Thursday, September 3, 2009

Property 101: Prices Can Go Down

Source : TODAY, Aug 29, 2009

Judging from the brisk sales at launches, it appears many Singaporeans have jumped on the runaway property bandwagon.

But before you get caught up in the sales pitches and showroom euphoria of property agents cheering as each unit is sold, industry players warn that you should step back, take a breath and think twice.

Enthusiastic crowds at the Optima at Tanah Merah.

This, they say applies to both HDB upgraders as well as those looking for a second property to spruce up their financial portfolio. Here are a few pointers that ought to be at the back of your mind.

1. Do your sums

It may sound obvious but it is often forgotten. Consider upgrading only if there have been significant changes in your credit profile, say, a pay rise and if your appreciating assets are holding up, said PropNex chief Mohamed Ismail.

If you're upgrading from HDB, think about your net proceeds and what you can put into a new property to reduce your loan. Work out how much you need to pay each month. Be prudent and do not over-leverage. Consider the repayment period. Banks typically limit loan repayments to about 40 per cent of your gross monthly income.

Make sure you factor in other debts, expenses and what you need to save.

"Buy a property that will not overstretch your finances while maintaining a lifestyle of your desire," Mr Ismail said.

Choose your home loan carefully. Interest absorption schemes may seem attractive but you may typically end up paying 2-3 per cent more for the entire property.

If you plan to rent out the property, your monthly rental should ideally cover your mortgage instalments.

2. Location, location, location

As an owner-occupier, you should think about transport options. If you're an average HDB dweller, you would do well to choose a property near an MRT station, said Mr Chris Koh, director at Dennis Wee Group.

If you're looking for capital gains or renting out the property, proximity to a MRT station is even more important as tenants (the foreign ones in particular) are looking for convenient public transport options to take them round the island.

Also check out which direction the unit is facing and the project's surroundings.

3. Maintenance and other BILLS

Consider how much you will need to furnish or renovate the new apartment, advised Dennis Wee Group's Mr Koh. Also factor in maintenance charges each month - how much more you will be paying for service and conservancy, parking and other charges.

4. Plan your interim options

Your HDB property may fetch a tidy sum now, but what about in two years when your private property obtains its Temporary Occupation Permit. Unless you intend to keep your HDB flat for rental, you should consider whether you to sell now or later.

If you choose to sell now, you need to think about where you will live in the meantime and the costs you will incur.

5. Be mentally prepared

Be aware that property prices fluctuate and prices may not return to the level at which you bought the property.

"If you can sleep through that, have really no regrets, you like the property and lifestyle, then well and good," said Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer, Nicholas Mak. "But don't put everything into a private property thinking that prices will only go in one direction - up."

Marine Parade's Laguna Park For Sale At S$1.2b Reserve Price

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 02 September 2009

The Laguna Park estate in the Marine Parade area is up for collective sale, with an asking price of S$1.2 billion, according to its marketing agent Credo Real Estate.

Laguna Park, Marine Parade Road.

The owners of the current property stand to get between S$2.1 and S$2.3 million each for their apartments. Penthouse owners could get between S$3.5 and S$4.1 million.

This could potentially be Singapore's second billion-dollar en-bloc deal, after Farrer Court in 2007.

Laguna Park, a former HUDC estate, is now home to 528 units spanning a land area of 670,000 square feet.

If the en-bloc sale goes through, this parcel could eventually accommodate about 1,500 units with an average size of 1,200 square feet.

Credo said that it has already received enquiries from major developers and funds. The competition for the 99-year leasehold land parcel is expected to be keen - with the reserve price at $1.2 billion dollars.

"If we do not receive bids above the reserve price, there is still potential for us to sell the site through negotiations, by a private treaty. In the new law we have 10 weeks for that, but I seriously think we don't need that," said Tan Hong Boon, deputy managing director, Credo Real Estate.

The price tag translates to a land rate of some S$844 per square foot per plot ratio.

The successful bidder will also have to pay about S$400 million to top up the lease and a development charge.

More than 80 per cent of Laguna Park's owners have given their consent for the collective sale, Credo said.

According to analysts, the draw for Laguna Park is the size of the plot and its proximity to the sea, which will provide the future development with a good view.

