Toa Payoh 4-room flats top draw at BTO launch

Four-room units in Toa Payoh may be the priciest on offer in the latest sale of new Housing Board (HDB) flats yesterday, but they proved to be the most popular.

By 5pm yesterday, the 419 units available in the new Toa Payoh Apex estate were over-subscribed by 1.3 times, with 551 applications received.

With prices starting from $413,000, they were the most expensive of the 3,841 flats rolled out in yesterday’s Built-to-order (BTO) launch.

Included in the launch were 104 studio apartments in Woodlands Kampung Admiralty, which property analysts say will attract a fair share on interest.

Described by HDB as a “modern vertical village”, the development, where prices start from $91,000, is aimed at the elderly, bringing together medical, childcare and eldercare centres, shops and homes under one roof.

The apartments there already attracted 0.6 applications for each unit by 5pm yesterday. The launch concludes on Friday.

Madam Hindon Abushah, a 60-year-old part-time cleaner, is eyeing a place there.

“Having the MRT nearby means I can travel easily to meet my friends and family members. I don’t need a big place too as I live alone, now that my husband has passed away.”

Being near Braddell MRT and Toa Payoh MRT stations was one of Toa Payoh Apex’s draws, along with its proximity to the city, the maturity of its estate, with its wide range of facilities, and the fact that new flats have not been launched in the district in recent years.

“HDB upgraders would be attracted as they may be looking for a place with more amenities,” said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

Toa Payoh’s location around the heart of Singapore is the topmost reason that 56-year-old private tutor James Tan is hoping to secure a four-room flat in the neighbourhood, where 138 three-room units are also on offer.

“The price is quite high. But I think it is expected because of the convenient location,” he said.

Four-room flats in Punggol, Sembawang and Yishun were also part of yesterday’s launch. Prices start from $236,000 to $278,000.

But they were not as popular as the ones in Toa Payoh, with Punggol and Yishun having the next highest application rate of 0.3 when it came to their four-roomers.

Also attracting plenty of interest were the 120 two-room flats in Yishun, which had 1.3 applicants vying for each unit. Analysts said data from previous launches showed that BTO two-roomers were popular among singles.

The flats launched yesterday also included five-room and the larger Three-Generation, or 3Gen, flats meant for multi-generational families.

Buyers said there was a good range of flats to fit varying needs, but some were not available at their preferred locations. Said operations manager Patsy Lai, 43: “We were hoping that 3G flats would be launched in Punggol but that was not the case. We live there with our children. It would be nice to have a bigger flat so my parents can move in.”

Source: The Straits Times – 20 July 2014

City-fringe estate set for rejuvenation

The mature estate near King George’s Avenue in Jalan Besar will get a new lease of life now that a plot of land there has been earmarked for public housing, consultants said.

They added that although resale activity in the ageing district has slowed in recent years, that could mean more opportunities to find a bargain ahead of the area’s rejuvenation.

A 1.23ha site at the junction of Syed Alwi Road and King George’s Avenue was gazetted earlier this week to be developed into Housing Board flats.

The parcel at 16 King George’s Avenue consists of vacant state land and a piece of private industrial property that the Government will acquire under the Land Acquisition Act.

No official details are out yet concerning the HDB flats to be built but consultants said that high-density public housing will bring more buzz to the city-fringe estate.

Consultants say the number of completed private homes changing hands in the district has fallen since tough home loan curbs kicked in last year.

It is served by the mega City Square, which has a gross retail space of about 700,000 sq ft, about twice the size of a typical suburban mall.

Projects under construction in the district include The Citron Residences in Marne Road, which is a freehold development comprising 54 apartments ranging from one- to three-bedders as well as 36 shops.

The completed private projects include City Square Residences, which is opposite City Square mall, Kerrisdale and Parc Somme.

City Square Residences condominium in Kitchener Link, also a freehold property, has 910 units and was completed in 2009. Resale prices have averaged $1,505 per sq ft (psf) over the past six months according to caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The 99-year leasehold Kerrisdale condominium in Sturdee Road is slightly older, having been completed in 2005. It has 481 units and has averaged resale prices of $1,104 psf over the past six months according to caveats.

