Dream homes revisited

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/ The Edge Property
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August 5, 2015 9:00 AM SGT
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While June may not have seen new projects launched, buyers are returning to earlier launches of mega projects with unsold units that are sensitively priced, well located and architecturally differentiated, say property consultants.
Last month, no new projects were launched, owing to the month-long school holidays and the 28th Southeast Asian Games for which Singapore played host after 22 years. Despite the dearth of new launches, property consultants have detected an undercurrent of buying activity in previously launched projects, with momentum picking up since April.
It is not just mega projects, such as Botanique at Bartley, North Park Residences and the latest executive condominium (EC) project, Westwood Residences, that have topped the bestseller chart. Last month saw buyers returning to previously launched projects, some of which had debuted one or two years ago.
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“The reality is that projects don’t sell out within one or two months of their launch any more,” says PropNex CEO Mohamad Ismail. “Over the last two months, we have seen buyers returning to pick up units of previously launched projects. These are typically the bigger developments with a huge stock and where even the later phases released have good stacks of units available.”
The other reason is that buyers reckon prices are not likely to fall further, especially when there is a lot of speculation that with the upcoming general election, some of the property cooling measures and the additional buyer’s stamp duty could be tweaked by end-2015 or early next year, says Ismail. “So, we have seen buying momentum slowly picking up in some of the earlier launches.”
Incentives for buyers, agents Most developers with projects that were launched earlier and are still sitting on a substantial number of unsold stock recognise that they will have to employ a variety of strategies to lure homebuyers back, says Knight Frank Singapore executive director Tan Tee Khoon. “Some continue to offer selected ‘star buy’ units to prospective buyers and/or release new stacks. Others tie up with vendors of consumer and luxury goods to provide special discounts when buyers purchase their residential units during a promotional period or ‘buyer-bring-buyer’ programmes.”
The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio chalked up sales of 23 units last month and 44 units in May. This brings total units sold to 449, or 64% of 698 units.
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The Panorama
This was a remarkable turnaround for a project that was launched in mid-January 2014 and garnered only 56 sales at a median price of $1,363 psf in the first month. Developer Wheelock Properties took an impairment loss of $110 million on the project last year. The showflat was closed in February 2014 for a revamp and reopened in May last year.
Sales at The Panorama only started to pick up in August 2014. “Subsequently, the development has remained consistently ranked among the top five bestselling projects each month,” notes Tan.
The main draw for most buyers is its location, being close to the upcoming Mayflower MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line as well as its proximity to top school CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School. The average price of the project as a whole is in excess of $1,300 psf.
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“Given its location within an established neighbourhood, The Panorama will rank high on homebuyers’ list,” says CBRE head of research for Southeast Asia Desmond Sim.
Another example is The Glades at Tanah Merah, a 726-unit condo project that was launched two years ago. Developed by Keppel Land, The Glades saw 29 units scooped up in May, followed by another 12 units in June. The strong rebound in sales came even as a surprise to the developer, according to Albert Foo, Keppel Land’s general manager for marketing. He attributes the rebound in the last two months’ sales to the relocation of its sales gallery and the launch of a new showflat in May. The “star buys” offered last month showed discounts ranging from $8,800 to $70,000, or from 1.1% to 5%.
The Trilinq by Malaysian group IOI Properties lacklustre sales when it was launched two years ago, with an average price of $1,500 psf. However, over the past three months, The Trilinq saw 34 units sold at an average price of $1,350 psf. The city-fringe project is located on Jalan Lempeng, off Clementi Avenue 6, and near Clementi Mall, as well as the MRT station.
“The project was probably one step ahead of the market in terms of pricing two years ago,” says Leong Boon Hoe, managing director of CBRE Realty Network, the marketing agent for The Trilinq. “Today, we’re probably one step behind, so it looks like value for money at today’s prices compared with other launches.”
Still, other developers are offering incentives and more attractive discounts to real estate agents. Fragrance Group and World Class Land, the joint developers of mixed-use development City Gate that is located off Beach Road, had doubled real estate agents’ commission from 2% to 4.5%. Consequently, 21 units were sold in June, bringing total sales to 250 (80%) out of a total of 311 residential units. The project, which was launched 12 months ago, includes a commercial podium with 188 strata retail units and is a redevelopment of the former KeyPoint commercial building.
‘Buyers’ market’ Since early this year, CBRE’s Sim has noticed buyers returning to previously launched projects, but the surge in sales only started in April and May. “It’s a buyers’ market and people are taking longer to make a decision,” he observes. “The buyers on the hunt today are those who are not constrained by the total debt servicing ratio and are typically first time homebuyers, or those who have already sold a property, and are now holding on to cash reserves and looking for an opportunity to re-enter the market.”
In Jurong West, MCL Land’s 696-unit Lakeville has been seeing brisk sales since it was launched last year. “The Jurong story remains strong,” Sim says. “The project is also uniquely situated with views of the Jurong Lake Park and next to the Canadian International School.”
Lakeville saw 39 units sold in May at a median price of $1,279 psf, and 20 units in June at an average price of $1,320 psf. There has also been a resurgence in interest over the last few months, owing to the announcement in May that the Singapore terminus for the high-speed rail to Malaysia will be located on the site of the current Jurong Country Club.
