Tuesday, December 23, 2008

10,450 Deferred Payment Homes Weigh On Prices

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 20, 2008

Cash-strapped buyers may sell low if they can't get sufficient loans

PRICES in the the already fragile property market could be battered even more from next year if some of the 10,450 homes bought on deferred payment are dumped by cash-strapped buyers.

The danger is that when final payments are due at completion stage, buyers faced with falling values may just sell at fire-sale levels, putting even more pressure on prices.

And a key reason for buyers to dump units is that in today's tight credit markets, risk-averse banks will demand that buyers put in more of their own cash before they will agree to lending the balance.

Take a flat that was bought for $1 million with a deposit of $100,000. The buyer must provide $900,000 on completion but if prices have fallen too far, the bank will not come to the party with a loan for the full amount.

So the buyer either dips into his own pocket or cuts his losses and sells - likely into a falling market.

The numbers, revealed for the first time by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday, are sobering.

Two-thirds of the 10,450 uncompleted homes will come on stream in the next two years - 4,560 in 2009 and 2,540 in 2010.

They were sold from 2005 to this year. That includes a period when many properties were being snapped up by eager buyers with little regard for price.

Deferred payment was introduced during the Asian financial crisis to boost the market, but scrapped late last year. It was blamed for encouraging speculation, as buyers could secure a property for little cash down and then flip it for a profit before a brick had been laid.

Down payments are 10 to 20 per cent with the rest deferred until completion a few years down the track.

To make things worse, the URA said that the 10,450 new homes include sub-sale units.

They were likely bought at even higher prices from speculators, who had already flipped the units for a profit.

The figures also show that the homes are spread far and wide - about 4,000 each in the core central and city-fringe areas and the rest in the suburbs.

Analysts say that the real danger lies in the 1,270 prime units in the core central region that will be completed in 2010. These were boom-time buys.

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said possible defaults will likely come from people who bought at the height of the market last year.

'It is cause for concern but it is not a big problem when you look at it in percentage terms,' he said.

In contrast, projects slated for completion next year were bought in 2005 and 2006 when prices were not that high, so chances of defaults are slim, added Mr Tan.

Prime area projects in Orchard Road, Sentosa Cove and Marina Bay like Marina Bay Residences, One Shenton and The Orchard Residences were known to have lured the speculators.

Some of these projects also attracted consortia, which bought one floor at a time, but yesterday's data did not offer any insight into such buyers.

'This is the 'high-risk' group, particularly as banks have become cautious and demand has fallen,' said Standard Chartered economist Alvin Liew.

Jones Lang LaSalle's South-east Asia research head, Mr Chua Yang Liang, said: 'The 10,450 number seems large but...if buyers can get loans, the problem won't be as severe as some people think.

'But psychologically, buyers may see it as a reason to bring prices down.

Responding to the news, the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore said the figures released by the URA underscored the popularity of the scheme.

It maintained that the scheme was beneficial to the market and reminded buyers that although they can sell their units to other buyers on the market, they cannot easily repudiate sales contracts and return the homes they bought to developers.

No comments: