Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Coterie @ Holland Road























Location : 72 Holland Road
District : 10
Development : One Block of 12-Storeys Apartment
Tenure : Freehold
Land Size : 14,144 sqft
Expected Completion : 2011/2o12
Total Units : 27

Unit Types : -
1+1 ~ 592 to 710 sqft
2 BR ~ 883 to 936 sqft
3 BR ~ 1076 to 1195 sqft
3 BR penthse ~ 1862, 2142 sqft
4 BR penthse ~ 2475 sqft

All units faces Botanic Gardens with North-South orientation.

Facilities : -
- Swimming Pool
- Gymnasium
- Children's Playground
- BBQ Area
- Whirlpool (penthouse only)
- 24 Hours Security
- Carparks

Land Price Hits A High At Johor's Iskandar Region

Source : The Business Times, January 03, 2008

LAND prices in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) continue to spurt, with a transaction done last week at RM50 (S$21.7) per square foot (psf), compared with RM43 psf four months ago and several times the price two years ago.

It was announced last Friday that a consortium between Dubai's Limitless Holdings (60 per cent) and Malaysia's state-owned UEM World (40 per cent) would embark on a high-end, waterfront development on 45ha of land at Nusajaya that it had bought for RM242 million, or RM50 psf.

Nusajaya, almost in the middle of the IDR, is where a new state administrative capital is being constructed.

The IDR - a special economic zone three times the size of Singapore - has been made a development priority by the administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. Special incentives, including tax holidays, liberal investment rules and the absence of affirmative action policies that favour ethnic Malays, are aimed at drawing in foreign investment.

The Dubai-UEM World transaction is the third sizeable land purchase in the IDR in as many months.

Recent land purchases totalling RM5.8 billion epitomise a mindset shift by the policy-makers in Kulala Lumpur, who are trying to attract new foreign investment by opening up Malaysia's property markets in selected areas like the IDR.

So far, the new investors have all been well-heeled Middle Easterners with a development track record in other countries.

This influx of predominantly Islamic investment into predominantly Muslim Malaysia has obviated criticism from ethnic Malays disgruntled by Mr Abdullah's suspension of affirmative action policies in the IDR.

The continuing inflow of foreign investment into the area could also jump-start the relatively slow-moving project as it will not only diminish execution risk but, in the nature of a virtuous cycle, also attract other investors beguiled by rising land prices.

The authorities certainly seem to think so. Last week, New Straits Times quoted Johor Chief Minister Ghani Othman as saying at least RM7 billion of projects in the IDR will begin by April this year. They include highways, river clean-ups, residential and office complexes and leisure facilities.

Analysts are excited by the effect of rising land prices in Johor on the share prices of companies with large land banks there. The biggest beneficiary is reckoned to be UEM World, a listed entity that still owns 4,137ha at Nusajaya.

'Its current share price (around RM3.90) imputes an average valuation (of its land bank) of RM12.50 a square foot despite the fact that bungalow and industrial lots are already transacting above RM20 a square foot,' a recent UOB KayHian report estimated. 'At RM50 a square foot, UEM World's real net asset value would jump to RM12.46 a share.'

妹妹向姐姐追讨售屋所得 败诉得归还10万欠款

《联合早报》Jan 03, 2008

发展商业和住宅单位计划失败后,两姐妹为脱售房地产的180多万元所得对簿公堂。拥有一半权益的妹妹起诉姐姐,要追讨另四分之一的权益,结果败诉,还被法庭下令归还10万元欠款给姐姐。

李碧娘否认所指,并提出反诉,向妹妹追逃10万元欠款。审案的陈利明法官日前发表书面判词,裁决起诉人败诉,并阐明裁决理由。

1992年,李金洁看中美芝路巴米士街门牌9号和10号两个店屋,决定买下,以重建成商业和住宅单位。她在同年为这两间总值190多万元的店屋支付10%押金,剩余款项后来由她和姐姐及姐夫向银行贷款。

他们也以38万多元买下毗邻一块地,主要是姐姐和姐夫付款,但地皮分配方式和两间店屋一样,都是李金洁拥有一半权益,另一半归姐姐和姐夫联名所有。

借出10万元助妹妹脱离穷籍

李金洁也用自己的其中一家公司推动这项发展项目,却把公司75%的股权占为己有,25%分配给姐姐,姐夫则不获任何股份,引起两人不满。

起诉人在1999年3月12日破产。破产期间,姐姐借她10万元还债,以协助她脱离穷籍。

由于拖欠贷款,同年6月17日,金融公司通过拍卖方式以395万元卖掉房地产。扣除欠款和费用后,剩下180多万元。两姐妹无法对这笔款项的分配达成协议。

妹妹声称,三人曾协议根据所贡献的款项来分配,以此推算,其实85%的脱售房地产所得应属于她。

她也指姐姐和姐夫是她另外四分之一权益的受托人,但夫妻俩否认有此事。

陈利明法官认为起诉人的证词难以令人信服,指她在供证时言辞闪烁。

他进一步指出,三人自1994年起争执后,起诉人换了13个代表律师事务所,却没有任何一个提起依据付出款项分配权益的协议。

至于三人之间是否有信托安排,处理房地产交易的律师和其他兄弟姐妹出庭供证时皆否认有此事,证词对起诉人不利。

起诉人声称交代律师为信托安排立下文件,但律师没这么做。该名律师供证时否认起诉人有这样的指示,而起诉人也无法提供相关的书面证据。法官认为律师的证词可信,所说的无疑为事实。

另一方面,由于起诉人没有否认欠姐姐10万元,只声称自己有其他付出和索讨足以抵消欠款。法官因此判姐姐反诉得直,下令起诉人必须还债,并承担对方的堂费。

樟宜酒店出售 要价5500万元

《联合早报》Jan 03, 2008

新年伊始,不少房地产项目已开始登场求售。

首先是位于新加坡樟宜路的樟宜酒店(Changi Hotel)。负责销售这个项目的世邦魏理仕(CBRE)透露,这个项目的要价是5500万元,成功标得地段的竞标者也需要支付约1250万元的发展费,意味着发展商需要支付的尺价约为容积率每平方英尺850元。

这个地段可重新发展成商用或酒店/商业两用的项目,地皮的面积约为2万6433平方英尺,容积率是3,因此可发展的楼面最高可达7万9299平方英尺。

现任业主许兄弟集团(Koh Brothers)董事经理许庆祥受访时透露,目前房地产市场一片大好,集团相信这是套现的良机。集团目前也在探讨投资本区域其他项目的机会,而售卖所得将能用来资助这些投资计划。

许兄弟集团在去年11月,也通过独资子公司许兄弟投资,以约630万元收购了樟宜酒店隔壁的一幅永久地契地皮。这块位于樟宜路80号的地段,分层面积为 7997平方英尺,占地面积为2万6433平方英尺。许庆祥说,买下地皮后,这个原本属于分层地契的地段,现在就能一起出售,供重新发展。

当樟宜酒店脱售后,许兄弟集团手头上的酒店,就剩下位于奎因街的万富大酒店(Oxford Hotel)和越南的酒店项目。

目前,与樟宜酒店位处同一排的其他企业建筑还包括牙直利楼(Guthrie Building)、美国友邦保险(AIA)大厦(樟宜)、大东方人寿樟宜中心、新加坡管理发展学院总部(MDIS)等。

世邦魏理仕投资性质房地产执行董事杰理米(Jeremy Lake)说:“这幅匀称的地段,是重新发展成商用建筑或精品酒店的绝佳投资良机。”

据了解,这个地段除了可建办公楼外,也可以作为零售店面用途。目前樟宜酒店还在营业当中,在销售交易完成后的半年,酒店才需要搬空。招标截止日期是本月31日。

芽笼12保留店屋

除此之外,芽笼路512至534号的12间两层楼的保留店屋(介于28至30巷),也将通过私下协议(private treaty)出售。

这12间刚经过重新整修的战前店屋,位于芽笼保留区内,属于永久地契和商业用途地段,土地面积为2万9504平方英尺,预示价格为3600万元。

负责销售此项目的高力国际(Colliers)投资销售部主管何永裕指出,虽然这个地段拥有24个分层地契,但他们希望将所有12个单位卖给同一个买家,因此预示价格是整幅地皮和空店屋的价格。

据了解,目前的发展商Novelty Group是在几年前买下这些历史悠久的空店屋,并在最近开始进行整修。

何永裕在接受本报询问时也透露,芽笼小食店林立,这些店屋也可作为饮食业、零售或消闲娱乐用途,如卡拉OK、商店和办公楼等。他已接到不少投资者的口头询问,其中又以讲华语的本地商人居多。

他指出,这些店屋目前并没有租户,但由于经过整修,若以零售租金来看,这个地段相信能取得每平方英尺介于7至10元的月租。

↑31% 非有地私宅价 比前年增幅料高出两倍

《联合早报》Jan 03, 2008

我国非有地私宅价格在2007年里预计上涨了31%,涨幅是自1999年以来最大,比2006年全年10.2%增幅高出两倍。其中,位于中央区以外(Outside Central Region)的私宅价格在去年见证了有史以来的最快速增长,全年涨幅为27%。

市区重建局(URA)昨天发表的初步预估数字显示,2007年第四季的私人房屋价格上涨了6.6%,较第三季的8.3%增长少,但还是带动整年的私宅指数从第三季的160点飙升至170.5点,取得1996年第二季以来的最高水平。

过去两年多来,一直被高档私宅市场牵着鼻子走的大众化住宅市场在2007年终于等到春天到来。包括淡滨尼、后港、义顺、裕廊等地区的楼价在第四季表现最突出,起了7.5%,全年涨幅则为27%,是市建局自2004年开始统计中央区以外私宅交易的最显著涨幅。