The overall topselling private condo in June was Botanique at Bartley, which saw 61 units sold in June and 94 units in May. Total sales to date is 412 (52%) out of a total of 797 units. The average price of units sold remains unchanged at $1,290 psf. “These days, buyers are very price-sensitive and discerning,” says Anthony Wong, UOL Group ( Financial Dashboard)’s general manager for marketing, the developer of Botanique at Bartley. “We launched Botanique at Bartley at an average of $1,290 psf. Now, after a 50% take-up, we are still hovering at the same price levels.”
Botanique at Bartley is a city-fringe project that is within a short walk of the MRT station. About 70% of the units enjoy a view of the water or greenery, and all layouts are practical and efficient, with the flexi-units giving innovative homeowners flexibility in playing with the space, adds Wong.
The second bestseller last month, with 24 units sold, was North Park Residences by Frasers Centrepoint. The project sold 59 units in May. Total sales achieved as at end-June is 562 units, or 61% of a total of 920 units. The average selling price of the 99-year leasehold condo is $1,330 psf. It ranked among the topsellers in April and May as well.
North Park Residences has attracted buyers with its Yishun Central location and connectivity: the apartment blocks sit on top of Northpoint City, a new shopping mall that will be linked to the existing Northpoint shopping centre, the regional library, community club, bus interchange and MRT interchange stations.
TOP draw Even projects that have obtained Temporary Occupation Permit recently saw buyers revisiting. One example is the 509-unit Sky Habitat, designed by acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed the Marina Bay Sands, with its signature rooftop SkyPark and infinity pool with city views. The residential towers at Sky Habitat are linked by sky bridges, and there is an infinity pool at the top of the tallest condo tower on the 38th floor. The project obtained its TOP on April 27.
Sky Habitat sold 12 units in May at a median price of $1,619 psf, according to URA data. With no units sold in June, the total as at the end of the month was 372 units (73%). The recently released units at Sky Habitat are two to four-bedroom terrace apartments, priced from $1,370 psf. Unit sizes start from 1,066 sq ft for a two-bedroom unit to 2,260 sq ft for a four-bedroom unit. Absolute prices, therefore, range from $1.46 million to $3.1 million.
With 137 unsold units remaining in the project, it remains to be seen whether the developer would be willing to offer discounts. In April 2014, developer CapitaLand revamped its showflat and launched units at prices that were 10% to 15% lower than what they were two years ago, when the project was first launched. Prices offered at Sky Habitat’s relaunch in April last year ranged from $1,276 to $1,590 psf, compared with $1,435 to $1,893 psf in 2012, according to CapitaLand, which is jointly developing the project with Mitsubishi Estate Asia and Shimizu Corporation.
“It is not meaningful to compare prices of units at different points in time, given the differences in attributes of the units such as the size, layout, type, storey height and facing,” says CapitaLand Singapore CEO Wen Khai Meng.
The other project that saw sales bounce back following its completion is GuocoLand’s Leedon Residence. The 381-unit freehold luxury condo project on Leedon Heights was completed early last month. In May, seven units were sold at a median price of $1,890 psf. Last month saw 12 units sold at $1,813 psf following its TOP.
The project is designed by SCDA Architects’ Chan Soo Khian, who is known for designing many of the upscale condo developments in Singapore, such as The Marq on Paterson Hill, Nassim Park Residences and TwentyOne Angullia Park. Buyers were drawn to the freehold tenure, pricing just below $2,000 psf for a prime district 10 address, and the fact that it is designed by Chan, according to real estate agents.
“In my view, new homes that are at good locations, sensitively priced, and architecturally and thematically differentiated would continue to appeal to buyers,” says Knight Frank’s Tan.
A long-drawn recovery? Private residential prices fell 1.1% in 1Q2015 and 0.9% in 2Q2015 in URA’s latest flash estimate. This marked the seventh consecutive quarter of price fall. “The drop is now more prolonged than during the global financial crisis,” says PropNex’s Ismail. “With the property market continuing to operate in a tight financing and regulatory environment, Singapore’s property market remains in a down cycle.”
Given the lack of new launches, new home sales in June is likely to fall below 600, compared with 638 units in May, forecasts CBRE’s Sim. He also predicts new home sales for the year to be in the range of 6,000 to 7,000 units, the lowest figure registered since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008. Last year, new home sales rang in at 7,557 units, which was half the volume in 2013. “It’s going to be a long-drawn recovery to clear the 27,000 units of unsold stock,” he says. “There will, therefore, be calls to review the property cooling measures, which are likely to be tweaked and could lead to further revival in sales.”
In the meantime, developers are preparing to roll out new projects this month. These include two EC projects, namely The Vales in Anchorvale Crescent, Sengkang by SingHaiyi and The Brownstone in Canberra Drive, Sembawang, where e-applications will start from July 10 to 20.
However, the hottest selling project in July is expected to be the 1,390-unit High Park Residences at Fernvale Road near Seletar Mall. The majority of the units are expected to cost less than $1 million, with average prices expected to be below $1,000 psf. The preview on July 4 and 5 drew 8,000 visitors. “It’s seeing strong expressions of interest,” says PropNex’s Ismail. “It’s going to be another topseller like North Park Residences.”
This article appeared in the City & Country of Issue 685 (July 13) of The Edge Singapore.

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