"If you look at the quality of land in Singapore, Laguna Park has got one of the longest stretches of sea, with coastal views. It's about 400 to 500m of seafront view and it's also unblocked on the other side. Very rarely you get a plot of land with such spectacular views," said Christina Sim, director, Investment, Cushman & Wakefield.

Observers said the developers are likely to use the opportunity to replenish their land stocks.

"Since March-April onwards, the absorption rate in the real estate market has been phenomenal. The take up is probably over 10,000 units already this year. It looks like developer stocks are really drying up. And because there's a huge draw down on stocks, the developers balance sheets are reflecting a really fantastic cash flow. They would be in the market to look at land banking again," she added.

Analysts said that the break-even land cost is around S$1,250 per square foot, and the future units are likely to fetch prices higher than that.

The units at The Silversea, another private development in the vicinity, recently transacted for as much as S$1,750 per square foot.

As per the analysts, even if the sale for Laguna Park goes through by the year end - launches shouldn't be expected any time soon. That's because developers will be waiting till after the integrated resorts open in 2010, before launching units for what many analysts call - a jewel in their crown. - CNA/sc

Govt May Be Taking Steps To Calm Down The Property Market, Say Analysts

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 02 September 2009

The government could re-introduce land sales through the confirmed list and analysts said this could mean the government is taking steps to cool down the property market.

Last October, recession woes saw the government suspending land sales through the confirmed list. But now the government said it will consider re-introducing it for the first half of next year.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said: "Now that the market is coming back, demand is coming back and the take-up is strong. There is every likelihood that we will resume the confirmed list."

This means land parcels will be tendered according to scheduled dates and this will translate to more residential property launches. But one analyst said while these changes will ease the market, they will take time to make any impact.

Nicholas Mak, property consultant, said: "This may be the first of actions by the government if they see that the property market shows signs of overheating especially if there is a lot of speculative buying, I think that could prompt the government to take further action."

Public housing prices have gone up by almost 35 per cent over the last two years and the government said it is expecting prices to increase even further. However, it said buyers should not be complaining because these price increases are part of the reason why people invest in the first place.

Mr Mah added: "When you buy an HDB flat, you are investing for your future. We subsidise when you buy, we increase the value of the flat as you live in it and encourage you or facilitate you to cash out when you grow old."

Mr Mah was speaking on Wednesday at the launch of the final skybridge at the Pinnacle @ Duxton, Singapore's tallest public housing project.

He said while public housing remains affordable, with a range of flats to suit people from all levels of income, Singaporeans should continue to buy within their means. - CNA/vm

Joo Chiat Hotel Put Up For Sale

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 2, 2009

A SMALL low-rise hotel in Joo Chiat Road is up for sale at an asking price of $20 million to $22 million.

Its owner, a local investment firm formed by a group of individual investors, is looking to sell now as market conditions are ripe, said Ms Yong Choon Fah, executive director of Credo Real Estate, which is marketing the property.

Joo Chiat Hotel, previously known as Astro Hotel, was put up for sale in a tender in 2004. The asking price was up to $9 million, though market watchers reportedly expected bids of only about $7 million. There were no bids.

The three-storey property - a conserved building approved for hotel use in the conservation district of Joo Chiat - has 68 guest rooms and one pub.

Both are leased by operators at a total gross annual rental revenue slightly in excess of $1 million, she said.

At $20 million, the buyer would secure a rental yield of 5.25 per cent for at least another year.

The $20 million price works out to about $294,000 a room, slightly above the market rate of about $250,000 a room for similar-grade hotels.

The property has a lease of 99 years starting from June 1995 and the total gross floor area is about 22,925 sq ft. The rooms go for about $60 to $80 a day.

The sale tender comes about eight months after a ban on offering hourly hotel rates was put in place in Joo Chiat.

While the area boasts a rich cultural heritage, it has been tainted by vice activities.

Joo Chiat Hotel is one of the nine hotels in the area affected by the ban but Ms Yong said the owner's decision to sell has nothing to do with the ban.

She said the asking price takes into account the limited supply of hotels in the area.

