late this year or early next year. It comprises three- and four-bedroom units.

    Source, Straits Times 29 March 2010

    More living near parents: HDB

    MORE married children now live in the same estate as their parents.

    The proportion of such children rose from 29.3 per cent in 1998 to 35.5 per cent in 2008, according to a 2008 Housing Board survey of around 8,000 households.

    The count comprises married children, aged 21 to 54, who live in the same flat, the same block, a neighbouring block or a block in the same estate as their parents.

    HDB said it saw the 6 percentage point rise over 10 years as an encouraging sign that its housing policies to get people to live near their parents were a step in the right direction.

    Since getting married in 2001, store assistant Kok Chee Keong, 43, and his wife have been living one floor below his parents in Ang Mo Kio. It was a deliberate choice, borne out of his desire to take care of them.

    'My parents are getting old,' he said of his 72-year-old father and 69-year-old mother, who had until last year helped baby-sit his children who are aged seven and eight.

    The HDB survey did not ask respondents why they chose to live with or near their parents but noted that such couples usually have children aged 12 and below or no children.

    HDB said the findings suggest that such families appreciate the benefits of living near their parents for the convenience of childcare or meal-sharing.

    But Assistant Professor Chung Wai Keung, a sociologist at the Singapore Management University, was more cautious about drawing too many inferences from the 6 percentage point rise.

    He said he did not think the increase was particularly significant over a decade, and that the trend could be a result of more opportunities for the younger generation to buy resale flats in mature estates.

    Another trend revealed in the survey: The number of married residents living under the same roof as their parents also rose over the same time period, from 10.7 per cent to 14 per cent.

    For some though, this was a temporary arrangement while they waited for their new flats to be completed.

    Mr Edmund Ang Yew Huat, 30, and his wife have been living with his parents in Holland Close since they got married in January.

    It will be five years before the young couple's flat in nearby Queenstown is ready.

    Mr Ang, an executive in a non-profit organisation, said he and his wife could have had a shorter wait had they gone for a new flat in Punggol, but he ruled it out.

    'My parents didn't want me to live so far away,' he said.

    For some couples though, proximity to their parents' home was less important than the cost of their flat and how soon they could get it.

    Teacher Simranpal Singh Sandhu, 29, and his wife would have liked to live near his parents in Yishun. But they found the cash-over-valuation of four-room resale flats there too high and opted for a new flat in Boon Keng instead.

    The flat is not cheaper than the ones in Yishun, which cost over $300,000, but they do not need to pay cash upfront and can move into the flat in six months or so.

    Source, Straits Times 30 March 2010

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    New property index shouldn’t be restrictive

    LAST Thursday’s report, ‘New monthly index of private home prices’, is constructive for the long-term development of the local property market.

    It provides for greater price transparency which allows the market and regulators to work more efficiently.

    In cases where different statistics indicate conflicting states of the property market, the new index can also act as a principal gauge against which these other statistics are compared.

    This is due to its fairly comprehensive nature comprising ‘74,359 units in 364 projects across 26 postal districts’.

    However, the inclusion of only completed homes may not be a sound practice. While there is reason to exclude ‘outlier’ deals where prices are exceptionally high or low, new launch and sub-sale prices can form a portion of the index.

    This proportion should certainly be smaller than completed homes but not including them would affect the representativeness and accuracy of the index. People may inaccurately use the index to gauge property prices when considering the purchase of a new condominium launch.

    Furthermore, there seems to be a premium charged for new property launches and their non-inclusion would understate the index.

    As a principle, the index should give representation to segments of the market which are significant and non-completed homes fit that criterion.

    The index is a significant step forward but its composition must not be too restrictive. This is especially so if it is used as a benchmark by property participants and the basis of financial derivatives.

    Loke Hon Yiong

    Source: Straits Times, 29 Mar 2010

    More space for foreign schools

    MORE public buildings and land will be released by the Government for up to three more foreign schools to meet the schooling needs of the growing expatriate community.

    At full capacity, the three schools can take in between 4,500 and 7,500 students.

    Currently, there are 94,000 international students enrolled in government and private schools here.

    The new foreign schools can occupy the former Chong Boon Primary School in Ang Mo Kio Street 44, the former Nan Chiau High School in Kim Yam Road and three empty sites in Bukit Batok Road, Punggol Field Walk and Yishun Avenue 1.

