Published June 12, 2009

High-end properties feel the buzz too

Prices breach $3,000 psf, speculators on the prowl; analysts advise restraint


(SINGAPORE) The high-end property market is starting to soak up the sunshine again.

The Orchard Residences: The luxury project has seen a few units transacted at over $3,000 psf since May

Developers of some luxury residential projects have reported a slight pick-up in sales since May. The Orchard Residences, The Hamilton Scotts and Boulevard Vue have seen units sold at above $2,500 psf; in the case of The Orchard Residences, there have been a few units transacted at more than $3,000 psf.

In the secondary market, a unit at Ardmore Park is said to have changed hands for around $2,500 psf recently.

Prices have also breached the $2,000 psf mark again for The Sail @ Marina Bay, where transacted prices are said to have appreciated by $100 psf a week in the past three weeks.

The speculators are back, too. 'We hear of people trading options again in some secondary market projects like The Sail and Rivergate. That is, someone buys a unit and before the two-week option exercise period is over, sells it to another person,' a market watcher said.

In the primary market, five units have been sold at The Orchard Residences in the past few weeks. A spokeswoman for Orchard Turn Developments, which is building the 99-year leasehold condo, confirmed this when contacted by BT. 'We've recently sold units at prices ranging from $2,700 psf for a 10th floor unit to $3,300 psf for an apartment on level 33. We've seen interest from both locals and foreigners at prices similar to what we sold when we first began to sell around March/April 2007,' she said.

A stone's throw away at Cuscaden Walk, Far East Organization sold an apartment last month at Boulevard Vue for $2,600 psf or nearly $12 million. The eighth-floor unit was acquired by a Singapore permanent resident on normal progress payment scheme. Far East's chief operating officer of property sales Chia Boon Kuah told BT the unit would have been priced around $3,800 psf in first-half last year when the group first started selling the posh 33-storey freehold project.

Added Mr Chia: 'We're seeing more inquiries across the full range of our products, including landed homes, over the past few weeks. In terms of volume of transactions, we're now seeing 3-5 times the level in the December/January period. So in a typical week - without new launches - we're now selling about 40 units compared with 10 in December/January,' he added.

This weekend, Far East is launching its ad campaign for Miro, comprising freehold loft units at Lincoln Road. Prices range from $1,400 to $1,600 psf. The group has also been selling Dalla Vale, a freehold cluster semi-detached and bungalow project at Springleaf Avenue priced from $650 psf.

At Scotts Road, Hayden Properties this week sold a 2,756 sq ft apartment at Hamilton Scotts for $2,600 psf or about $7 million to a Singaporean buyer on normal progress payment terms. The price is about 20 per cent lower than the $3,200 psf the unit would have cost in August last year, when Hayden sold the initial five units in the project, says the company's director Leny Suparman.

'We started getting more inquiries from April and therefore we were more inclined to revise our prices. Buyers have become more confident about the market lately because of the stockmarket rally and positive news from all fronts. People don't want to miss out on good opportunities,' she added.

In the secondary market too, a couple of two-bedroom units at The Sail @ Marina Bay were transacted recently at above $2,000 psf. A bay-facing unit above the 50th level fetched $2,400 psf while another unit slightly above the 15th level sold for $2,200 psf. Also, a one-bedder on the 20th floor changed hands at $1,700 psf.

Knight Frank director Nicholas Mak pointed out that the last time the market saw transactions above $3,000 psf was late last year. 'Across Asia, the stockmarket rally has improved investors' confidence and this has spilled over to the property market. However, there are factors that could potentially cut away the legs of this rally. Falling rents is one of them.'

DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah noted that the latest price gains come after substantial declines. By Q1 this year, luxury home prices had fallen about 30-40 per cent from the 2007 peak levels.

'Many perceive the worst is over and the downside risk is manageable. There's also been a subtle change in attitude towards real estate. People now realise that property is more lasting. At least you can live in it, hold it out for the long term and pass it to your children; it won't vanish, unlike some financial products,' Mrs Ong said.

'However, we would rather the market exercise some restraint. At the end of the day, any sustainable recovery will have to be supported by fundamentals. The leasing market is still going through a challenging period. Given the recession, can we support such a sharp V-shaped recovery in property prices?' she asked.