位于核心中央区(Core Central Region),即滨海湾、圣淘沙和第9、10、11邮区等“热点”的项目全年涨幅最大,涨幅在The MarQ和卓锦豪庭(Orchard Residences)等创纪录项目带动下达到32%,价格在过去三个月则起了7%。

包括实龙岗、大巴窑、芽笼、东海岸、中峇鲁、红山、巴西班让、金文泰等其他中央地区(Rest of Central Region)在第四季里上扬了7.3%,全年增长为30%。

2007年第三季,中央区以外、核心中央区和其他中央地区的价格涨幅则分别为7.9%,8.3%和7.9%。

为了更准确地反映房地产市况,市建局自2006年第四季起,也提供全岛按三大区块细分、搜集的私人房产数据。

分析师:今年楼市会继续走俏

受访分析师认为,尽管第四季的数据在淡静的市场中较第三季来得弱,但三大区块还能保持在7%以上的增长相当出乎预料,本地房地产市场整体的增长势头依然非常强劲。

除了价格涨幅交出漂亮成绩单外,世邦魏理仕(CB Richard Ellis)执行董事李晓和指出,如果以交易量来计算,去年共有将近1万5000个新单位推出市场,是历来最多的一年,比2006年的1万1147个单位多了34.5%。

展望2008年,分析师预测本地房地产市场还会继续走俏,而在第四季涨幅超越中央区的市区以外非有地私宅,将在今年发光发亮,涨幅可能达到30%以上。

第一太平戴维斯(Savills)行销与业务开发主管邱瑞荣指出,在受集体出售影响的业主寻找替代房子,以及更多海外专才来到我国工作给予市场供应带来压力下,供应短缺的情况将更为严重。在这样的情况下,市区以外的非有地私宅的需求将激增,每一季相信能取得8%左右的增长,全年涨幅将超过30%。他尤其看好金文泰、汤申、巴耶利峇路上段、樟宜、东海岸上段和勿洛等地区的私宅叫卖。

他说:“随着需求往市区以外移,大众化私宅的身价已大大提高,400元至600元的价位已成往事了。今年新推出市场的单位售价相信将在每平英尺1000元以上,旧单位的转售价则能取得每平方英尺700元以上,平均成交价则在每平方英尺950元左右。”

莱坊(Knight Frank)研究部主管麦俊荣则预测,有鉴于本地经济基础稳健,而推出市场的单位将回跌至7000至8000个单位,我国房地产市场今年预料将继续见证平均增长,全年涨幅将介于10%至20%之间。

根据市建局提供的数据,截至去年第三季,拟建的私人房地产总数为6万5400个单位,其中4万1600个单位会在2008年至2010年完成,而发展商仍未售出的单位共有3万8000个单位,占58%。

卓登国际(Chesterton International)研究部主管陈瑞谨指出,虽然政府在过去三个月里陆续推出更多发展地段以及一些降温措施,但供不应求的情况还是没有显著改善。他说:“事实上,许多发展商目前都不急着把手上的单位卖出,使供应吃紧的情况没有改善。他们好不容易才等到房地产上涨周期,所以会选择慢慢推出市场,以免稀释价格。”

同样认为未来供应没有政府预计得多的邱瑞荣则表示,由于许多集体出售项目在去年都有人提出反对,拖延了这些项目的重新发展,相信许多单位无法如期在2010年前完成。

市建局在受询时透露,在4万1600个预计在2008年至2010年完成的单位当中,有2万2700个单位目前正在兴建中。

今年预料将推出市场的项目包括升涛弯的一些新公寓项目、高文地铁站旁的西门路(Simon Road)私人住宅地段、马林百列的Silver Seas、Marina Bay Suites、勿洛和白沙一带的新公寓项目以及宏茂桥8道的私人住宅地段。

眼见市区以外价格飙升,对平民百姓的影响将非常显著,陈瑞谨说,政府相信会进场干预,推出更多地段或降温措施,让价格涨幅受到控制。

↑17.4% 组屋转售价 去年涨幅1996年来最高

《联合早报》Jan 03, 2008

2007年组屋转售价的走势强劲,去年全年的转售价比前年上涨17.4%,是仅次于亚洲金融风暴前的1996年,涨幅最高的一年。

建屋发展局昨天公布了第四季组屋转售价指数与相关资料。第四季的组屋转售价指数达121.6点,比前三季高。尽管如此,指数仍比不上1996年第四季、亚洲金融风暴前创下的136.9点。

第四季转售价指数的季度增幅为5.6%,比第三季度少1%。去年第三季度的增幅是自1999年第三季的8.1%增幅以来,涨幅最高的一季。

Dennis Wee房地产经纪行的董事许家荣受访时说,马林百列和中峇鲁的组屋转售价在去年都创下超过70万元的新高。他认为,去年组屋转售价的增幅之所以如此之高,主要因素有二:一是去年私人房地产价格高涨,使部分购屋者转而购买转售组屋;二是有购屋者通过集体出售的方式出售私人公寓后,转而购买转售组屋。这两个因素都促使转售组屋的需求增加,从而使组屋转售价飙升。

博纳集团(PropNex)总裁伊斯迈说,一般而言,如果经济表现好,转售组屋价格也会随之提高。他说,去年本地经济增长强劲,就业率提高,经济表现比2006年好很多,加上兴建两座综合娱乐城和举办F1赛事等消息也使人们对未来的经济充满信心,促使更多人选择购买转售组屋。

伊斯迈指出,组屋转售价继续增长,表示组屋屋主在过去10购买的组屋获得增值,对他们来说是好消息。

组屋转售价指数在第三季的增幅为6.6%,相比之下,第四季的增幅相对减缓。ERA房地产公司副总裁林东荣说,这显示目前组屋,尤其是五房式组屋和执行公寓的溢价(cash over valuation)过高。

他举例说,女皇镇五房式组屋的溢价中位数在去年第三季为11万元,比第二季高出超过一倍。

他说,组屋溢价的高低往往是买卖组屋最终是否达成交易的关键。购屋者往往没有或不愿意以高昂的现金去支付溢价。

展望将来,林东荣认为,随着政府在今年推出更多预购(Build-To-Order)组屋和私人设计与发展(Design, Build and Sell Scheme)组屋,那些不急于置屋的人将转而通过抽签选购或直接选购的方式购买组屋。

莱坊(Knight Frank)研究部主管麦俊荣说,转售价过高会使更多人负担不起转售组屋。他认为,政府在今年将推出更多组屋来使转售组屋降温。他估计今年第四季的季度增幅将低于5%。

伊斯迈也认为,组屋转售价在今年的涨幅不会像去年的17.4%那么高,但由于本地经济预计在今年会持续增长,因此他估计组屋市场还是会以双位数增加,大约在10%至11%左右。

Tekka Centre To Undergo Renovation In March

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 02 January 2008

The famous Tekka Centre in Little India will be undergoing a major facelift, come March this year.

The work is expected to take about 16 months.

During the renovation, nearly half of the more than 500 tenants will be moving to temporary premises in Race Course Road.

Rental for the entire period will cost between S$4,500 and S$12,000, depending on location and shop size.

Tan Siat Hiang, a stall owner, said: "I hope business will be better than before. But some of the customers don't know we are shifting there."

Tenants said the renovation cost of the 25-year-old Tekka Centre is more than S$10 million and they can look forward to features like escalators and renovated car parks on their return.

Ajit Kumar, Merchants' Association representative, said: "We are looking forward to it. We are hoping it can attract the new generation."

On their return, the tenants will have to pay between 10 and 20 percent more in rental charges – up from the current S$200 to S$900 monthly. However, they are not too concerned about the rise and are generally optimistic.

"I think wherever you go, your loyal customers will follow. It's just a matter of time. Maybe it will take six months to get used to it. But sooner or later, I think they will still look for you, for the goods and for the service," said Mr Kumar.

The refurbished Tekka Centre is expected to be back in operation in the second half of next year. - CNA/so

Slower Growth, But No Need To Panic

Source : TODAY, Thursday January 3, 2008

Experts say recession unlikely; certain sectors will prop up economy

ALTHOUGH the Singapore economy turned out a weaker-than- expected performance in the last three months of 2007, economists are not rushing to revise their GDP forecasts for this year even though they anticipate slower growth.















The gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter slowed to 6 per cent from 9 per cent a quarter earlier, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) advance estimates released yesterday.

On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally-adjusted annualised basis, real GDP fell for the first time since 2003. It "fell by 3.2 per cent, compared to a 4.4-per-cent gain a quarter earlier, reflecting a slowdown in the manufacturing sector", said the MTI.

A sharp drop in the biomedical manufacturing cluster led the overall manufacturing sector to underperform at 0.5 per cent for the fourth quarter — down from 10.3 per cent the previous quarter. This brings the full year growth to 5.6 per cent, down from 11.5 per cent in 2006.

The Singapore economy is expected to have slower growth this year — due to factors such as ever-rising oil prices and the continuing fallout from the United States' sub-prime crisis — but economists do not forsee a recession taking place as the services and construction sectors, which are likely to remain buoyant this year, will support the economy.

Five out of the six economists interviewed by Today said they would not be revising downwards their forecasts — with all of them expecting growth to be 6 per cent or more this year.

"Domestic demand should remain fairly firm, especially on the construction side. There is no need for a downward revision of GDP growth for 2008 at this point," said Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng.

For the fourth quarter, the construction sector expanded about 24.4 per cent year-on-year, up from 19.2 per cent in the previous quarter. The growth of the services sector was 8.3 per cent, same as the previous quarter, according to the MTI estimates.