    The first can open as early as 2013 and the other two within the next five years after that, to add to the 41 international schools operating here already.

    This is the second time that the Government has released vacant land and properties to meet the schooling needs of the growing expatriate community.

    In 2008, the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced that seven sites would be made available for up to four international schools to ease the supply crunch situation at that time.

    Many international schools then were full, and the popular ones had long waiting lists. The shortage of places was so dire that it was a stumbling block for companies looking to bring in expatriate employees and their families.

    When contacted, Member of Parliament Josephine Teo, the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, estimated that the three schools, if constructed, will ease the supply crunch – for now.

    However, it remains to be seen if they would be sufficient in the long run as Singapore positions to be an attractive Asian hub for global talent, she told The Straits Times.

    ‘It will be a matter of time before the additional places may not be enough and we will need to review the situation,’ she said.

    When asked if the expatriate community should consider Singapore schools for their children, Mrs Teo said there is already a growing number of foreigners who send their children to schools here to immerse them in a Mandarin-speaking environment.

    However, expatriates may still prefer to send their children to international schools, she said.

    Typically, most stay here for a few years before going back to their countries and prefer to send their children to international schools which they are more familiar with and can get used to quickly, Mrs Teo added.

    The supply crunch had eased considerably since last year when a new international school Stamford American International School was set up. Older schools such as the United World College of South East Asia and the Australian International School Singapore have also expanded their premises.

    The EDB’s executive director of human capital and professional services Toh Wee Khiang said that demand for places in international schools held strong last year despite the recession, and is expected to grow as the economy bounces back.

    The EDB received more than 20 proposals in 2008 and Mr Toh expects the response from interested schools this time round to be ‘comparable’.

    He said proposals would be assessed on factors such as quality of education programmes, track record, and investment commitments.

    The EDB may make available other plots of land for international schools in the future based on strength of demand, he added.

    Source: Straits Times, 29 Mar 2010

    CBRC tightens property lending as risks grow

    Banking regulator steps up efforts to prevent bad debt and asset bubbles

    China’s banking regulator ordered lenders to take more care when making real-estate loans, widening efforts to prevent property speculators from causing asset bubbles and bad debt.

    Banks should not lend to developers found by state agencies to have held land without building houses, the government said in a statement posted online on Friday evening.

    They should also stop approving new lines of credit to 78 government-controlled companies whose core business isn’t property development if they use collateral other than construction projects already in progress, the statement said.

    China’s property prices rose 10.7 per cent last month, the fastest pace in almost two years, fuelling concerns that record lending and inflows of capital from abroad are creating asset bubbles in the world’s third-biggest economy.

    The government this month raised deposit requirements for buyers at land auctions to 20 per cent of the minimum price to raise costs for developers. It also lifted banks’ reserve requirements twice this year and re-imposed a tax on home sales.

    ‘We have to closely monitor China’s asset bubbles,’ Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), said on Friday at a conference here. Property prices have changed ‘quite a lot in the past five years,’ he said.

    Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on Friday said there are ‘bubbles’ in China, without indicating whether they were in property and stocks. ‘There are significant bubbles in Shanghai and along the coastal provinces, but there’s some of that going back into the hinterlands as well,’ Mr Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

    The regulator’s latest order underlines concerns that banks may be at risk from companies that are speculatively raising capital backed by property investments. Banks must carry out ’serious’ examinations of developers that are repeatedly using the same pieces of land as collateral for loans, the regulator said in the statement.

    ‘These measures are intended to urge developers with land to build houses and sell them quickly to increase market supply,’ said Zhao Qingming, a senior analyst at China Construction Bank Corp, the nation’s second-largest lender. ‘It may curb fast growth in housing prices, but more measures are needed to tackle the root issue, including controls on land prices and speculative house-purchase investments.’

    ‘We ask banks to check the qualifications of the developers and they must have a face-to-face check,’ the CBRC’s Mr Liu said.

    There are ’serious’ bubbles in property prices in China’s big cities as about 60 per cent of the residents can’t afford to buy a ordinary apartment, China Construction’s Mr Zhang said.

    Source: Business Times, 29 Mar 2010