Also, the property is near the growth area of Paya Lebar Central and has 'great potential for the realisation of an improved stream of revenue income and capital appreciation', she said.

The tender closes on Oct 6.

Joo Chiat Hotel For Sale By Tender

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 01 September 2009

A conserved building approved for use as a hotel at Joo Chiat Road has been put up for sale by tender.

The property is owned by a local investment company, which is seeking offers in the range of S$20 million to S$22 million.

Joo Chiat Hotel comprises a 3-storey front section and a 4-storey rear extension, with 68 guestrooms and one pub. These are leased by operators at a total gross rental revenue of slightly over S$1 million a year.

The 99-year leasehold (from June 1995) site is about 708.8 square metres (7,629 square feet), with a total gross floor area of 2,129.8 sq m (22,925 sf).

Joo Chiat was gazetted as a conservation district in mid-1993, and is characterised by architectural styles of the turn of the 20th century as well as many Peranakan shophouses.

Property consultant Credo Real Estate said in a statement that the hotel, which is near Paya Lebar Central, is likely to benefit from appreciation in capital value as the transformation of Paya Lebar Central materialises.

Paya Lebar Central, one of the four targeted growth areas in the Master Plan 2008, promises to be a bustling commercial centre with offices, retail outlets, hotels and public spaces, Credo added.

The tender for the hotel closes at 2.30pm on October 6. - CNA/al

Ripe For An Asset Price Bubble

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 1, 2009


QUEUES can once again be seen at condo launches - a sight that may surprise many, given that the effects of the world financial crisis will last long after countries emerge from the recession.

Are the queues a sign of the start of a new asset price bubble? Will we learn from our mistakes? What can policymakers do to pre-empt future crises?

Sadly, the root cause of financial crises is in our genes. We are genetically coded to survive and to seek a better life for our offspring. In economic terms, this means consuming some resources now and accumulating the rest for a better future.

While the relentless pursuit of wealth may be individually rational, it can become collectively destructive. The role of a government is to put in place a system that can mitigate the destructiveness by constraining the actions of individuals and businesses.

Going back to the condo frenzy, I can understand why people would line up even after being burned by the market recently. Who would want to miss the boat? The price may soon be out of one's reach if one doesn't jump in now.

This line of thinking may create another unsustainable bubble. Of course, desire alone is not enough. There must be enough accumulated capital to set the bubble creation process in motion.

This leads me to my second point. The savings accumulated in Asia, plus the liquidity injected into the world economy by governments in response to the financial crisis, are massive. The macro environment is, in my opinion, ripe for an asset price bubble. A recent indication of this is the tremendous price surge in China's stock and real estate markets. The surge was not accompanied by any noticeable rise in consumer price inflation.

If this financial crisis were a major earthquake, the ensuing asset price bubbles, like the looming one in China, may be preludes to aftershocks of unknown magnitude.

Unfortunately, policymakers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Any cooling measure runs the risk of spooking markets and reversing economic recovery. However, there are things that governments can do, such as setting clear and firm ground rules for investments.

We can learn much from the saga of the Lehman Minibonds and other credit-linked structured notes. When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, the whole structured product enterprise collapsed with it. Tens of thousands of investors saw their life savings vanish. They demanded that governments come to their rescue.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) laid down basic principles for handling this difficult matter. Among other measures, it investigated the selling practices of financial institutions and set up a fast-track process in the Financial Industry Dispute Resolution Centre to deal with complaints by investors.

This was a balanced and sensible approach to resolving the fiasco. After all, people invested in the structured notes because of various reasons, including informed risk-taking, greed and misleading sales practices. In many cases, it would be impossible to sift out the reasons. In this instance, the solution had to be a compassionate one based on individual circumstances. But I also hope that individuals will end up shouldering part of the responsibility.

The settlements on credit-linked structured notes announced in July in Hong Kong were generous, with all individual investors getting at least 60per cent of their original investment back. While I am happy for the investors on a personal level, as an economist, I have to say that there is merit in a government not giving in to political pressures to lean on financial institutions.

Let's imagine a government caving in and forcing financial institutions to cover the losses incurred or using public funds to do so. Is this fair to those who did not make similar investments? Moreover, the financial institutions' losses will eventually be transferred to their customer bases.

