Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Robust Private Home Sales In June

Source : The Business Times, June 30, 2009

But it is too early to call a recovery, cautions OCBC Investment Research

Private home sales stayed strong in June.

Far East Organization sold 74 apartments in its 280-unit Vista Residences at a private preview last weekend, the developer said yesterday.

Freehold property: Artist's impression of Vista Residences; Far East Organization's Mr Chia says that buyers are mainly Singaporeans and there is strong interest from young professional managers, teachers and civil servants

And Frasers Centrepoint said that it has fully sold two of its projects - the 330-unit 8@Woodleigh and the 110-unit Woodsville 28. Homes at 8@Woodleigh went for an average of $790 per sq ft (psf), while units at Woodsville 28 sold for an average price of $775 psf.

8@Woodleigh was launched just two weeks ago. Woodsville 28 was launched in July 2008 but most units languished until the buying momentum returned to the market this year.

Over at the freehold Vista Residences - on Jalan Dusun and Jalan Datoh at the corner of Thomson Road - prices start at $960 psf. The project will be officially launched tomorrow, but Far East released 88 units at a weekend preview, and 85 per cent of them were snapped up.

Strong showing: Vista Residences will be officially launched tomorrow, but Far East released 88 units at a weekend preview, and 85% of them were snapped up

'Buyers are mainly Singaporeans and there is particularly strong interest from young professional managers, teachers and civil servants who are buying to occupy,' said Chia Boon Kuah, chief operating officer of Far East Organization's property arm.

While units at Vista Residences have sold for more than homes in the nearby The Arte - a City Developments project where units were launched at an average price of $880 psf in March - the difference in pricing is due to the difference in unit sizes and floor plans, analysts say.

'Vista Residences offer smaller size units that command higher psf pricing and also smaller balcony space than The Arte,' OCBC Investment Research analyst Foo Sze Ming said in a note yesterday. 'As such, we caution that the strong buying momentum at higher psf pricing for the new launch should not be viewed as a new uptrend for property prices.'

Mr Foo said that it is too early to call a recovery in the property market. 'We remain unconvinced by the recent 'recovery' in the physical property market,' he said.

'We believe buying strength over the recent weeks could have been driven by the spillover effect from earlier pent-up demand that drew cash rich local investors back into the market. In our view, potential catalysts for price increase will have to come from an inflow of foreign funds into the property market, as well as a pick up in employment opportunities.'

Foreign funds were the driving force of the property boom in 2007, but have not come back to the market in a big way.

Looking ahead, more mass-market and mid-market launches are expected in the coming weeks, including Oasis@Elias, a 388-unit, 99-year leasehold project at Elias Road by Chip Eng Seng, and The Gale, a 329-unit, freehold project at Flora Road by Tripartite Developers.

Existing Home Prices In Spain Fall As Much As 4.5% In Q2

Source : The Business Times, June 30, 2009

(MADRID) Asking prices for existing homes in Spain dropped by as much as 4.5 per cent in the second quarter from the previous three months, Idealista.com said yesterday, as lenders granted fewer mortgages and unemployment increased.

The prices asked by sellers in Spain's biggest cities fell on average by 1-3 per cent, Idealista said in an e-mailed statement. The biggest decline, in the cities of Cadiz and Ciudad Real, was 4.5 per cent.

House prices soared 120 per cent between 1997 and 2007 as falling interest rates, rising employment and economic growth averaging 3.8 per cent a year boosted Spaniards' spending power. Price gains began to slow in 2007 as the global credit crisis took hold and started falling in July 2008 as overbuilding caused the supply of homes to outstrip demand.

In Madrid, prices slipped 0.6 per cent to 3,954 euros (S$8,090) per square metre (psm) and in Barcelona, Spain's second- largest city, they fell 1.5 per cent to 4,153 euros. In Valencia, the third-biggest city, the decline was 1.9 per cent to 2,499 euros psm. -- Bloomberg

Strong Sales For New Condo Launches

Source : The Straits Times, June 30 2009

Units in mass- and higher-market projects snapped up.

STRONG sales in the property market continued over the weekend as mass- and upper-mid- market launches drew crowds of buyers.

Far East Organization sold 74 of its initial batch of 88 units at a preview of its Vista Residences over the weekend. -- PHOTO: FAR EAST ORGANIZATION.

Within three days of its preview launch last Friday, the 68-unit Residences @ Killiney project sold 39 of 60 released units - with sales ongoing, a spokesman for developer Hoi Hup Realty said yesterday.

Preview prices at the Killiney Road condominium ranged from $1,700 per sq ft (psf) to $2,000 psf.

Opposite the condo at Devonshire Road, Allgreen Properties' One Devonshire has sold more than 95 per cent of its 36-storey, 152-unit freehold condo since its launch about two weeks ago.

In the Thomson Road area, Far East Organization sold 84 per cent - or 74 homes - of an initial batch of 88 units at a private preview of its Vista Residences over the weekend.

The 280-unit freehold project offers a range of accommodation from one bedroom to penthouse units starting from $960 psf.

Far East will release another 45 units tomorrow - its official launch date - said Mr Chia Boon Kuah, chief operating officer of the firm's property arm.

HSR Property Group executive director Eric Cheng noted that the buying activity - which started in mass-market new condo launches - seems to have moved into the higher market segments.

'This is undoubtedly due to the stock market rally, more positive sentiment, and is enabled by the interest absorption scheme,' he said.

The scheme allows buyers to pay a deposit and postpone monthly home loan payments until the project is completed.

'This is attracting the investors to come out in droves,' he added.

In the mass market, sales continued with Frasers Centrepoint announcing yesterday that its two projects, 8@Woodleigh and Woodsville 28, were sold out.

All 330 units at 8@Woodleigh in Potong Pasir were fully sold last Saturday at an average price of $790 psf. And all 110 units of Woodsville 28 were sold by last Tuesday at an average price of $775 psf.

At Pasir Ris, half of the 142 units at Chip Eng Seng group's Oasis@Elias previewed over the weekend were sold, said its marketing agent CB Richard Ellis.

On the east coast, the 94-unit Parc Seabreeze in Marine Parade is selling well with the project close to 70 per cent sold, said HSR, which is marketing the project. Units are fetching from $1,050 psf to $1,550 psf.

Mr Colin Tan, Chesterton Suntec International's head of research and consultancy, noted that there had been 'pent-up demand' resulting in strong sales activity, but added that this was 'not sustainable'.

'Unlike the boom years, where foreigners made up a huge number of buyers, it is mostly locals who are on this buying spree,' he said.

Property expert Nicholas Mak expects a moderation of buying activity in the coming months, especially as developers continue to revise their prices upwards.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Er, What Does A Mortgagee Sale Mean?

Source : The Sunday Times, June 28, 2009

FINANCIAL QUOTIENT

Where do you see this?

In financial news articles, classified advertisements and auction houses' list of properties on offer.

What does it mean?

A mortgagee sale takes place when a bank force-sells a property after it has repossessed it, when the borrower cannot pay his mortgage. The repossessed property is usually sold via an auction by the bank - and often as a last resort - to recover the debt of the defaulted borrower.

Why is it important?

Such forced sales can throw up great bargains for investors.

A surge in the number of repossessed properties is a sign that the economy is not looking good. It signals a worsening property slump.

For instance, the number of such properties shot up at auctions during the economic crises of 1986 and 1998, when many homeowners struggled to pay their mortgage instalments.

But this time round, the number of mortgagee sales has not risen.

So you want to use the term. Just say...

'I have been monitoring auction houses' list of mortgagee sales to see if I can get my hands on a real bargain.'

Kampung Comfort

Source : The Straits Times, June 27, 2009

In the first of a four-part series on beautiful homes in Singapore, we look at a bungalow in River Valley

Some houses in Singapore scream for attention with their massive size or outlandish architecture.

This 9,000 sq ft bungalow in Cable Road shielded by lush greenery is hard to spot, making it a sanctuary. -- PHOTOS: ALBERT SIM KOON SENG, JEREMY SAN

But a two-storey bungalow off River Valley Road whispers discreet luxury as a $1.6-million modern interpretation of the humble kampung home.

It is a hard-to-spot yet huge house of 9,000 sq ft along the small enclave of Cable Road, shielded by lush greenery.

Echoing the design of traditional village houses, it boasts natural ventilation and lighting through louvres and lightwells (above) all around.

Drive past it and you are likely to see just a small portion of the front of the house with the garage. But there is much more to this home. The most interesting feature is that its design echoes that of kampung, or village, houses.

As with most such houses, it is in a rectangular shape, but with extensions in the form of a verandah and balcony.

From far, it appears like a box lifted from the ground, as if built on stilts.

Its architect, Mr Yip Yuen Hong, 50, a partner at local firm ip:li architects, describes the house as 'a derivative on the kampung house'.

In its hideaway location, shielded by bamboo trees, he says, the home is a sanctuary and a place of relaxation, so 'it is not visible'.

A shaded terrace on the ground floor looks out to the swimming pool.

The Cable Road House is one of 26 homes featured in a new book called Singapore Houses, which showcases works by 20 of Singapore's best architects. It is written by British architect and urban designer Robert Powell. Architectural photographer Albert Lim shot the homes.

The beautiful home is a 'Singapore home' not only because of its location but also because of its architecture.

