Sunday, November 4, 2007

Buying Completed Homes Gives Investors Instant Rental Income

Source : The Sunday Times, Nov 4, 2007

Such cash inflow can help to cover mortgage payments and lowers one’s portfolio risks.

PROPERTY investors love new launches - they can get their hands on a unit fresh off the plans and hope for huge overnight gains.

But long-term investors would do well to also check out completed properties that can generate an immediate rental income.

‘Too many people are overweight in their investment portfolio in terms of new launches,’ says Savills Singapore director for marketing and business development, Mr Ku Swee Yong. ‘To lower one’s risks, part of the portfolio should be income-producing.’

That will give investors a certain amount of income from property even during a short-term market dip, he says.

Although Singapore’s market is currently buoyant, it has its ups and downs as any homebuyer over the past 10 years knows only too well.

For those buying on a progressive payment scheme, the instant income from a completed property could help cover mortgage payments.

This option has become more attractive with the recent axing of the deferred payment scheme, which puts buying a completed property on a level playing field with buying an uncompleted one.

Buyers will have to take out a loan sooner since they can no longer defer the bulk of the payment for an uncompleted property until completion.

When it comes to getting a mortgage, it may not necessarily be easier to get a loan for a completed property compared with an uncompleted one.

OCBC Bank says it does not differentiate between completed and uncompleted property.

Still, in line with the pickup in home prices, the rental market has shot up across the board, making the purchase of a completed property for rental gains more worthwhile.

Official data showed that rents of private homes rose by 11.4 per cent in the third quarter, making a 32.2 per cent rise between January and September.

Completed properties are generally more ‘reasonably priced’ compared with new launches, says one investor.

A recent Jones Lang LaSalle study found that the gap between new sale prices and resale prices is at a record high.

But this is likely to narrow as buyers find it less attractive to buy new developments when habitable resale homes at more affordable prices are readily available, it said.

A tip from a seasoned investor: Consider projects that will get their temporary occupation permit within the next three to six months.

‘These projects would have been launched about three years ago when prices were low,’ he says, so their sub-sale prices will usually be lower than those of new launches.

‘Another advantage is that you will be the first landlord and have the privilege of charging rental based on the current market rate,’ he adds.

‘There’s no point taking over a lease that has two years to go and that was based on old, lower rental rates.’

As a guide, properties offering a rental yield of at least 3 per cent are a safe bet, says Mr Ku. These can be found in completed properties in city fringes such as Siglap and Balestier.

Bargains are tougher to find in hot areas like Amber and Meyer roads where asking prices have risen so much that yields have fallen below 2.5 per cent, he says.

Some older properties may offer fairly high yields but investors must factor in maintenance costs, consultants say.

Do I Need Siblings’ Nod To Sell Share Of Late Father’s House?

Source : The Sunday Times, November 4, 2007

Q MY LATE father left a freehold semi-detached house to my three siblings and me, splitting it into four equal shares.

What should I do if I want to sell my share?

Do I need approval from the other three?

If I do not draft a will, what will happen when I die?

How will my share of the house be distributed?

Will it be transferred to my immediate family - my spouse and children - or distributed to my three siblings?

A SINCE your father’s house was left to you and your three siblings in four equal shares, you and your siblings hold the property as tenants in common in equal shares.

For joint tenants, the right of survivorship allows the other three siblings to hold the property equally upon the demise of one joint tenant but the shares are not distinct.

In your case, as you said that you have 25 per cent of the property, you are a tenant in common.

Unless you can find someone to buy your 25 per cent share as a tenant in common - perhaps someone in your family - you will have to obtain the approval of the other three tenants in common to sell the whole house and distribute the proceeds of sale equally.

If you die without a will as a tenant in common, half of your share will go to your spouse and the other half will be split equally between your children under the laws of intestacy.

Kim Cheong King Ying Partner Low Yeap Toh & Goon

Advice provided in this column is not meant as a substitute for comprehensive professional advice.

Conservation's Worth The Hassle

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 3, 2007

That's the verdict of the owners whose restored terrace house won an architectural heritage award

CENTRE PIECE: A 'floating' deck (Next), surrounded by water teeming with fish, has been put into the courtyard. It adjoins the kitchen (left) and is now the heart of the home. -- PHOTOS: URA, ST PHOTO: DOMINIC WONG

RESTORING and putting in new additions to conservation buildings can be a real hassle as owners must follow strict guidelines. But that did not deter a pair of Australians who live in a conservation house off Balestier Road in the Balestier Conservation Area.

