Sunday, July 6, 2008

5 S'pore River ERP gantries kick in on Monday

Source : The Sunday Times, July 6, 2008

FIVE new Electronic Road Pricing gantries along the Singapore River will go live on Monday evening.

They are at Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Fullerton Road in both directions.

The new gantries, which will bring the total number of gantries in Singapore to 65, will charge $2 from 6pm to 7.30pm and $1 from 7.30pm to 8pm.

The Land Transport Authority has said that the gantries are meant to cut through traffic that use the City Hall and Marina Centre area to get to other places.

Two of the five gantries, at Eu Tong Sen Street and Fullerton Road (towards Suntec City) will also operate on Saturdays from 12.30pm to 8pm. They will charge $2.

Besides the new gantries, higher rates and extended operation hours will also kick in at gantries in the Central Business District from on Monday.

Scouting For Resale Home Bargains As Prices Weaken

Source : The Sunday Tiimes, July 6, 2008

The best buys seem to be at the higher end, with prices holding steady in the mass-market segment

Homebuyers seem to be happy waiting on the sidelines for noticeable price declines.

Because of the uncertainty about the economy, fewer completed homes have been sold in the resale market so far this year than in the previous six months.

To date, around 4,000 resale transactions have been recorded, says CBRE Research. In contrast, more than 20,000 resale homes (excluding collective sales) changed hands last year, a record year for such deals.

Already, prices of some of these homes have fallen, though many sellers are still reluctant to lower prices.

The good news is that more sellers, particularly those of high-end homes, are expected to sell at lower prices if the current mood does not lift.

'The current downward adjustment of home prices is seen only in certain projects and certain locations,' said CBRE Research executive director Li Hiaw Ho. 'But it may become broad-based if the subdued sentiment persists and sales volume remains low.'

DTZ says that, with high inflation compounding the expected slowdown in the global economy, prices of new and resale homes are set to correct further.

High-end and mid-tier deals

According to URA Realis data generated by CBRE Research, over the period from the beginning of last year to the first half of this year, the most resale deals were done in districts 10, 15, 16, 19 and 23.

District 15 - made up of the East Coast, Katong and Tanjong Rhu areas - seems to be the most popular with Singaporeans, who snapped up 2,200 resale homes.

In contrast, district 10 - which includes Orchard Road, Tanglin, Holland Road and Bukit Timah - has seen resale prices drop fairly significantly.

'Generally, sellers are lowering their asking prices, but not all are selling below market,' said Colliers International's director for research and advisory, Ms Tay Huey Ying.

Those likely to sell below market - or below the peak prices seen last year - are the ones with high-end or mid-tier properties, she said.

Suburban resale homes

District 19 - which includes areas such as Hougang, Upper Paya Lebar and Upper Serangoon - has chalked up the highest proportion of Singapore buyers.

Since the start of last year, 81 per cent of the resale properties in this district have been taken up by local buyers.

Prices have even risen, albeit marginally, so far this year.

Ms Tay said the resale market can be divided into two categories. The first covers those properties whose values have been chased up significantly by speculators, new launches nearby or attempts to go en bloc.

'These properties would be more likely to decline in price,' she said.

The second category covers projects that were left behind last year and might be undervalued as a result.

These are mostly suburban, mass-market properties whose prices are likely to remain stable or even rise slightly, said Ms Tay.

Doing your homework

There are always bargains to be had in the resale market, but buyers should do their homework before committing to one, said Chesterton International's head of research and consultancy, Mr Colin Tan.

If the unit is too old, leaking pipes and worn-out electrical wiring could be a problem, he said.

'Before buying a really old resale unit, you should work out the cost of replacement and incorporate that into your offer price,' he noted.

For very old units, buyers should check to see whether the development has been well-maintained, as well as whether major upgrading works have been carried out in the past 10 years, added Mr Tan. Otherwise, they should check whether the sinking funds are healthy, that is, whether enough money has been set aside for major works.