There is no need for air-con with all the louvres that allow the breeze to enter (left).

Although he grew up living in a shophouse, Mr Yip has a soft spot for kampung houses as 'they are traditional homes that we are all familiar with'.

As well, it fits in with what is discussed at the beginning of Singapore Houses: Mr Powell writes that the houses in the book show a good grasp of the principles of designing with climate.

A shaded terrace on the ground floor looks out to the swimming pool.

'They are concerned with orientation in relation to the sun path and to wind,' he writes.

'Overhanging eaves are part of the vocabulary that most architects draw upon, as are high ceilings, louvred walls and the use of the 'skin' of the building as a permeable filter.'

The Cable Road House fits this description. Mr Yip makes use of glazed louvres around the home which, when opened, allow breezes to enter the home. The use of deep overhanging eaves blocks out direct sunlight by providing some shade and also helps to keep the rain out.

Bamboo trees shield the bungalow from sun and stares.

Mr Yip designed the home to be just 8m wide so that air can blow through the house freely. The use of glass folding doors encourages natural ventilation while allowing light to enter the home.

Even the choice of materials reflects this simple, natural approach.

Instead of opting for too much glass or steel, this home was constructed with concrete and lots of timber, such as native variety like balau for the walls and chengai for the flooring.

Rustic retreat

Mr Yip used specially treated steel for the roof. 'These materials look better with time, giving the home a timeless look,' he says.

The owners, who decline to be named, are a couple who live with the husband's mother.

There are two bedrooms on the ground floor. One is occupied by the owner's mother and the other is a guest room.

A shaded terrace on the ground floor looks out to the swimming pool, which also serves as a cooling device when the wind blows. The house took 16 months to build.

There are two more bedrooms on the second floor - a bedroom for the couple and another for the owner's sister when she visits.

A lightwell on the second floor just by the family room allows light to enter the home.

The couple hired Mr Yip after seeing a house in Sunset Way designed by him. It had a kampung look that they fell in love with.

However, unlike kampung houses which do not come with air-conditioning, the Cable Road house is fitted with it.

However, Mr Yip says proudly: 'The owners say the fans are enough to keep them cool.'

Auction Sales Surge In First Half To $72m

Source : The Straits Times, June 27, 2009

Figures show uplift in property market over the past few months

AUCTION sales have surged in the first half of this year, with the number of transactions dramatically higher than what was clocked up last year.

The numbers tell a story of a property market rapidly gaining in confidence, especially in recent months, according to consultancy Colliers International yesterday.


















Sales in the first half reached $72.39 million. That is 61 per cent up on the $45 million recorded in the second half of last year, and 87 per cent higher than the $38.64 million racked up in the same period a year ago.

Much of the pickup happened in the second quarter, after the stock market rallied and sentiment improved. This month has seen strong sales of $24.7 million, compared with the miserable $3.6 million sales in January and $1.4 million in February.

Jones Lang LaSalle, which conducted the last auction for this month yesterday, said it sold four properties worth $11.29 million, including a $3.45 million Leonie Towers apartment.

Sales were lacklustre in the first quarter because buyers had bid very low and opportunistic prices, said Ms Grace Ng, Colliers' deputy managing director (agency and business services) and auctioneer.

The mood in auction rooms now is decidedly more upbeat, with sellers keen on repricing properties about 5 per cent to 10 per cent higher, said Knight Frank auctioneer Mary Sai.

But the increased expectations do not signal a clear price rise yet. 'Prices were lagging behind the market so the sellers were moving up to match the market,' Ms Sai said. 'Those that we sold were mostly the $800,000 to $1 million types. These are the safe buys as mass market homes aren't likely to retreat much.'

The buying mood has even carried over from mass market homes to some landed and high-end property, said Ms Ng. These include two apartments at The Clift worth $605,000 and $1.047 million.

Few mortgagee sales have occurred this year despite the weak economic climate. The 103 repossessed units on the block represented only about 23 per cent of total properties put up for auction in the first half. This compares with 28 per cent last year, 44 per cent in 2007 and 50 per cent in 1998.

The number is about half of what was put up during the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

In all, there were 54 homes sold through auction in the first half.

'The continued low number of mortgagee sales could be partly attributed to financial institutions attempting to manage their distressed asset portfolio by giving property owners the opportunity to dispose of the property of their own accord,' said Ms Ng. 'There will be less contention over the sale price, as the price is determined through a consultation process with the owner.'

Ms Ng expects to see more mortgagee sales in the second half of the year due to the general lag time of approximately six months or more.

Ms Ng also expects the buying momentum to persist in the next few months, possibly leading average monthly auction sales to surpass $30 million in some months. That could send auction sales over $160 million for the year, almost twice the $83.67 million achieved last year, she said.

$44m Bid Triggers Tender For New Bridge Road Site

Source : The Straits Times, June 26, 2009

A HOTEL site on New Bridge Road is up for public tender after an unnamed buyer put in a bid that matched or exceeded the Government's minimum price. This has triggered the tender process.

The site was on a reserve list and goes on sale only when developers indicate a certain level of interest. In this case, an undisclosed developer committed to a bid of at least $43.8 million.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said yesterday that it will launch the tender for the 99-year leasehold site in about two weeks and the launch date will be announced later.

The land parcel has a site area of about 0.45ha and can generate a maximum permissible gross floor area of 15,687 sq m and is ideal for a boutique hotel, said the URA.

This site is in Chinatown and suitable for a three- or four-star hotel.

A recent survey conducted by the Asian Real Estate Association showed that the hotel sector was the least preferred segment this year compared with land for residential, retail, office and industrial uses.

But there will still be keen investors given the improved sentiment, said a property expert.

He said that some hotel investors may believe that the worst is behind them and that the market will improve by the time the project is completed.

They could also be banking on the integrated resorts to bring more tourists to Singapore, he added.

Industry watchers said the triggering bid for the New Bridge Road site is also another sign of increased optimism about the economy.

Earlier this month, a small Short Street hotel site received 15 bids with the winning tender offering 76 per cent above the trigger price.

Current Quarter Sees Big Jump In Property Investment Sales

Source : The Business Times, June 26, 2009

Investment sales of Singapore real estate so far this quarter have hit $953.9 million, a jump of 248 per cent from $273.8 million in the first quarter, says CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).

The increase came as residential investment sales quadrupled on the back of a growing number of high-end condo purchases, a pick-up in transactions of Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) and the acquisition of a few small residential sites.

The sale of three office blocks - Parakou and VTB buildings on Robinson Road, and Anson House - for a total of $259.6 million also helped breathe some life into the moribund office investment sales market.

Investment sales are a gauge of developers' and investors' medium to long-term confidence in the property sector. The pick-up in Q2 was against the backdrop of a dramatic stock-market rally that has led to an improvement in home buying.

CBRE defines investment sales as transactions with a value of at least $5 million, comprising government and private sales of land and buildings, both strata and en bloc. It also includes change of ownership of real estate via share sales.

With a tally of $1.2 billion so far in the first half, CBRE executive director (investment properties) Jeremy Lake reckons full-year investment sales could come in at $2 billion to $2.5 billion, 'depending on how long the burst of activity in the residential sector lasts'.

The figure for the whole of last year was about $18 billion, down from the record $54 billion in 2007.

As for the latest Q2 showing, 63.5 per cent or $605.6 million was from the residential sector.

This sum included 14 GCB deals, up from just three GCB transactions in the first quarter.

'For the Singapore investment market, the first movers are the Asian private investors who are willing to buy at current prices which they deem reflect an attractive discount from the peak,' Mr Lake said.

'Their sweet spot is $20 million to $85 million and their focus is office and/or residential investments.'

On the other hand, institutional investors are mostly adopting a wait-and-see strategy for Singapore, judging that the fundamentals are weak and better opportunities will arise in six to 12 months.

'For second-half 2009 there will be more investment deals, although most of the owners who wanted or needed to sell have already done so, and accordingly the choice of investment opportunities could be limited,' Mr Lake said.

Agreeing, DTZ's senior director for investment advisory services Shaun Poh said investment sales activity may ease slightly in Q3 because of a limited supply of small investment-quantum commercial properties available for sale.

'However, we may see some deals that are currently cooking being sealed in Q3,' he said.

'For the residential sector, some developers who have enjoyed strong sales at their showflats over the past few months are looking to restock their residential land bank selectively,' he added.

Take Two Reveals A Brighter Property Picture

Source : The Business Times, June 29, 2009

Credit Suisse revises downward its initial estimates for a foreigner exodus

Credit Suisse, which predicted in January that an astonishing 200,000 foreigners and permanent residents (PRs) might leave Singapore in 2009 and 2010 on the back of job losses, now thinks that the exodus may not be as bad as it had expected.

The evidence for this can be gleaned from the bank's forecasts for the property market.

Based on its economists' expectations of historically high job losses (up to 240,000) and an exodus of foreigners (up to 200,000) by the end of 2010, the firm's property analyst Tricia Song had previously assumed that 15,000 homes could be vacated by 2011.

But in a report dated June 19, she says she now believes that just 3,000 private homes will be vacant from 2009 to 2011 as foreigners leave the country.

'Anecdotally, we expect that the number of foreigners leaving Singapore will not be as high as we had expected,' said Ms Song in the report.