Steven and Stacey Bealing, who hail from Sydney but are now Singapore permanent residents, bought their three-storey Transitional-style terrace house in 2005 for $900,000. It was once a dormitory for orderlies from the nearby Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

LABOUR OF LOVE: Mrs Bealing paid $900,000 for the three- storey terrace house off Balestier Road, and spent another $400,000 and seven months restoring it.

They moved in last year after spending $400,000 and seven months restoring it.

Mrs Bealing, 32, who runs her own design firm, says they were aware of the strict regulations for such houses but went ahead anyway as 'Steve and I like the idea of coming back to a home that has a unique Singapore heritage'.

The labour of love paid off - the house is an URA Architectural Heritage Award winner this year.

Mr Bealing, 35, runs a software firm. The couple previously lived in apartments in Orchard Road.

Two associates with the firm that worked on the home, Ong & Ong Architects' Ms Maria Arango and Mr Diego Molina, say for such houses, clear proposals to any changes or additions have to be submitted to URA's conservation department for approval.

They recall going through 'many rounds of discussion' with the URA to get permission to create a passageway to connect the existing master bedroom to a new bathroom at the house's rear.

Mrs Bealing says the effort was worth it as the restoration has resulted in them being able to live in an old house but one with modern touches to suit their lifestyle.

The changes included creating an extension at the back of the house for a new kitchen and bathroom.

Also, a zinc roof that partially covered the rear courtyard and which had become derelict over the years was removed. This allowed more natural light and ventilation.

While the facade of the house had to be kept under the regulations, the design team also wanted to keep the old charm of the interiors. A spiral staircase and most of the original timber floorboards were restored and kept.

Neighbours and expatriates walking past the house have been asking if the couple will sell their home. But they have no plans to do that.

Mrs Bealing says they get a 'special feeling' living in the house and adds that 'we won't live in a condominium again for a while'.

Old Dame Gets A New Lease Of Life

Source : The Starits Times, Nov 3, 2007

IT TOOK over $6 million - not to mention appeasing a colony of bats - but a grande dame on Pulau Ubin believed to be Singapore's oldest remaining authentic Tudor-style house with a fireplace has a new lease of life.

The two-storey former holiday home, built in the 1930s on the eastern tip of the island off Singapore, is buzzing with activity in its transformation into the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre.

It was rescued from a state of decay by the National Parks Board (NParks), which took over management of the surrounding marine wildlife park, Chek Jawa Wetlands, in 2001.

It was marked for conservation in 2003 and restoration began two years ago. NParks worked with local architecture firm CPG Consultants on the project, which culminated in it being a winner of an Urban Redevelopment Authority Architectural Heritage Award this year.

But it was quite a task. The total cost of restoration, together with constructing a new boardwalk and observation tower, was $6.2 million.

Special attention was paid to the fireplace, which is still in working condition.

Ms Lilian Kwok, head of development management for NParks, says that mid-way through the cleaning and servicing, a family of bats moved into the chimney. Luckily for the bats, NParks decided to close the fireplace to give them a home.

The builders took a top-down approach in the 18-month-long restoration which, among other things, required sourcing for roof tiles that had to be replaced. They were found at a second-hand tile seller in Kranji.

A glass maker was also hired to handblow pieces of green glass to fit on the windows.

In addition, the honeycomb-shaped terracotta floor tiles were cleaned and water repellent was applied to make them more long-lasting.

While some things such as light switches could be changed to modern ones, the team decided to retain the existing ones and even went to Malacca to track down replacements for those that were broken.

Though restoration requires much work, Ms Kwok says 'it is a beautiful house and we're happy to restore it, so Chek Jawa will have a pleasant visitor centre'.

Saved for posterity

SINGAPORE'S conserved buildings are within four main groups of conservation areas: the historic districts of Boat Quay, Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India; in residential historic districts like Blair Plain, Cairnhill and Emerald Hill; secondary settlements including Beach Road, Joo Chiat, Balestier and Mount Sophia; and individual bungalows, which is done on a selective basis.

Many of these conservation buildings were built before World War II.

