By Olivia Siong | POSTED: 02 Jan 2014 22:28 | CNA


Private residential property prices fell for the first time in about two years in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to flash estimates released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Thursday.

Other data released on Thursday showed that Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flat prices continued to decline for the second consecutive quarter in the last three months of 2013.

The numerous measures to cool the housing market seem to be taking effect.

URA flash estimates showed a 0.8 per cent decline in private home prices in the fourth quarter, compared with a 0.4 per cent increase in the previous quarter. This was the first decline in almost two years.

For 2013 as a whole, prices rose by 1.2 per cent, compared with the 2.8 per cent increase seen in 2012.

For non-landed private residential properties, prices in the city area fell by 2.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, significantly larger than the 0.3 per cent decline seen in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, for the first time since the second quarter of 2009, prices in suburban areas fell by 0.6 per cent in the last three months of 2013, compared with a 2.2 per cent increase in the third quarter.

But prices in the city fringe rose by 0.8 per cent, compared with the 0.9 per cent decline previously.

Property analysts have said loan curbs were likely to have been the cause of this downward pressure.

Chris Koh, director of Chris International, said: “Many were hoping they could take a loan for their second home and use the rental income to pay that loan.

“But with the Total Debt Servicing Ratio of 60 per cent introduced in mid-last year, many buyers were not eligible to buy that second home.

“They were eligible in the sense that they could buy it, but the moment you do not give them a loan, that is when they couldn’t buy it, so that causes demand to come down.

“And with demand coming down and developers still launching the same number of units, inevitably prices needed to be adjusted. So that is on your new properties front. In the resale market, we were facing the same.”

Eugene Lim, key executive officer of ERA Realty Network, said: “The price line for suburban properties has been on the uptrend for sometime. It could be a situation where prices have hit their ceiling.

“So you will find that the current slew of measures affects the typical mass market purchaser more than the higher-end purchasers primarily because they are not as financially mobile as the higher-end purchasers.

“And when prices hit a ceiling, you will find that there is only one direction for the price to go and if sellers want to sell, they have to be more realistic with the prices.

“We will probably expect the whole market to moderate (downwards) between five to 10 per cent as a whole. We are likely to see Core Central Region prices coming down, mainly due to the lack of demand for the area.

“Even if developers were to launch projects today, they have to price them very attractively to move units.”

As for the HDB resale market, prices fell by 1.3 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to flash estimates — a bigger drop than the 0.9 per cent decrease seen in the third quarter.

This was the second consecutive quarter resale flat prices had declined.

Analysts expect the downward trend to continue into at least the first two quarters of 2014.

Mr Lim said: “We expect prices to continue to decline because the ability to secure a loan is limited. We can expect quite possibly overall HDB resale market prices to come down by about five to eight per cent for the entire year.

“In terms of volume, we are expecting a historical low volume for 2013. We are likely to see below 20,000 (transactions).”

With cash premiums for HDB resale flats also on the decline, and with HDB cutting back on the supply of larger Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, some experts think that more may start to look at HDB resale flats as a more attractive option in the year ahead.

Mr Koh said: “They will probably make a comparison. They will say, between buying a BTO and a resale, a BTO calls for no ‘cash’ (premium), but right now, a resale also calls for no ‘cash’.

“The resale flat is now something I can get immediately, instead of waiting for three years. I have got maybe amenities nearby, it is a mature estate, I could even be getting the flat because it is near my parents. And if I am eligible for a resale housing grant, that makes a resale flat even more attractive.

“So I won’t be surprised by mid-next year… a lot of buyers (will be) coming back into the resale market because prices have bottomed out.”

– CNA/ms