Resale prices at the small 30-unit Parc Somme in Somme Road averaged $1,388 psf over the past six months.

The project was completed in 2012 and has a 99-year lease term.

However, consultants said that possible disadvantages of the area would be heavy traffic during peak hours.

Source: The Straits Times – 19 July 2014

Private site acquired for public housing

A private industrial property at No. 16 King George’s Avenue is part of a 1.23 ha plot that will be bought by the Government and developed for public housing.

The site will be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, said the Housing and Development Board and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) in a joint statement yesterday.

The land at the junction of Syed Alwi Road and King George’s Avenue is zoned for residential use in the Master Plan, the agencies said.

Apart from the private property, the area comprises mainly vacant state land.

The SLA gazetted the land affected by the acquisition yesterday. Both agencies are assisting the landowner with queries and concerns, the statement said.

More information on the housing development will be provided when the plans are ready, the agencies added.

Source: The Straits Times – 15 July 2014

Fewer new flats this year as demand falls

The supply of new Housing Board flats has been further reduced amid declining demand, as the resale market continues to cool for the fifth consecutive month.

About 1,900 flats, or 8 per cent, have been cut from an original supply of 24,300 units this year. This is in order to “respond appropriately” to shrinking demand, the authorities told The Straits Times late on Wednesday.

The reduction is in the bigger flats: three-roomers and larger. Instead of 18,600 units, as announced last December, there will be only 16,700 flats.

But this is still more than the estimated 15,000 new Singaporean family formations annually, said a Ministry of National Development (MND) spokesman.

In a written Parliament reply, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said MND has “cleared the backlog of first-timer applicants”. He was responding to Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah on Tuesday, after she had asked for the number of upcoming flats for the next two years.

The number of two-room flats and studio apartments remains unchanged, at 5,000 and 700 units respectively, to cater to demand from low-income families, singles and the elderly.

An MND spokesman said the first-timer application rate had eased to an average of 1.7 applicants a flat last year, and ranged between 1.0 and 1.7 for the first half of this year.

The reduction, said Mr Khaw on Tuesday, is also in anticipation of more buyers returning to the resale market. Indeed, for the fifth consecutive month, resale prices dropped last month, a new low since April 2012, according to Singapore Real Estate Exchange flash figures yesterday. Overall prices slipped by 0.6 per cent last month from May, and 6.1 per cent from June last year.

Resale volume stayed relatively constant with 1,315 flats sold last month, compared with the 1,320 transacted units in May, and the 1,325 units resold in June last year.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim is less optimistic: “Prices could continue to fall a bit further before stabilising as the measures continue to bite.”

Resale flat prices have been increasingly attractive for photographer Ted Chen, 30, who was unsuccessful in three Build-To-Order (BTO) applications over two years. Of the declining applicant-to-BTO ratio, he said: “I wouldn’t raise my hopes up, because it hasn’t flatlined to a one-to-one ratio yet.”

HDB resale prices dip 0.6% in June to hit a two-year low

HDB resale prices continued to slip for the fifth consecutive month, registering a 0.6 per cent dip in June from May and marking a fresh two-year low since April 2012.

This translates to a 6.1 per cent drop from a year ago and a 3 per cent fall year-to-date, going by data from the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX), which looks at pre-caveat resale transactions and unit rental information.

Softness in resale prices last month was seen in three, four and five-room resale flats.

Resale prices for HDB executive flats, however, rebounded with a 1.3 per cent month-on-month increase in June.

Property consultants are expecting HDB resale prices to soften by up to 8 per cent over the whole of this year.

Eugene Lim, key executive officer of ERA Realty, said: “Prices could continue to fall a bit further before stabilising as the measures continue to bite. However, a steep fall is not expected, as economic fundamentals are sound.”

A total of 1,315 HDB flats were sold in the resale market last month, compared to May’s 1,320 transacted units, SRX data shows.

But this is still 64 per cent lower than the peak in May 2010, when 3,649 flats changed hands.

For now, the same factors are still plaguing the HDB resale market.

A reduction of the mortgage servicing ratio (MSR) to 30 per cent of borrowers’ monthly income and a three-year waiting period for newly-minted permanent residents to buy resale flats have shrunk the pool of eligible buyers, while the large supply of built-to-order (BTO) flats has ratcheted up competition.

