Private home transactions soar, with more Singaporeans buying

Aug 30, 2017

Grace Leong

Private home sales have rebounded to levels not seen since 2013, in what is the clearest sign yet that the residential property market is emerging from its lengthy slump.

The rally that has marked the first seven months of the year is being fuelled by local, rather than foreign, demand, analysts say.

There were 10,565 new and resale private homes sold in the seven months to July 31, up a striking 56 per cent on the 6,785 transacted in the same period last year, according to Urban Redevelopment Authority data.

"Private home transaction volume so far this year has reached one of the highest levels since 2013 when mortgage rules were tightened through the introduction of the total debt servicing ratio framework," Mr Nicholas Mak, ZACD Group executive director, noted.

But what is significant is the proportion of Singaporeans buying. They comprised 77.6 per cent of private home buyers in the first seven months, up from 74.4 per cent a year earlier, he added.

Sales to foreigners, including Singapore permanent residents, also increased in that period, but the proportion of foreigners buying dropped to 22.4 per cent from about 26 per cent in 2016.

Stringent stamp duties have helped damp speculative overseas demand, with foreign buyers accounting for just 6 per cent of purchases in the first half this year compared with 9 per cent in 2013, data from Cushman & Wakefield shows.

The biggest pullback was from Malaysia and Indonesia, while demand from China and the United States held steady. Malaysians comprised 21 per cent of foreign buyers in the first half, from 26 per cent in 2013, while the Indonesian proportion slid to 6 per cent from 17 per cent, due to the strengthening of the Singdollar against the Malaysian ringgit and the Indonesian rupiah in recent years.

Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li also noted that strong local buying was in part due to demand from Build-to-Order and HDB upgraders taking advantage of still-low interest rates. Demand could pick up further as more collective sales hit the market.

Mr Chie Weng Fei, 37, sold his four-room HDB flat in Bukit Batok after living there for six years, and upgraded to a three-bedroom condo at the Trilinq. He made the move as private property prices were declining and Trilinq was "reasonable considering its proximity to schools".

Mr Chie, who has a baby due in November, said he and his wife had initially looked at city-fringe areas but chose the Clementi condo development because their parents were residing in the west.

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong acknowledged that home sales, particularly those at new launches, have picked up this year, but he cautioned "there is still pain in the market". "More developers are now putting out new homes to sell because they are ready to launch. Those with leftover units from previous launches are also chipping in with additional discounts," he added. "But in the first quarter this year, 21 per cent of private non-landed home resales were transacted at a loss."