This also means that private home prices will not be as badly hit as the firm predicted just six months ago. Credit Suisse had expected private home prices to fall by as much as 60 per cent from the peak to 2005 levels, partly because of the projected 200,000-foreigner exodus.

However, in part due to the smaller-than-expected job losses and foreigner exodus, Ms Song now says home prices could dip 25 per cent in 2009 before recovering 10-15 per cent in 2010.

The main cause for the change of view is a recent update by economist Cem Karacadag, who was part of the team that in January predicted that some 200,000 foreigners and PRs might leave Singapore in 2009 and 2010.

Credit Suisse said then that the potential drop in employment and population would have far-reaching implications for the economy.

But in a recent report, Mr Karacadag said job losses have not been as large as he had feared.

'Singapore's labour market has held up remarkably well in this recession and much better than we had anticipated,' he said in a June 19 economics note.

Among various things, employers appear to have adjusted labour costs through salary cuts rather than cuts in headcount, he said.

Job losses so far this year have been surprisingly low against unprecedented job gains in 2007 and 2008, the note said. Net employment fell by only 6,200 in Q1 2009, although Singapore's real GDP was 10 per cent lower in Q1 2009 compared to Q1 2008.

Mr Karacadag also upgraded his forecast for Singapore's 2010 GDP growth to 4.4 per cent, from 3.9 per cent.

Slide In Top Grade Office Rent Slows: JLL

Source : The Business Times, June 29, 2009

Property consultants report a marked pick-up in leasing deals

The average monthly prime Grade A office rental fell 11 per cent quarter on quarter to $9.50 per square foot (psf) in the second quarter, slower than the 28 per cent quarter-on-quarter slide in Q1 2009, according to property consulting group Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

Silver lining: With the shakeup, Singapore could become more cost-competitive and regain its attraction as a hub for global banks and MNCs

The latest drop translates to an overall slide of 48 per cent from the peak of $18.40 psf in Q3 last year.

The vacancy level of Grade A space rose to 6.1 per cent as at end-Q2 2009, up from 5.4 per cent at end-Q1 and 2 per cent at end-2008. JLL's prime Grade A office basket covers the best properties in the Raffles Place area, and includes One Raffles Quay and One Marina Boulevard.

JLL expects office rents to continue falling for the rest of this year and into the middle of next year, albeit at a more moderated pace, as substantial physical supply and weak global demand continue to overshadow the market.

Property consultants point out that net demand remains in negative territory. And with around eight million square feet of new offices slated for completion between now and 2013, the office market isn't out of the woods yet.





















But the silver lining is that Singapore will become more cost-competitive and regain its attraction as a hub for global banks and MNCs when they stabilise their headcounts, says JLL's head of markets, Singapore, Chris Archibold.

For now, the bright spot for the office market is a significant pick-up in leasing volumes lately. 'There has been a marked increase in the volume of leasing and inspection enquiries recently. A significant number of these tenants are looking at remaining within the CBD core area,' said Mr Archibold.

Said DTZ executive director (business space) Cheng Siow Ying: 'At least now, corporates are more willing to talk about their future real estate needs. There's recognition that a lot of good-quality office space is becoming available at competitive rents, presenting attractive leasing opportunities. Six months ago, most corporates were not even reviewing their space needs.'

CB Richard Ellis executive director (office services) Moray Armstrong, too, has seen a 'strong resurgence' of leasing activity in the past couple of months. 'But in truth, it's not representative of positive office demand. Rather what we appear to be seeing is the welcome transition to a phase of greater stability, which is allowing occupiers to re-visit premises planning. For the most part, the tenants that are active are chasing lower cost and better value - in some cases by relocating to newer buildings at the fringe of the CBD,' he added.

Giving some examples, Mr Armstrong noted that office developments such as 78 Shenton Way Tower 2 and Mapletree's The Anson - both of which are completing in the next two to three months - are attracting keen interest.

According to JLL, lease renewals continue to dominate deals in the current market where occupiers have generally cancelled if not deferred their expansion plans.

'While there has been more positive news of late, our domestic economic growth remains weak and this will likely continue to cast a shadow over the Singapore office property market over the next six to nine months,' says JLL's head of SEA research Chua Yang Liang.

Office leasing consultants say it's too early to declare a recovery. Projections of negative office take-up this year range from 500,000 sq ft to 1.5 million sq ft. Demand is expected to fall short of new supply in the next few years.

And that's not counting shadow space or excess space that companies try to sublet. In addition to some 400,000 sq ft of shadow space immediately available for occupation, JLL estimates there is a further 400,000 sq ft in the pipeline.

Summing things up, Mr Armstrong said: 'We can't really call a recovery in the office market until demand turns positive and vacancy rates reduce significantly. It's hard to imagine that will occur in the next 12-18 months, but there is a stronger case for the market turning 2011 onwards.'

Pickup In Private Homes Market

Source : The Sunday Times, June 28 2009

Sales remain strong; top-end rents rebound slightly but analysts say it may be just a small 'blip'

The Singapore private homes market has been seeing quite a bit of activity on improved sentiment, in contrast to the prevailing weak economic climate.

New home sales have remained strong, crossing the 1,000-unit mark every month since February, and the sentiment has spilled over to the resale market.

Last week's data from Jones Lang LaSalle showed that resale home deals had risen 71 per cent so far in the second quarter to 1,464 units, from 856 units in the first quarter.

Even the prime homes market - believed to be the worst-hit sector, with prices and rents dropping significantly from figures in the boom days of 2007 - saw higher rents lodged at the top end.

A few luxury home deals were done at higher prices, bucking a downward trend that began a year ago, said CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).

For instance, a furnished high-floor 2,885 sq ft unit at the posh Ardmore Park was leased out in April at $19,500 a month, and another similar unit there was renewed at $20,000 a month.

It was only a few months ago when Ardmore Park units were leased out for $15,000 to $17,000 a month.

Over at Grange Residences in Grange Road, a well-renovated 2,853 sq ft unit recently fetched $20,000 a month, even though there were other similar-sized units available at a lower rent, said CBRE.

Demand for rental homes so far in the second quarter came from new expatriates as well as existing ones who were renewing their leases or moving to new premises.

CBRE executive director (residential) Joseph Tan said that even as multinational corporations in the financial sector are still reducing their expatriate teams, the commodity, petrochemical and energy sectors have been bringing in more expatriates recently.

But not all leases are at higher levels. CBRE said rents for the lower-tier apartments in prime areas and the rest of Singapore are lower.

Explaining the slight rise in luxury home rents, it said some expatriates whose housing budgets have not been cut took the chance to upgrade to better or bigger units as rents have generally fallen in the past year. Also, traditionally, the second quarter sees a high level of leasing activity because expatriates are getting ready for their children's new school year at international schools here, experts said.

'New expatriates will always make a trip in May or June to search for a place,' said Savills' director of residential leasing, Mr Patrick Lai. 'Based on the leasing activity in May and June, top-end rents appear to have stabilised. There may be some downward rental movements for condos but I don't expect any dramatic upheavals in rents.'

Property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle's head of residential, Ms Jacqueline Wong, said that rents for luxury apartments did bounce back slightly recently but it is just a 'slight blip'.

It is due to a temporary short supply, she added. Quite a lot of prime projects with large luxurious apartments were sold en bloc during the boom. But they will be replaced with additional new prime supply from perhaps next year, she said.

Also, luxury home landlords with holding power are unwilling to reduce their rents, said CBRE.

Analysts at research houses have recently highlighted falling prime rents as a key concern in the residential market, given the expected rise in completed condos in the central region. For instance, Credit Suisse recently said in a report that prime rental yields could fall to 2.4 per cent, from 3.4 per cent, though they would still be higher than bank deposit rates.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

HK Not Out Of Crisis Yet

Source : The Straits Times, June 28, 2009

HONG KONG - HONG Kong has still to emerge from the effects of the global economic slowdown despite early signs of returning stability, the city's chief executive Donald Tsang said on Sunday.

Mr Tsang said that big challenges remained for the city, whose key industries of finance and exports have been hit hard by the crisis. -- PHOTO: AFP

Mr Tsang said that big challenges remained for the city, whose key industries of finance and exports have been hit hard by the crisis.

'There is no doubt we have yet to emerge from the impact of the financial tsunami,' he said on local broadcaster RTHK's weekly Letter to Hong Kong.

'While recent statistics have shown some signs of economic stability returning, there are still many uncertainties in the global market.' He said reforms put in place after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 meant Hong Kong had not suffered a breakdown in its financial system.

He said that the latest crisis presented similar opportunities to improve the city's economic fundamentals.

The government has pointed out six sectors the city should focus on - including education and environmental industries.

Tsang countered accusations that such directives went against Hong Kong's free market economic principles. 'Hong Kong has thrived as a free and open market. This must and will continue,' he said.

'At the same time, increasing globalisation and regional competition have resulted in a need for a strong government role in facilitating economic development.

'So, we are not picking winners. Rather, we are providing a more favourable environment for industries to become even bigger winners than they are now.'

Hong Kong fell into recession in the third quarter of 2008 and in May the government slashed its growth forecast for this year, saying the economy would contract 5.5-6.5 percent in 2009, from a previous forecast of 2.0-3.0 per cent. -- AFP

Property Investors Eye China, Australia

Source : The Business Times, June 27, 2009

CHINA and Australia are seen as good bets in the Asia-Pacific for real estate investments, according to two recent reports.