URA's deputy director for conservation and development services, Mrs Teh Lai Yip, says: 'By protecting Singapore's built heritage, we also ensure that we do not lose places that are unique in character and are significant to Singapore's history.'Saved for posterity

The Rescue Mission Goes On

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 3, 2007

The race to conserve Singapore's architectural heritage continues, with calls to have OCBC Centre and Singapore Power Building be part of the list

OCBC Centre

IT WAS a close thing at one stage. But now, more than 6,500 old but architecturally and historically significant buildings still have a place on Singapore's skyline, thanks to much-praised conservation efforts.

But now that the (wrecker ball) dust has settled, the question is: What's next on the 'to save' list?

The issue is a timely one as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced last month that it was selecting another 228 buildings in the Katong area for conservation. The buildings are mostly terrace houses and shophouses built in the 1920s and 1930s. That figure comes on top of 700 buildings that are already under conservation orders in the East Coast area.

What with that number going on the long list of buildings that will be treasured, and the fact that the URA's conservation programme is more than 20 years old, Singaporeans could be excused from thinking that all the old buildings worth conserving have now been conserved.

But history and architecture experts would have you know that there is still a job to be done.

Singapore Power Building

The URA says the next stage in the conservation programme is to identify post-World War II and modern buildings built during the 1960s and 1970s that are symbolic of Singapore's early nation-building years.

As with the earlier conserved buildings, URA's criteria for conservation remain the same. Buildings that are of historical and architectural significance are considered.

Work for the second stage has already started, and such buildings that are already conserved include the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Queensway. Built in 1963, it has a distinctive feature - huge sloping roofs that nearly touch the ground.

Another significant building that is being conserved is the former Jurong Town Hall, built in the 1960s as the Jurong Town Corporation headquarters. The building is a symbol of Singapore's industrial and economic progress.

Then there is the former Singapore Armed Forces Non-Commissioned Officers' Club in Beach Road, which will be part of a new mixed-use development called South Beach.

Three members of the Singapore Heritage Society are currently working on a book called Our Modern Past: Singapore's Architectural Heritage 1920s-1970s, which looks at modern architectural buildings in Singapore. It will be published next year.

Freelance writer Dinesh Naidu says the trio have researched the book for the last three years and have surveyed 'more than 200 buildings on foot'.

Among the buildings that he feels are worth conserving are the blocks of one- and three-room flats in Bukit Ho Swee that were built in the early 1960s by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to resettle 16,000 people made homeless by a fire in that area.

'Some blocks of old estates should be conserved for historical reasons to show the fast speed that HDB built homes to solve the nation's housing crisis,' he says.

Then there are the often-mentioned iconic buildings local architects feel are worth conserving, such as People's Park Complex and Golden Mile Complex.

Architect Mink Tan of Mink Tan Architects says these two mixed-use developments 'were a breakthrough in the Singapore architectural landscape'.

Other significant buildings worth conserving include the 30-year-old Singapore Power Building (SPB) in Somerset Road.

Originally called the Public Utilities Board Building, it was built by the now-defunct Group 2 Architects. Its design, comprising two parallel blocks facing north and south connected by a lift and stair core, was selected from a design competition.

It was recently retrofitted but Mr Naidu says it still is a big landmark today, just as it was in the 1970s.

Mr Tan suggests the OCBC Centre at Raffles Place is also worth conserving. It was designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei in 1977, and boasts a facade that resembles three stacks of windows on top of each other, earning it the moniker of 'calculator building'.

This is one of the best examples of a foreign architect who did 'excellent work in Singapore', says Mr Tan, adding: 'You can't find another similar project by Pei.'

The president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, Mr Tai Lee Siang, hopes conservation will not just be limited to buildings, but also to community spaces, such as Toa Payoh Town Centre and Hong Lim Green. 'Such conservation requires efforts to not only restore the physical aspects, but also the injection of new life into these areas.'

He also hopes to see debates and discussion on what areas or buildings should be conserved. 'Ultimately, the best form of conservation is not top-down driven, but generated from within the community.'

Upcoming Launches For Month of November 2007!

District 9 & 10
Exclusive 44 units of LEONIE PARC VIEW!
Parkview Elcat at Grange Rd
Cliven @ Grange Rd by MCL land
Relaunch of Element @ Steven

District 11
Talk of the Town! Preview of SOLEIL by fraser centrepoint
Relaunch of Park Infinia

District 15
D Oasis @ Kembangan MRT
Seabreeze @ Marine Parade
Former Versilia (Haig Garden Site)
Aalto @ Meyer

District 21
Talk of the Town! Preview of CASCADIA at Upper Bukit Timah
Jardin @ Bukit Timah-Selling Fast At $1850psf! up!

