Crowds at the launch of Grandeur Park Residences over the weekend of March 4 and 5

Sales of new private homes surged to a four-year high last month when some property cooling measures were adjusted for the first time since they were rolled out in 2009.

Excluding executive condominiums (ECs), 1,780 units were sold in March — an 82% jump compared with February’s 979 units. Last month’s strong showing took newhome sales in 1Q2017 to 3,141. According to CBRE, the last time quarterly sales volume crossed the 3,000 mark was in 2Q2013, when 4,538 new homes were sold.

Property consultants say the latest sales data released by the URA points to a gradual recovery in the private residential property sector and is a huge boost to market sentiment.

“This is reflective of a broad-based improvement in demand, with buyers not just attracted to newly launched projects, but also to those launched previously as well,” says Ong Teck Hui, JLL’s national director of research and consultancy.

“The recent easing of the Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) and the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) would have had a favourable effect on March’s new-home sales,” notes Ong.

The government unexpectedly announced last month that it will reduce the SSD holding period for homes bought from March 11 to three years instead of four. It will also cut rates for each tier by four percentage points.

“With liquidity aplenty, waning concerns over the supply situation, buyers are coming back to the primary market in droves, as many are buying into the idea that Singapore’s residential market is moving a step closer to a turning point,” says Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield.

The new-home sales level of 1,780 units achieved last month has not been seen since June 2013, when about 1,806 units were sold. Monthly sales cooled substantially after the government implemented the TDSR framework in June 2013.

The strong performance came on the back of two private residential project launches: Grandeur Park Residences and Park Place Residences at PLQ. Both projects accounted for about 40% of the sales.

Grandeur Park Residences was the top seller, with 484 units sold at a median price of $1,406 psf, followed by Park Place Residences at PLQ, with 217 units sold at a median price of $1,805 psf. Parc Riviera came in third with 163 units sold at a median price of $1,246 psf.

Property consultants believe March’s sales momentum is likely to continue over the next few months when several new projects such as Seaside Residences in Siglap and Artra in Redhill are due to hit the market. Despite the surge in sales and the positive sentiment, market watchers say it is still premature to conclude that private home prices will rise this year.

Head of research for SLP International Property Nicholas Mak says some developers may try to increase prices to test the market, but it may not be enough to move overall prices because only select well-located projects will be able to pull this off.

For the EC segment, a total of 578 units were sold in March — 76% higher than the 329 units sold in February. Qingjian Realty sold 187 units at iNz Residence, the first EC project launched this year, at a median price of $774 psf. This was followed by Sol Acres, which saw 147 units sold at a median price of $794 psf, and The Visionaire with 43 units sold at a median price of $811 psf.

Cushman’s Li expects sales momentum to remain relatively strong in the 1,000 range due to the expected launches of Seaside Residences, Alexandra View, Bukit Batok West Avenue 6, Martin Place and Fernvale Road. The full-year new-home sales figure is estimated to range from 8,000 to 10,000 in absence of an economic recession.