More importantly, such actions will send a signal that irresponsible investment will not lead to negative consequences so long as people can band together to exert political pressure on the government. This would encourage precisely the kind of herding behaviour that creates bubbles.

Returning to the situation here, 10 financial institutions investigated by the MAS were banned from selling structured products for periods ranging from six months to two years. They were also required to fix their internal processes for providing advisory services concerning investment products. This MAS action was applauded by many but it also stunned industry watchers.

I can see why. Financial institutions operate in a competitive market and are expected by their equity holders to generate handsome returns. If their competitors are involved in a lucrative business line, it would be hard for them not to join in.

However, this is yet another case of being individually rational but collectively destructive. Without external intervention, markets will almost certainly fail to stamp out bad selling practices. Although 10 financial institutions were penalised, their short-term pain will translate into long-term gains for the industry.

It would be naive to think that we will be able to avoid future financial crises. But we should be able to draw valuable lessons from the past. The knowledge accumulated over the years led to the swift worldwide response to the current crisis, thus averting a potentially calamitous depression.

The writer is the Cycle & Carriage Professor of Finance at the NUS Business School and Director of the NUS Risk Management Institute.

Punggol Spectra Launched By HDB

Source : The Business Times, September 1, 2009

THE Housing and Development Board yesterday launched Punggol Spectra under the build-to-order (BTO) system, following strong interest in the recent BTO project, Punggol Residences.

Punggol Spectra will offer 1,142 units, comprising 301 with two rooms, 285 units of three rooms and 556 with four rooms.

Located on Punggol Central, Punggol Spectra is within walking distance of Oasis LRT station and Tampines Expressway is just a short drive away, offering good connectivity to the rest of Singapore, HDB said. The precinct has commercial facilities such as shops, an eating house and a supermarket. The future Punggol Town Centre is minutes away. Educational institutions such as Horizon Primary School and Punggol Secondary School are also nearby.

Prices at Punggol Spectra range from $89,000 to $109,000 for the two-room flats, $151,000 to $179,000 for three-room flats and $234,000 to $293,000 for the four-room flats. These prices are lower than those for similar flats in the market, making them affordable for first-time buyers, HDB said.

Based on the income of flat applicants in the first half of this year, HDB expects first-time buyers will need to use only 20-26 per cent of their monthly household income to meet their housing loan commitment.

Punggol Spectra To Offer New 2- And 3-Room Flats

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 1, 2009

THE Housing Board launched Punggol Spectra yesterday, the third of its build-to-order (BTO) projects in Punggol this year and the first to introduce two- and three-room flats.

Under the BTO scheme, flats are built only when a certain level of demand is reached.

Located in Punggol Central and a short drive from Tampines Expressway, Punggol Spectra will offer 301 two-roomers, 285 three-roomers, and 556 four-room flats.

The two-roomers of 46 to 47 sq m are priced at $89,000 to $109,000, and three-room flats of 69 sq m are selling for $151,000 to $179,000.

Four-room flats of 94 to 96 sq m are selling for $234,000 to $293,000. Similar, smaller standard resale flats sell for $310,000 to $357,000, said HDB.

First-time buyers with an average monthly household income of $5,000 or less can apply for an Additional CPF Housing Grant of up to $40,000.

PropNex corporate communications manager Adam Tan expects Spectra to be very well-received, as it is the first in the area to offer two- and three-room flats.

'Smaller families will be attracted to these units, given their attractive prices,' he said, adding that the median resale prices for two- and three-room flats across Singapore have not seen such affordable levels for more than two years.

Mr Tan expects the Spectra units to be at least four times oversubscribed. This follows the strong interest in the recent BTO project Punggol Residences, which was launched in July and was seven times oversubscribed.

Previous BTO projects in Punggol include Nautilus @ Punggol, launched in March, and premium project Punggol Regalia, launched last December.

According to HDB, this year's total BTO supply is expected to reach 8,000 units, located in towns such as Punggol, Sengkang and Sembawang.

Applications for the Spectra flats can be submitted online at HDB's website until Sept 14.

Hotel Site At Joo Chiat For Sale At Around $20m

Source : The Business Times, September 2, 2009

A CONSERVED building in Joo Chiat Road, approved for hotel use, is up for sale at $20-$22 million.

