Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Flats Under Stricter Rules In Hot Demand

Source : The Straits Times, May 28 2008

DEMAND has been strong for the latest batch of Housing Board (HDB) flats - despite new rules designed to prevent frivolous applications.

As at 5pm yesterday, 2,397 applications had poured in for the 1,485 premium flats launched by HDB just last Thursday.

The latest built-to-order exercise for new flats - Punggol Sapphire (above) and Compassvale Pearl - has received overwhelming response, notwithstanding the new criterion imposed by Housing Board. -- PHOTO: HDB

Housing experts say demand looks likely to stay healthy, although the total number of applications may drop as HDB's new rules begin to deter time-wasting and frivolous applications.

The latest flats are likely to be three times oversubscribed, they say - a drop from comparable sales earlier this year, which were about five times oversubscribed.

HDB's two newest projects - Compassvale Pearl in Sengkang and Punggol Sapphire - are being offered under HDB's build-to-order (BTO) system, where flats are built only when a certain level of demand has been reached.

HDB tweaked its application process last week to address concerns over relatively low take-up rates for new flats despite thousands of applications.

Under the new rules, a first-time buyer who rejects an offer to buy a flat twice at HDB's BTO or balloting sales exercises will lose his first- timer priorities for a year. That effectively puts him at the back of the queue with the second-timers.

The new rules raised fears that buyers offered leftover flats will be penalised. HDB has since said it may exercise flexibility if applicants at the back of the queue have good reasons for rejecting available flats.

Market watchers such as Prop- Nex chief executive Mohamed Ismail told The Straits Times he estimates applications will drop by 40 per cent under the new rules.

'But as new HDB flats are still the cheapest option for newlywed couples, demand should still be at the 70 per cent take-up rate,' he said.

ERA Realty Network's assistant vice-president Eugene Lim agreed. 'The new rules cut out the time- wasters...what's left is real demand.'

Earlier this year, BTO projects Punggol Spring and Jade Spring @ Yishun Phase 2 were about five times oversubscribed, HDB figures show. Mr Ismail said the latest projects are likely to be about three times oversubscribed, based on yesterday's figures.

So far, Punggol Sapphire is the more popular, with 1,824 applications for 1,065 homes, compared to 573 for 420 homes at Sengkang.

First-timers such as IT officer Chua Yong Kiat, 28, said it will not be a surprise if total numbers drop.

'I'll definitely only apply if I'm sure I would buy a flat at that location. If not, getting that dream home becomes much harder if you lose your first-timer priorities,' he said.

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