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Silent showflats spell hard times for agents

BLEAK PROPERTY MARKET: Buying interest is down to levels not seen since after the 2008 financial crisis. Only 565 new private homes were sold in January while 724 units were sold last month.


    Mar 31, 2014

    Silent showflats spell hard times for agents

    IT MIGHT be a property buyers' market, now that prices in the fourth quarter last year have finally dipped after several years but it is about as grim as it gets for property agents.

    Buying interest is down to levels not seen since the months following the 2008 global market crash, although prices have held up better this time around.

    Only 565 new private homes were sold in January while 724 units were moved last month.

    There were also only 242 resales in the private home market last month, down 18.5 per cent from January, according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange.

    These anaemic numbers are all unwelcome reminders of the financial meltdown.

    In the first two months of 2008, only 494 new units were sold, although activity picked up in 2009, with 108 new sales in January and 1,332 in February of that year.

    Propnex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said he expects transaction numbers to stay low, at least until the end of this year.

    Agents hope it will not mirror 2008 when only 4,264 units - new and resale - were sold in the private home market.

    Buyers are the winners with a wealth of options - RiverTrees Residences, Riverbank@Fernvale, The Ascent, Cluny Park Residences and The Panorama all launched this year - at prices that are open to negotiation.

    An agent, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ng, said: "The buyers know that they have more choices now, and they're using this to their advantage to take their pick."

    He has been working at a showflat for the last month and has yet to close a deal.

    The Straits Times visited the showflats of recently launched projects over two recent weekends to see how grim things are.

    Agents often outnumbered viewers at showflats. In one case, there were at least 15 agents in attendance but only two families turned up in the space of an hour.

    At another, 20 agents stood around with only a family of five at the showflat in over an hour.

    Dennis Wee Group president Lionel Ng said increased loan restrictions and the wide range of choices for buyers are discouraging transactions.

    "Buyers are also starting to look at properties overseas as they are not as restricted in terms of loans," he added.

    Mr Lionel Ng, who has been in the property game for 18 years, said the market is the worst he has seen, even compared with the 2008 financial crisis.

    "(Then) agents weren't so affected as people were still selling properties. Agents are affected only by the number of transactions, so even then we were doing rather well, compared with now."