UOL华业与Keppel Land吉宝投资越南房地产

《联合早报》Nov 3, 2007

越南的蓬勃经济发展,吸引了本地房地产发展商纷纷进军其房地产市场。昨天,华业集团(UOL)和吉宝置业(Keppel Land)都分别宣布在越南的新房地产投资。


吉宝置业则计划与另一家越南公司——An Phu企业联手,耗资2亿1300万元(约合3亿1950万新元),在胡志明市的第9邮区兴建豪华别墅和共管公寓。


这并不是吉宝置业的第一项越南投资。吉宝置业之前在胡志明市第2邮区推出的一批豪华濒水别墅,已经全部卖完。吉宝置业目前也与An Phu企业在胡志明市中央商业区四公里外的Binh Thanh区,发展一个濒水共管公寓项目。

上个月,吉宝置业还宣布在第二邮区发展一批濒水住宅。此外,它也计划在今年第四季,为位于第二邮区的The Estella共管公寓举行预售活动。


《联合早报》Nov 3, 2007


裕廊集团昨天发布第三季工业设施报告时也指出,出租面积上涨,主要是因为多层式工厂(flatted factory)、堆叠式厂房(stack-up factory)和商业园(business park)的净出租面积上涨,带动现成厂房的总出租面积,上涨到12万1100平方公尺,而由于终止租约的面积仍然较低,为4万6000平方公尺,就促使现成厂房的净出租面积达到7万5100平方公尺。



科技企业楼(technopreneur space)的租用率维持在85%的水平。然而,总出租面积下滑,而终止租约的面积上升,使净出租面积出现负200平方公尺的局面。


在第三季,The Signature就占了商业园总出租面积的67%(3550平方公尺),终止租约的面积有1800平方公尺(占总数51%)。但在智策科技坊(The Strategy),总出租面积为1065平方公尺,终止租约的面积则占了终止租约地段的38%(1335平方公尺)。


标准厂房(standard factory)的需求也在第三季达到237万平方公尺,带动租用率攀上97%的水平。总出租面积达到1万3000平方公尺,终止的面积是3200平方公尺。在新出租的面积中,69%(9000平方公尺)是由业务拓展和新成立的公司租用。

堆叠式厂房的总出租面积在本季大幅上涨60%达9700平方公尺,增长主要来自一般的制造业(包括批发和零售及资信和通讯业)。集团也指出,虽然备用工业地(Prepared Industrial Land)的总出租面积维持不变,但因为终止租约的面积从第二季的7.9公顷上涨到10.3公顷,导致备用工业地的净出租面积与第二季相比,下滑了13%,达到55.9公顷。





Asian Bourses Hit By Fresh Fears Of US Credit Crunch

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 3, 2007

Investors spooked by concerns that big Western banks may face losses; STI down 2.3%

ASIAN markets fell into a tailspin yesterday, a day after renewed fears over the health of the United States economy sparked a swoon on Wall Street.

Hong Kong led the falls, tumbling 1,024 points, or 3.25 per cent. Taiwan fell 3.39 per cent, while South Korea dropped 2.12 per cent.

Singapore managed to escape with flesh wounds. The Straits Times Index lost 88.24 points, or 2.3 per cent, to 3,715.32 - its biggest one-day fall in two weeks. About $11.7 billion was wiped off the value of shares.

The spark for Wall Street’s 364-point plunge on Thursday was a renewed worry that more credit-market turmoil was on the horizon.

That fear, plus the increasingly likely prospect of US$100-a-barrel oil, led to new concerns about the health of the American economy, and sent stocks diving.

Another factor: The US Federal Reserve’s signal on Wednesday - after it shaved interest rates by 0.25 percentage point - that it had no further rate cuts in mind to help ease the credit crunch.

The worries were eased somewhat late last night with the release of better-than-expected employment figures, but Wall St remained wary, losing over 100 points at press-time to reverse early gains from an upbeat start.

In Asia, investors were rattled by concerns that big Western banks have huge losses lurking on their balance sheets.

Singapore remisier Paul Lee said: ‘Share prices were still holding up pretty well at opening bell. Then all hell broke loose, and it was like knives falling all over the place, with nowhere to hide.’

Traders were taken aback by the sudden change in sentiment, given the optimism that infected the market after the Fed’s rate cut.

Market experts are divided over whether shares are headed for a further thrashing, given the mixed bag of data coming out of the US.

