$1.9m to liven up HDB shops

To help some 2,800 heartland shops make their neighbourhoods more vibrant, $1.9 million has been set aside for the sixth round of the Housing Board’s Revitalisation of Shops scheme.

This will go towards co-funding promotional events at 27 heartland shopping areas, as well as upgrading works for two sites in Bukit Batok and Simei.

The funding is in response to requests from local merchant groups after the success of pre-vious rounds, said HDB in a statement yesterday.

Indeed, the 27 associations receiving event co-funding this time had all previously applied for upgrading funds too.

Tampines N2 Merchants’ Association, for instance, has tapped the scheme every year for its events.

These range from lantern displays during the Mid-Autumn Festival, to booths selling Mother’s Day gifts – the association’s next event, coming up next month.

Said association president Kwek Hong Lim: “The scheme helps to kick-start everything.

“From then on, when they see the benefits, the merchants will happily come in to support such events.”

One such retailer is handphone accessories shop I.T. Mobile, which often contributes mobile accessories as gifts.

Said staff member Lynn Tan, 35: “With the events, we tend to see more people coming around, more shoppers.”

In the past five rounds of the scheme, shops saw sales improve by up to 30 per cent during such events, said HDB.

This round will help fund at least 60 events, held in conjunction with occasions such as the Great Singapore Sale, Christmas and Chinese New Year.

About $8.4 million has been given out since the scheme started in 2007.

It has helped 4,600 shops at 52 sites – more than half of all HDB town and neighbourhood centres.

Bukit Batok West Merchants’ Association said growing competition made its members decide to apply for upgrading help.

“Nowadays, you have all these new malls coming up, like Westgate (in Jurong East),” said association president Ong Gee Hong, who has run his tailor’s shop in the neighbourhood for three decades.

“We must upgrade, otherwise we cannot catch up,” he added.

Besides co-funding upgrading works and events, the scheme also grants a rent-free period of up to a month for tenants that renovate their own shops.

HDB shop owners and tenants with queries can call the HDB Commercial Properties toll-free line, 1800-866-3073.

Source: The Straits Times – 4 April 2014


Sengkang project most popular in March BTO

The second launch of new Housing Board flats this year has met with a generally cool response, continuing last year’s trend. The exception: Sengkang’s Anchorvale Parkview project, and two-room flats which remain highly sought after by singles.

As of 5pm yesterday, there were 1.3 first-timer applicants for each unit in the Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, which closed at midnight. This compared to 1.7 in January and 1.3 in November.

But they were much keener on units in Anchorvale Parkview. That project saw 4.5 first-timers vying for each four-room flat, and 3.5 applicants for each five-room or 3Gen (Three Generation) unit.

The site is “particularly attractive” as it is next to Sengkang Riverside Park and commands unblocked views of the reservoir.

The locations of the other three projects in the March BTO – two in Sembawang and one in Yishun – are “less ideal”, with EastCrown @ Canberra facing an industrial park.

Second-timers’ application rates for Anchorvale Parkview were also higher than their overall 3.1 rate for this BTO launch, with 11 for each four-roomer and 15 for each five-roomer or 3Gen flat.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim suggested that more such flats could be set aside for second-time applicants, who are more likely to have children and live with their parents.

The strongest demand came from singles. They continue to flock towards new two-room flats, which they were first able to purchase in last July’s BTO. There were almost 32 singles chasing each two-roomer available to them in Yishun, and more than 10 per unit in the Sembawang projects.

With an average of 18.7 singles applying per unit, this is a step down from the January and November BTO rates of more than 29 and more than 27 respectively.

Source: The Straits Times – 2 April 2014

Analysts still see healthy demand for new BTO flats

Despite signs of waning prices and slowing sales in the resale market, analysts are still expecting healthy interest for new Build-To-Order (BTO) projects rolled out by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) yesterday.

