Published December 10, 2009

Pricey is right for 2010 home sales: observers

Mass-market sales may ease, focus is on high-end homes


(SINGAPORE) Markets are stabilising and developers here are ready to roll out pricey homes. Industry watchers are keeping their fingers tightly crossed for the high-end residential sector, which could see more launches next year if economies sail smoothly towards recovery.

According to Colliers International estimates, 10,671 private homes are set for launch next year. And 46 per cent or 4,958 units will be in the core central region (CCR).

Prime projects that could hit the market include the former Farrer Court site, which CapitaLand and partners bought en bloc in 2007, and Wheelock Properties's Ardmore 3.

Another 33 per cent or 3,498 units will originate from the rest of central region (RCR). The outside central region (OCR) will account for the remaining 21 per cent or 2,215 launch-ready units.

The distribution of homes already launched this year is almost exactly the reverse, with the bulk of units coming from the booming mass-market sector. Colliers estimates that by end-December, 13,542 homes will have been released, of which 43 per cent or 5,822 units will be from OCR.

About 33 per cent or 4,429 units will be from RCR, while 24 per cent or 3,291 units would be from CCR.

'Developers are likely to be encouraged to release more mid-tier or high-end units in 2010,' says Colliers research and advisory director Tay Huey Ying. She cites several reasons - signs of investors and foreign buyers returning, improved economic prospects and the opening of the integrated resorts.

The strong take-up rate at Marina Bay Suites' recent preview has raised hopes. Of the 90 units released, 87 were sold and the average price ranged from $2,200-$2,500 psf.

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) head of South-east Asia research Chua Yang Liang adds: 'Positive sentiment from high net worth individuals and wealthy foreign buyers could return by H1 2010 and support transactional activity.'

Backing this view, a recent study by Barclays Wealth and the Economist Intelligence Unit found that wealthy individuals here plan to allocate a larger share of their investment portfolios to property in the next two years.

The big question is how much developers can sell fancy homes for, as doubts linger over the sustainability of economic recovery. DTZ Southeast Asia research head Chua Chor Hoon is one of several observers who expect 'more upside potential' for high-end property prices in the coming year.

According to Urban Redevelopment Authority indices, prices of non-landed CCR properties are still some way below the 2008 peak - 16.8 per cent down at Q3. In comparison, non-landed OCR property prices shot up this year and were just 2.5 per cent short of the peak.

Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a report on Monday that high-end prices could rise 5-10 per cent in the coming year.

But even as optimism grows, some players are quick to highlight uncertainties. JLL's Dr Chua stresses that new demand for property has to be backed by global or regional economic growth.

Several economists have flagged the risk of bubbles forming in Asian property markets. The Singapore government introduced cooling measures in September.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore also said more action may be needed if recent measures to dampen speculation prove insufficient.

City Developments executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng told BT last month the private home market here 'will slow down', following the MAS warning and the return of the confirmed list.