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    Nov 07, 2014

    HDB resale prices up, but experts stay cool

    PRICES of resale Housing Board flats rose for the first time this year, and the number of resale flats sold also climbed.

    While the resale market last month showed signs of improvement, it may still be too early to say that the market is on the path to recovery, said experts.

    Resale prices inched up 0.1 per cent last month from September, ending eight consecutive months of a downward slide, according to flash figures released yesterday by the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX).

    But property analysts said the increase was "marginal" and cautioned against construing it as a market rebound.

    "The increase is quite insignificant," said R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng. "I see it more as prices stabilising."

    SLP International Property Consultants research head Nicholas Mak agreed, saying: "It can be a statistical blip. All we can say is that prices are generally flat."

    Mr Mak added that, even with stable prices, a market recovery is not guaranteed. "Sometimes prices can stay flat for up to a year," he said.

    ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim was less optimistic, explaining: "We expect the market to further soften with loan curbs like the mortgage servicing ratio still affecting the majority of HDB buyers."

    Compared to October last year, the resale index was still down by 6.1 per cent.

    Executive flat prices increased by 0.8 per cent last month, but prices of four-room flats have been flat since September.

    Prices for three- and five-room flats continued to dip by 0.4 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively.

    Last month, for the first time in 19 months, HDB buyers also paid more than SRX's estimated market value for their flats. They paid a median of $1,000 more.

    Analysts said that the prices of executive flats held better partly because of their limited supply.

    "Their prices have also fallen to attractive levels compared with three years ago, so buyers are prepared to go in now," said Mr Mak.

    Resale volume last month was also up, the highest this year, as buyers swooped in to take advantage of lower prices.

    There were 1,557 resale units sold last month, up 5.7 per cent from the 1,469 flats sold in September. This was also 11.5 per cent higher than a year ago.

    Mr Lim said that more buyers might be making purchases as they are "not put off by high cash premiums like in the past".

    But Mr Ong put the increase in resale volume down to "opportunistic buying", given that resale prices edged up only slightly.

    Such an outlook offers cold comfort for Christine Tan, 43, who is trying to sell her Yishun flat before moving into a Build-To-Order unit next year.

    "It's so hard to get a high price now, even though I've renovated my flat," said the babysitter who lives with her husband and three children. "The market was definitely better before. Now I have to be prepared to lose some money."