It is owned by a local investment company, says Credo Real Estate, which has been appointed to sell it.

The hotel building has a three-storey front section and a four-storey rear extension. It has 68 guest rooms and a pub, both leased by operators for total gross rent of just over $1 million.

The leasehold site of 99 years from June 1995 covers 7,629 sq ft. The total gross floor area is about 22,925 sq ft. This means the asking price works out to $872-$960 per sq ft of gross floor area.

Joo Chiat was gazetted as a conservation district in July 1993. The hotel, which is near Paya Lebar Central, is likely to benefit from an appreciation in capital value as the transformation of Paya Lebar Central materialises, says Credo Real Estate. Paya Lebar Central is one of the four growth areas in the 2008 Master Plan.

'Prospects for the hotel industry remain strong, with visitor arrivals expected to increase because of the Formula One Grand Prix, the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the integrated resorts,' said Yong Choon Fah, executive director of Credo Real Estate.

'Given the location of the property and the future development of the Joo Chiat/Paya Lebar vicinity, there is great potential for improved revenue and capital appreciation.'

The tender for the property closes on Oct 6.

Separately, the Housing and Development Board said yesterday it is withdrawing a commercial site in Tampines from the reserve list of the government land sales programme for H2 2009.

The government has decided to withdraw the site, at Tampines Concourse, because it will be affected by future infrastructure works, HDB said. The site was released under the reserve list for application in October 2007.

6 Floors Of Prudential Tower Being Sold

Source : The Business Times, September 1, 2009

K-Reit said to be buying space at about $1,550 psf of net lettable area

IN a deal that could help benchmark office values in the Raffles Place area and smooth the way for more office investment transactions, a property fund is said to be selling six floors at Prudential Tower for about $1,550 per square foot or about slightly over $100 million.

Back in the fold: KepLand group is buying back the property at a lower price than what it sold the space for 13 years ago -- FILE PHOTO

The buyer in the deal being stitched together is believed to be listed K-Reit Asia, which already owns 44.4 per cent of the strata area in the 30-storey building at the corner of Church and Cecil streets.

Prudential Tower is on a site with a remaining lease of about 85 years. Jones Lang LaSalle is said to be brokering the latest sale involving net lettable area (NLA) of about 67,000 sq ft.

As at the end of last year, K-Reit's existing space at Prudential Tower was valued at $224 million, or $2,066 psf based on 108,436 sq ft NLA.

So the price of $1,550 psf that K-Reit is expected to pay for its latest acquisition of six floors is about 25 per cent lower than the end-2008 valuation on its existing space.

Some market watchers described the latest pricing as 'not unreasonable'.

'They seem to be slapping themselves by buying additional floors in Prudential Tower that could affect the valuation of their existing space in the building. But one could argue that the end-2008 valuation was too high in the first place,' one property consultant said.

In any case, an industry observer points out that K-Reit could still use a higher valuation than $1,550 psf for Prudential Tower when it revalues its assets at end-2009.

It also made sense for K-Reit to raise its stake in Prudential Tower and gain control of the building as that could create other strategic options for the Reit.

The latest deal involves the 20th to 25th levels. The seller is Asia Property Fund, sponsored by LaSalle Investment Management and PruPIM. The fund bought the six floors in 2007 for $141 million or just under $2,100 psf from Prudential Assurance Company Singapore. The latter received units in the fund in exchange for selling the floors. Prudential Assurance Co Singapore and PruPIM are part of the Prudential UK Group.

Prudential Assurance Co Singapore still owns the 30th floor of the building, sources say. It had purchased the seven floors in the development in early 1996 for $183 million from Straits Steamship Land, now known as Keppel Land.

That transaction worked out to $2,200 psf. Although this figure was based on floor space and not NLA, property consultants say the dollar psf price on NLA at which KepLand sold the space in 1996 would be higher than what K-Reit (a KepLand unit) is paying in the latest deal.

In short, KepLand group is buying back the space at a lower price than what it sold it for 13 years ago.

