Monday, May 11, 2009

HDB Flat Rents Starting To Fall

Source : The Sunday Times, May 10, 2009

Slide a spill-over effect from falling private home rentals

After shooting up over the past two years and holding steady even during the crunch time late last year, rents for Housing Board flats are finally starting to fall.

If more HDB tenants can now move to condos because of falling private home rents, it would depress demand for HDB flats, especially the larger five-room and executive flats. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Median rents for five-room flats dropped from $2,000 to $1,800 a month in the first three months of this year, while those for four-room flats fell from $1,800 to $1,700.

The decline was across most locations, affecting central areas such as Bukit Merah as much as outlying ones, including Punggol.

But two- and three-room flats remained fairly unscathed by the downtrend. They maintained their median monthly rents at $1,100 and $1,500, respectively, according to the latest HDB data.

As the recession continues to bite into the property sector, the fall in rents for private homes is starting to spill over to the HDB market, say industry experts.

Private home rents have been sliding since the third quarter of last year and have lost almost 20per cent since their peak, according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

In the first three months of this year alone, they dropped by some 8.5 per cent.

As condominiums become cheaper to rent, some HDB tenants may find it worth their while to switch to private homes, said Mr Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of property agency PropNex.

'Now that the private property rents have fallen, the downward trend will definitely start to have a knock-on effect on the HDB market.'

Part of the reason HDB rents moved up so quickly in the past few years was that private home rents climbed sharply, making condominiums unaffordable for the 'sandwiched' group of people, whose monthly rent budgets are about $2,000 to $2,500, he said.

If these people can now move to condos, it would depress demand for HDB flats, especially the larger five-room and executive flats.

Mr Ismail expects the fall in HDB rentals to continue over the next two quarters at least, falling by 'easily another 10per cent'.

'People will see better bargains in the private property market at the moment,' he said.

At Normanton Park near Queensway, for instance, a 1,200 sq ft three-bedroom apartment can be had for about $2,300 to $2,500 monthly - down from about $3,000 at the peak of the market, Mr Ismail said.

This may attract HDB-dwellers to move over, as a five-room flat in nearby Holland, Queenstown or Telok Blangah would cost about $2,000 or more a month to rent.

'For just a bit more a month, you can get a full suite of facilities, including a swimming pool and a gym,' he said.

'In order for HDB flats to remain appealing, they will need to be significantly cheaper, about 30per cent cheaper, so that the price difference can be a dealbreaker for tenants,' he added. 'This means rents still have some way to fall.'

But while the outlook for HDB flat rentals may be bleak, the leasing market is still active on the ground, said Mr Eugene Lim, associate director of real estate agency ERA Asia-Pacific.

'HDB flats are still relatively easy to rent out,' he said, although it takes longer now to find a tenant than the 'one-weekend job' it used to be during the boom times.

HDB tenants tend to be foreign students or

lower-level expatriates who, unlike their counterparts in the high-flying banking and financial sectors, have not yet lost their jobs in the recession, said Mr Lim.

While there are some who have left Singapore, 'for every one that leaves, another one comes', he added. 'We're not seeing a mass exodus.'

Particular hot spots are Clementi and Jurong East, which are near the universities and polytechnics, as well as the business parks.

But HDB landlords have had to make some adjustments. Many tenants now insist on including a clause that allows them to terminate the lease with just one month's notice, compared to the usual one- or two-year lease with stricter exit clauses, Mr Lim said.

Gardens In The Sky

Source : The Straits Times, May 9, 2009

High-rise greenery is sprouting in condos and HDB blocks

Garden terraces on high-rise buildings are a growing idea.

More condominiums, Housing Board carparks and office towers are sprouting plants and trees amid the concrete, helping Singapore bloom as a 'garden city'.

High-rise havens at Newton Suites (left) and HDB carpark in Toa Payoh. -- ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG, SHAHRIYA YAHAYA

Everyone is happy: Developers like adding high-rise greens because they say they help keep buildings cool and beautify the urban jungle. Residents like them because they help them keep close to nature, despite being above the ground.

The idea gets the (green) thumbs-up from housewife Mei Wong, who lives in one of Singapore's oldest housing estates, Toa Payoh, which boasts the first sky garden to connect five HDB blocks. It has landscaped footpaths, sheltered seating areas and a trellis where creepers grow.

Ms Wong, 40, who goes there often with her two children, says: 'There's no need for me to grow plants at home. I just come here.

'The plants keep the sky garden cool, and it is pleasant to look out onto it from my 20th-storey window.'