A survey of 73 investors, fund managers and fund of funds managers showed that they rank China, Australia and Japan as the three most appealing locations.

















Singapore, on the other hand, was ranked last among seven places in terms of preferred location - after China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and India. The survey was conducted by the Asian Real Estate Association (AREA) together with its partners.

Investors were especially bullish on the residential and retail sectors in China, as well as the Australian office market.

In the same vein, property firm DTZ said in a report that it expects continued weakness in property markets across the region through 2009 and into 2010, but a divergent profile of recovery - with Australia and China ahead of other key markets.

While total returns are forecast to be negative in 2009 across the region, China and Australia will be back in positive territory in 2010, ahead of Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, DTZ's June 24 report predicted.

'2009 will continue to be a difficult year for investor and occupier markets,' said David Green-Morgan, head of Asia-Pacific research at DTZ. 'We see fair-value opportunities emerging in Australia and China towards the end of 2009 and 2010 as the two economies embark on a period of recovery.'

In 2008, the Asia-Pacific felt the full effects of the global downturn - and property markets were not spared.

'The value of the invested real estate stock in the Asia-Pacific declined in 2008, for the first time since 2001,' DTZ said. The fall in value amounted to 8 per cent in local currency terms, but a more moderate one per cent in US dollar terms.

Transaction volumes almost halved in 2008 from 2007.

AREA's survey, conducted in April this year, also showed a downturn in sentiment over the past 12 months. In the 2008 survey, all respondents - institutional investors, fund managers and fund of funds managers - indicated that they wanted to increase their activity in Asian non-listed real estate.

Since then, there has been a big drop in the number of investors who intend to allocate funds to Asian non-listed real estate in the short term. The percentage has fallen from 88 per cent of respondents in 2008 to just 24 per cent in the latest survey.

However, the respondents are more upbeat about mid-term prospects for Asian real estate. Twice as many intend to increase allocations to non-listed real estate over the medium term - three to five years - versus the short term. This is consistent with most investors' expectations of a market recovery in 2010.

DTZ reckons that things are beginning to look up for the key property markets in the Asia-Pacific. Opportunistic deals are continuing to occur across the region and a broad 'hunting season' should emerge over the next 12-18 months. Looking at specific markets, Sydney is expected to reach 'fair value' in the second half of 2009, followed by Shanghai in early 2010.

However, some concerns remain. 'While we will start to see value returning to markets in the Asia-Pacific, funding remains a concern, and may become a bottleneck for the recovery of activity in the commercial property markets both in Asia-Pacific and worldwide,' said DTZ's Mr Green-Morgan.

Investors should not lose sight of the fact that economic growth across the region is expected to be lower in 2009 and still below trend growth in 2010, DTZ warned. 'The implications for property markets, through below-trend occupational demand and, in some cases, the required clearing of excess supply, will translate into continued weakness in the near-term,' it said.

Likewise, in the AREA survey, respondents said that obstacles remain when it comes to investing in Asian non-listed real estate funds. Market conditions were identified as the top challenge faced. This was followed by 'transparency and market information on non-listed vehicles' and 'availability of suitable products'.

DTZ also said that it may be too soon to call a bottom as research shows that the historic series is volatile. 'We need to see a few more quarters of data before we can call the bottom of the market,' Mr Green-Morgan said.

First-Half Auction Sales Top $72m

Source : The Business Times, June 27, 2009

Small investors have been active at recent sessions, with savvy bidders also making counter offers

A STRONG showing at auctions this week raised the tally for properties sold under the hammer in the first half-year to $72.4 million - just 13 per cent shy of the $83.7 million for the whole of last year, based on figures compiled by Colliers International. The second quarter of 2009 saw a total $54.5 million of auction deals after a quiet Q1, with $17.9 million.

















The momentum is expected to continue. Colliers' deputy managing director and auctioneer Grace Ng predicts that full-year 2009 auction sales could exceed $160 million - almost twice the figure in 2008.

Jones Lang LaSalle, which yesterday conducted its last scheduled auction for Q2, saw four properties change hands for a total of $11.3 million. One was a 7,232 square foot vacant freehold plot in Fernhill Road that was sold for $6.4 million, working out to $632 per square foot (psf) of potential gross floor area. The Singaporean buyer is expected to develop the residential site, which can be built up to five storeys, for his family's use, according to JLL's head of auctions, Mok Sze Sze.

Another big-ticket item sold was a 12th floor unit in Leonie Towers, a freehold condo that is more than 30 years old. The 2,906 sq ft maisonette sold for $3.45 million or $1,187 psf of strata area. 'The buyer is a company. We held two viewings for the property over the past week, and it attracted around 70-80 parties,' Ms Mok said. The sheriff's sale was held to recover a debt owed by the owner to two individuals. There is also an oustanding mortgage on the asset.

Residential properties accounted for almost half of the $72.4 million of auction sales in the first half, followed by industrial properties, with a 19 per cent share, Colliers' analysis shows.

It noted that activity in the auction market picked up dramatically from late March, when the stock market rallied. 'Based on historical observations, property auctions have always been an accurate barometer of market confidence, and are usually swift in reflecting any changes in market sentiments,' the firm said.

Colliers also noted that 77 per cent of the 440 properties put up for auction in the first half were offered by their owners, leaving only a 23 per cent share for mortgagee sales. 'Historically, from 1998 to 2006, the number of mortgagee properties always tended to be higher than the number of properties put up by owners. The trend started to reverse in 2007,' said Colliers' Ms Ng.

DTZ senior director and auctioneer Shaun Poh has noticed keen participation by property investors at his firm's recent auctions. 'Small investors are particularly aggressive in bidding for smallish apartments in the central area, for example, Icon, The Clift, even an old development like International Plaza,' he said. 'Generally, properties priced between $700,000 and $1.3 million tend to move very fast.'

Knight Frank executive director Mary Sai, another veteran auctioneer, said that attendances, as well as success rates, at auctions have gone up markedly since April.

'However, there is a sense of caution among bidders. They don't want to be overly financially stretched,' she said. 'A clever move by some bidders now is to make a counter offer to the auctioneer's opening price. So they start within their comfort zone. Eventually, however, the bidding competition will draw out the true price level, often surpassing the opening price.'

A New Look For Yishun

Source : The Straits Times, June 27, 2009

LOOK out for a three-storey lookout tower.

Coming up too are a new shopping complex linked to a condominium, an air-conditioned bus interchange and a remake of Yishun Pond. --PHOTO: HDB

That is one attraction that residents in Yishun can look forward to when the town centre is transformed in the coming years.

Coming up too are a new shopping complex linked to a condominium, an air-conditioned bus interchange and a remake of Yishun Pond.

Yishun is one of three towns selected for rejuvenation under the Housing and Development Board's Remaking Our Heartland initiative. The other two are Punggol and Queenstown.

The HDB shared its plans with reporters on Saturday.

The lookout tower in Yishun Pond, beside the new Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, will offer panaromic views of the town centre.

The 12.5m tall tower has a 94m long curving ramp that will take visitors to the top.

Said Ms Nina Yang, senior vice-president at CPG Consultants, the firm in charge of the design: 'The tower is designed according to the theme of nature and the metamorphosis of a butterfly. Similarly, it showcases the metamorphosis of Yishun New Town too.'

The area near the MRT station will have a shopping complex integrated with housing. The retail space is touted to exceed that at the Northpoint Shopping Centre.

A tender for the project is expected to be called in 2011.

Read the full report in The Sunday Times.

Retail Shops In New Underpass

Source : The Straits Times, June 27, 2009

WHEN ION Orchard opens on July 21, the new underpass connecting it to Wheelock Place will have a 'first' in the Orchard-Scotts belt.

The 20 shops along the stretch are food and beverage and mass-appeal fashion outlets. --PHOTO: ST

While the four existing underpasses in the area only connect point A to point B, this fifth, and latest, one features retail shops as well.

Set to open on the same day ION has its soft launch, the 75-m underground stretch will link Orchard MRT, through basement two of ION, to Wheelock Place.

The 20 shops along the stretch are food and beverage and mass-appeal fashion outlets.

Making its reappearance there is Dunkin' Donuts after a decade-long absence.

Brand names such as Itacho Sushi from Hong Kong and footwear label Rubi Shoes will make their debut along the stretch. So will flip-flop brand Havaianas with its first monobrand store. Among the familiar brand names there are Levi's, Mango and Guess.

Currently, there is one major underpass linking Orchard MRT to Tangs Plaza, Scotts Road and Wisma Atria.

There are three underpasses linking Lucky Plaza to Ngee Ann City, Wheelock to Shaw House, and Shaw House to Tangs.

Unlike the CityLink Mall in the City Hall area which has over 50 retail outlets, the existing Orchard underpasses do not have such facilities.

CityLink connects Suntec City, Marina Square, the Esplanade and One Raffles Link to the City Hall MRT.

Read the full report in The Sunday Times.

Geylang Market Reopens July 13

Source : The Straits Times, June 27, 2009

AFTER a 40-month makeover, Geylang Serai Market will reopen on July 13.