There were fewer rental transactions last month than the month before. About 1,590 HDB flats were rented out in June, down from 1,622 units in May.

Overall HDB rental prices fell 1.1 per cent in June from the preceding month, reaching a new low since January 2012, according to SRX. “Rents and volumes may stay low as curbs on foreign workers mean lower rental demand,” Mr Lim said.

There will be more competition in the rental market as more BTO flats reach the five-year minimum occupation period (MOP) and can start to be rented out, he added. “This means increased available supply in a season where demand is slowing.”

Source: Business Times – 11 July 2014

In a bind when new flat’s ready but old one’s still unsold

For Mr Balaji Lakshmanan, the four-year wait for his new Housing Board flat ended this week when he collected his keys. But another countdown began: to dispose of his existing flat, as required under HDB rules.

“I don’t know if I can sell this house within six months,” he said, referring to his three-room flat in Bukit Batok East.

He is part of an emerging group of home buyers caught between their newly ready Build-to-Order (BTO) flats and their old ones – which lack buyers in a sluggish market.

The 42-year-old manager has been trying to sell his old flat for half a year, with about 10 viewers but no offers so far.

It was valued at $340,000 in January – down from $380,000 the year before – and he is willing to accept $10,000 below that.

The wait itself will cost, given that he now has a new five-room BTO flat in Taman Jurong. “Now I have to pay for both.”

Under HDB rules, he must dispose of the old flat within six months of getting his keys.

But fewer and fewer flats are changing hands. There were just 3,781 resale deals in the first three months of this year, a record low.

Some BTO buyers have turned to their Members of Parliament for help in getting deadline extensions from the HDB.

Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee has seen five or six cases this year. Some have come up against the six-month deadline. Others would like more time before collecting their keys. “People try to delay taking the (keys to their) BTO flats now, in case they cannot sell their old flats,” she said.

Thus far, the HDB has been very helpful in granting extensions, often for three months at a time, she added.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah started seeing such cases in the past two months.

For some, it is not just about the deadline, but needing the proceeds for their new flats, she said. “They have to have money in order to collect the keys.”

On Monday evening, she wrote a Facebook post about such requests, wondering if these were a “sign of oversupply of flats”.

A few years ago, both new and resale flats were seen to be in short supply, with tempers running high over tough BTO competition and soaring resale prices.

Since then, BTO supply has been boosted and the backlog cleared, while in the resale market, home loan curbs have cooled demand and lowered prices.

Said Ms Lee Bee Wah: “I would think that (the HDB) achieved the target of stabilising the price of property. That is a good outcome. But for those who want to sell their flats, they have to be more realistic now.”

The falling market is a factor, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh agreed. But he does not think the situation is that bad.

Of the two or three cases he has seen, one was affected by the HDB’s ethnic quota and could sell only to someone of the same ethnicity. The unit was also on a low floor, so the case is not really representative, he said.

Nor does the problem seem widespread, even in usually less popular non-mature estates.

Some other MPs in Sembawang and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRCs have not seen such requests. But with over 28,000 BTO units to be completed this year and resale volumes still low, more buyers may find themselves struggling to sell in the coming months.

Said Sembawang GRC’s Ms Lee: “Looking at reports on the resale market, it may get worse.”

But for its part, the HDB said that if buyers need more time due to special circumstances, it will assess each request based on the merits of each case.

Source: The Straits Times – 4 July 2014

HDB resale flat prices continue to cool in Q2

Resale prices in the public housing market fell for a fourth straight quarter, down 1.3 per cent in Q2, according to HDB’s flash estimates released yesterday. This follows a 1.6 per cent decline in the first quarter.

Property consultants invariably pinned the reason on recent cooling measures, particularly the reduction of the mortgage servicing ratio (MSR) cap to 30 per cent of borrowers’ monthly income.

Other government interventions that have curtailed resale activity include the lowering of the maximum mortgage loan term to 25 years, as well as a three-year wait imposed on new permanent residents before they can buy resale flats.