The HDB launched four new BTO projects that will add another 3,497 flats in the non-mature towns of Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun – its second BTO launch this year.

This brings the total number of flats offered for sale this year to 6,636.

The 3,497 new flats comprise two-room and five-room flats, as well as three-generation (3Gen) flats, to meet the housing needs of first-timers, second-timers, multi-generation families and singles, HDB said yesterday.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim noted that BTO demand is expected to be healthy with singles and second-time applicants finding it easier to apply for BTOs.

Both EastCrown @ Canberra in Sembawang and Fern Grove @ Yishun offer two- to five-room flats. Another Sembawang project EastLace @ Canberra offers two- to four-rooms flats, while Anchorvale Parkview in Sengkang offers four-room, five-room and 3Gen flats.

Prices start from $70,000 for a two-room BTO unit at EastLace @ Canberra and EastCrown @ Canberra; and $358,000 for a five-room unit at Anchorvale Parkview. Eligible first-timer households can enjoy housing grants and priority flat allocation.

Given that demand from singles has not been fully satisfied, there may be an over-subscription for two-room flats under this new BTO exercise in Sembawang and Yishun, Mr Lim said. He is also expecting good take-up for the 3Gen flats at Sengkang, after January’s BTO launch saw 300 applications for the 164 3Gen flats in Jurong West and Punggol.

Analysts also note that the Sengkang project may be popular given its proximity to the LRT station and the Punggol River, as well as potential upside from the Punggol’s waterway living concept.

“Sengkang is gradually becoming livelier and in the subsequent years, residents will benefit from greater amenities,” Mr Lim said. “The upcoming Seletar Mall will offer an impressive range of amenities, including restaurants and shops.”

As with all new public housing projects launched since January, HDB will introduce a standard suite of eco-features in the new BTO flats that will help to manage water, energy and waste more efficiently.

Applications for the BTO flats will close on April 1. Eligible applicants can apply for only one flat type in one town.

Later in May, HDB will launch another 3,060 BTO flats in Bukit Batok and Woodlands.

For buyers looking for flats in mature estates, they may wait for the Sale of Balance Flats exercise in May, when there will be 3,000 units available, Mr Lim said.

Source: Business Times – 27 March 2014

HDB overhauls system for resale transactions

The Housing Development Board (HDB) is overhauling the procedure for resale HDB transactions in a bid to shift the focus from cash-over-valuation (COV) to market prices when negotiating resale prices.

It is requiring buyers to first obtain the option to purchase (OTP) before asking for a valuation through HDB – and it will not accept valuation requests from sellers.

This pushes buyers and sellers into negotiating resale prices based on the latest transacted prices, instead of haggling over the COV as is done now.

Minister for National Development (MND) Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament yesterday: “The HDB will rationalise the process of price negotiations and restore the original intention of valuation – which is to help buyers obtain a housing loan.”

Negotiating resale prices based on COV was “an anomaly unique to the HDB resale market”; doing so based on price instead will take some getting used to, but is a useful move for the sake of long-term market stability, he said.

With the change, buyers who are granted the OTP will have 21 calendar days – up from 14 – to exercise the OTP.

At the same time, HDB will start posting daily prices of resale transactions on HDB InfoWEB as soon as they are registered, instead of fortnightly.

Since 2007, HDB has been publishing the COVs as a service to people shopping for flats with lower COVs, but sellers started using the published COVs as benchmarks to bargain for even higher COVs.

Sellers or their sales agents had been typically requesting HDB valuations and then negotiating resale prices with prospective buyers of their flats based on COV, which is the cash premium that buyers would pay in excess of the valuation.

Changing the resale procedure will bring the practice in the HDB resale market in line with the private housing market, as some Members of Parliament have lobbied for in the past.

A HDB spokeswoman said that the board will still publish COV data by town every quarter on the HDB InfoWEB, but it will monitor reactions to the new measures and assess whether it remains meaningful to do this.