New hygiene measures have been taken as has lighting and ventilation. Hawkers hope it will be a cultural icon and a new start from the infamous temporary Geylang Serai Market. --PHOTO: ST

Its stallholders, now at a temporary market, have good reason to want to make it 'the best market ever'.

The food hawkers want to put behind them the incident in April when tainted Indian rojak from one stall killed two people and left 152 people ill.

The rojak stallholder is still under suspension.

The original market site, to which the hawkers will be going back to, is at Jalan Turi, some 500m from the temporary one.

Originally just a single storey, the new two-storey building, with about 8,730 sq m of floor space, cost $18.2 million.

Looking forward to the new start is Mr Razak Ismail, 46, whose family owns Hajjah Mona Nasi Padang.

'The downturn and food poisoning case caused business to drop,' he said.

Added Mr Oli Abdul Latiff, 49, who runs a thosai stall and who will be the new chairman of the Market Area Sub-Committee: 'We are all very happy because the new place is very beautiful. We also think business will go up, because we are now nearer the residents.'

Mr Mohd Asaduz Zaman, vice president (architectural) for Surbana International Consultants, designed the new market with its history, lighting, ventilation and hygiene needs in mind.

'The old market was up to the standards for its time, but in the new market we've added things like disabled access, better lighting and ventilation,' he said.

Read the full report in The Sunday Times.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Are Investors Banking On A Rental Recovery?

Source : TODAY, Jun 25, 2009

Consider this: Rentals are sliding while residential property sales continue to scale new heights in the current troubled times. With almost half of recent buyers being potential investors with private addresses, could these people be punting on a rental recovery?

If so, they may be staring at a wait of several years for the uptick.

"I don't expect any rental recovery for the rest of this year," said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail.

ERA Asia Pacific associate director Eugene Lim concurred. "Tenant demand has nothing to do with property prices, so even though sales have gone up, the rental market is still challenging," he said.

Some analysts are even projecting that a rental recovery will not kick in until three years later.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, rentals slid 8.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year - down from 5.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year - as the double whammy of a weak economy and new supply hit the market.

Mr Mohamed expects second-quarter rental rates to be even more dismal than those of the first quarter. After all, rentals went up 40 per cent in the two-and-a-half years since 2006 as the property market boomed, he noted.

Still, residential property buyers continue to pile in, shrugging off predictions that rentals would continue sliding for the rest of the year. Perhaps they are not even interested in rental yields.

Said Cushman and Wakefield Singapore's residential head Connie Looi: "Buyers are rushing in to buy because there has been a downward adjustment in prices. It's not so much because of rental yields, which is about 3.5 per cent on average. It's more for capital appreciation down the road.

Mr Mohamed cautioned: "Even if you buy property from an investment angle now, it's very hard to predict what the market will be in three years".

Some market watchers, however, are bullish on the rental market. UBS Investment Research analysts said in a report dated June 18 that they expected rents to "stay flat for the rest of the year and potentially rise 2 to 15 per cent in 2010". They calculated that prime rents had fallen 12 per cent in the year to date.

So who should invest now? "You need to have a greater appetite for risk and greater holding power to go in now - these are investors with mid- and long-term views, about five years and beyond," said Mr Mohamed.

URA Tender For Hotel Site Coming Up

Source : The Business Times, June 26, 2009

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will launch a public tender for a hotel site at New Bridge Road in two weeks' time, it said yesterday.

The 0.45ha site was made available for sale through the government's reserve list system in April 2007. Under the reserve list system, the government will put up a site for public tender only if it receives an application from a developer who commits to bid for the site at or above the minimum price which is acceptable to the government.

URA said that it has received an application from a developer who has committed to bid at a price of not less than $43.9 million for the land parcel, which triggers the public tender.

Analysts said that interest seems to be returning to small development sites with good attributes.

Earlier this month, a government tender for a small hotel site on Short Street closed with a whopping 14 valid bids received. The number of bids - 15 in all, including one bid judged invalid because it was below the minimum bid price - is one of the highest received for a Government Land Sales tender.

The New Bridge Road site, which can house a boutique hotel development with about 200 rooms, is also thought to be attractive as it is very close to Outram Park MRT Station and should receive several bids, analysts said. It has a maximum permissible gross floor area of 168,853 sq ft.

60% Of IR Will Be Ready

Source : The Straits Times, June 26, 2009

Casino and theme park to open in first quarter; fewer visitors expected due to tough economy

THE Sentosa integrated resort (IR) is all set to throw open its doors in the first quarter of next year - but visitors will not get to see the finished product.

Construction of the 49ha integrated resort on Sentosa is ongoing. When it opens early next year, the casino, the university Studios theme park, the theatre, four hotels as well as the retail and dining area are expected to be ready, but not other facilities such as the oceanarium. -- ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG

When the resort opens, just 60 per cent of it will be ready: four hotels, the casino, the Universal Studios theme park, the theatre and the retail and dining area.

Construction of the other attractions at the 49ha resort - including the world's largest oceanarium, a marine museum and two more hotels - will begin next year and is slated for completion by 2012.

An ariel view of the 49ha Resorts World at Sentosa. The resort, which opens next year, is now expected to attract 12 million visitors in the first year, down from the 15 million forecast previously.

Giving an update on the progress of the IR yesterday, Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) executive vice-president of projects Michael Chin said some 80 per cent of construction for the first phase of the resort has been completed.

What remain to be done are exterior works and outfitting the rides for the theme park.

This should be completed by August.

Work has begun on the world's tallest duelling coaster ride, the 42.5m-high Battlestar Galactica Duelling Coaster. The red track offers a tamer ride while the blue track is for the more adventurous.

After that, the resort will be testing the rides and other amenities, and getting staff up to speed on operations.

Asked about prices for the rides, the resort's head of communications Krist Boo declined to give details. But she said that charges would be kept 'affordable' and that they would be competitive when compared with other theme parks.

The Waterworld Stunt Show amphitheatre is set to be the biggest of its kind in the world. It will be able to seat up to 3,500 spectators. The special-effects show, a big hit at the Orlando and Osaka theme parks, retells the story of the movie Waterworld and features men on jet skies, men set on fire and even a small sea plane landing in the arena.

She added that prices would be comparable and likely cheaper, dollar-for-dollar, than those at Universal Studios' other parks in Orlando and Osaka, where day passes go for US$70 (S$100) and 6,000 yen (S$90), respectively.

Ms Boo acknowledged that there are some clouds on the horizon for the IR.

Because of the tough economic times, the resort would have to slash its visitor forecast for the first year from 15 million to 12 million, she said.

Read the full story in Friday's edition of The Straits Times.

私人公寓将有“创意水景”

Source : 《联合早报》June 26, 2009

为让新加坡的每一个角落都与大自然融为一体,公用事业局开始把“活跃、美丽、干净”水源计划的触角伸向私人公寓的发展商,希望他们也能在项目中融入美化景观和净化雨水的设计概念。

近年来有越来越多私人公寓项目,特别是建在河流或水道旁的项目发展商在初步设计时,就已经把上述概念考虑在内。虽然这意味着增加造价,但发展商认为现代人越来越重视居住环境,所以这些公寓的售价也会被拉高。

环境及水源部高级政务次长许连碹博士昨天为“活跃、美丽、干净”水源计划设计指导原则举行推介仪式。

位于武吉知马路的私人公寓优景苑,有多面楼墙设有植物从屋顶垂下的绿墙设计,有雨水回收功能。(国浩置地提供)

她在致词时说,有关指导原则的目的是要鼓励和引导发展商和业界人士规划、设计出有创意的水景,并将之融入发展项目中。她以位于武吉知马路的私人公寓优景苑为例,说明一些发展商已开始在设计中加入雨水回收系统和景观美化设计。

优景苑有多面楼墙设有植物从顶楼垂下成绿墙的设计,能在下雨时回收雨水,经芦苇种植床过滤后用于灌溉优景苑的园内植物。发展商国浩置地说,优景苑的造价没有因此增加。

但“活跃、美丽、干净”水源计划评审小组成员之一戴礼翔却认为,对于小型项目的发展商来说,添加这些设计会增加造价,而在目前经济危机阴影笼罩下,他们不愿增加成本。

他说:“这要等到更多公共‘活跃、美丽、干净’水源计划项目完成后,设计技术也比较成熟了,而经济也复苏时,发展商才会更有信心在项目中增加这些设计。”也是DP Architect董事的戴礼翔预计两年后,会有较多发展商采纳相关设计。

公用事业局在三年前推出“活跃、美丽、干净”水源计划以来,已整修并美化了多个蓄水池和水道,在未来三年还会改造20多个,把本只用于蓄水治水的基础设施改头换面成公众休闲好去处。

计划的第二阶段主要是增加净化雨水设计。公用事业局已在巴南路试验“雨水花园”,花园的土壤能减缓雨水流入水道的速度,因此减少水道在暴雨时溢流的情况。

胜科集团与两公司合作 试验新型废水处理系统

胜科集团昨天在新加坡国际水资源周上,与本地两家公司:联合环境技术(United Envirotech)及美能材料科技(Memstar Technology),签署技术合作协议,第一次在本地试验以膜蒸馏系统(Membrane Distillation)处理和回收工业废水。

