Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Prices Inch Up As Home Sales Hit New Highs

Source : The Business Times, August 18, 2009

Record 2009 sales on the cards as developers seek balance between volume and price

Even as news of the 52 per cent month-on-month jump in developer home sales to a stunning 2,767 units in July begins to sink in, analysts are revising their predictions for the full year.

The 1,825 units sold in June already constituted a record but that number was surpassed effortlessly last month as buyers, eager not to miss the boat, rushed in and developers rolled out tempting new offerings. They launched 2,878 private homes in July, up 75.8 per cent from the June figure. For a year that started gloomily, 2009 may shatter private home sales records.

From Jan 1 to July 31 this year, developers sold 10,017 private homes. The previous full-year record of 14,811 units set in 2007 is likely to be overtaken with some market watchers forecasting sales of up to 16,000 units for the full year 2009.

But it will be a toss-up between developers wanting stronger price appreciation and booking more sales, some property pundits say. Evidence of price increases at some projects has surfaced from a Colliers International analysis of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's data on developer sales in July. Examples include Martin Place Residences, The Beverly at Toh Tuck Road, Concourse Skyline at Beach Road and Floridian in Bukit Timah.

In part, the higher prices can be explained by more transactions involving units on higher floors or with better orientation in July, compared to June. But developers have also become more confident about seeking higher prices as they've sold more units in ongoing projects. Also, new projects released in recent weeks have been priced higher than levels prevailing, say, in Q1 this year.

Frasers Centrepoint chief operating officer Cheang Kok Kheong says: 'The price increase varies from segment to segment and from project to project. For the mass market, my gut feel is the increase has been about 10-15 per cent from the lows of January-February 2009.'

Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow says: 'Buyers are price sensitive at this juncture. There's a limit to how quickly developers can raise their prices. The jump in sales in July was driven by launches at prices that are still reasonable despite the fact that they are higher than Q1 launch prices.

'When they see developers selling well at launches, it increases the fear factor in people who have not bought or invested yet - that they will miss the boat.'

Mr Cheang says his gut feel is that developers may sell a total of 15,000 to 16,000 units for the whole year.

Nicholas Mak, a property consultant, is gazing at the same sort of numbers, citing continuing optimism among buyers that the worst is over for Singapore's property market.

CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho reckons that there's a good chance of surpassing the market peak of 14,811 units in 2007.

Apart from pricing, how many homes developers sell for the rest of this year will also depend on the type of projects they release.

According to the URA figures, the strong sales in July was led by the Outside Central Region (OCR) - where mass-market homes are typically located. It accounted for about 64 per cent of the 2,878 private homes that developers launched and 54 per cent or 1,502 of the 2,767 units sold.

The main projects that contributed to the high July sales in OCR included The Gale (294 units sold), Meadows @ Peirce (286 units), Watefront Key (191 units) and Optima @ Tanah Merah (132 units).

After the strong spate of sales, developers are left with fewer 99-year leasehold mass-market projects that buyers have hungered for this year. One of them, NTUC Choice Homes' Trevista in Toa Payoh, goes on the market next week. There are also condos in Yishun and the West Coast bought on land at state tenders, which could be put on the market before year-end. In the mid-market segment, CapitaLand's condo of about 1,000 units on the Gillman Heights site is also expected to be launched in the current half.

In Q2, the Rest of Central Region accounted for 751 or 27.1 per cent of primary market sales; top contributors included Parc Imperial (137 units) and Ascentia Sky (116 units). The Core Central Region had the smallest share of 18.6 per cent or 514 units. The star performers in this segment were Sophia Residences and Volari, with sales of 173 units and 79 units respectively in July.

Whereas home sales more than trebled in OCR from 432 units in June to 1,502 units in July, sales eased in both CCR and RCR over the same period.

Units costing up to $1,000 psf accounted for 57.5 per cent of developers' July sales, not far off a 59.8 per cent share in June, according to Colliers' analysis.

Still, Colliers International director for research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying points out that positive sentiment and improved confidence continue to spill into the higher market segments as seen in the surge in units priced above $2,000 psf that developers sold - from 37 units in June to 98 in July. The latest figure was boosted by the sale of 58 units in this price range at Volari at Balmoral Road.

However, there was no unit priced above $3,500 psf that changed hands in July, unlike June, when there was one.

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