Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fairly Brisk Sales For New Condos

Source : The Straits Times, March 7, 2009

Attractive prices draw buyers to entry-level and mid-priced projects

THE show-flat crowd - that rarest of species these days - has been lured back into the market by two new developments that held soft launches this week.

Hundreds of people turned up at the Double Bay Residences showroom in Simei when its doors opened for a private preview yesterday.

Crowds at the Double Bay Residences showroom in Simei yesterday. UOL Group has so far released 250 of the condo's 646 units for sale. Developers are seeing a renewed interest in their entry-level and mid-priced projects from HDB upgraders and private home owners. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Developer UOL Group said more than 80 units have been sold so far, at an average price of $600 per sq ft (psf) to $650 psf. The development's six retail units have all been sold as well.

Chief operating officer Liam Wee Sin noted that the response was strong ahead of the 99-year leasehold condominium's official launch next weekend.

UOL has so far released 250 of the 646 units in Double Bay for sale. One-bedroom units in the Simei Street 4 project start from $420,000, while four-bedders cost at least $930,000.

The crowds were also out for The Mercury in Shanghai Road, which was said to be more than 60 per cent sold since it started previews on Thursday.

The 67-unit freehold project is priced from about $1,040 psf. One-bedroom units at the River Valley estate start from $740,000, while two-bedders are going for about $1.1 million.

The fairly brisk sales for these projects come on the heels of a few successful launches recently, which appear to have boosted sentiment in the badly battered property market.

Last month, Frasers Centrepoint said it sold over 300 units in three days at its Caspian condominium in Jurong. To date, over 500 of the 712 units have been sold.

Caspian's success was mirrored at The Alexis in Alexandra Road, which sold out within a few days of its preview.

Property consultants say the main draw for these projects is their attractive prices, which, at well under $1 million, are affordable for HDB upgraders. Even mid-tier projects such as The Alexis and The Mercury feature smaller units to offset their higher per square foot prices.

'These days, it looks like the total quantum of price is more important than the price per square foot,' said Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak. 'In some areas, prices have come down 20 per cent to 30 per cent from the peak, and there are probably people who see these buys as good bargains.'

Still, most of the sales activity are confined to the entry-level and mid-priced market. High-end projects are still facing a very challenging time, consultants say.

And while transactions are being steadily chalked up, there remain clear signs that not everything is fine and dandy in this economic recession.

At The Mercury, for instance, agents marketing the project said they had expected it to be fully sold within one day.

In Toh Tuck Road, off Upper Bukit Timah, boutique developer Hiap Hoe was said to have sold only a handful of units in The Beverly condominium, although news reports said more than 300 people turned up for its launch last weekend.

Hiap Hoe released 31 of the 118 units at an average price of $750 psf. The apartments are a bit bigger than average, starting from 1,120 sq ft for the smallest two-

bedroom units, which translates into somewhat higher prices per unit.

The developer is also not offering the interest absorption scheme for The Beverly, which was on offer for the Caspian and The Alexis and is available for Double Bay and The Mercury.

Under the scheme, buyers who take out a loan immediately on purchase pay only a down payment and defer remaining instalments until the project is finished.

Mr Liam of UOL, however, said more of Double Bay's buyers opted for the normal payment schemes rather than taking up interest absorption.

The buyers so far have been a mixed bag - HDB upgraders, private home owners and owner-occupiers, and investors.

On the whole, the smaller units have proven more popular, he said, underscoring the importance of affordability. But he said an 'encouraging' sign was that buyers were also going for units on higher floors, which are more expensive.

'We are seeing a flight to quality,' he told The Straits Times. 'If the price is within their budget, they will gun for the better units and the higher floors.'

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