The figures, based on data from October and November, gave an indication of how the economy performed in the last three months.

"In any case, the 6 per cent in the fourth quarter is due to a drop in pharmaceuticals, a volatile sector and that could be a wild card. If pharmaceuticals stage a recovery, that could swing the numbers upward even if electronics slows," said Mr Kit.

HSBC economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde attributed the lower figures to the fact that the Singapore economy "is not sufficiently diversified".

This means that "an exogenous shock" to just one or two sectors of the economy will be enough to affect GDP growth, said Mr Prior-Wandesforde.

The economists interviewed also do not find the low numbers for the fourth quarter alarming despite the strong growth in the previous quarters — 8.8 per cent in the second quarter and 9 per cent in the third.

DBS economist Irvin Seah said: "It's more of a technical payback for quarter-on-quarter basis."

Despite a projected economic slowdown this year, inflationary pressures are likely to accelerate further, said the economists.

In his New Year's message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that growth could moderate to 4.5 to 6.5 per cent this year after touching 7.5 per cent in 2007. According to some estimates, inflation — which hit a 25-year high of 4.2 per cent in November — is expected to rise to 5 per cent this year.

UOB economist Ho Woei Chen attributed the higher inflation forecasts to higher food and oil prices and higher revisions on home prices.

Despite more muted sentiment on economic growth, there is no need to panic at this stage, said Mr Prior-Wandesforde, who anticipates that the GDP numbers will bounce back strongly in the first quarter of 2008.

While OCBC treasury economist Selena Ling doesn't expect a "technical recession" when the economy contracts for two successive quarters, she said: "With downside growth risks, plus what's happening in the US, the fear is that the deceleration is sharper than what people anticipate."

For Rent, Only To Needy

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 3, 2008
Govt to review eligibility criteria for rental flats due to overwhelming demand

THE Government is looking at tightening the eligibility criteria for HDB’s subsidised rental flats to filter out those who “are not really in need of a flat”, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday.

This includes retirees with considerable funds after selling their flats or private properties.

Even with the Government looking to push out 2,194 new rental flats by 2010, there will still be a shortfall based on the waiting list for these one- and two-room flats, which currently stands at about 3,000.

Speaking after a visit to the first batch of newly-converted flats at Woodlands St 83, Mr Mah said: “There is always a strong demand for rental flats because they are heavily subsidised … there are people who try to get the rental flats even if they have other options. We are trying to manage the demand so that those who have other options don’t join the queue.”

Including the 180 units of rental flats at Woodlands, which were converted from three- and four-room flats previously used as dormitories for workers, the HDB manages more than 42,000 one- and two-room rental flats. The overall supply “should be able to meet genuine demand”, said Mr Mah.

Currently, the HDB allocates subsidised rental flats to families earning not more than $1,500 a month. Depending on their income and whether they have had a previous housing subsidy, these families pay $26 to $205 a month for a one-room flat, and $44 to $275 for two-room flats.

Not citing any specific figures, Mr Mah said that many applicants who meet the income eligibility, including retirees sitting on their money after monetising their properties, do not have to turn to rental flats as the last resort. Under the current regime, those in this group have to wait at least 30 months before they are eligible for a rented flat.

Adding that these retirees should look at purchasing studio apartments or consider renting spare rooms, he said: “The question we have to ask is if those who have sold off their flat or private property should be allowed to join the queue.

“Theoretically, today, you can sell off your bungalow and join the queue for a rental flat because you are retired and have zero income.”

Which is why there is a need to re-examine the existing “straightforward” criteria, he said, adding: “Even if we don’t bar them, we may just put them to the back of the queue.”

Members of Parliament also find themselves trying to discourage residents who want to rent a flat just because they cannot get along with family members, Mr Mah said. But a harder and more worrying problem to resolve is the impact of rising divorce rates on housing options, he added.

Said Mr Mah: “We are looking at more cases where couples break up and the flat has to be sold due to a court order. Either the husband or wife, with custody of the children, will not be able to afford a new flat and come to us for a rental flat.

“We’ll have to look at it from the more fundamental issue of why divorces are going up, and other things like housing options for a family that has broken up.”

Your House Is Worth 31% More

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 3, 2008

And prices likely to rise further, albeit slower, say analysts

A YEAR of feverish activities in the property market has pushed up the price indices for both private housing and HDB resale flats, as the latest official estimates confirmed what frustrated prospective buyers already know: Property prices are going through the roof.


















According to figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) yesterday, the price indices for private residential property and HDB resale flats went up by 31 per cent and 17.4 per cent respectively.

The yearly flash estimates - while still lower as compared to the indices during the 1990s property bubble - contrast sharply with the figures in 2006, which saw prices of private residential properties and HDB resale flats increased by 10.2 per cent and 1.96 per cent respectively.

Still, after months of spectacular price increases, 2007 ended on a relatively muted note as both segments registered slower price increases in the fourth quarter.

Private property prices rose by 6.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, as compared to an 8.3-per-cent increase in the previous quarter, while prices in the HDB resale market increased by 5.6 per cent as compared to 6.5 per cent in the third quarter.

But don’t hold your breath if you hope for property prices to head south, as analysts expect that prices will continue to rise, albeit at a slower rate.

Attributing the slower price increases to the slew of Government policies rolled out to curb speculative activity, Chesterton International’s research director Colin Tan said: “The rate of increase in the first quarter of this year should be even lower. If it isn’t, I’m sure the Government will redouble their efforts to slow it down.”

Still, the months ahead will see the completion of several megaprojects, such as the Marina Barrage, while construction activities for other major investments, such as the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant, will be in full swing.

“The influx of skilled professionals will grow stronger, starting from the second half of the year,” said Savills Residential’s director Ku Swee Yong.

While the expected influx of such foreign talent, along with other factors such as strong wage growth and employment, should sustain demand for private property, a slowdown in the US economy could dampen the overall enthusiasm.

According to the URA’s fourth-quarter flash estimates, non-landed private residential properties in the Rest of Central Region (such as Toa Payoh and Rochor Road) and Outside Central Region (suburban areas such as Jurong and Woodlands) rose 7.3 and 7.5 per cent respectively in the 4th quarter, as compared to a 7-per-cent increase in the Core Central region (Orchard area).

The overall increase in the private property price index of 31 per cent last year is the highest increase since 1999, when property prices increased 34 per cent.

Cushman & Wakefield’s managing director Donald Han expects demand for the suburban and mid-tier market to come from buyers who have sold off their properties via collective sales and are now looking to snap up properties in outlying areas.

On the public housing front, the supply of new flats coming on stream is expected to further ease the demand for HDB resale flats, said ERA’s assistant vice-president Eugene Lim.

Still, resale prices are expected to continue their increase “but possibly at a more measured level in the coming months”.

The heightened demand in the past year has led to “unrealistic” sellers demanding high amounts of cash over valuation, particularly for five-room and executive flats. This, in turn, has dampened demand, said Mr Lim.

ERA estimates the resale volume for last year to hover around the 30,000 mark, just a shade above the 29,723 units transacted in 2006.

Noting that the HDB resale price index was the highest since 1996, Propnex chief executive Mohamed Ismail expects the HDB resale market to experience a growth of between 10 and 11 per cent this year.

Commenting on URA’s flash estimates for private residential property, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that while the Government had taken measures to cool speculative fervour in the past few months, there would be “many external factors which are beyond our control”.

Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to the HDB’s first batch of converted rental flats, Mr Mah said: “It’s really up to us to keep a very close eye on the market and to be able to tweak those policy levers in order to keep property prices stable, and if they move, to keep them moving in tandem with the fundamentals.”

CapitaCommercial Plans To Redevelop Car Park Complex Into Office Building

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 03 January 2008

CapitaCommercial Trust is preparing to spend up to S$1.5 billion to convert the Market Street Car Park into an office tower.

Whether the project will go ahead or not depends on feasibility studies, but a major regulatory hurdle has been cleared.

The URA has lifted restrictions for the site, which originally requires the land to be used mainly for car parks.

CapitaCommercial, which owns the car park complex, plans to build a 240-metre-high office tower on the site, with an estimated total gross floor area of 850,000 square feet.

The new project comes despite the building was only renovated in 2006 for some S$14 million.

"We plan to redevelop this into a state-of-the-art Grade A office building to cater to the demand of tenants such as financial and business institutions," said CapitaCommercial Trust's CEO, Lynette Leong.

But this redevelopment is subject to conditions.

The trust will have to pay 100 per cent of the enhancement in land value, and will not be allowed to extend the existing lease on the site beyond 2073.

The usual charge is 70% of the enhanced value.

The entire project is estimated to cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.

CapitaCommercial Trust says it will study financing options, like a joint venture, business trust or even issuing convertible bonds.

3 Sites To Be Released Under Design, Build And Sell Scheme

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 02 January 2008

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has identified three additional sites to be released under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) in the first half of this year.

These sites are in Simei, Toa Payoh and Bedok.

This was revealed on Wednesday, together with the announcement that HDB resale prices rose by 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

The three sites have an estimated yield of about 1,500 units.

This follows the announcement in late November that the HDB will ramp up supply of public housing units in the first half of 2008, including 4,800 new units under the Build-to-Order Scheme. - CNA/so

S$30m Keppel Bay Bridge Opens To Much Fanfare

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 03 January 2008

A new S$30 million bridge to link Marina Bay and Keppel Island has been officially opened by President SR Nathan.

It's called the Keppel Bay Bridge and it forms part of the new waterfront living experience, in the Marina Bay area.

The 250-metre bridge links Keppel Island with the mainland.

But it's more than just a bridge.

The new link is adorned with special lights which can be programmed to enhance the atmosphere.