Coupled with a ruling allowing first-timer singles to buy new two-room build-to-order (BTO) flats in non-mature estates, the increased supply and reduced demand have continued to exert downward pressure on resale prices.

Analysts expect prices for resale flats to continue falling in the second half – though not steeply, given sound economic fundamentals. The consensus is a price drop of 4 to 8 per cent for the whole of this year.

The fates are not equal across districts, he believes. Better located flats in mature estates such as Bishan, Toa Payoh and Queenstown are expected to hold firm in their pricing as buyers of such flats tend to be more affluent and better able to withstand the impact of the MSR cap. Far-flung places such as Jurong West, Sembawang, Marsiling and Bukit Gombak are more likely to see greater price falls.

Households moving to a BTO flat are required to sell off their existing flat six months prior to the move.

The imminent flood in supply of HDB resale homes from owners collecting the keys to their new BTO flats and private properties will further pressure resale prices, even though transaction volume may also improve slightly as a result.

HDB will release more detailed public housing data for the full second quarter on July 25.
Source: Business Times – 2 July 2014


Queenstown area set for biggest Sers project to date

The biggest collective redevelopment for public housing is in the offing for one of the country’s oldest neighbourhoods in Queenstown.

Time may be up for 3,480 flats in 31 blocks along Tanglin Halt Road and Commonwealth Drive, which are slated to be demolished under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, or Sers.

Residents, who found out only yesterday, will be offered new flats in the nearby Dawson estate, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced in a blog post yesterday.

The affected blocks are 24 to 38, and 40 to 45 Tanglin Halt Road, and 55, 56, 58 to 60, and 62 to 66 Commonwealth Drive.

The revamp will also require 157 market and hawker stalls, 50 shops and four eating houses to move out. A new neighbourhood centre will be built, but other redevelopment plans are still pending.

Residents, many of whom have lived in the area for more than 50 years, will be given the choice of relocating to one of the five new sites along Dawson Road, Margaret Drive and Strathmore Avenue, which will have new developments by between 2019 and 2020.

Sers was introduced in August 1995 to rejuvenate ageing Housing Board blocks and has been implemented at 78 other sites, covering 349 blocks. Residents are offered replacement flats.

This is the largest project to date. The flats in question were completed between 1962 and 1963. Ranging from two-room to four-room flats, they are all owned. Residents will be compensated based on market value.

For instance, a three-room flat in the area would fetch between $305,000 and $390,000.

HDB and National Environment Agency (NEA) officers have begun going door to door to inform residents and business tenants of the changes.

Madam Quah Bee Lian, 74, who lives alone in a two-room flat at Block 25 Tanglin Halt Road, cheered the move.

She said: “My neighbours and I are all really happy. Why wouldn’t you want a new flat?”

Still, others said they would miss the home they had lived in for decades. “It’s very sayang. We’ve developed feelings for the place,” said retiree Alice Lee, who has lived there for about 45 years.

Together with her late husband, Madam Lee raised her two children, who are now in their 40s, in her flat at Block 33 Tanglin Halt Road. She also goes with her neighbours every day to the nearby wet market, which she says she will miss. “But at least we can all move together and won’t be alone.”

Mr Khaw said: “With every new HDB town becoming more modern and better designed, there is a need to ensure that the older towns do not end up too far behind.”

He added: “They will get a new modern flat with a fresh 99-year lease, with greenery on their doorstep, and panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. I am sure they will find this attractive and exciting.”

About 3,700 new two- to five-room flats, 30 shops, four eateries, a supermarket and a two-storey hawker centre will be built at these sites, currently vacant land. The new blocks will feature greenery such as sky gardens and landscaped sky terraces.

There will be no replacement units for shop tenants, but those eligible can get a $60,000 ex-gratia payment, a $30,000 relocation grant, and a 10 per cent rental discount on other HDB rental shops anywhere else for their first tenancy term. Market and hawker stallholders will either be allocated a stall at the new hawker centre or neighbourhood centre, or at other centres that have availability.

Cooked food and market stall tenants who wish to wind up their stalls will receive a $23,000 and $18,000 ex-gratia payment respectively from the NEA.

An exhibition on the replacement flats will also run from June 30 to July 13 at the former Queensway Student Hostel.