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Private home sales tumble, prices weaken

by | Apr 17, 2008 | Real Estate in Singapore | 0 comments

Business Times – 16 Apr 2008

Buyers may have slight edge in power stakes but analysts expect caution to reign for a while


(SINGAPORE) Official numbers yesterday confirmed what many had already suspected as developers sold only 795 private homes in the first quarter of this year – just about half the 1,469 units that they had sold in the preceding quarter.

But there was also an equally significant pointer for market watchers looking for data on the direction of private home prices.

The islandwide median price of private homes (excluding executive condos) sold by developers dipped 0.8 per cent from $1,064 psf in February to $1,055 psf in March, with the decline coming from the Outside Central Region (where suburban mass-market projects are typically located). The median price there slipped about 3.8 per cent, from $844 psf in February to $812 psf in March.

However, the median price in the Core Central Region jumped from $1,723 psf to $2,450 psf, while that for the Rest of Central Region rose from $1,095 psf to $1,104 psf over the same period. These figures are based on Urban Redevelopment Authority’s monthly survey of developers’ sales.

Property analysts cautioned against reading too much into the monthly price data given that sales volumes are still relatively thin.

Developers sold 301 private homes in March, a significant improvement from 174 units in February but slightly lower than the 320 units for January.

These numbers are lower than the monthly sales of more than 500 units for September to November last year. The dizzy days between June and August last year had seen more than 1,000 units being sold each month.

Chesterton International’s head (research & consultancy) Colin Tan said that, focusing on projects with sales of at least five units in February as well as March, there were 14 developments that recorded month-on-month price declines, outpacing just seven projects with increases.

‘The number of declines versus rises gives some sense of the power play between buyers and sellers. The market is on balance at the moment, with some hint that buyers have a slight edge. We cannot yet say for sure that the market has definitely turned,’ he added.

URA’s data showed that developers launched a total of 642 private homes (excluding ECs) in March, up significantly from 343 units in February, which had a shorter period for home sales because of the Chinese New Year festivities. The March launch figure was the highest in seven months.

Jones Lang LaSalle, looking only at private apartment and condo sales, said the ratio of units sold to units launched has fallen from 101.2 per cent in November last year to 46.4 per cent in March 2008. ‘But the ratio may be stabilising since the March figure was just slightly lower than the 47.5 per cent ratio in February,’ said JLL’s head of research (South-east Asia) Chua Yang Liang.

‘It seems developers’ optimism on the mass market far exceeds buyers’ expectations. Buyers maintain a more cautious outlook of the market as the economy is expected to ease in the next few months, despite the strong advance estimate of 7.2 per cent GDP growth for Q1 2008.’

The highest-priced primary market transaction in March was the $4,612 psf fetched by a unit at Scotts Square along Scotts Road – higher than the $4,140 psf top price achieved in February, for a unit at The Ritz-Carlton Residences in the Cairnhill area.

Looking ahead, CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho said: ‘The current market sentiment is likely to continue into the second quarter. Activity may pick up in terms of project launches, but buyers’ response will be price sensitive.’

Knight Frank director Nicholas Mak too expects sales volumes to remain thin in the next few months in the face of continuing uncertainty of the US economic outlook and financial market problems. ‘Homebuyers, especially in the mass-market segment, are expected to remain cautious until there is a sustained recovery in the financial markets and economic conditions, which would spill over to the property market. Developers, on the other hand, are likely to launch their projects slowly in the next few months to take advantage of any improvement in market sentiments,’ Mr Mak added.

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