Keppel Bay

It took two years to complete the bridge which is part of the master plan to transform Keppel Bay, into a premier waterfront precinct.

Teo Soon Hoe, Senior Executive Director of Keppel Corporation, said: "We wanted to build a bridge between the mainland and the island. The island is now linked with a marina clubhouse. The boats are already in. It's just been completed and will be open soon. And we have the whole island which will provide more space to our tenants."

The bridge will come in handy when more water sports events are held here. And come January 19, the 10-team Clipper fleet presently racing from Australia to Singapore will be arriving at Marina Bay, and this bridge will be a central figure for the welcome party.

Apart from scenic views of Sentosa Island as well as the upcoming integrated resort, pedestrians can also get insights into the historical surroundings, from these plaques placed along the walkway. -CNA/vm

Second Batch Of Condo-Style HDB Flats To Be Launched This Weekend

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 03 January 2008

The second batch of condo-style public apartments will be launched on 5 January.

The apartments at City View@Boon Keng, which will be completed in 2011, promise the trappings of private residential homes. But they will not come cheap.

The project is part of HDB's Design, Built and Sell Scheme (DBSS), where private developers build and market the flats.

City View@Boon Keng is the second DBSS project, the first is at Tampines.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/3886r9

At 40 storeys high, the City View@Boon Keng apartments will tower over many HDB flats in the area.

The mixed development will comprise 714 units, two-thirds of which will be 5-room flats and the remainder 3- and 4-room units.

The average cost of the apartments is S$520 per square foot, a record for new HDB flats.

Hoi Hup Realty Pte Ltd's director, Wong Chee Herng, said: "It goes all the way from just slightly below $350,000 to, I think, the most expensive unit is very close to S$740,000. We don't see an issue of pricing here, because when the buyers come to see the layout, the design, I think they will appreciate what they will pay for."

Buyers will pay for the view of the city and features commonly found in private condominiums.

JGP Architecture (s) Pte Ltd's director, Chan Sze Chin, said: "A buyer who comes in here does not have to spend any more money or time to hack the walls to install things like air-con pipes or water heater pipes and even kitchen cabinets. In addition, we've also provided quite a fair bit of plants to the balconies to add to the greening of the development."

Industry players believe City View@Boon Keng will draw good response due to its location.

Knight Frank's property consultant, Nicholas Mak, said: "The price (of an apartment at City View@Boon Keng) is about half of that of some of the 99-year (leasehold) condominiums in that area, such as City Lights and South Bank. But, at the same time, they (prices of City View@Boon Keng apartments) are also a bit higher than those for the EC, executive condo.

"From the launch of the first DBSS flats in Tampines till now, I think, it would be reasonable to assume that prices of DBSS would have gone up by about the same quantum as HDB resale flats which is between 20 and 30 per cent."

Analysts say the price of a 5-room HDB flat in the resale market in the Boon Keng area will cost about $450,000.

The City View@Boon Keng project is expected to attract the interest of young, middle-income families.

Its marketing agents are confident the apartments will be a hit with home buyers.

They say the project is likely to be oversubscribed by more than 10 times, attracting 8,000 to 10,000 buyers.

Sales will be conducted by way of a ballot.

Application starts on 5 January and will end at midnight on 16 January.

All applicants must meet public housing guidelines, among them an average monthly household income cap of $8,000. - CNA/ir

Leading Economist Warns Of Japan-Style Slump In US

Source : The Electric New Paper, January 03, 2008

Fall in house prices could go on for years

HERE'S the bad news: US real estate values have lost US$1 trillion ($1.44 trillion).

Now, prepare for the worst: That amount could triple over the next few years.

It could represent the biggest threat to the growth in the US, one of the world's leading economists has told TheTimes.


Mr Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University, predicted that there was a very real possibility that the US would be plunged into a Japan-style slump, with house prices declining for years.

Professor Shiller, co-founder of the respected S&P Case/Shiller house-price index, said: 'American real estate values have already lost around US$1 trillion.

'That could easily increase threefold over the next few years. This is a much bigger issue than sub-prime. We are talking trillions of dollars' worth of losses.'

He said that US futures markets had priced in further declines in house prices in the short term, with contracts on the S&P Shiller index pointing to decreases of up to 14 per cent.

Over the next five years, the futures contracts are pointing to losses of around 35 per cent in some areas, such as Florida, California and Las Vegas. There is a good chance that this housing recession will go on for years,' he said.

BUBBLE SCENARIO

This is a classic bubble scenario, said

Professor Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance, a phrase later used by MrAlan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman.

Professor Shiller added: 'A few years ago house prices got very high, pushed up because of investor expectations. Americans have fuelled the myth that prices would never fall, that values could only go up. People believed the story. Now there is a very real chance of a big recession.'

He said that signs at the beginning of last year that had indicated that some states were beginning to experience a recovery in house prices had proved to be false.

Until two years ago, each of the 50 states in the US had experienced a prolonged housing boom, with properties in some doubling in price.

The reasons are cheap credit and lax lending practices to borrowers who would not have been able to secure a mortgage.

Two years ago, the northeastern states of the US became the first to slide into a recession after 17 successive interest-rate rises between Jun 2004 and Aug 2006 hit the property market.

Last week, new numbers from the S&P/Case Shiller index showed that house prices had declined in October at their fastest rate for more than six years, with homes in Miami losing 12 per cent of their value.

Rogue Lawyers Hurting Small Firms'

Source : The Electic New Paper, January 03, 2008

SMALL law firms are hurting from big crimes committed by rogue lawyers.

Some say potential clients are now giving them a miss and banks are reluctant to deal with them.

Generally, a small firm is one with fewer than six lawyers.

A medium-sized firm is a firm with six to 25 lawyers.

Any firm with more than 25 lawyers is considered a big firm.

A lawyer, who declined to be named, used to run a medium-sized firm before he gave up the business to pursue other interests.

He said following the bad publicity, banks and clients have lost faith in one-man firms in handling their money in conveyancing work.

He said it all started with rogue lawyer David Rasif.

The fugitive lawyer was the sole proprietor of David Rasif & Partners and made off in June last year with $11 million of his clients' money.

He is still at large.

To make matters worse, Rasif wasn't the only rogue lawyer to make the news.

The lawyer said: 'Anecdotal evidence suggests many small law firms and one-man firms are getting less conveyancing work.

'They are also not chosen to act for property clients.

'The reason is because they have to hold their clients' money and these clients are now more reluctant to let them do that.'

He explained that in conveyancing, the buyer of a property will pay a certain percentage of the sale price, usually 9 per cent, to the lawyer of the seller.

That lawyer will then bank that cheque into his client's account and will hold this money until the completion of the sale of the property, which is usually after three months.

TEMPTATION

This is where the problem arises when lawyers get tempted and spend the money.

The Law Society of Singapore has introduced measures to prevent such theft. (See report at bottom right).

But it is little comfort when your reputation has been hit, say some.

Mr Mark Goh, 40, has been running his one-man firm for 13 years. He handles criminal, litigation and civil cases.

He said: 'I have met clients of more than 10 years who will jokingly remind me about stories of lawyers who have taken their clients' money.

'They stop short at that.

'But an astute person will know that they are hinting to me, 'Don't do this to me', 'Can I trust you?'

'It hurts me because lawyers trade on their reputation.'

He said lawyers set up one-man firms because it allows them to be more independent and they can also choose the kind of cases they want to work on.

He said he has heard from banks that they will not go to one-man operations because they don't trust them any more.

Mr Goh said that, now when he wins a civil case, he will ask the losing party to pay his client directly.

But Mr Goh said he has never been tempted when handling money.

Said Mr Goh: 'It's my rice bowl. And I don't fancy living the life of a fugitive, where you are on the run all the time.

A sole proprietor, who declined to be named, said he has been running his firm for 10 years.

He said: 'Banks now don't appoint you on their panel to act for them.

'Previously, they used to appoint small firms but, possibly because of the bad publicity, they now go for the bigger firms.

'But this can affect any firm, even medium- and bigger-sized ones.

'It all boils down to your values system. Whether you value honesty, integrity and hard work.'

For Mr An Kanagavijayan, 50, who has run his own one-man firm for 10 years, things have not changed.

He said because he doesn't stick to one area of law, he has not been affected by the changes or the publicity.

He handles divorce, criminal, litigious and civil cases.

NOT AFFECTED

The father of two children, one in junior college and the other in secondary school, said: 'There has been no impact on me because my clients trust me very much.

'I work hard for my living. As long as a lawyer does that, he does not have to worry.

'Besides, I am a father. Where can I run to?'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ROGUE LAWYERS

David Rasif

Disappeared with $11m of clients' money in June last year.

Still at large.


Zulkifli Amin

Took $6m of clients' money and disappeared in November.

Still at large.


David Khong Siak Meng

Disappeared in August with $68,000 of client's money.

Still at large.


Victor Tan

Disappeared with $32,000 of clients' money in September.

Still at large.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LAW SOCIETY'S CHANGES

# No withdrawal of client funds from ATM machines

# Can't draw such monies in cash cheques or bearer cheques without leave from a High Court judge

# Cheque amounts exceeding $30,000 require two signatures

# Lawyer with fewer than three years' experience can't sign cheque to withdraw monies

Tenant 1 : We Paid To Rent Flat; Tenant 2 : We Did Too

Source : The Electric New Paper, January 03, 2008

Owner says it's a misunderstanding, and will refund both parties their money

THEY could not have imagined a worse start to the new year.










They rented a flat and ended up homeless. They could also lose thousands of dollars in deposits.

Two groups of tenants, numbering 13 in all, discovered they had paid to rent the same HDB three-room flat.

One group comprises five students from China and the other, eight musicians from India.