The HDB and the National Parks Board first started a pilot project to green the roof of a multi-storey carpark in Punggol in 2003. At some multi-storey carparks in new HDB projects, there are also roof gardens which the public can access.

The idea is also taking root in the private sector (see separate stories). Last month, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched a new programme called Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High Rises - or appropriately, Lush in short - to promote more skyrise greenery.

Its initiatives include making landscaping, such as to shape rooftop gardens or sky terraces, a must for new developments in Raffles Place, Shenton Way, Marina Centre, along Kallang River and Jurong Gateway, the upcoming commercial hub in the west.

Already, since 1997, the URA has encouraged developers to incorporate sky terraces in residential projects by allowing a higher building height if they are provided. Covered sky terraces are also exempt from gross floor area computation, which means a developer has more room to build more apartment units.

Under Lush, these guidelines were revised to require that sky terraces are lushly landscaped and that the greenery is visible externally, to ensure a more attractive communal space.

New condos are showing they are taking the sky garden concept to new heights. At year-old Icon in Tanjong Pagar, residents are living a luxe lush life.

The sky terrace on the 31st storey of the mixed-use development makes for one superb venue for residents' private parties. It is filled with shade-loving plants such as frangipani trees, and small pockets of areas have been created to give some privacy.

Mr Chng Kiong Huat, director of development and planning for the condo's developer, Far East Organization, says the sky terrace was created so residents can 'live, work and play within the compound'.

Property developer Capitaland has also introduced high-rise greenery at two recent residential projects, Citylights near Lavender and RiverGate near River Valley Road. At Citylights, there is a sky terrace on the 24th storey with fitness facilities, plus reading and yoga corners, amid the lush greenery.

Over at RiverGate, its sky gardens are made up of a series of public and private gardens and balconies which give the development a green and ecologically harmonious appearance on Singapore's skyline, says Capitaland.

At Fusionopolis, the science and research centre in Buona Vista, there are 13 sky gardens which the public can visit.

Developer JTC Corporation says the sky gardens provide visual relief and serve as green lungs and social pockets.

Mr Eric Van Steen, 38, senior manager of Accenture, a consulting firm, goes to the gardens about twice a week.

'The greens, with the breeze and the great views, make it a pleasant space to step out of the office to clear the mind,' he says.

Newton Suites, developed by UOL Group, also has a 100m wall of vertical greenery on the 36-storey tower.

Architect Chan Ee Mun from award-winning firm Woha, which designed the Newton Road condo, says 'elevated gardens bring nature closer to the residents and afford the luxury of greenery that was previously reserved only for landed living'.

The greenery absorbs sunlight and carbon dioxide emissions and helps create oxygen. Mr Chan adds that by planting vertically, 'we are also populating our dense urban centres with gardens and greenery that encourage a thriving biodiversity'.

Newton Suites resident, financial consultant Mona Honegger, 43, lives on the ninth storey but regularly goes up to the lush sky terrace on the 31st storey to revel in the unblocked views of the city.

The Swiss expat, who enjoys a drink and relaxes there before bedtime, says: 'Being here among the green gives me a feeling of being close to nature.'

The high life


A sky terrace on the 31st storey provides private seating areas, with hot tubs from which users can enjoy unblocked views of the city and the sea and floating birdcage swings.

Lush greenery to block out prying eyes creates pockets of private space.

On the seventh storey is a pool deck featuring green 'islands'. The use of trees and plants gives the deck a tropical resort feel.



This 545-unit condomnium near River Valley Road offers residents 45 sky gardens with views of the city, Singapore River and the South China Sea. The sky gardens are made up of a series of public and private gardens and balconies. There are trellises on which creepers grow so residents can feel close to nature.

Newton Suites

This award-winning condominium boasts sky terraces surrounded by lush greenery, giving residents a garden-in-the-sky feel. There is also a 100m-tall green wall along the 36-storey block.

HDB roof gardens

Some lucky HDB flat dwellers are also enjoying skyrise greenery. In 2003, the Housing Board and National Parks Board started a pilot project to green the roof of a multi-storey carpark in Punggol.

These rooftop gardens not only keep the surround- ings cool but are also pleasing to look at for neighbouring residents.

The one on the left is at Toa Payoh Lorong 2. Other rooftop gardens on carparks can be found in new housing estates such as Punggol, Sengkang and Sembawang.


This science and technology centre, developed by JTC Corporation, boasts 13 sky gardens which are open to the public. The sky gardens have water features amid the lush greenery, with clear views of the surroundings.