As sellers of resale units are typically individuals, they are usually more flexible than, say, a big developer, say property agents. Buyers can look out for units that have been on the market for a while, they say.

Still, an investor who wants to earn rental income right away should look for a resale property with a combination of attributes such as a prime location, a sea view, condo facilities, amenities, recreational facilities and proximity to an MRT station, advised Mr Li.


# District 16, in which condos such as Costa Del Sol and The Bayshore are situated, was among the five districts with the most resale deals since the start of last year.

# Prices in the area fared relatively well, down just 1.6 per cent in the six months ended March, compared to districts 10 and 15 where prices fell 13.5 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively.

S'pore's Property Boom Cooling: Analysts

Source : The Sunday Times, July 6, 2008

SINGAPORE'S booming residential property sector is finally showing signs of cooling but projects including two casino developments should underpin long-term prices, analysts say.

The market was described by real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle as the world's hottest in 2007, when the city-state's property prices surged 31 per cent overall.

But this year the sector has not escaped wider concerns over a US-led global economic slowdown and inflationary pressures.

Private home prices rose 0.4 per cent in the second quarter, the slowest increase in four years, the government's preliminary figures showed last week.

The second-quarter rise was also much slower than the 3.7 per cent increase recorded in the previous three months but prospective buyers waiting for huge bargains may be disappointed.

Property analysts say prices are likely to fall further in the third quarter but experts rule out massive declines because of the multiplier effect from two multi-billion-dollar gaming resorts now under construction.

Housing demand is expected to pick up when the first of the two casinos opens next year, employing thousands, said Mr Chua Yang Liang, head of South-east Asia research with Jones Lang LaSalle.

Some of the workforce for the resorts will likely come from foreign countries, creating possible demand for housing, he said.

'To staff these people, you need housing so there will be a potential effect,' Mr Chua told AFP.

Foreigners currently make up more than 20 per cent of Singapore's 4.6 million population.

The Marina Bay Financial Centre, a new financial district under construction which will also feature luxury apartments, should also underpin the market in the longer term, analysts said.

Ms Tay Huey Ying, director for research with Colliers International real estate consultants, said prices are not about to spiral downwards even though second quarter figures indicate the residential property market may have peaked.

'Singapore's positive mid-term prospects on the back of the completion of the two integrated resorts and the Marina Bay Financial Centre will help to prop prices up,' said Ms Tay.

Values may hold, or decline by no more than three percent, in the third quarter but overall for 2008 home prices could still rise four to eight per cent, said Ms Tay.

Analysts from DTZ real estate consultancy said buyers are still interested in project launches.

'Some residential projects are enjoying sell-out status while others are being well received,' said Ms Margaret Thean, DTZ's executive director for residential.

Government approval for the two gaming resorts in 2005 was one of the major factors behind the revival of Singapore's property market, which had been stuck in a rut stemming from the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Efforts to woo wealthy foreigners to take up residence in Singapore, along with an all-out bid to attract skilled foreign migrants, also drove the property market revival, analysts said.

The rebound left many expatriates struggling to cope with soaring rents which in some cases doubled over the past year. -- AFP

Discourage Such Discriminatory Adverts

Source : The Straits Times, July 5, 2008

WHILE helping a friend and sieving through advertisements to rent HDB flats, I noticed quite a few home owners (or perhaps their agents) discriminating against certain racial groups or nationalities.

In a country which encourages equality, this behaviour should be stamped out.

Take two advertisements from an Internet website at

'3+1+1 The Rivervale Condo... nicely renovated... all race, except Indiax...' Only 'Indiax' (referring to local and expatriate Indians) are excluded from renting this apartment. The following is another example, from the same website at 'For rent, Springvale 3+1... not Indian or China...'

While home owners have the right to choose the best tenant for their property, these have discriminated against certain nationalities or races in their quest for the ideal tenant.