Both groups turned up at a flat at Selegie Road on New Year's Eve, thinking they had rented the unit for the year.

To their dismay, they found out that they had rented the same unit. They even paid the deposit on the same day on 18 Dec last year.

Each group paid about $4,100 in total.

This includes the first month's rent of $1,900, a deposit of $1,900 and a utility fee of $300.

When contacted by The New Paper, the landlord, Ms Cecilia Chew, said it was all a misunderstanding and that she would refund the money to both groups.















The musicians from India found the flat gate padlocked, but got a locksmith to break it and moved in on New Year's Eve. (Top) They are still staying in the flat. -- Pictures: MOHD ISHAK

Private school student Su Hai Yang, 22, said he and his four friends from China paid about $800 each.

What's worse is that all of them were supposed to move in this week.

Said Mr Su, who is from Suzhou, in Mandarin: 'How can this happen? What are we supposed to do now? Where are we going to live now? We had already told our previous landlords that we are moving out.'

Mr Su, his friend Mr Ren Bin and their property agent Ms Cheryl Chow were at the Selegie flat on New Year's Eve afternoon to look for the landlord.

The agent, suspecting something was amiss after the landlord kept delaying the handover of keys, wanted to ask her for her clients' money back.

Instead, they found the Indian tenants trying to unlock the front gate.

The landlord had given the tenants from India a set of keys but had padlocked the gate.

Pub manager Selva Duray, 38, had rented the flat for the eight musicians from the same landlord.

Mt Duray, who had employed the musicians to perform at his pub, was equally shocked to see the China nationals.

His agent was not aware the flat had been rented out to another group.

Said Mr Duray: 'My employees were supposed to move in on 26 Dec but the landlord kept delaying it. She finally said we could move in on 31Dec. But we came here and this is what we got.'

He had to spend more money to put up his employees at a nearby hotel because of the delay.

Mr Duray later called a locksmith who managed to open the gate. They are moving in despite the confusion.

And while the two groups were discussing their predicament, MrDuray's agent tipped them off that Ms Chew was at a nearby hotel at Queen Street.

Mr Su, Mr Ren Bin, property agent Ms Chow and her siblings walked over and found Ms Chew sitting on a sofa in the lobby.

They claimed she seemed surprised to see them and tried to walk away.

Said Ms Chow: 'We asked her for our money back and she said she'd refund us another day because she didn't have any money on her. We didn't really trust her because after that she became quite aggressive and tried to punch me.'

The group followed Ms Chew when she left the hotel.

They walked around the Queen Street area for about half an hour and tailed Ms Chew to prevent her from leaving.

Ms Chow finally called the police who advised them to resolve their problems peacefully.

She said they would lodge a police report and a complaint with HDB.

Mr Duray said he will move his musicians out of the flat soon.

He said: 'I'll probably let them stay here for perhaps a month or two until I find alternative accommodation for them.'

Apart from these two groups, another tenant, Dr Tony Ijong Dachlan, 32, also claimed he is owed money by Ms Chew.

He said he paid about $3,400 to Ms Chew last September to rent her flat.

This amount included the first month's rent of $1,700 and another $1,700 deposit.

He said: 'I was supposed to move in in October but she said she had to do some minor renovations first. She also borrowed some $1,000 from me for the renovation.

'I lent it to her because I thought I could trust her since she's going to be my landlord.'

Dr Dachlan said he has tried unsuccessfully to get his money back from Ms Chew.

Claiming it was all a misunderstanding, Ms Chew, who is in her 50s, said she had sold the flat for $250,000 to a distant relative and the transfer would be completed by the end of this month.

'The five China students backed out of the deal themselves and I do owe them $4,100 which I am arranging to pay by Thursday,' she said.

TOO MANY PEOPLE?

As for Mr Duray's employees, MsChew said she was unable to rent the flat to them because there are too many tenants, which is not allowed by HDB.

A check on HDB's website shows that the maximum number of sub-tenants allowed in a three-room flat is six people.

She added: 'I am taking a loan from a friend to pay them (the Indian tenants) back by Thursday too.'

In Dr Dachlan's case, she claimed that he was not a tenant but a friend she owes money to.

Added Ms Chew: 'I will pay him back the money by this week. I am expecting some money from a relative soon.'

She said she was a victim of delayed payments and that she will use the sale proceeds from her flat to settle all her debts.

Lawyer Roy Yeo said that if the tenants do not get their money back, they could file a police report against the landlord for cheating.

'The other option is to sue the landlord for the money,' he said.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CLARIFICATION

No news is good news (TNP, 29 Dec 2007): The Singapore family interviewed clarified that they did call their relatives in Pakistan earlier and remain deeply concerned about their well-being

Rental Flats: Review To Weed Out Less Needy

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 3, 2008

As demand rises, 2,200 more HDB rental flats to be made available over next three years

PEOPLE who have sold a property could find themselves barred or placed at the back of the queue for subsidised rental housing as part of a policy review to weed out the less needy.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday that the Housing Board was getting an increasing number of applications from the elderly, as well as divorcees with kids in tow.


Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2zmatc
Govt reviews subsidised rental housing



As demand for subsidised rental housing grows, the Government may be tightening the rules to qualify for such HDB rented flats.

The move may result in authorities barring those who are not in dire need of these heavily subsidised one- and two-room flats, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

Mr Mah was speaking to reporters after visiting the first batch of converted rental flats in Woodlands.

As Jermyn Chow reports, more than 2,000 subsidised rental flats will be made available islandwide by 2010.


Some of these applicants already own homes but were looking to sell them and move into subsidised rental housing to save money.

Existing rules state that those who sell a property have to wait 30 months before being eligible to rent.

Mr Mah, who was visiting a batch of 180 newly converted rental flats in Woodlands, said these applicants may not be as needy as others in the queue.

'If you owned a bungalow, you sold it, you wait for 30 months; to be fair to others, you shouldn't be joining the queue.'

The rental homes are for Singaporeans who 'really have no other options'.

The minister said that the number of applicants facing such hardship has gone up, but not significantly.

'For them, we will have rental flats available,' he said.

The HDB is also assessing cases of couples who have to sell their flats following a divorce and then seek rental housing after they find alternative accommodation too costly.

Rising property prices and rentals islandwide have swelled the ranks of those seeking subsidised rental housing.

There are about 3,000 applicants in the queue and they have to wait for five to 11 months to get a flat - twice as long as a year ago.

Demand is so high that the HDB yesterday scrapped its Daily Selection Scheme. This let applicants pick leftover rental flats for immediate occupation after monthly flat allocation exercises.

It said the 'high take-up' of rental flats in the monthly exercises made the daily scheme unnecessary. The HDB, which allocates subsidised flats to families earning no more than $1,500 a month, charges $26 to $205 a month for a one-room rental flat and $44 to $275 a month for two-room flats.

The first batch of 180 flats in Woodlands, which were converted from three- and four-room flats, will be ready for allocation this month.

Another 748 rental flats in Boon Lay will be added to the pool in March, while 290 in Redhill will be ready early next year. Meanwhile, 976 rental flats will be built from scratch in Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang and Yishun and will be ready in 2010.

The new projects will add a total of 2,194 homes to the stock of 42,000 rental one- and two-room flats.

On another note, Mr Mah downplayed talk that many couples were delaying marriage because of rising property prices and the long wait for new subsidised HDB flats.

'(Getting a flat is) not the reason why people get married, right?' he asked, pointing out that they could still rent a flat or live with their parents while they wait for their new homes to be built.

HDB Price Gains Expected To Ease After 17.4% Rise

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 3, 2008

Industry experts estimate that this year's total growth figure will be less than 10 per cent, due to general resistance in the HDB mass market to higher prices.




















IT'S official: HDB flat prices enjoyed a spectacular bull run with a 17.4 per cent gain last year - the strongest growth in a decade - but market watchers say a repeat this year is unlikely.

Flash estimates released by the Housing Board (HDB) yesterday for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 showed home prices grew 5.6 per cent from the previous quarter. This is a dip from the strong 6.6 per cent rise in the third quarter and brings the total growth for last year to 17.4 per cent.

The fourth quarter slowdown was expected, due to the recent onset of a more cautious mood among home buyers, said housing analysts.

'The high resistance level in the resale market is also due to unrealistic sellers demanding high COVs,' said ERA Realty's assistant vice-president Eugene Lim.

COV, or cash over valuation, is the cash buyers need to pay upfront over and above a flat's market valuation.

HDB's third-quarter data, for example, showed median COVs pushing $100,000 for five-room flats in the Marine Parade, Queenstown and Central areas.

Most HDB buyers cannot afford such money upfront, and this led to a drop in transactions in the fourth quarter, said Mr Lim.

The hiatus in property launches in the private sector also contributed to a general slowdown in resale activity, said HSR Property Group executive director Eric Cheng.

He has put this year's forecast for HDB flat price growth at a modest 5 per cent to 8 per cent.

'HDB resale prices also have limited growth, as the government tries to keep homes affordable by offering more supply,' he added.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail, however, is more bullish, saying growth could hit 10 per cent or 11 per cent, if Singapore's economy continues to perform well.

'There are still many cash-rich buyers from en bloc sales looking in the resale market,' he said.

Prices in the resale market will still be fuelled by high demand this year, he added.

To address the current housing shortage, HDB recently announced plans for about 4,800 new flats in the first half of this year under its build-to-order scheme, in which flats are built only when a certain level of demand is reached.

It also recently launched a plum site in Bishan for condo-style HDB homes to be built, with more such sites in Simei, Toa Payoh and Bedok to come.

The full data for the fourth-quarter of last year will be released at the end of the month, said HDB.