Taking a leisurely stroll is an elevating experience at this 600-unit condo near Lavender MRT station. Residents have a lush high-rise pool deck and a sky terrace on the 24th floor that has fitness facilities and a jacuzzi plus reading and yoga corners.

Stanchart Offers 1.5% Fixed Mortgage Interest Rate

Source : The Business Times, May 11, 2009

Chartered Bank has introduced a mortgage package at a fixed rate of 1.5 per cent per annum for the first year for any new mortgage taken up with the bank from May 10 to June 15, 2009.

For the second year onwards, customers pay a rate of three-month Sibor plus 1.35 per cent per annum.

Dennis Khoo, general manager of retail banking products, said: 'Our customers have been the heartbeat of Standard Chartered over the last 150 years in Singapore. To thank our customers, we are offering exceptional value in the form of a fixed first-year mortgage loan at 1.5 per cent until 15 June 2009. This allows our customers to lock-in best-in-value and low rates for the next year. With this offer, they can enjoy more flexibility in their finances to be more agile and responsive to market changes.'

Mr Khoo added that Standard Chartered has become the largest qualifying full bank (QFB) in the Singapore mortgage market over the years.

This package is offered in conjunction with the bank's 150th anniversary in Singapore this year.

In addition, Priority Banking customers who hold the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite Card and take up the fixed rate package will get bonus points of 100,000 air miles.

CapitaLand Meets Property Valuers

Source : The Business Times, May 9, 2009

CAPITALAND, Singapore's biggest developer by market capitalisation, recently met property valuers to discuss the valuation process, sources told BT.

CapitaLand chief executive Liew Mun Leong chaired the meeting, which ran for more than an hour. About 40 people were present, including valuers and consultants from Singapore's top property firms, a former chief valuer and CapitaLand employees.

BT believes Mr Liew was seeking to understand the methodology used to arrive at property valuations.

Asked about the meeting, a CapitaLand spokesman said the company has regular dialogues with partners and professional organisations involved in real estate, such as banks, architects, contractors, designers, accountants and valuers.

'During these dialogues we exchange views about industry practices, market outlook and other general aspects,' the spokesman said. 'There are no direct references to our properties or projects.'

Most developers here have their investment projects revalued annually, and many include the revaluation gains and/or losses in their profit-and-loss figures.

In 2008, for example, worsening economic conditions put pressure on real estate values, and as a result there was a downward revaluations of some CapitaLand properties. CapitaLand recorded a fair value loss of $58.9 million in Q4 2008, mainly from the revaluation of its portfolio of investment properties held by subsidiaries in Australia.

Buyer Of Units At The Suites Gets A Break

Source : The Business Times, May 9, 2009

Six-month extension for 51-unit purchaser comes with price of $500,000 a month of which the first has been paid

KEPPEL Land yesterday said that it has granted a six-month payment extension to a buyer who purchased 51 apartments in its 157-unit The Suites @ Central project.

The buyer purchased the units in an en bloc deal for an average price of $1,806 per sq ft under the deferred payment scheme (DPS) in June 2007 - at the height of the property market boom.

Keppel Land, which jointly developed The Suites @ Central with Chip Eng Seng, did not disclose the buyer's identity.

Upon the execution of sale-and-purchase agreements, the buyer paid 20 per cent of the purchase price, with the balance of $1,445 psf due after the project obtains its temporary occupation permit (TOP).

Units at the fully-sold The Suites @ Central have been progressively handed over to purchasers since TOP was obtained.

The buyer of the 51 units has since asked to extend the due date to arrange funds for payment. Keppel Land and Chip Eng Seng have agreed to a six-month extension that started yesterday.

But the extension is subject to the purchaser paying $500,000 a month during the extension period. The first payment of $500,000 has been received, Keppel Land said.

The Suites @ Central was developed by Devonshire Development, 60 per cent owned by Keppel Land and 40 per cent by CEL Development, the property arm of the Chip Eng Seng group.

Last month, it emerged that a China investor that bought 20 units in MCL Land's The Fernhill condo failed to pay about $30 million that was due when the project received its TOP.

As a result, MCL Land booked first-quarter profit from only five units in the 25-unit freehold project for which buyers have paid the outstanding balance by the due date.

The investor, Concordia Overseas, subsequently managed to re-sell 19 of the 20 units.

Market watchers have said that developers who sold projects on DPS at peak prices in 2007 and early 2008 may have reason to worry if buyers do not pay up as the projects are completed in the coming months.