Perhaps this is due to a poor experience tenants faced with certain races or nationalities.

There may be a handful of people in every nation and race who make poor tenants. But it is preposterous to penalise an entire nation or race.

In this day and age, such blatant discrimination should not be allowed. I urge moderators of these websites, and others similarly dedicated, to check advertisements they receive and strongly discourage such forms of racism.

It might also be helpful for home owners to re-evaluate criteria they set for tenants.

Lydia Ng (Ms)

One Transparent Valuation For Property Market Price, Please

Source : The Straits Times, July 5, 2008

MS JANET Han, Secretariat, Singapore Institute of Surveyors & Valuers, defined very clearly what constitutes a property's fair market value. Can Ms Han please explain why, when bankers in Singapore quote an independent valuation (based on a professional independent valuer's opinion, presumably a member of the SISV) for a resale property for mortgage or re-mortgage purposes, the valuation is always at least 25 per cent lower (in some cases, 40 per cent) than recent actual sale value, yet the same bankers are always willing to accept a new (primary but pre-TOP) sale price as fair market valuation.

Contrary to Ms Han's assurance that market price is set by the market, in the case of 'banker's' valuation, the practice of always giving conservative valuation for mortgage purposes is allowing valuers to effectively set market prices with some unexpected consequences:

>>Loan ratio offered by banks is not the 80 per cent of market price but effectively 80 per cent of 75 per cent or 60 per cent of market price.

>>a property's collateral value is artificially diminished.

I suggest that independent valuers should only have one transparent valuation for market price (value based on their professional expertise), and let the bank decide how much risk and buffer they need to set the loan ratio accordingly.

In the UK, Australia, NZ, etc, it is common practice for the buyer to pay for specific valuation by independent valuers (acceptable to the bank), and it is up to the bank to set loan per cent ratio accordingly based on the bank's perception of risk, taking into account the buyer's financial position, the bank's loan quota, etc.

I believe that one market valuation will open up new opportunities for members of SISV and, more importantly, make the valuation more reliable.

James Lee

Kovan Residences Preview Sells 50

Source : The Business Times, July 5, 2008

Average price is $870-900 psf; buyers mostly Singaporeans

MORE than 50 units have been sold at Kovan Residences since a private preview party last Saturday.

Poolside ambience: Kovan Residences will have 512 apartments in eight blocks, all 18 storeys high

The average price at the 99-year leasehold condominium next to Kovan MRT Station is between $870 per square foot (psf) and $900 psf. And the units sold so far include three penthouses that fetched about $2 million to $3 million each.

Buyers up to now are mainly Singaporeans, most of whom have private home addresses, although a few HDB upgraders have also bought.

'We have attracted buyers who are purchasing for their own occupation as well as for investment because of the convenient location next to an MRT station,' said Centurion Properties CEO Tony Bin, whose company is the majority shareholder of the project's developer Centurion Kovan. Lian Beng is another shareholder, with a 19 per cent stake.

Centurion Properties is ultimately controlled by UOB-Kay Hian stockbrokers Han Seng Juan and David Loh Kim Kang.

Last Saturday, they invited 150 business associates, friends and relatives to a private preview at the showflat, which eventually resulted in the 50-plus units being sold. Kovan Residences is also being marketed to Messrs Han and Loh's business associates in China and Hong Kong.

The lowest-priced unit in the development is a two-bedroom apartment for just over $700,000. The most expensive is a penthouse below $4 million. Three-bedroom apartments start from $1 million.

Kovan Residences will have 512 apartments in eight blocks, all 18 storeys high. The 16 penthouses in the development range from around 2,400-4,600 square feet and come with a private pool or a Jacuzzi. The project is being developed on a 190,000 sq ft site bought in a state tender in October last year for $436 psf per plot ratio.

Another new project being offered this weekend is Livia at Pasir Ris Drive 1. The average price is said to be $650 psf.