Rental Flats For Needy To Be Allocated From This Month

Source : The Business Times, January 3, 2008

A TOTAL of 2,194 rental flats will be added to the public housing supply by early 2010 to help the needy, in a move first announced in November 2006.

The first batch of newly converted flats - consisting of 180 one and two-room units at Block 852, Woodlands Street 83 - will be allocated from this month. One-room flats generally go for about $30 a month and two-room flats for $50-60.

In March, 748 units will be made available when the Housing and Development Board (HDB) completes the conversion of vacant blocks at Boon Lay. In addition, 290 converted units at Redhill will be added to the supply early next year. HDB is also building 976 new rental flats at Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang and Yishun. This last batch will be ready by early 2010.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the flats will help ease the burden of those who are really needy. 'This additional supply will help meet demand from lower-income Singaporeans who cannot afford or are not yet ready to buy their own flats,' he said.

While demand seems to be increasing, Mr Mah attributed this to rental flats being an attractive option, rather than more people suffering financial hardship.

'There is always strong demand for rental flats as they are heavily subsidised,' he said. 'Those who are financially capable of owning a flat or renting accommodation from the open market, and those who have family who can support them, should not deprive the more needy of subsidised rental housing.'

From this month, HDB will suspend the allocation of rental flats under the Daily Selection Scheme. Rental flats will continue to be allocated through monthly selection exercises.

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between Dec 10th - 15th, 2007

Strong Showing In Some Suburban Areas And Projects

Source : The Strait Times, Jan 03, 2008

Bukit Batok home prices soar 43% but other districts drop as much as 20%

PRIVATE homes in some suburban areas proved the most resilient amid a general slowing in price rises across the board, the latest government figures show.






















Some suburban areas performed very strongly, but others showed uneven price growth.

Data from Savills Singapore showed that prices in districts 23 and 24 - which include areas such as Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang and Hillview - rose 21 per cent to $694 per sq ft (psf) in the fourth quarter.

Within that overall region, average prices in Bukit Batok soared 43 per cent in the fourth quarter to reach $795 psf. But other districts, such as 16, 17, 18 and 19, paled in comparison.

In fact, some districts saw significant price dips. For instance, prices in districts 21 and 22, which include Clementi and Jurong, fell about 20 per cent to $737 psf in the fourth quarter.

Overall, fourth-quarter prices of non-landed homes outside the central region rose 7.5 per cent, according to initial estimates released yesterday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Although that figure is below the 7.9 per cent rise in the third quarter, it is nonetheless higher than the 7.3 per cent fourth quarter rise in the rest of the central region and the 7 per cent rise in the core central region covering Orchard Road and Sentosa Cove.

While these are preliminary estimates, they lend support to a theory put forward by some property analysts - that mass market home prices will rise more than those of high-end and, possibly, mid-end homes.

The fourth-quarter price rise of homes outside the central region was largely supported by resale deals, considering there were few launches, said Savills Singapore director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong.

Existing projects, such as the 99-year leasehold Sun Plaza in Sembawang Drive, saw a 39 per cent rise in average price to $595 psf in the fourth quarter.

The only notable launch was the freehold 192-unit Park Natura across the road from Bukit Batok Nature Park. Buyers picked up 152 units in October and November at a median price of $945 psf.

Mr Ku is sticking to his earlier forecast for a rise of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent for mass market homes this year, which could send the current average mass market price of $730 psf to as much as $950 psf.

However, growth in the private mass market sector - which has the closest correlation to the HDB market - may be weighed down by the public housing resale market, said Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

Initial estimates showed that fourth-quarter HDB resale prices rose 5.6 per cent, which placed the full-year rise at 17.4 per cent.

'I don't think HDB resale flat prices can keep growing at this rate for a year or so, because this group of buyers has a natural resistance to too much of an increase,' said Mr Mak.

Besides, the Government will step in if HDB prices are growing too fast, he said.

Mass market launches expected this year include four projects on the former Waterfront View estate in Bedok Reservoir Road. Of the four, the 405-unit Waterfront Waves is expected to be launched in the first quarter.

Chip Eng Seng To Co-Build Condos In Vietnam

Source : The Strait Times, Jan 03, 2008

CONSTRUCTION and property group Chip Eng Seng will build two condominium projects in Ho Chi Minh City in league with some Vietnamese partners.

The condos will cost 'about US$120 million ($172.6 million)' to build in total, with Chip Eng Seng putting in about US$41.4 million, said the company yesterday.

Both projects - one in District 8 and the other in District 2 - are expected to be launched in the second half of this year.

Chip Eng Seng group chief executive officer Raymond Chia said that Vietnam 'is roaring with potential'.

The firm's investment, he added, was 'taken with a long-term view... I see Chip Eng Seng becoming a key foreign investor in Vietnam'.

The District 8 project, in which Chip Eng Seng will have a 20 per cent stake via wholly owned unit CES-VH Holdings, is a 782-unit estate.

It is expected to cost US$60 million and will comprise three 18-storey blocks with full facilities on about 23,000 sq m.

Chip Eng Seng has a 25 per cent stake in the District 2 project through another subsidiary, CES-Vietnam Holdings.

The firm said it intends to raise its stake in this venture to 49 per cent within the year.

This project - three 21-storey blocks with more than 450 units on 7,000 sq m - is expected to cost US$60 million.

Chip Eng Seng made its first foray into Vietnam last July, when it took a 5 per cent stake in Vietnamese firm Hoa Binh Construction and Real Estate.

The deal has 'brought about good equity returns and excellent business opportunities', said the company.

Chip Eng Seng is now 'seeking opportunities in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and China', said Mr Chia. He expects that 30 per cent of revenue and profit will come from overseas projects within three years.

The projects announced yesterday will 'contribute positively to its net tangible assets and earnings per share for the financial year' ending Dec 31, the company said.

Chip Eng Seng shares closed at 68 cents yesterday, up five cents.

Changi Hotel Land Parcel Up For Sale

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 3, 2008

CHANGI Hotel, which sits on freehold land of about 26,433 sq ft, has been put up for sale by tender.

















It has a plot ratio of 3.0 and can be redeveloped into a hotel and/or a commercial development with a maximum gross floor area of 79,299 sq ft, said CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), which is managing the sale. Construction group Koh Brothers owns the land.

The asking price is at least $55 million and the successful bidder will have to pay a development charge estimated at $12.5 million, or $850 psf per plot ratio.

“We believe that it is a good time to capitalise this asset while the property market is buoyant,” said Mr Francis Koh, Koh Brothers’ Group managing director and chief executive officer.

“The proceeds from this sale will enable us to explore other opportunities within the region.”

The site is surrounded mostly by office buildings, and is within walking distance from Paya Lebar and Eunos MRT stations.

While that is an advantage, said a property consultant, the site is near “Joo Chiat and Geylang which house clusters of hotels that have a red-light connotation associated with it. It’s more of a budget hotel location”.

The tender exercise will close at 3pm on Jan 31.

Where Do We Stay In The Meantime?

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Letter from LUCY HUANG

I thank Michael Chua Kheng Hwee and Tan Meng Lee for the advice in their respective letters, “Either buy a new condo or a new HDB flat” and “Make it mandatory - a one-for-one exchange”(Dec 28).

I was told by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) that I would have to wait two-and-a half years before I could apply for an HDB flat.
After applying, I would then have to wait an additional two to two-and-a-half years before being allocated a unit.

The developer who bought our estate has agreed to let us buy a unit when the project is completed. But this would only happen in one-and-a-half to three years.
So, buying a new condominium or HDB flat would leave us with no place to stay in the interim period.

Buying a new condominium that has just obtained its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) is also not feasible.

By the time the TOP has been obtained, all the units would have already been sold and those who bought them would ask for much higher prices.
These new developments would also not be ready by the time we have to move.

Furthermore, their rooms are extremely small and our beds would not even fit into the master bedroom.

It is a real problem. However, I do at least feel very happy that there are those in Singapore who are concerned enough about the plight of the displaced elderly, to try and offer helpful suggestions.

Back Lane In Balestier Up For Sale

Source : The Business Times, January 3, 2008

Other properties up for auction include Changi bungalow, studio apartment

THE Official Receiver is auctioning off a back lane at Jalan Bunga Raya in the Balestier Road/Irrawaddy Road area.

10 Swiss Club Lane: Indicative price of $18m for the 17,557 sq ft property up for auction

The freehold strip of land, with a land area of 3,331 sq ft, is behind a row of seven terrace houses which are part of a set of 15 terrace homes at Jalan Bunga Raya which have been bought by a consortium involving a Chinese developer and some local partners.























Observers reckon the consortium that bought the 15 homes at Jalan Bunga Raya will be the most natural contender for the back lane

Knight Frank is auctioning the back lane on Jan 10 on behalf of the Official Receiver. The plot is understood to have been owned by a now-defunct company, Bag Transpack Investment Co Pte Ltd.

Market watchers reckon the consortium that bought the 15 homes at Jalan Bunga Raya will be the most natural contender for the back lane, although BT understands that a party who owns a pair of semi-detached houses on the other side of the backlane is also a potential buyer.

Knight Frank has indicated a price of about $750,000 to $800,000 for the back lane, which works out to $80 to $86 per square foot of potential gross floor area.

The 15 neighbouring terrace houses were sold recently for $61 million or an all-in unit land price of $739 psf per plot ratio.

Knight Frank's auction, which will be held at Amara Hotel, will also see several other properties going under the hammer.

These include two bungalows - one a Good Class Bungalow at 10 Swiss Club Lane with an indicative price of $18 million or $1,025 psf based on its 17,557 sq ft land area, while the other, at 18 Toh Close in the Changi area, has a $2.8 million to $3 million indicative price range, which works out to $420-450 psf.

