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New private home sales hit record high

First-time buyers, discounts push figure to 2,793 units last month

16 April 2013: NEW private home sales surged to an all-time high last month, boosted by discounts dangled by developers and first-timers entering the market.

A total of 2,793 units were sold last month, nearly four times February’s number, as a string of new launches debuted strongly.

This is the highest monthly new sales volume since the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) began publishing monthly data in 2007. It narrowly beats the previous record of 2,772 in July 2009.

new private homes sales

But analysts said the momentum may not continue into this month as the effects of a seventh round of cooling measures, which took effect in January, continue to filter through the market.

DWG senior manager Lee Sze Teck said the strong sales from new private home last month suggested strong demand from first-time buyers given that the cooling measures had curbed some investment demand.

Including executive condominiums, a hybrid of public and private housing, the number of private homes sold last month was 3,072. This is the second-highest on record, close behind the 3,142 units sold in February last year.

The 3,489 units launched for sale last month was also a record. A whopping 17 new residential projects launched last month.

Almost three-quarters of March’s new sales were from new launches that month. Nearly 65 per cent were in suburban areas.

Buyers purchased units at projects near MRT stations such as D’Nest, Bartley Ridge, Urban Vista and Sennett Residence, the URA data showed. The top-seller was 912-unit D’Nest in Pasir Ris, with 699 units sold at a median price of $963 per sq ft out of 800 units launched. Property agent Regine Ang said her clients who bought units at D’Nest last month cited its attractive price and proximity to the MRT station.

Overall, 5,533 units of new private homes were sold from January to March, which was about 20 per cent higher than in the fourth quarter of last year. There were 5,564 units launched.

The strong March numbers made up for February’s muted sales volume of 712 new sales owing to the Chinese New Year lull.

“By keeping new supply off the market in February, developers have benefited from a strong demand rebound in March as well as the resultant positive impact on the market,” said Jones Lang LaSalle research director Ong Teck Hui. “Notwithstanding the latest measures, underlying demand remains healthy.”

Still, analysts said this month was unlikely to see a similar surge in new sales. Most pent-up demand would have been “satisfied by the bumper crop of new launches in March”, said Colliers International research and advisory director Chia Siew Chuin.

Developers’ landbanks depleted by robust sales

ROBUST sales of new private homes have depleted the landbanks of most developers, amid a period of intense competition for new sites. This is the result of a open economy unknowingly benefiting from the wall of rescue monies meant for woes in their home countries. HK and London and presumably other countries/cities with stable political and economic environment are probably victims of the post GFC environment.

A survey shows that 16 of the 27 major builders have a smaller store of development land now, compared with January last year. The fall in developers’ landbanks comes despite the bumper supply of sites released by the Government over the past year.


Moreover, 19 developers had fewer than 1,000 apartments left in their landbanks as of the end of last month, according to the survey by DTZ Research. A further seven developers had between 1,000 and 2,000 units.

The developers’ landbank numbers do not take into account strong home sales this month, which should deplete landbanks even more.

A developer’s landbank comprises unsold units – including executive condominiums – from projects with planning approval and estimated number of units from sites yet to obtain approval.

Units in projects that have obtained their certificate of statutory completion, and redevelopment projects without planning permission, are excluded.

Developers’ landbank competition

City Developments and its parent company Hong Leong Group have the biggest stock, with 6,383 homes – made up of land parcels in Sengkang and projects like D’nest and Bartley Ridge that are being built.

Most other have fewer than 2,000 units in their developers’ landbanks.

Second-placed CapitaLand has 1,699 units, and Hongkong Land and its subsidiary MCL Land have 1,605 units.

IOI Corporation, Allgreen Properties, Wheelock Properties and Frasers Centrepoint all have fewer than 1,000 units each.

Experts note that many developers’ landbanks have been eroded by roaring home sales over the past year.

Privately held Far East Organization fell from second to fifth spot within a year, with its landbank down from 2,592 units to 1,498.

Frasers’ landbank fell from 1,951 units and third position in January last year to just 632 and 12th spot in the rankings.

CapitaLand, Keppel Land and Wheelock have moved up the league table after securing Government Land Sales (GLS) sites in the past 12 months.

At least two foreign players have also bucked the trend, gaining a larger market share by acquiring GLS parcels.

Chinese company MCC Land and Hao Yuan Investment have 1,484 units in total in their landbanks. This puts them in sixth position, up from 13th place last time.