Following its sale of the seven floors to Prudential Assurance, KepLand also sold further space in the building to other parties before divesting its remaining 44.4 per cent stake in Prudential Tower to K-Reit, which was created from a de-merger from KepLand and listed in 2006.

410 Units Snapped Up At Trevista Preview

Source : The Business Times, September 1, 2009

Singaporeans make up 87% of buyers; even Swiss nationals among purchasers

NTUC Choice Homes has sold 410 of the total 460 units it released for the preview of its Trevista condo in Toa Payoh last week. The co-operative is expected to release more units in the 590-unit project this weekend when it does an official launch, accompanied by an advertising campaign, for the project.

Worth the wait: More units in the 590-unit project are expected to be released at its official launch this weekend

Singaporeans picked up 87 per cent of the total 410 units. Permanent residents made up 7 per cent and non-PR foreigners, 6 per cent, of buyers.

The majority of PRs and non-PR foreigners were from China; some were also from Indonesia and Malaysia; there were also a few Swiss nationals, an NTUC Choice Homes spokeswoman said.

She said 70 per cent of the buyers have HDB addresses and the other 30 per cent, private addresses.

About 80 per cent of buyers purchased on the normal progress payment scheme. The remaining 20 per cent who opted for interest absorption scheme are being charged a 2 per cent price premium, the Choice Homes spokeswoman said.

When sales in the 99-year leasehold condo began on Friday morning for the first batch of 210 units, the average price was $898 per square foot, but with two subsequent batches of additional units released, prices were adjusted marginally upwards, although this also had to do with the newer units being on higher floors and having better orientation.

The average price currently is understood to be around $920 psf.

What's left are a limited number of two-bedroom units, with the majority of what's available being three- and four-bedroom apartments, BT understands. The remaining 130 units in the condo are expected to be released this weekend and they include prime pool-fronting units.

Trevista is being marketed by CB Richard Ellis and ERA.

Over at Ridgewood Close in the Mount Sinai area, Singapore Land is understood to have sold slightly more than 100 units at its preview of Trizon, a 289-unit freehold condo.

Two of the project's three blocks have been released for sale. The units were priced between $1,250 psf and $1,550 psf and buyers are understood to be mostly Singaporeans with some foreigners (predominantly Indonesians).

A typical three-bedroom unit of 1,550 sq ft costs about $2.12 million.

SingLand is selling the 24-storey project with only the normal progress payment scheme. It will hold an official launch of Trizon this weekend.

Merchant Sq, Katong Bungalows Up For Sale

Source : The Business Times, September 1, 2009

MERCHANT Square in the Clemenceau Avenue area and four freehold strata bungalows at Bournemouth Road in the Katong locale are among the latest offerings in the property investment sales market.

The guide price for Merchant Square is about $48 million - or 34 per cent lower than the $73 million sought for the property in February last year.

Its owner, carpet manufacturer Jackson Carpet, did not get its asking price then for the property, which comprises offices, some shop space and 76 car park lots.

BT understands that the latest price reflects a net property yield of close to 4 per cent, based on Merchant Square's current passing income.

The latest $48 million guide price is about $955 per square foot, based on Merchant Square's 50,262 sq ft net lettable area. This compares with about $1,450 psf, based on last year's $73 million price tag.

Merchant Square was completed in 1996 and is on a site with a remaining lease of about 83 years. It comprises a four-storey office tower, two blocks of shophouses, and a couple of basement levels for carpark lots. CB Richard Ellis is marketing Merchant Square through an expression of interest exercise that closes on Oct 6.

Separately, Credo Real Estate has launched a sale through tender of four strata bungalows at 61 and 63 Bournemouth Road with a price tag of $24 million to $26 million.

The bungalows have a total freehold site area of 24,443 sq ft, and are being sold by three parties - one of whom owns two units and the other two, one bungalow each.

The sale is not being pitched as a redevelopment site as the bungalows are relatively new and in good condition; they were completed around 2000.

The development, originally known as Sayang Villa, will be ideal for extended families, or groups of friends who would like to be neighbours, or simply investors looking to occupy one or two units and lease out the rest.

'Should the buyer choose to redevelop the site in the medium term, he or she could build five conventional detached or strata houses,' Credo said. The tender closes on Oct 8.