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    Sep 18, 2014

    Private home market slumps

    THE upscale Skyline @ Orchard Boulevard sums up the state of the private home market.

    In the first eight months of the year, the 40-unit condominium has sold just one unit, leaving 34 units unsold.

    The single sale in January was at $3,362 per sq ft (psf) - far below the starting price of $3,900 psf at its June 2010 launch.

    When The Straits Times visited on Tuesday, its sales gallery was completely deserted.

    This underscores the fact that, by some indicators, the market is in worse shape than it was in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis which hit in October that year.

    The percentage of units launched but unsold rose to 15.1 per cent on Aug 31, worse than the 11.8 per cent in August 2008.

    Vacancy rates at completed private residential projects are also higher, at 7.1 per cent at the end of the second quarter versus 6.1 per cent in 2008 at the same time.

    Property consultants expect vacancy rates to rise, given a deluge of completed projects in the pipeline and the limited number of expats looking to rent.

    "Most expats are also no longer on expatriate packages... While on local packages, they are more budget conscious and may even combine with others to lease a unit. The demand dynamics for rentals have changed," said CBRE research head Desmond Sim.

    SLP International research head Nicholas Mak said some new completed projects may even see occupancy rates of just 60 per cent, versus the usual of more than 90 per cent.

    The low point of the year has been last month's private home sales figures, released on Monday, with just 432 units moved.

    Buyer sentiment is bleak.

    In central Singapore, projects such as Ardmore 3, Devonshire 8, Ferra at Leonie Hill, One Balmoral and TwentyOne Anguilla Park had each sold fewer than 10 units at Aug 31 - despite being on the market for more than a year.

    Even in the suburbs, projects such as E Maison in Braddell Road and Singa Hills in Bedok had sold fewer than a quarter of their units at the end of August.

    Still, monthly sales for the past six months are generally above the corresponding months in 2008, and better than the worst of the global financial crisis, which was just 105 in January 2009.

    But underlying demand back then may still have been better than now, said Century 21 chief executive Ku Swee Yong.

    In 2008, demand came from people, flush with cash from selling en bloc in 2007, who needed a new home; but that element is gone today.

    The market recovered fast as more foreigners started taking up permanent residency here, looking to Singapore as a safe haven. But cooling measures hit foreign buying, Mr Ku said.

    The total value of sales today is also likely lower given the greater popularity of one-bedroom units, he added. "Moving into a time of high vacancies and uncertain yields, investors are expecting and will wait for lower prices."

    Mr Sim said: "It will take time for the market to reach equilibrium as well as let the long-term effects of cooling measures take over."