While they are unrelated parties, their developers’ landbanks have been seen as one as they often work together on projects, DTZ noted.

MCL Land and Hongkong Land climbed from 13th spot to third this year.

DTZ’s head of Singapore research Lee Lay Keng noted that the GLS programme was the main source of growth for developers that expanded their landbanks, while those that missed out on many sites went down the rankings.

Developers’ landbank and future property price trends

As a result, most units in developers’ landbanks are in suburban areas, where most GLS sites are.

“In general, a developer should have a few projects on hand, but the number of units that constitute a ‘healthy landbank’ depends on the scale of these projects and the size of the developers, their business models and risk appetites,” noted Ms Lee.

Experts add that listed developers often face pressures to replenish their landbanks to bring in returns for shareholders, but high land prices and an increase in the number of bidders for GLS sites have thrown up challenges.

Tuan Sing Holdings chief financial officer Chong Chou Yuen noted that smaller contractors and groups of investors making their foray into development have made it more difficult to secure a site.

“Apart from GLS sites, one other area we might consider could be en bloc sites instead,” he added.

Seventeen new condos primed for launch

AROUND seventeen new condominiums comprising almost 7,500 private homes in all are being prepared over the next few months.

The bumper supply stems largely from the significant release of land from the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme over the past year, although private sites are also in the mix.

Amongst these seventeen new condos primed for launch, market experts are keenly watching to see how some of the more high-profile projects fare, given that the tough cooling measures imposed last month have added an air of uncertainty to the market.

There will be plenty of choice for buyers, with projects in estates across the island from Tanah Merah, Pasir Ris and Hillview to upmarket areas like Marina Bay being primed for launch.

The larger projects lining up for release include the 912-unit D’nest in Pasir Ris Grove, Bartley Ridge in Mount Vernon Road, which has 868 units, and the 755-unit Trilinq in Jalan Lempeng. Other projects include mixed development in D19 – Spazio@Kovan and Bentley Residences – and also new launches in Katong – Leville iSuites.

The Trilinq showflat will be open today, with preview sales expected early next month. Indicative average prices are about $1,500 per sq ft.

Seventeen new condos primed for launch

While Q Bay Residences in Tampines enjoyed strong sales despite being launched after the curbs, market watchers are waiting for a second successful launch to set a positive market trend.

Savills Singapore research head Alan Cheong said the healthy take-up of units at d’Leedon after a price cut showed buying sentiment was still positive, and that there is still underlying demand.

“But the take-up rates are unlikely to be as fast as last year. It might take six months for 50 to 70 per cent of a mass market project to be sold now. Previously, 80 to 90 per cent of a smaller-sized project could be sold in three months,” he noted.

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said high-end homes might still face a uphill battle in lifting sales.

“The overall quantum for prime homes in districts 9, 10 and 11 is generally more than $3 million and is not within reach of the first-timer and upgrader segments,” he added.

A test might come in October when the mega Marina One project, developed by Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings as part of a land swop agreement, is launched. The project has a whopping 1,042 units.

Out of these seventeen new condos primed for launch, developers might also delay some of their launches to assess the full impact of the measures, e.g. Tuan Sing’s Sennett Residence @ Potong Pasir, although 99-year leasehold projects from GLS sites will face more urgency to be pushed out compared with freehold ones.

Colliers International’s director of research and advisory services, Ms Chia Siew Chuin, said if the results of the next few launches are encouraging, more developers are likely to push out their projects. “There is no need for projects to sell out within a couple of weeks for developers to gauge that buying interest is still evident, so long as showflat visitor numbers and buying volume remain and hold steady,” she added.

“This would be especially so for projects in the suburban areas, where Singaporeans make up the bulk of buyers.”

Colliers noted that from 2003 to last year, the total number of uncompleted residential homes launched for sale averaged 12,036 units a year.

Buyer sentiment significantly turned for the better from 2005, when the Government announced the development of the integrated resorts.

Developers responded by launching more than 10,000 units each year from 2006 to last year, culminating in a record 21,478 units released last year. The only exception was in 2008, when the financial crisis hit.

The brisk sales of GLS sites last year means 17,000 to 18,000 units could be launched this year.

“This could be the new norm, as the Government continues to inject a strong pipeline supply of housing units into the market until such time when demand falls to more moderate levels,” said Colliers’ Ms Chia.