膜蒸馏系统主要是利用工业设施,如炼油厂、石油化工厂或发电厂等每天排出的大量热废气作燃料,处理和净化工业废水。

胜科集团总裁兼首席执行员邓健辉指出,新科技有助于减少工厂和城市把水排入周围的水道,最终希望能达到“零排放”的目标。

另一方面,胜科集团在裕廊岛上兴建的膜生物反应器(Membrane Bioreactor)废水处理系统昨天正式启用。

新系统建在集团位于裕廊岛“沙克拉”(Sakra)区的废水处理厂内。这是该集团在岛上的第二个膜生物反应器系统,每天可处理近3000立方米工业废水,比之前可处理的废水量增加50%。

胜科集团也是至今本地唯一采用这种新科技处理工业废水的公司。公司的另一个膜生物反应器系统于2006年启用。

膜生物反应器技术是一种较先进的高效用后水处理科技。和一般处理法相比,它可省却其中一些步骤,占地面积也较小,这对寸土如金的新加坡来说非常重要。

此外,公用事业局在乌鲁班丹供水回收厂也设有膜生物反应器厂,每天可处理上万立方米的工业废水,主要供应给裕廊岛上的用户。

水中寄生虫检测科技 我国有望取得新突破

检测饮用水中寄生虫的科技有望出现新突破,检测所需的过程预料可从目前的6个小时缩短至1个小时。研究项目一旦取得成功,我国将成为引领这方面技术的佼佼者。

环境及水务业发展理事会(EWI)于去年7月,向国内外业者与科研机构发出这项挑战,邀请各方提呈可加速检测会引发腹泻的“隐孢子虫”(Cryptosporidium)水生寄生虫的方案。

隐孢子虫是一种无法被氯(chlorine)消灭的病原体,病徵包括腹泻、呕吐及发热,大部份患者的病徵可持续数天至数星期。免疫系统有问题的患者或老人、小孩如受感染,病情可能非常严重,甚至威胁生命,是全球水供机构面对的一大挑战。

理事会能力发展处主任、同时也是公用事业局科技及水质署署长佘海利昨天在记者会上说,目前这类寄生虫的检测技术费时费力,从水样准备到获得检测结果最快也要6个小时,而且需要工作人员时时在旁监督。理事会希望通过这次的研究方案挑战,提升检测技术的效率,把过程变得全天候自动化,从而降低运作成本。

佘海利指出,隐孢子虫是一种较为复杂的病原体,如果新方案行得通,那意味着其他病原体的检测效率也可以获得提升。

新加坡国立大学和南洋理工大学三组科研人员分别建议通过超声波、生物光子及基因分析法进行隐孢子虫的检测,从18份参赛作品中脱颖而出,获得评审们的青睐。理事会承诺个别资助200万元研究基金,让他们做进一步的研发与测试。

理事会评估主席雷普权教授表示,理事会今年选择同时资助三个从不同角度切入研究项目,是因为它们看起来都极有机会研究成功。

国大机械工程系的林建明副教授在计划书中建议,使用超声波把隐孢子虫集中起来,然后再以纳米粒子或电场进行检测。他估计至少需要一年时间把各部分的组件做出来。南大电机与电子工程系的刘爱群副教授的构想,则是利用生物光子学,透过隐孢子虫的体积和折射率,找出水中是否含有这种病原体。另一名得奖的是南大机械与宇航工程系的龚海庆副教授。他准备打造一个可携带式的全面基因分析仪器,不仅能加快检测速度,还可通过上网,提供相关的实时信息。

根据理事会的要求,这三组科研人员必须在三年内完成可运作的原型(prototype)。

Signs Of Upturn In Resale Market: JLL Report

Source : TODAY, June 25, 2009

As buyers thronged showflats amid improved sentiment in recent months, the resale market also saw an uptick in the second quarter, according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

Using recent housing data, the consultancy estimated that resale volumes increased more than 70 per cent from the first quarter to reach 1,464 transactions.

The two main reasons were pent-up demand from Housing Development Board (HDB) upgraders - whose own flats were seeing slower price declines than private homes - and the affordable pricing despite marginal increases, said JLL.

HDB upgraders made up almost half the buyers in the second quarter's resale market, some 11 percentage points above the 35 per cent recorded in the same period a year earlier.

Further attracting HDB upgraders was the fact that resale prices for private homes remain "highly affordable", JLL said. While current average resale prices in the mass market have surged 9.4 per cent from the previous quarter to $580 per square foot (psf) - the highest rebound across other submarkets - they remain 17 per cent below the peak of the first quarter of last year, the firm estimated.

In the luxury segment, it found that buyers were more willing to commit, seeing that average prices of $1,800 psf represented a 34-per-cent discount from peak. This is despite current prices being 53 per cent above the last trough in the first quarter of 2005, JLL noted.

South East Asia head of research Dr Chua Yang Liang believes the uptick is not sustainable, as the buoyancy is coming from short-term factors such as pent-up demand, discounted pricing and attractive mortgage packages.

The sustainability of any market recovery, he said, depends on longer-term factors such as growth in demand and economic production.

"I do not reckon the current activity in the market is likely to remain if prices continue to rise unsupported by growth of gross domestic product," Dr Chua said.

Gaming Important Part Of IR Revenues

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

It will make up big chunk of Sentosa's revenue, Marina Sands' Ebitda: CLSA

The casinos may be a small component of Singapore's integrated resorts (IRs) but both operators will be counting on gaming revenue for significant support.

A report by CLSA reveals that for Marina Bay Sands (MBS), gaming Ebitda for 2011-2012 is estimated at US$700-800 million - about 75 per cent of total Ebitda.

Money spinner: CLSA says Marina Bay Sands is still likely to generate the highest Ebitda of any LVS casino globally, contributing 40 per cent of LVS's group Ebitda

For Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS), gaming revenue is expected to contribute about 70 per cent of overall revenue. While no value figure was given, CLSA said that up to 40 per cent of this will come from locals.

Andrew Hartley, Singapore country head at CLSA, said: 'People assume the local market will be very quiet, which I think is wrong. Just look at the huge daily turnover in locally listed small-caps to see there are a lot of bored retirees out there just waiting for a chance to go and punt their pensions. Or go to Tanah Merah to see the families lined up to board the boats for a day of gaming on the high seas.'

How effective the $100 daily entry fee will be at deterring locals is unknown. However, CLSA believes - but cannot confirm - that the $2,000 annual entrance fee may allow unlimited access to both casinos.

'We believe the strength of the local market will surprise,' Mr Hartley said.

CLSA noted that in 2008, Las Vegas Sands (LVS), which owns MBS, provided guidance for MBS 2012 Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of US$1.2 billion. 'Understandably, the company is no longer maintaining that guidance, as the world is in a different place than where we were previously,' CLSA said.

However, MBS is still likely to generate the highest Ebitda of any LVS casino globally, with MBS contributing 40 per cent of LVS's group Ebitda.

For LVS, in particular, profit targets will need to be met. CLSA said: 'We understand that the debt covenants kick in after the first full four quarters. When opened, (LVS's) credit facility will not be completely drawn down with payments made in 2010 and MBS will be still paying out for capex until Q2 2011 - around US$500 million in 2011. By that point, management should be generating at least S$800 million in Ebitda or there may be some debt covenants issues.'

The report said that LVS management expects gaming revenue to be biased towards VIPs rather than the mass market, with around a 60-40 split.

RWS, which is owned by Genting Singapore, will also target VIP and mass market players. About 30 per cent of the gaming tables are expected to be reserved for KJ (key junket) VIP players. To this end, RWS has recruited high-roller marketing veteran Mabel Lee, formerly with casino operator Wynn, to drum up business.

There is likely be a core of 20 KJ operators used by RWS, with a strong focus to solicit patrons from Indonesia, China and India, CLSA said.

Junket operators are important to the gaming industry. In Macau, one of the primary roles of junkets is facilitation, as there are limits on the amount of renminbi that can be brought into Macau - 20,000 renminbi (S$4,300) and US$5,000 per visit, which is less than the average bet in a VIP room.

To qualify as a VIP player, players need to register and have a minimum buy-in of S$100,000.

RWS will also have Universal Studios Singapore as a revenue generator. CLSA said that the overall building cost of about S$1.5 billion for USS is considerably cheaper than that of the estimated US$2 billion Universal Studios in Japan. This is largely due to cheaper construction materials, it said. As such, the estimated entry price of S$80 per adult will be cheaper than that at Universal Studios Japan, Orlando and Hollywood.

CLSA also said that RWS 'is taking the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) business more seriously than we expected'. 'We understand management have booked 38 events with more than 500 people.'

Over at MBS, CLSA said that the first Mice event has been booked for April 1, 2010.

CLSA expects both IRs to open in early 2010.

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between June 8th - 13th, 2009

Private Resale Home Deals Shoot Up In Q2

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

Average resale prices up from Q1 but still significantly below peak levels last year

THE buying frenzy at property launches has spread to the secondary market. The number of private homes sold in the resale market - excluding sub-sales - has risen to 1,464 units this quarter, based on Urban Redevelopment Authority caveat data at June 19.

One Devonshire: CBRE expects developers to sell 3,500 to 4,000 new private homes this quarter - 35-54% higher than the Q1 figure of 2,596

The figure is 71 per cent higher than the 856 units in Q1 this year, according to an analysis by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

And more caveats could surface when full Q2 data emerges, with sales matching - or even surpassing - the 1,706 units sold in the resale market in Q2 last year, JLL reckons.