Property consultants noted that the present low COVs provide a good opportunity for the new resale process to be introduced without major protests from sellers.

On the likelihood that there may be sellers who may still fish for valuation reports through the HDB, the board said that it will monitor the new resale procedures.

The HDB spokeswoman said: “If there are salespersons who try to game the system to obtain valuations, we will carry out relevant investigations, together with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).”

ERA Realty key executive Eugene Lim said that the new procedure was unlikely to be abused, given that the name of the buyer seeking a valuation report has to be the same as the one on the OTP.

Referring to the measures to cool the property market, Mr Khaw told Parliament that there were signs that the market was “turning the corner”, but that it was still premature to withdraw the measures.

The government is moderating both the Build-to-Order (BTO) programme and Government Land Sales. More than 77,000 BTO flats have been launched in the past three years, of which 14,000 units were completed last year; 28,000 units will be handed over this year.

The tightening of the property market here has already led some Singaporeans to look for foreign properties.

Mr Khaw counselled caution, as there are added risks and complexities arising from different legal and regulatory frameworks operating outside Singapore.

The CEA will launch an online guide for those thinking of buying a foreign property. It will also step up its effort to regulate estate agents marketing overseas property developments here.

Source: Business Times – 11 March 2014

Steep prices stall resale of DBSS flats

The first premium flats from the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) have been on the resale market for months, but hefty price tags are making deals unlikely, said experts.

As of January, some residents of The Premiere @ Tampines have lived there for five years and can now sell their units.

Several ads have since gone up. For instance, ST Property has nearly 40 listings for units at The Premiere, with $800,000 for a five-room flat the highest asking price.

Yet as of last Friday, the Housing Board’s database shows that no resale deals for that project have been approved.

Experts said sellers were probably testing the market with high exploratory prices.

Launched in 2006 to strong demand and welcoming its first families in January 2009, The Premiere was the pilot DBSS project.

Under the scheme, public housing was designed and built by private developers, with high-end fittings such as built-in cabinets.

“The sellers of resale DBSS units may try to push for a premium because DBSS flats are positioned as premium flats,” said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

The DBSS scheme was suspended in 2011 after a public outcry over expensive units.

With new projects unlikely, sellers might hope that their rare units can fetch a higher price.

Tighter home loan rules introduced in August also make it hard for buyers to afford high prices.

In the last quarter of 2013, the median price of a five-room flat in Tampines was $543,000, meaning that half of such flats went for at least that much.

Source: The Straits Times – 10 March 2014

Resale flat COVs fall to zero for first time since 2006

For the first time in nearly a decade, the overall median cash-over-valuation (COV) for resale HDB flats hit ground zero last month, compared with $3,000 in January, as demand for resale public homes softened.

Almost two in five HDB deals closed below valuation, making up 37.3 per cent of HDB resale deals, up from 29.4 per cent in January, based on transaction records from agencies registered with the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX).

Flash estimates by SRX also showed HDB resale prices marking a sharpest month-on-month fall of 1.8 per cent since prices began declining in April 2013, while resale volume dropped 20 per cent from a month ago to 734 deals.

Twelve out of 26 HDB towns saw zero or negative median COV. This is an increase from eight HDB towns in January that saw zero or negative COV.

Bukit Panjang, Punggol, Sembawang, Sengkang and Woodlands led the drop with negative overall median COVs recorded in February. Bedok, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang, Jurong West, Tampines and Yishun had zero overall median COV.

With COVs for resale flats falling to zero for the first time since 2006 when SRX began collecting COV records, some analysts are predicting that COVs will slip into negative territory as early as this month.

The three-year waiting period for permanent residents (PRs) to buy resale flats has been a major turn-off for many PRs and the tightening of PR renewals has also resulted in fewer people being eligible for HDB resale flats.

But analysts note that the weakness in the HDB resale market will not necessarily spill over to the private residential market.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said he does not foresee a spillover effect in private home sales since half of private home buyers already have private addresses.

