Tuesday, March 30, 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

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