Much to cheer in property sector

Lee Xin En

AUG 1, 2017

Analysts have been tipping on and off for years that the property market is about to break out of the doldrums, but it finally looks like their optimism is well placed. Second-quarter figures released last week by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed a more comprehensive set of data, proving definitively that prices are close to the bottom and will start to increase soon.

The headline figure prompting the sentiment was the 0.1 per cent fall in private home prices in the second quarter. While still a decline, it was the smallest one in 15 straight quarters.

The sliver of a dip also beat the URA's earlier estimate of a 0.3 per cent decline, suggesting a big buying boost in the past month as flash estimates are compiled using data gathered up until mid-June.

The inventory of unsold property continued to fall, despite already recording several all-time lows, while total sales volumes, including the primary and secondary markets, surged 64 per cent to 12,107 private homes sold in the first half of this year.

Even the sleepy resale market was roused from its slumber, posting a 70 per cent surge from the first quarter to hit 3,698 transactions.

The cheer spilled over into the public housing market, which recorded the highest number of resale transactions since the second quarter of 2013.

The boom in transactions and likely imminent price recovery validates the Government's policy in not rolling back cooling measures despite persistent calls to do so.

Tempting as it might be to don rose-tinted glasses, some factors must be taken into account. The rental market remains soft, although the 0.2 per cent fall in the second quarter was much less than the 0.9 per cent in the previous quarter. Macroeconomic factors like the cooling measures, slow economic growth and uncertain employment and wage growth could also delay the return of rising property prices.

But for the rest of this year, developers and sellers have plenty to cheer about as all analysts seem to agree that the sales momentum will continue, driven by FOMO (fear of missing out) fever.