Phillip Securities’ managing director, Mr Loh Hoon Sun, said: ‘Because prices have gone up so much already, investors are very sensitive to any bad news, so this type of volatility will persist.’

The ignition for yesterday’s Wall Street sell-down was a 7 per cent plunge in Citigroup after an analyst warned that the banking giant might have to cut dividend or sell assets to raise capital.

That revived worries that US and European banks may have to unveil further write-offs linked to the US mortgage markets.

Asian banks felt the collateral damage. Some do have exposure to risky financial instruments known as collateralised debt obligations, but it is more the fear of the unknown that is spooking investors.

Local banks felt the pain, with DBS down 4.4 per cent and United Overseas Bank off 1.9 per cent.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group lost 6 per cent, while in Hong Kong, Bank of China was down 2.5 per cent.

Given the heavy weightage given to financial stocks in most regional indexes, analysts warn that investors should brace themselves for more turmoil.

One concern expressed by many dealers is the large operations that these banks run in major financial centres such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Said one analyst: ‘The fear is that they may stop enlarging operations in Asia and sound the retreat to cope with problems back home. This may cause our real estate prices to feel the pinch if they start chopping heads and cutting prime office space.’

JP Morgan Private Bank’s senior portfolio manager, Mr Elan Cohen, believes that while share prices will be ‘volatile for the next couple of days, it is not the beginning of a bear market’.

‘For regional markets that have risen so sharply this year, a 2 to 3 per cent correction is common.’

$308.5m Investment - KepLand In 2 Tie-Ups To Build Viet Homes

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 3, 2007

KEPPEL Land (KepLand) has bought more residential sites in Ho Chi Minh City to ride on the rapid growth of Vietnam’s property market.

The developer announced yesterday that it has entered into two separate joint ventures with local developer An Phu to develop luxury villas and condominiums in an upmarket area of Ho Chi Minh City.

The combined investment capital for the two projects is estimated at US$213 million (S$308.5 million).

KepLand will take a 55 per cent stake in the joint-venture companies. Its partner An Phu will take the remaining share.

A 13ha villa site will yield about 200 residences, while an adjacent 6.8ha condo site will boast about 1,940 apartments when completed.

The sales launch for the first phase of the developments is slated for early 2009.

Said KepLand’s director, regional investments, Mr Ang Wee Gee: ‘Our first mover advantage and established network in Vietnam have enabled us to build a strong portfolio of prime properties rapidly.’

KepLand has fully sold out its gated waterfront villa project in the city’s District 2 called Villa Riviera.

The company is also preparing to soft launch a 1,500-unit condo project, called The Estella, in Ho Chi Minh City soon.

US Sub-Prime Fallout Set To Linger

Source: The Business Times, November 3, 2007

Jitters may further lower US interest rates, dollar value

(TOKYO) FINANCIAL and economic fallout from the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US will continue for a long time and will lead to further significant falls in US interest rates and in the value of the dollar, a senior global investment manager predicted in Tokyo yesterday.

He spoke at an Asian bond market conference as Tokyo stock prices slumped by more than 2 per cent following the plunge on Wall Street on Thursday.

‘After the Asian financial crisis (of 1997), it took two years for financial markets to re-establish their equilibrium, but it will take longer in the US market because housing assets are involved,’ said Douglas Hodge, Asia Pacific area managing director for global bond management company Pimco.

US interest rates are likely to go down by a further 0.5 to 0.75 percentage points over the next 12 months as the crisis continues to unfold, while the dollar will decline by a further 10-15 per cent against other major currencies, Mr Hodge told the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and by the Japanese and Thai finance ministries.

The meeting took place as the Nikkei 225 stock average declined by 352.92 points or 2.1 per cent to 16,517.48.

Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui alerted parliament to dangers, saying: ‘There could be unexpectedly large swings in financial markets. That risk has not materialised yet, but we think it is fairly big.’

Mr Hodge suggested that Asian financial markets were becoming increasingly attractive to global investors even as growing turmoil envelopes those elsewhere.

‘Macro-economic fundamentals will continue to push Asian currencies higher,’ he suggested. Economic growth in Asia and elsewhere should compensate for falls in the US, he said, adding that, ‘we are bullish on Asia’.

Thai finance minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn told the Tokyo conference that huge external capital flows into Asia were a mark of global confidence but at the same time they were complicating the task of managing exchange rates in the region.

Other experts also warned that the growth of huge official foreign exchange reserves could create financial and currency instability.