The Toh Close bungalow has a 6,669 sq ft land area. Both bungalows are freehold and are being sold by their respective Singaporean owners.

Other properties in the auction include a 23rd level studio apartment at The Metz at Devonshire Road, a semi-detached house at Jalan Ishak in the Eunos area, a three-storey shophouse at Craig Road in the Tanjong Pagar area and a two-bedroom apartment on the 26th level of High Street Centre.

Private Banks Still Upbeat On 2008

Source : The Business Times, January 3, 2008

Sub-prime woes have not changed their expansion plans in this part of the world, private bankers tell CHOW PENN NEE

LOSSES suffered by banking giants over sub-prime writedowns have not dampened the ambitious growth plans of their private banking divisions in Singapore.

Private banks here are upbeat on 2008, saying the wealth management pie will continue to grow strongly in this part of the world. But they expect the industry to be still facing issues such as a talent crunch and market volatility.

Soaring salaries and bonuses, the surge in the number of millionaires and a booming economy in 2007 - the private banking sector never had it so good.

The flip side of this was, of course, a fierce war for talent, with poaching rampant. New players also entered the market, all fighting for a share of the wealth management pie.

The sub-prime meltdown in the middle of the year did not help matters. Banking giants Merrill Lynch and UBS were beset with losses from writedowns on their collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).

The bright side of it all was that the sub-prime woes have not changed private banking expansion plans in this part of the world, private banks told BT.

Swiss bank UBS, which earlier announced $14 billion in losses from the sub-prime crisis, said the bank's growth strategy is still on track.

'Wealth management is UBS's core business and we continue to be strategically bullish,' said Yeong Phick Fui, UBS's head of wealth management in Singapore. 'We will continue to hire along the same rate as previous years.'

She added that UBS has about 200 billion Swiss francs (S$254 billion) under management in Asia Pacific and the industry is still growing. 'No scale down is expected. Our strategy is to continue investing in the business,' she said.

Francois Monnet, who heads Credit Suisse's private bank here, agreed. 'Private banking is strategically a core business for us. It is not something that we will walk away from when the market turns.' The bank added another 100 private bankers in Singapore and Hong Kong last year.

Other private banks say they will still be actively hiring in 2008. BNP Paribas private banking said it is untouched by the sub-prime crisis and is still looking to grow 20 per cent annually. Similarly, Standard Chartered Private Bank said it is still looking to add on 200-300 private bankers in the next 3-4 years globally.

Banks are still on a hiring spree because the number of moneyed folk is likely to rise this year. Singapore is set to continue growing as a private banking hub.

'There's strong GDP growth in this region, we continue to see new IPOs, real estate is booming, companies are making profits, and millionaires will grow in number,' noted Michel Longhini, head of BNP Paribas private banking Asia-Pacific.

Singapore had the fastest growth in the number of high net worth individuals (HNWI) in Asia Pacific, at 21.2 per cent in 2006, and also one of the fastest growing wealth markets in the world, according to a report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.

Today, Singapore's role is in global private banking, Mr Longhini added, and growth is not just coming from Singapore, but from South-east Asia and Europe. Added to the fact that Singapore is attracting foreigners who book assets here, more millionaires will be minted next year.

'The growth in millionaires in Singapore will be boosted by Singaporeans, expatriates and global HNWI who come to bank their wealth here,' said Standard Chartered global head of private bank Peter Flavel. As a result of this, private banks will surge ahead with expansion.

'The wealth creation cycle is highly correlated with the markets and economic growth,' said Credit Suisse's Dr Monnet. 'With Singapore's robust economic fundamentals, we expect continued growth in the private banking industry.' Credit Suisse has the largest wealth management operations in Singapore outside of its headquarters in Switzerland.

The hunt for talent, therefore, ranks again among the top concerns for private banks in 2008, as it had been in 2007, the difference now being that banks have mostly done their en masse hiring and are now gunning for quality.

'Today, private banks are much more selective, more quality-based,' said BNPP's Mr Longhini. 'We now know who is good, who is not, and know the price we are willing to pay.' Tan Su Shan, who heads Citi's Private Bank here, agreed. 'Before, we saw frenzied, mass hiring in newcomers (to the industry). Now we see consolidation in hiring.' She added: 'We're also working with the resources we hired and are working to grow our internal talent pool by continuing to train and develop staff.'

The banks are casting their eyes on quality - meaning those who have prior private banking or other banking experience. 'Quality hires will be able to command 30-35 per cent higher salaries,' said Rahul Malhotra, Merrill Lynch's head of global wealth management for Asia-Pacific. 'We're looking for 7 years' experience or more.'

Banks say poaching is less predominant now, except among the new entrants, and most are looking inward at their corporate or investment bankers.

'We see quality coming from within,' said Mr Malhotra. Citi's Ms Tan said they are now looking 'organically' for good people. 'We have hirees from corporate banking and institutional desks such as equity or fixed income, or from private equity, investment banking or research,' she said. 'These people bring with them an institutional level of expertise and professionalism that can only enhance and improve upon the level of private banking in Singapore.'

Another challenge facing private banks this year is the market volatility and managing this tumultuous period for their clients.

'From now to medium term, we're looking at diversification of asset categories for our clients,' said Mr Longhini. Mr Malhotra said the bank is waiting to see what happens in the US economy early this year and looking at 'shifting from fixed income to equity'. 'We are seeing more consolidation of assets into safer types like fixed income,' he added.

The past year saw private banks focus on the wealth transfer theme for clients. In the new year, the private banks say a big focus will be on private investment banking. With the noveau riche earning their wealth through their businesses, private banks say this is where they can step up and help integrate their clients' private wealth with business ventures.

'Asia's new wealth is coming from real estate, services, the professional segment, IT, manufacturing and the energy sector,' said Citi's Ms Tan. 'We want our private bankers to understand what the client does, their wealth creation process, and help manage it.'

At Credit Suisse, Dr Monnet says almost every private banking client is an entrepreneur, 'mostly first or second-generation owners of businesses with their wealth tied to their enterprises and to real estate'. He noted: 'The classical private banking offering no longer serves these entrepreneurs well.' Clients now require their banks to have expertise not only in private wealth management but also in corporate finance such as advising on mergers and acquisitions or on initial public offering (IPO) activities that can help them grow their businesses, Dr Monnet explained.

'We have already seen many cases of our private-banking clients with investment banking needs, be it divesting large shareholdings they have, monetising those shareholdings or having certain hedging needs, financing requirements such as shared-backed lending, aircraft, ship or real estate financing or bringing private equity investments into entrepreneur clients' businesses.'

High Rentals Don't Worry Some MNCs

Source : The Business Times, January 3, 2008

They are still expanding their premises: C&W report

RISING office rents may have forced some businesses to adopt a wait-and-see approach on expansion here but others are expanding anyway.

A report by Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) reveals that key leasing transactions in December 2007 include Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer taking up 26,000 sq ft of office space at HarbourFront Tower 1, US-based global engineering, construction and diversified services company Flour Daniel leasing 15,000 sq ft at 80 Robinson Road, and US-based drug development services company PharmaNet relocating to 5,000 sq ft premises at Springleaf Tower.

Bank Julius Baer was the fastest growing company in the finance and banking services sector in 2007 and its spokeswoman Lim Li Koon said that leasing the HarbourFront premises is part of its 'business continuity plan' strategy. Ms Lim also said that it would continue to operate out of its office at One George Street.

C&W managing director Donald Han said that the office market is experiencing a 'flight to availability of space for expansion' with tenants also hoping to take advantage of lower rents in the office sub-markets.

According to C&W, latest data showed that prime office net effective rents were at an average of $14.30 psf per month in November 2007, an increase of 3.5 per cent over October 2007.

Similarly net effective rents for the Top 25 Grade A office buildings rents rose to an average of $16.02 psf per month in November 2007 from $15.54 psf per month in October 2007.

Mr Han said many businesses in Grade A areas like Raffles Place, where occupancy is close to 100 per cent, are currently negotiating to renew their leases. 'Companies that need to be located close to their clients cannot move far from this comfort zone,' he said.

Those that can are looking outside the CBD. Average rents for the office sub-market in areas like Beach Road and HarbourFront are around $10-$11 psf per month.

'The secondary (sub) market is becoming the primary target for tenants looking to relocate at the moment,' Mr Han said.

Two Property Investment Opportunities In The Offing

Source : The Business Times, January 3, 2008

Changi Hotel site going for $55m, Geylang shophouse devt priced at $36m

THE site of Changi Hotel, on Changi Road, is being offered for redevelopment with an asking price of $55 million.














Up for grabs: The 12 two-storey shophouse units in Geylang (Above) have a total strata floor area of 29,504 sq ft, while the Changi Hotel site (Below) can be redeveloped with a maximum GFA of 79,299 sq ft

The 26,433 square foot site has a plot ratio of 3.0 and can be redeveloped with a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 79,299 sq ft. The site is being marketed by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).

The property consultancy estimates that, including a development charge of about $12.5 million, the unit price for the site equates to about $850 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).

Various corporate buildings sit on this same stretch of road, including AIA Changi and Great Eastern @ Changi.

CBRE executive director of investment properties Jeremy Lake said: 'This regular site provides an excellent investment opportunity for the redevelopment of a corporate building or a boutique hotel.'

Colliers International has also put up for sale a newly restored two-storey shophouse development located at 512-534 Geylang Road with an indicative price of around $36 million.

To be sold via private treaty, the freehold property comprises 12 two-storey shophouse units with a total strata floor area of 29,504 sq ft.

Under the 2003 Master Plan, the subject property, which is also located in the Geylang Conservation area, is zoned for commercial use.