Such developers may have to sue buyers to get them to complete the purchase at the contracted price, or agree to a payment extension.

Interest Picks Up In Strata Offices: Cushman & Wakefield

Source : The Business Times, May 7, 2009

Price gap between sellers and buyers also narrows in past few months

THERE has been a pick-up lately in activity and prices in the strata office market, says Cushman & Wakefield Singapore managing director Donald Han.

Rising: A 2,443 sq ft unit on the 38th floor of Suntec Tower 2 (right) sold for $1,780 psf last month

For instance, a 2,443 sq ft unit on the 38th floor of Suntec Tower 2 sold for $1,780 psf last month - above the recent low of $1,300 psf set in March for the entire 32nd floor of Suntec Tower 1, even after factoring in a 5-10 per cent discount for an entire-floor transaction, according to Mr Han.

At International Plaza in Anson Road, which is another popular location for strata office investors, a 17th level unit changed hands for $1,146 psf in March and a 16th level unit went for $1,100 psf in April - higher than transactions of around $1,000 psf in December last year on the same floors. The gap between sellers' and buyers' prices has also narrowed in the past few months.

'Late last year, after the Lehman fallout, the gap between sellers' asking prices and bids from buyers was as much as 30 to 40 per cent,' Mr Han said. 'This has narrowed to around 5 to 15 per cent today, which is why transactions are happening. Generally, vendors have become more realistic in their pricing.'

The latest transacted price at International Plaza of $1,100 psf is about 26 per cent lower than the level in May last year. 'The smart money is now looking at compelling price discounts from the peak rather than waiting to buy at the market-bottom,' Mr Han said. 'Once you see prices about 30-40 per cent off the peak, it provides compelling reasons to look seriously. Some of those who have bought at Suntec recently may be looking to locate their businesses in these premises, instead of renting.' Credo Real Estate managing director Karamjit Singh agrees that buying interest in strata offices has picked up, but notes that there are still few transactions.

'The market is going through a phase in which buyers' perception is slowly changing,' he said. 'Previously they were staying away or offering prices that worked in a huge buffer (against potential price falls). Today, buyers are more confident that the downside is limited, or prepared to stomach further downside as the good properties may not necessarily surface at the absolute bottom of the market.'

Some market watchers say there is liquidity in the marketplace for smaller strata transactions involving investments of under $20 million. 'One contributing factor is wealth creation from the more positive stock market,' said Cushman's Mr Han.

Global Economy To Turn

Source : The Straits Times, May 11, 2009

PARIS - GRIM data revealed the depths of distress in European industry on Monday but economists seized on strengthening signs of upturn in the months ahead.

The French and Italian data 'confirm that the sector is still in dire straits' and worsens the growth outlook for the eurozone. --PHOTO: AP

France and Italy reported a big slump in industrial output in March, but central bankers from the G-10 grouping of big economies meeting in Switzerland said the global economy was near a turning point.

Some countries were recovering, and declines in output were slowing elsewhere, they said.

'We are, as far as growth is concerned, around the inflection point in the cycle,' said European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet.

The French state statistics agency INSEE reported a 1.4-per cent monthly fall in output, while in Italy the fall was much sharper: 4.6 per cent in March and almost 24 per cent on a 12-month basis, statistics institute Istat said.

In France 'the recession is going to continue, but it will probably be less severe in the coming months,' said analyst Frederique Cerisier of BNP Paribas bank, commenting on the new data.

Output from France's agricultural and food production sector dropped and the only major area of the economy to see growth was pharmaceuticals.

'Industrial activity continued to contract at the end of the first quarter at a relatively rapid pace, although slightly more moderate than during the last months of 2008,' Mr Cerisier said.

In Italy, production of textiles, metals and wood plunged, but manufacture of autos stabilised on a monthly basis, curbing several months of decline.

The French and Italian data 'confirm that the sector is still in dire straits' and worsens the growth outlook for the eurozone, said analysts at consultancy Capital Economics.

The OECD grouping of leading economies said on Monday that the downturn in some recession-hit countries was easing. Its key CLI economic indicator rose in recession-hit Britain and Italy and in France and non-OECD member China. The indicators in major member countries 'continue to point to deterioration in the business cycle, but at a decreasing rate,' the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a report. -- AFP

兀兰、淡滨尼和榜鹅 三镇将建新租赁组屋

Source : 《联合早报》May 11, 2009








即将在今年第四季推出供低收入者租用的两座新租赁组屋,就位于坎贝拉路(Canberra Road)第510座组屋毗邻,总共建有286个单位。