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Property Sector Performing Better Than Expected in 2021

In the first quarter of 2021, private home prices in Singapore increased by 2.9 percent over the previous quarter. The price increase follows a 2.1 percent increase in the third quarter of 2020. This is attributed to higher-priced city-fringe homes and a healthy landed property market.

Due to a slew of factors, including sufficient liquidity, low interest rates, and continued demand from HDB upgraders, demand for private homes remained strong. Given healthy demand and easing inventory, prices in the mass market private residential segment are expected to remain stable this year, and probably even grow slightly - that is, if no additional cooling measures are implemented. There are signs that en bloc sales could be on the rise again, as developers look to replenish their land banks.

Outside Central Region

Despite the pandemic and the economic downturn, Singaporeans' dream of owning and residing in a private residential property remains intact. Last year, developers sold 9,982 new homes, with sales in the mass market and Outside Central Region (OCR) leading the way. In 2020, the total number of new homes sold was 0.7 percent higher than in 2019, when 9,912 units were sold.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Housing Development Board (HDB) saw a 2.8 percent increase in resale prices, with 53 resale flats worth more than $1 million changing hands. As the overall market recovers, some flat owners are taking advantage of the opportunity to sell and trade up to private homes.

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The Allure Of Condo Living

While many Singaporeans choose to live in public housing estates, the allure of condominium living has enticed some families to upgrade and move into private homes. Condo living appeals to a variety of people for a variety of reasons, including lifestyle, legacy planning, and wealth preservation.

Living in a condominium complex provides a unique way of life. The resident, for example, would not have to drive far to use facilities like the swimming pool or the gym. Additionally, those who regularly host get-togethers can easily reserve a function room or a barbecue (BBQ) pit at condos.

Local Buyers Dominate Sales

Owner occupiers, including HDB upgraders, often view the OCR as an entry point into the private residential sector. The OCR continues to account for the majority of transactions, whether in the new sales or resale segments, thanks to a larger demand base.

In 2020, 4.481 new homes were sold in the OCR, accounting for 45 percent of all new private homes. In 2020, Singaporeans accounted for 87 percent of all non-landed and resale transactions in the OCR.

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Price and Quantum, Unit Sizes

The sweet spot for mass market homes remains below S$1.5 million, with 76 percent of new homes sold in 2020.

In comparison to 2019, a higher proportion of more expensive homes (between S$1.5 million and S$3 million) were sold in 2020 than in 2019.

Last year, an increase of approximately 8% in the number of larger apartments (800 to 1,200 sqft) sold compared to 2019.

The increase in sales of larger homes is attributed to a preference change as a result of more widespread work-from-home activities and a lack of new launches last year.

Mass-market homes are typically less expensive than those in the prime central region (CCR) and the rest of the central region (RCR), making them more appealing to a broad range of local buyers.

Demand For Mass Market Remain Strong

The demand for mass-market homes is expected to remain strong in the future. Furthermore, low interest rates and plenty of household savings would encourage more home purchases and financing. Prices of mass-market private homes are expected to remain relatively steady this year, with the possibility of a small rise if no new cooling measures are implemented.

New home prices in the OCR will remain relatively steady, as developers have little room to lower prices due to the pandemic's high land cost.

The majority of buyers can still afford mass-market private homes. Those with more pressing housing needs or a larger budget can look into the resale market.

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Luxury Residential Market

Despite the pandemic-induced recession in 2020, developers responded by offering star buys and renovation packages, and some luxury projects continued to sell well.

The pandemic struck early on, and property viewings were suspended for nearly three months. As a result, the number of luxury units sold dropped to just 254 units.

Luxury Homes Defined

In real estate, the word "luxury" is sometimes used interchangeably. Industry players in Singapore typically believe that a luxury apartment must be located in the core central region (CCR), be at least 1,800 square feet in size, and cost between S$2,500 per square foot (psf) and S5 million.

Developers are increasingly building smaller units to broaden the pool of buyers to ultra-high-net singles and investors in recent years, as the Singapore property market has been hit by global economic uncertainty, property cooling steps, and rising land prices.

The luxury market was studied using a three-tier classification by an international realty body.

Compact luxury - starting at S$2,800 per square foot (psf) and ranging from S$2 million to S$4 million.

Prime luxury - Prices start at S$2,500 psf and go up to S$5 million for properties up to 5,000 square feet.

Premium luxury - with sizes exceeding 5,000 square feet and prices starting from S$2.500 psf.

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Foreigners Play In CCR

Despite the rise in the Additional Buyer's (ABSD) from July 6, 2018, statistics given by the URA showed that Singapore permanent residents (PRs) and foreigners were the dominant players in the luxury homes industry.

More foreigners and investors can come in as several countries continue to establish mutual travel agreements.

With its safe-haven reputation, Singapore has become one of the world's most sought-after locations for purchasing investment properties, particularly given its role in successfully handling the pandemic and supporting businesses. Its secure political climate and extensive efforts to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak are also important factors.

Popular Singapore

After the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, its luxury residential market is the most popular among Asia's ultra-wealthy. When considering investment properties abroad, buyers from India, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea ranked Singapore among their top five choices. This demand could help fuel prices in key markets drop by up to 7%.

Market sentiment has improved as some sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, technology, and telecommunications, have performed well, and the stock market has regained some ground. Foreign investors have faith in Singapore's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021 and beyond, more foreigners will come to establish their businesses and residences.

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Possible Revival of Residential En Bloc Sales in 2021

Jasen Mansion, Queen Astrid Gardens, Dublin Lodge, Fortune Park, and The Bayron are among the sites undergoing planning for en bloc sale and being put on the market in 2021.

Spanish Village, Thomson View, Laguna Park, Cashew Heights, and others are among the projects that might consider en bloc sales or are already in the planning stages.

Size Matters

In 2021, it's likely that owners of big, medium, and small sites in prime and non-prime locations will try to sell them all together. Larger sites, on the other hand, take longer to reach consensus among owners, while developers are wary of the increased risks posed by the ABSD, and are more likely to be conservative in their offers in order to account for a larger margin of protection.

This could make meeting owners' price demands difficult, reducing the likelihood of large sites succeeding. Small to medium-sized projects with less than 400 units have a higher chance of succeeding because they can be organized for sale faster and the absolute land price is more palatable to developers. In the end, good en bloc sales would most likely be those with reasonable pricing.

The size and length of en bloc sales during this period are determined by GLS supply in the second half of 2021, as well as whether the market uptrend will be maintained or disrupted by cooling steps. Although we expect the en bloc sales market to rekindle this year, it will likely be moderate in comparison to the hot 2017/18 period, which could be a better and more positive outcome for the market.

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New Challenges

Although 2021 is predicted to be a year of economic recovery, there are several unknowns. A new outbreak of COVID-19 infections has hit some nations, prompting the reintroduction of restrictive steps. The availability of a vaccine in 2021 could help in the fight against COVID-19, but much depends on the pace at which vaccines are administered, as well as the vaccine's efficacy. The current trade war between the United States and China is likely to escalate, putting downward pressure on global growth and raising geopolitical risks.

If the pandemic and the economic forecast for 2021 turn out to be less favorable than anticipated, the residential market's sentiments may be impacted, and its outlook may be less positive.

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