Colliers executive director of investment sales Ho Eng Joo said the island block of shophouses comes with 24 strata titles. They will be sold with vacant possession.

Mr Ho said that a potential use for the property is as a food and beverage establishment, as the area is already known for F&B. 'Alternatively, the property is also suited for showrooms, karaoke lounges, pubs, shops and offices,' he said.

Economy May Rebound After Sharp Year-End Dip

Source : The Business Times, January 3, 2008

Flash GDP estimates confirm Q4 wobble; coming quarter may be different

Following its sharp slowdown towards the end of 2007, the Singapore economy could well stage a strong rebound in the first quarter this year, say the more upbeat economists.

Flash GDP estimates for Q4 2007 - based only on October and November data - have the economy growing only 6 per cent, down from Q3's slightly upgraded 9 per cent and the lowest quarterly rate since Q1 2005. Market forecasts for Q4 GDP growth ranged between 7 and 8 per cent.

Against the preceding Q3 and against expectations, the economy slipped into the red, contracting 3.2 per cent in Q4 in annualised, seasonally-adjusted terms. It is the first q-o-q fall since Q2 2003.

Full-year 2007 growth - as the Prime Minister announced in his New Year message - turned in at 7.5 per cent, at the low end of the 7.5-8 per cent official forecast, rather than 'closer to the upper end' as the Ministry of Trade and Industry had expected back in November.

But Q4's big dropoff in growth - compared to the first three quarters' 8 per cent average - should not come as a huge surprise, given the indications from October and November's manufacturing, trade and retail figures, even if these have sometimes proved to be misleading signals.

Export and industrial output numbers for early- Q4 were weakish, while retail sales have not quite reflected a buoyant job market with booming bonuses and increments.

But notably, Q4's poor manufacturing performance - only 0.5 per cent growth, according to the early figures, and the main drag on GDP - came largely off scheduled pharmaceutical plant shutdowns.

The transport engineering industries continued to notch double-digit growth in Q4, MTI said. Given the virtual 'boom-bust' volatility of pharmaceutical output, economists say they are more concerned about the electronics sector, which is more vulnerable to an external slowdown. United Overseas Bank's economists expect 'moderate' manufacturing growth in the first half of 2008, after an estimated 5.6 per cent 2007 pace.

The more domestic-oriented construction and services industries fared well in Q4, according to the advance estimates.

Say Goldman Sachs economists: 'For 2008, we still expect domestic demand to remain robust but see downside risks to our GDP growth forecast of 7.3 per cent, especially if the exports trend continues to remain weak.'

But HSBC's Robert Prior-Wandesforde points out that Singapore's latest exports to the United States have actually improved.

In any case, the Q4 downturn here is not due to US economic weakness, he says, as the US economy actually picked up strongly in Q3.

He believes that retail spending in Singapore will 'soon improve' and expects to see GDP 'bounce back strongly' in Q1, and is happy to stick to an above-consensus GDP growth forecast of 7.3 per cent.

'The bottom line is that the fundamentals still look extremely strong in most areas and not just in terms of the coincident labour market data but the underlying policy stance as well,' says Mr Prior-Wandesforde. Interest rates are at 'multi-decade lows', fiscal policy is neutral to slightly expansionary, and the Singapore dollar has appreciated 'only marginally' over the last year, he notes.

Morgan Stanley's economists also see 'stable momentum' in Q1, but expect GDP growth to slow to 5.8 per cent in 2008 with the global slowdown. They also reckon that a domestic demand buffer in the form of a construction boom should limit the downside risks.

Goldman Sachs' team sees fears of higher inflation outweighing growth concerns and still expects a move to a tighter monetary policy stance in April.

OCBC Bank's treasury economist Selena Ling, on the other hand, reckons that the GDP slowdown should dampen speculation about any shift to a more aggressive policy stance ahead of the April review.

Meanwhile, the next key data is the December industrial output due out in late January. 'Should the December IP growth come in stronger than one per cent, we can expect some upward revision to the Q4 2007 and full-year GDP growth,' says United Overseas Bank's Ho Woei Chen. For now, its 2008 growth forecast stands at 6.3 per cent.

Home Prices Feel Pull Of Gravity After 31% Rise

Source : The Straits Times, January 3, 2008

Q4 tempers spectacular growth of 2007; mass market may shine this year

Private home prices rose 31.0 per cent in 2007 - the biggest year-on-year jump since 1999 - despite a slowdown in the fourth quarter caused by the withdrawal of the Deferred Payment Scheme (DPS) and sub-prime woes, flash estimates show.

















HDB resale prices also climbed some 17.4 per cent last year - the fastest growth seen since 1996 - as private home price gains filtered down. But HDB resale prices also saw a slowdown in growth in the fourth quarter.

At a doorstop yesterday, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said that over the last few months, the government had taken several steps to try and cool down speculative activity in the property market. However, the market is also being affected by external factors beyond the authorities' control, he said.

'For Singapore, we are optimistic that we will continue to do well but there are many things beyond our control,' Mr Mah said. 'It is up to us to keep a close eye on the market and be able to tweak those policy levers that we can in order to keep property prices stable.'

Private home prices rose 6.6 per cent in the fourth quarter - down from the 8.3 per cent growth seen in the third quarter.

Similarly, HDB resale prices grew 5.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2007 - down from the 6.6 per cent rise for the previous quarter.

Experts said that the slowdown was brought on by both poor global market conditions as well as the removal of the DPS scheme.

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said that the fourth-quarter slowdown was not surprising considering the sub-prime crisis in the United States.

'People are still waiting for signs as to how bad the sub-prime situation will turn out,' Mr Tan said. 'It affects the whole outlook; people are uncertain.'

Demand could also be muted as lending by banks in the US, UK and Europe has been tremendously curtailed since the crisis, he said.

On the other hand, OCBC Investment Research analyst Winston Liew believes that the bigger culprit is the withdrawal of the DPS. 'After the DPS was withdrawn, the whole market went down - the resale market, new launches and the stock market,' he said. He has a 'neutral' rating on the Singapore property sector.

For the HDB resale market, the slowdown could also be attributed to buyers holding back in the face of rapidly increasing asking prices, said ERA assistant vice-president Eugene Lim.

'The slowdown in price increase was largely expected as the market hit resistance level in the light of unrealistic sellers demanding for high cash-over-valuation (COV) transactions - particularly for the five-room and executive flat-types,' said Mr Lim.

The slowdown in price growth, experts said, will continue in the first quarter of this year.

'It is unlikely that there will be much activity in January or February,' said Knight Frank's Mr Tan. Agreed OCBC's Mr Liew: 'I would expect the rate of growth to slow down.'

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), for example, expects the take-up of new homes to be between 9,000 and 11,000 units for 2008. By comparison, the property firm estimated that a record 15,000 new homes were sold in 2007, 34.5 per cent more than the 11,147 new homes sold in 2006.

This year, the property market will be driven by mid-end and mass-market homes, experts said. Prices and take-up of luxury homes are expected to moderate.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the price increase was led by non-landed homes in outside central region (OCR) where the index showed an increase of 7.5 per cent.

The strong showing, CBRE said, could be attributed to new project launches during the quarter, such as Park Natura and Hillvista. Prices in the core central region and rest of central region rose by 7.0 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.

For 2008, 'we expect a moderate rise in overall prices as luxury prices are likely to firm up at current levels while mid-tier and mass-market prices have the potential to rise by about 10-15 per cent', said Li Hiaw Ho, executive director for research at CBRE.

Others were more bullish about the mass market. Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore, predicts that mass-market prices will climb by 30-50 per cent this year.

In response to a question about the rapidly climbing prices in the mass market, Mr Mah told reporters that the government is watching the segment closely and will take action if necessary.

'People who can't afford the central region to buy or to rent are starting to look outside, which I think is the sensible thing to do,' he said. 'We will continue to keep an eye. We're watching it every day. If necessary, we'll do something, if not necessary we'll just let it be.'

The overall price index for private homes could climb by anywhere between 10 per cent and 25 per cent this year, depending on how quickly the market recovers, experts said.

And for the HDB resale market, prices could climb by between 10 and 15 per cent, they said.

'With the buoyant economy and expected positive market sentiment in 2008, the HDB property market in Singapore is likely to enjoy a double-digit growth in the 10-11 per cent range,' said Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of property agency PropNex.

Resale Prices Of HDB Flats Highest In 10 years

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 2, 2008

IT'S official: HDB homes have enjoyed a spectacular bull run of 17.4 per cent in 2007 - the highest growth in a decade - but market watchers say a repeat is unlikely this year.

The Housing Board (HDB) on Wednesday released flash estimates for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 which showed home prices rising 5.6 per cent compared to the previous quarter.

This is a dip from the 6.6 per cent gain in the third quarter last year and brings the total increase in HDB resale prices for 2007 to 17.4 per cent.

Housing anaylsts said this slowdown was expected due to various reasons, including a recent change in market sentiment to a more cautious mood.

Detailed figures for the quarter are not released yet, but analysts say the transaction volume in the fourth quarter have dipped significantly.

This is due to fewer property launches and quieter activity, and also unrealistic prices sellers are demanding. Experts say HDB prices are unlikely to soar too high, and will rise less than 10 per cent for 2008.

HDB also recently announced new flat supply in Punggol and Yishun under its Build-To-Order (BTO) programme, which builds flats only when a certain demand is reached.

It plans to offer about 4,800 new BTO flats in the first half of 2008.

It has also recently launched a plum site at Bishan for condo-style HDB homes to be built, with more such sites in Simei, Toa Payoh and Bedok to come.

The full data for the fourth quarter 2007 will be released at the end of the month, said HDB.