Average resale capital values have risen in Q2 from Q1 but are still below last year's peaks across all tiers - mass market, prime and luxury prime. This could be a key factor fuelling resale deals. Another factor could be HDB upgraders keen on buying a completed private home they can move into immediately. Also, rental yields from investing in completed property are higher than the measly interest rates earned on fixed deposits.




























In another development yesterday, CB Richard Ellis said the median price per sq ft of freehold non-landed private homes sold by developers slipped 14.6 per cent from $1,051 psf in Q1 2009 to $898 psf in Q2, based on caveat data as at June 24.

However, once caveats for higher-priced projects like Martin Place Residences, The Wharf Residences and One Devonshire are lodged, the median psf price for Q2 is expected to be higher than the Q1 figure, CBRE added.

The firm expects developers to sell 3,500 to 4,000 new private homes this quarter, which would be 35 to 54 per cent higher than the Q1 figure of 2,596. The expected Q2 sales tally would be similar to levels achieved during the peak year of 2007, when developers sold an average of 3,700 units per quarter.

'The stock market rally, coupled with strong liquidity and developers' discounts, have resulted in a surge in new home sales this quarter,' CBRE executive director (residential) Joseph Tan said.

JLL's head of research (South-east Asia) Chua Yang Liang said additional factors buoying buying sentiment include pent-up demand and the interest absorption schemes. However, he cautioned: 'I don't reckon the current activity in the market is likely to remain if prices continue to rise unsupported by GDP growth.'

CBRE said that based on caveats lodged so far, HDB upgraders accounted for 65 per cent of buyers of new homes in the first half of 2009, higher than their 44 per cent share for the whole of last year. HDB upgraders have also been active in the secondary market, accounting for 49 per cent of buyers of resale and sub-sale units, up from their 33 per cent share last year, the firm added.

Sub-sales and resales are secondary-market transactions. Sub-sales involve projects that are yet to obtain a Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC). Resales relate to projects that have received CSC.

JLL's analysis shows the average resale capital value for non-landed homes in the mass market was $580 psf in Q2, up 9.4 per cent from Q1. It is also 17 per cent below the Q1 2008 peak and remains highly affordable to most HDB upgraders, JLL said.

In the luxury market, the average resale capital value rose 7.8 per cent quarter on quarter to $1,800 psf in Q2. Against the peak in early 2008, the latest Q2 figure was down 34 per cent.

Ion Orchard, Orchard Central Have Healthy Lease Figures

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

Ion is 94% leased, Orchard Central is 80% leased, say their developers

ION Orchard, which is due to open in a month, is 94 per cent leased, the mall's developer, Orchard Turn Developments, said yesterday.

Previously, the developer said the mall was 80 per cent leased and it was in advanced negotiations for the remaining space.

Shoppers' facade: Ion Orchard's management hopes many of the 333 shops will open in time for the mall's soft opening on July21. To give tenants an incentive, Ion Orchard said they will get 30% rebates off base rents

At the other end of Orchard Road, 80 per cent of space in Orchard Central is also committed. Previously, developer Far East Organization said the mall was 65 per cent leased.

Orchard Central is already open to shoppers. Tenants have progressively opened for business since early June. The mall's soft opening is slated for early July, by which time about 100 shops should be open, Far East says.

As for Ion Orchard, management hopes many of the 333 shops will open in time for the mall's soft opening on July 21.

'They (the tenants) are rushing to finish renovations and we hope as many of them as possible will open with us,' said Soon Su Lin, chief executive of Orchard Turn Developments, which is building the mall. Orchard Turn Developments is jointly owned by CapitaLand and Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Properties.

To give tenants an incentive to open on time, Ion Orchard said in March that they would get 30 per cent rebates off base rents if they opened for business by July 21. The response has been 'very positive' so far, Ms Soon said.

Neither Ion Orchard nor Orchard Central have given a recent update on asking rents. Ion Orchard has said previously that its rents range from $20 to $80 per sq ft per month (psf pm). Rents at Orchard Central range from $20 psf pm to more than $70 psf pm, Far East Organization said late last year.

But industry watchers have said that signing rents at most existing Orchard Road malls have since fallen, which means asking rents at Ion Orchard and Orchard Central could also have edged down.

Ion Orchard said yesterday that more than 21 per cent of its 640,000 sq ft of retail space will be dedicated to food and dining - with many casual and fine dining outlets offering local and international fare, plus food and confectionary stores and a gourmet supermarket.

28 restaurants and cafes will be spread over different levels of the mall, with the largest clusters on level 4 for fine dining, and basements 2 and 3 for casual dining. In addition, basement 4 will feature a food hall, with 80 stalls offering a range of cuisines for all tastes.

Ms Soon said that Ion Orchard remains on the lookout for suitable retail and F&B concepts for the 6 per cent of space that has yet to be leased.

Asia Developers Eye New Projects

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

Asian property firms are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel and several are positioning for an upturn even as the world economy struggles to recover from its worst recession in decades.

The mood among US and European executives at this week's Reuters Global Real Estate Summit is glum, but Asian counterparts are more upbeat with some revealing plans for new projects in anticipation of an upturn later this year.

For instance, Chinese commercial property developer SOHO said it has built up a war chest of US$1.9 billion to replenish its land bank and intends to start new projects in Shanghai and Beijing in coming months.

Indiabulls, India's third-largest listed property developer, aims to launch six to seven residential projects in the financial year ending in March 2010 on the back of an expected recovery in demand.

'The general mood has been cautious, but there is also optimism. Asian companies in general are in much better shape compared to their peers in other regions,' said Ayala Land chief financial officer and Asian Public Real Estate Association president Jaime Ysmael.

Spurring the optimism in Asia is a recovery in residential markets, with price cuts drawing buyers in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, where saving rates are high and banks are prepared to lend.

The volume of transactions in these places are close to levels seen during the bull market of 2007 and residential property values have begun to edge upwards as developers such as Singapore's City Developments raise prices.

Asian property values did not rise as much as in the US and parts of Europe this decade. In dollar terms, property in countries such as the Philippines are cheaper than before the onset of the Asian crisis in late 1997.

Interest rate cuts and government stimulus plans are also helping regional property markets recover.

Singapore residential prices were supported by mortgage rates that were below rental yields, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report said this week.

'At the current mortgage rate of around 2.75 per cent, our net cost of carry model implies that prices can rise by 30 per cent before home buyers enter negative carry,' it said. The bank predicts Singapore home prices will rise 20 per cent next year.

Singapore's housing market has been hit hard by the downturn, with home prices plunging nearly 14 per cent in the first quarter of this year, the steepest drop in over 30 years, according to government data.

Separately, Nomura said unemployment was stabilising in Hong Kong and forecasts home prices and rents in the Chinese territory will rise by 22 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, this year.

A poll of 10 analysts conducted in conjunction with the Reuters Global Real Estate Summit showed China home prices are expected to gain an average of 10 per cent between now and the end of 2010.

The outlook for Asia's office market remained negative but most developers said rents have stabilised after falling sharply in the fourth quarter of 2008 and earlier this year.

Some investors said any pick-up may not be sustainable. - Reuters

NSW Home Sales Soar

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

(SYDNEY) New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees revealed yesterday a record number of first home buyers in May showed there had never been a better time to enter the Australian property market.

About 7,300 first home buyers took advantage of government grants and stamp duty cuts, worth around A$178 million (S$207.9 million). It was the third record month in succession, with more than 21,000 first home buyers taking up the offers in that time, Mr Rees said.

'We're getting more young families into their first homes than ever before and helping them get on with establishing their lives,' he said.

The biggest amount of grants, which are worth up to A$24,000 for those buying new homes, were handed out for properties bought in Sydney's western suburbs.

Mr Rees noted the first home owner grants paid out in May were almost double those paid out in the same month last year. -- Xinhua

Demand For Taipei Office Space Rises

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

(TAIPEI) The availability rate of prime office space in Taipei this year is likely to fall less than earlier expectations as closer ties with former political rival China helps boost demand for the island's real estate.

The availability rate for prime office space will likely be at about 15 per cent this year, compared with a March forecast of 18 per cent, Tony Chao, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle in Taiwan told reporters. Rents will also possibly fall by a smaller degree this year compared with a previous forecast of about 15 to 20 per cent, the property services company said.

'Rents could fall by about 15 per cent this year, with the drop becoming apparent in the third quarter,' Mr Chao said. 'But compared with Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, the rate of decline is considered small.'

Mr Chao also said he expected demand for office space from Chinese investors to pick up only from next year. 'I visited Beijing last month, and many state-linked companies expressed interest in coming to Taiwan. But there are still policy issues, and it typically takes about six months to find a space, so the market could be weak in the short term,' he added.

Easing tensions with China, which claims self-ruled democratic Taiwan as its own, has spurred renewed interest in the island's economy. Its stock market has surged over 50 per cent since hitting a trough in January this year. -- Reuters

Resorts World On Track

Source : The Straits Times, June 25, 2009

OVER 80 per cent of the construction work at the Sentosa casino-resort has been completed, with only the last 20 per cent to go before its opening in first quarter of next year.

