Published April 28, 2007

Property subsale activity higher than estimated

URA data points to speculative activity in 12% of Q4 sales in high-end residential sector


(SINGAPORE) The subsale market of the private residential sector - often seen as reflecting speculative activity - has been more active than previously thought, the latest official data show.

Subsales accounted for 6.4 per cent of total private housing deals on the island in the final three months of last year, one percentage point higher than estimated figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in January.

In the sizzling high-end sector as reflected in URA's core central region - which includes districts 9, 10, 11, Downtown Core (including Marina Bay) and Sentosa - the Q4 2006 subsale share of total private housing transactions was 12.1 per cent, instead of the 9.7 per cent in the earlier figures.

The private housing market in the core central region is still buoyant, with developers chalking up a big increase in sales in this location in the first three months of this year. The region continued to record the biggest price gains.

The Q1 price index for all non-landed homes in this region was up 5.5 per cent from the final three months of last year. The highest increases - of 7.3 per cent - were for uncompleted homes, compared with 3.1 per cent for completed ones.

Prices of all non-landed homes (covering both completed and uncompleted projects) in the rest of the central region - which includes places like Bukit Merah, Geylang and Toa Payoh - rose 3.7 per cent in the first quarter.

Outside the central region, which covers typical suburban mass market locations such as Woodlands, Clementi, Jurong, Hougang, Tampines and Bedok, the increase was 2 per cent.

URA's overall private home price index posted a 4.8 per cent rise in the first three months of this year.

The leasing market also sparkled, with the rental index for non-landed homes increasing 8.1 per cent in Q1 this year over the previous quarter, higher than the 5.8 per cent gain in Q4 2006. Rents are expected to continue rising as supply shrinks because of collective-sale sites being redeveloped, says CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho.

Yesterday's figures show that developers launched 2,259 uncompleted homes in the core central region in Q1, which was 59 per cent more than in the preceding quarter and more than eight times the 265 units released in Q1 last year.

But there appears to be no glut, as developers also managed to sell 2,055 homes in this region, almost as many as they launched in the period, although some of the sales could have involved projects launched earlier.

The figure of 2,055 for uncompleted homes in the core central region sold by developers between January and March is 17 per cent up on the previous quarter and over five times the 385 homes they sold in this area in Q1 2006.

For the whole of Singapore, developers sold 4,565 uncompleted homes in Q1 2007, nearly 10 per cent up on the previous quarter - and a new quarterly record.

URA's latest numbers show that there were 581 subsale deals in Q4 last year and 1,156 for the whole of last year, an increase from the 426 and 989 respectively in the estimated figures.

For Q1 this year, there were also 581 subsale deals according to yesterday's data, but market watchers expect URA to revise upwards this figure next quarter as more caveats are lodged.

The URA has said that statistics on secondary market transactions (comprising subsales and resales) will be updated each quarter as more caveats are lodged.

Subsales involve projects that have yet to receive a Certificate of Statutory Completion, while resales cover completed developments.

The URA captures primary market or developers' sales from returns of a comprehensive quarterly survey of licensed developers. These showed that four units at the 428-unit Marina Bay Residences were unsold as at March 31, and at The Orchard Residences, just eight of the 98 units released in the 175-unit condo were unsold by that date. Over at the 341-unit One Shenton project, 91 units were unsold as at March 31. But that was almost a month ago, and City Developments, the developer of One Shenton, said yesterday that it has 'about 50 units (excluding the 11 penthouses) available for sale to-date'.

Colliers International predicts that the overall private home price index could grow 17 to 20 per cent for the whole of this year, with the biggest gain of 20-25 per cent coming from the core central region, followed by the rest of the central region (15 to 18 per cent) and outside central region (12 to 15 per cent).