While there will likely be more deals closed at or below valuation as sellers become more realistic, Mr Lim said he prefers to wait for further clarity in figures for the second quarter of this year as February is traditionally a slow month because of the Chinese New Year.

Source: Business Times – 7 March 2014


Property players split on making public COVs for HDB resale flats

The issue of having cash over valuation (COV) in HDB resale transactions – once a political hot potato – is boggling the minds of property analysts and agencies again as latest flash estimates show that COVs have fallen to zero and may dip further into negative territory.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim echoed calls from the past to scrap the publishing of COV figures on concerns that negative COVs will cause a downward spiral of HDB resale prices.

“How much cash under valuation, or CUV, is your seller looking at?” That’s what buyers are asking the property agents now, Mr Lim said.

COV is the cash premium that buyers pay in excess of the valuation of an HDB flat. The overall median COV for HDB resale flats slumped from $32,000 a year ago to hit zero last month.

Mr Lim said that the HDB was trying to improve market transparency when it started publishing COV tables for the different estates and flat types to educate the public and address the perception that COVs were too high. “But people then started to use that as a benchmark and mark up their prices above it. The COV price becomes the registered price and the next valuation becomes higher.

“Now, if the reverse catches momentum, many flat owners will suffer because the prices will shoot downwards. It’s timely to take out the cash over valuation and cash under valuation figures. Just publish market price.”

Some members of Parliament have, in the past, suggested scrapping official COV figures as they believe it contributes psychologically to rising HDB resale prices.

But the government had responded that people would calculate those figures themselves even if HDB did not publish them. The COV is not mandatory in a resale transaction and the HDB does not determine the resale price, which is agreed between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Some property analysts felt that COV remains relevant in today’s market.

Source: Business Times – 7 March 2014

3Gen flats in Yishun going fast

The first batch of three-generation (3Gen) flats in Yishun has seen a “strong reception” with 94 per cent of the flats having been booked, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post yesterday.

Successful applicants took up 79 of the 84 3Gen flats in Yishun Avenue 1. These flats are spread across several blocks in Saraca Breeze@Yishun, a Build-To-Order project that was launched in September last year.

Each of these 3Gen flats – and those in other estates where such flats were launched recently – is about 115 sq m in size, or 5 sq m bigger than a typical five-roomer.

It typically has four bedrooms, a living area, a dining area, a kitchen, three bathrooms, and a store room-cum-apartment shelter.

Families which live in such 3Gen flats need to include at least a married couple and one parent, a courting couple and one parent, a widowed person and one child and one parent, or a divorced person and one child and one parent.

Mr Khaw said: “3Gen flats are designed to facilitate extended family togetherness, and I am glad that these families can look forward to living together and providing mutual support and care.”

One of the successful applicants is Madam Chan Yen Teng, 28. The sales executive currently lives in her mother-in-law’s four-roomer, also in Yishun, with her husband and their four-month-old son.

“We liked that there are two main bedrooms equipped with toilets,” she said.

“That way, my husband and I can have one room, and my mother-in-law can have her own too.”

The average size of families living in 3Gen flats is 5.1 persons. This is larger than families living in five-roomers which have an average size of four while those in four-roomers have an average size of 3.6, Mr Khaw said.

Subsequent 3Gen flats launched in Jurong West in November last year and in Punggol last month have also drawn strong response – the Housing Board received nearly 300 applications for the 164 flats in these two projects. A similar project will be launched in Sengkang next month.

In his post, Mr Khaw noted that yesterday was Chap Goh Mei or Yuan Xiao Jie, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year – during which it is customary for many Chinese families to gather for a second reunion following the first on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

“We will continue to help extended families who want to live together, or close to one another, fulfil their dream,” he said.

“This will be a key priority area for me and for my ministry over the next few years.”

Source: The Straits Times – 15 February 2014