Works on the second phase of construction, two more hotels, the water theme park, marine life park and Marine Xperiential Museum will begin next year. --PHOTO: RESORTS WORLD AT SENTOSA

Resorts World at Sentosa gave a construction update on Thursday morning with its executive vice-president of projects Michael Chin giving the media a tour of the site.

'Everything is on track,' Mr Chin said.

Four hotels, the Universal Studios theme park, the half-kilometre stretch housing its retail and dining establishments and theatre for shows and casino will be ready for its opening next year.

This constitutes only 60 per cent of the 49-ha development. Works on the second phase of construction, two more hotels, the water theme park, marine life park and Marine Xperiential Museum will begin next year, said Mr Chin.

It will take up to two years before the final segment will be completed.

For now, the team is concentrating on rushing to complete the first phase.

Most of the construction work for Singapore's first Universal Studios is done, with only the fitting out and setting up of the rides to be done. These works are expected to be completed by August after which testings and commissioning will begin.

Because the casino-resort is opening during such economic downturn, Ms Krist Boo, its head of communications, said it has revised downwards the number of visitors expected from 15 million for its first year of operations to 12 to 13 million.

Still she said: 'We remain confident that we will draw the numbers.'

Thursday, June 25, 2009

永久地契新公寓价格 过去三个月平均涨28%

Source : 《联合早报》June 25, 2009

私宅销售额连续几个月报捷,售价也跟着水涨船高。过去三个月,新的永久地契公寓项目售价平均上涨了28%,而新的99年地契公寓项目售价则起了13.2%。

世邦魏理仕(CBRE)根据呈报给市建局的买卖禁令(caveats)进行的最新研究发现,本地私宅价格在今年第二季里直线上升,较第一季高,以获市场重视永久地契公寓项目的价格涨幅最为显著。

今年4月至6月期间,永久地契的新公寓项目售价平均为93万8000元。相比之下,同样的永久地契公寓单位在1月至3月期间平均为73万3000元,涨幅为28%。

世邦魏理仕研究部指出,新永久地契公寓项目的售价上扬主要是因为今年首三个月出售的Alexis、Newton Edge、Parc Sophia、RV Suites和The Mercury等项目单位为“鞋盒型”,面积小,整体售价较低。第二季推出市场的IResidences、The Arte、Versilia On Haig等的单位则属于较大型的家庭式单位。

不过,以尺价来比较,第一季售出的项目中数价位较第二季来得高,介于1000元至1200元,第二季的则为830元至925元。不过,第二季的数据没有把最近以较高尺价出售的Martin Place Residences、The Wharf Residences和One Devonshire等包括在内。这些项目的中位数价格介于每平方英尺1150至1650元之间。如果计算在内,预计将使第二季中数尺价超越第一季的平均1051元。

至于像水之轩(Caspian)、新乐园(Mi Casa)等99年地契公寓项目,今年第一季的平均售价为69万6000元,但在过去三个月则上涨至78万8000元,涨幅为13.2%。尺价方面,99年地契公寓项目的每平方英尺655元售价要比第一季高6.9%。

世邦魏理仕私宅部执行董事陈金道指出,本地股市飙涨,加上发展商给予的诱人折扣,推动楼市销售情况回升到接近2007年高峰期的水平。

找到买家单位 次季料比首季多

世邦魏理仕预测,今年第二季成功找到买家的单位预计介于3500至4000个,较第一季的2596个来得多。这个水平与2007年高峰期每一季平均有3700个单位出售,不相上下。

另外,根据买卖禁令上的地址,世邦魏理仕指出,今年上半年买新房者主要为组屋提升者,占65%。相比之下,组屋提升者去年只占所有新私宅购屋买的44%。

组屋提升者也活跃于转售市场,占了整体买家的49%,比去年全年的33%来得多。这使转售私宅项目的售价在今年第二季走俏。世邦魏理仕的研究显示,过去三个月,永久地契公寓项目的转售价较第一季高8.2%,而99年地契公寓项目的转售价则增加了2.9%。若以尺价为比较,则分别起了1.4%和10.1%。

在昨天发布的有关转售私宅单位的报告中,仲量联行(JLL)研究部主管蔡炎亮博士指出,转售市场是在新楼盘买气回暖后的近一季后才开始动起来。

他表示,由于转售价格合理具吸引力,需要立即迁入房子的组屋提升者,以及认为能取得良好出租回报的投资者选择在过去几个月进场,带动转售市场热起来。

尽管私宅转售价已回升,见证最大涨幅的大众化私宅项目在第二季平均起了9.4%,达每平方英尺580元,但蔡炎亮指出,这依然比2008年第一季的高峰价低17%,处于市场能负担得起的价位。

比如位于蔡厝港的北桦苑(Northvale),虽然转售价在过去三个月上涨了16%,但尺价仅为485元。同样的,位于淡滨尼的濠景园(The Tropica)的转售价虽涨了14%,但尺价只回升至560元。

高档豪宅的转售市场也呈现类似的景象。根据仲量联行(JLL)统计的资料显示,虽然高档豪宅的转售价在过去三个月回升了7.8%,平均达每平方英尺1800元,但考虑到高档豪宅的售价在去年第二季至今年第一季之间退低了45%,一些买家认为目前是进场的时机。蔡炎亮指出,高档豪宅目前的平均转售价依然比去年第一季高峰期低24%。

尽管如此,蔡炎亮提醒,在没有获得国内生产总值回升的支撑下,楼市回暖的趋势无法持久,被抑制的需求、折价新项目和具吸引力的贷款配套等因素无法长久地驱动楼市。

Home Resales In May Increase 2.4%

Source : The Business Times, June 24, 2009

LATEST US DATA

(WASHINGTON) Home resales in the US rose in May for a second month as record foreclosures caused prices to drop.

Purchases increased 2.4 per cent to an annual rate of 4.77 million, lower than forecast, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said yesterday. The median price fell 17 per cent, the third-largest decrease on record.

Tax breaks for first-time buyers in the Obama administration's stimulus plan, falling property values and lower mortgage rates have helped support the market. At the same time, any recovery is likely to be limited with unemployment rising and borrowing costs shooting back up.

'We're seeing some signs of stability,' Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates in St Petersburg, Florida, said before the report.

'A lot is going to depend on mortgage rates if they stay low. You're still looking at a lot of supply out there and it's going to take a long time to work through all of that.'

Economists forecast that existing sales would rise to a 4.82 million rate, according to the median of 74 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 4.6 million to five million. April's reading was revised down to a 4.66 million pace from 4.68 million.

May's sales pace was the strongest since October and last month's gain marked the first back-to-back increase since 2005.

May traditionally is one of the top three sales months of the year as the weather turns warmer and families prepare to move before the start of the next school year, according to the NAR. The group adjusts the figures for these seasonal variation in order to facilitate month-to-month comparisons.

Sales were 3.6 per cent compared with a year earlier.

The number of houses on the market dropped 3.5 per cent to 3.8 million in May, NAR said. At the current sales pace, it would take 9.6 months to sell those homes, compared with 10.1 months in April.

While the loss has devastated some families, others were able to buy a house for the first time because of the drop in values. The federal government is trying to stabilise the market by offering lenders incentives to modify the terms of delinquent mortgages and the Federal Reserve has pledged to buy mortgage-backed securities to free up funding for home loans. -- Bloomberg

Widjaja Family Member Buys Cree Court For $53m

Source : The Business Times, June 24, 2009

Price paid by Frankle for the freehold site on Dalvey Rd works out to $800 psf

THE Good Class Bungalow (GCB) market continues to buzz with activity.

Frankle Widjaja, a member of the family that controls the Sinar Mas group, is understood to have recently inked a deal to buy Cree Court along Dalvey Road.

Changed hands: Cree Court, on 65,416 sq ft of land area, can be redeveloped into a maximum of four GCBs

Mr Widjaja, who sits on the boards of Asia Food & Properties and Golden Agri-Resources, is said to have signed a sale and purchase agreement to buy Cree Court for about $53 million, which works out to slightly over $800 per square foot based on the site's freehold land area of 65,416 sq ft.

Cree Court is a four-storey development comprising 12 apartments. The site is in a designated Good Class Bungalow Area, which means that it can be redeveloped only into GCBs.

Based on the minimum plot size of 1,400 square metres (about 15,069 sq ft) stipulated for a GCB, the Cree Court site can be redeveloped into a maximum of four GCBs. Of course, Mr Widjaja may also develop a single luxurious bungalow on sprawling grounds, a market watcher suggested.

The seller is The Asia Life Assurance Society, part of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co group. The sale is understood to have been brokered by Peter Ng of HRL Properties and Helen Li.

The $53 million fetched for Cree Court under the recent deal is lower than the $58 million that another party had agreed to pay last year for the property. However, that deal was aborted a few months later, with the buyer forfeiting a deposit of least 10 per cent of the purchase price, BT understands.

That unsuccessful buyer is understood to be an entity linked to Agus Anwar, a Singaporean businessman linked to Kapital Asia Pte Ltd, an investment holding company.

Asia Life Assurance Society bought Cree Court in 2000 from DBS Bank for $24.07 million or $368 psf.

The bank had sold the asset as part of its strategy of divesting non-core assets.

Cree Court's latest buyer, Mr Widjaja, runs his family's China property business and is credited with spearheading the development of the Sinar Mas group's Westin Bund Center in Shanghai.