The Great Crash


Agents: Some clients give as much as 20 per cent discount

By Elysa Chen

October 20, 2008

FOR sale: Luxurious multi-million-dollar apartments, not quite for a steal, but with a hefty discount.

Stock market losses have forced some property owners to resort to 'fire sales' for a quick return to liquidity.

And because the property market is almost flat, they have had to let go of their property at huge discounts.

Property agent Henry Neo receives one SMS a day from different clients asking him to sell their homes.

Mr Neo, who has been a property agent for close to 20 years, said: 'The Asian financial crisis of 1997 and this crisis are real challenges.

'It's a tsunami of the stock market.'

Two or three of the 50 clients he is servicing now are what he calls 'desperados' - people who had their fingers burnt so badly in the stock market they need to sell their houses.

The situation is worse for those who opted for deferred payment schemes, said Mr Neo, because some are no longer eligible for loans, and cannot meet payments once the developers issue the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP).

'They have to get rid of their properties before TOP, so they would be giving even more discounts.'

Noting that the high-end property market seems to be hit the hardest, Mr Neo said: 'My colleagues who specialise in high-end properties are not doing well. They do not have any transactions at all.'

Mr David Cheang, senior vice-president of the Resale Division at HSR Property Group, noted that two out of every 10 clients are affected by the stock market crash, and are selling their property investments to 'get more liquidity'.

A property agent who declined to give his full name said one of his clients had made such losses on the stock market that he was selling his 27th floor freehold apartment at the Twin Regency for a mere $1.05 million, though its market price is $1.3 million.

Last year, he had sold another unit, on the 29th floor of the same condominium, for $1.4 million.

It is the same story for Mr Felix Young, 35, a property agent specialising in high-end condominiums. Some of his clients are prepared to go as low as 20 per cent below their offer price.

He had taken out an advertisement for five properties, all high-end condominium units in the city.

Apartments at The Sail at Marina Bay, which were going for $2,000 psf are now being offered for sale at $1,450 psf, said Mr Young.

But even such a huge discount is failing to entice buyers, who are asking for $1,100 psf. That is because even with such discounts, the two-room apartment costs about $1.3 million.

In the current climate, not many people would be able to shell out that kind of money because they could be sitting on huge paper losses in the stock market.

Mr Young said: 'Buyers have the sentiment that the property market will cool even more, and prices will drop further.'

And because of this, said Mr Young, there has been a significant drop in transactions - up to 70 per cent for high-end properties that people buy for investments.

Most buyers also know developers' launch price for the condominiums and are holding out until they can get a unit at that price.

He said: 'These days, when buyers call me, they ask me if I have any owners who are 'bleeding'.'

Bleeding is a term that is used to describe owners who over-committed themselves financially and need to sell their properties in a hurry.

Mr Young said: 'Many of my clients' bank loans are kicking in soon, so they need to release the properties quickly, before TOP.

'They are stuck because they can neither sell their property, nor rent it out to cover their mortgages, as the rental market has slowed down a lot.'