NTUC Choice Homes looking to replenish land bank

By Daryl Loo, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 12 April 2007 1909 hrs

SINGAPORE: Property developer NTUC Choice Homes is looking to replenish its land bank to meet the anticipated growing demand for entry-level condominiums.

The co-operative will exhaust all its available sites after the launch of the 556-unit Casa Merah project this weekend.

Units at Casa Merah, which is located near the Tanah Merah MRT Station, will be made available to the public from this Saturday.

They are priced at an average of S$588 per square foot

Choice Homes said it is bullish about demand from the mass market.

More than 80 percent of its Yew Tee Residences project have been snapped up since sales began about three months ago.

Margaret Goh, CEO, NTUC Choice Homes, said: "The mass market has improved considerably and activity has picked up. This is largely due to the spill-over effect from luxury housing.

"There is a wide price gap now, between luxury and mass market housing, and hence it is deemed as more affordable, and definitely more attractive as a property purchase decision."

Choice Homes said it would now need to look at buying more land, either from the government or through collective sales as its land bank is empty.

Ms Goh said: "Casa Merah will take us right up to the end of the year. It's a sizeable development with 556 units. At the same time, we are also looking at replenishing our landbank.

"We will look out for government land sales as well as freehold collective sales sites in the market, that would answer the need of the upgrader and the mass market."

The climb in private home prices in Singapore over the past year has been driven by the high-end luxury sector.

But property analysts said there are signs of a catch-up by the mass market segment.

Nicholas Mak, Consultancy & Research Director, Knight Frank, said: "For the whole of this year, we could see the mass market recovering gradually. The reason is that HDB resale prices, especially for larger flats such as four-room and five-room flats, are picking up.

"Another reason is that the rate of family formation is also picking up. The number of marriages has actually increased from about 21,000 in 2004 to roughly above 23,000 in 2006. So with more families being formed, there will also be a larger base, a larger pool of demand for HDB flats as well as mass market condos."

According to government estimates, home prices outside the Central Region – where most mass market condos are located – climbed 2.6 percent in the first quarter.

- CNA/so