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Landed suburbia sailing smoothly in turbulent waters

Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 05:50

LANDED home prices fell by 1.8 per cent in Q4 2015, marking the ninth consecutive quarter of price declines. Overall landed home prices have fallen by about 10.1 per cent from their peak in Q3 2013. In comparison, the non-landed segment has only fallen by 7.7 per cent from its peak in Q3 2013. Measures such as the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD) and the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) have raised the entry barriers for residential properties, increasing initial cash outlay and tightening financing. Large quantum properties have been especially affected, and landed homes which are normally larger in size, have seen a substantial fall in their prices.

However, despite the tightened financing and hefty stamp duties, landed property volumes have started to edge up slowly. Demand is slowly accumulating, as buyers continue to wait on the sidelines in anticipation of lower prices or for a change in housing policies. However, the authorities have remained adamant in keeping cooling measures in place, even as many industry stakeholders continue to seek a tweak in the measures. It appears that the current cooling measures may be staying longer than expected.

The landed segment can be typically broken down into three main categories, namely Good Class Bungalows (GCBs), land-titled homes, and strata-titled landed homes. GCBs are the most prestigious type of housing in Singapore and are typically bungalows that are located in 39 designated areas which are primarily located in the central region. Certain planning restrictions are imposed on these areas to preserve their ambience and exclusivity.

For landed-titled and strata-titled landed homes, the main differences would be their property rights and the availability of facilities, such as swimming pools or gyms. Strata-titled landed homes would include town houses - landed homes within a condominium project and cluster houses in a landed development with facilities.

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The landed segment is primarily a citizen's play. Permanent residents have to meet stringent criteria and require government approval before they are allowed to purchase landed properties (with a maximum area of 15,000 sq ft). Foreign buyers are generally not allowed to own any landed properties other than those at Sentosa Cove or strata-landed units within a development with condominium status. However, in 2012, URA has stopped issuing condominium status to developments with a mix of strata-landed and non-landed units, making these strata-landed homes which were launched previously somewhat of a rarity.

CENTRAL VS SUBURBAN

In this article, we have broken up the landed segment into two groups, homes located in the Central Region, which we will term as Central landed homes and homes located in the Outside Central Region, which will be described as Suburban landed homes. The suburban landed areas include planning areas such as Clementi, Yishun, Bedok, and Serangoon.

As of Q4 2015, the median resale prices of freehold land-titled central homes and suburban landed homes stood at around S$1,352 per square foot (psf) and S$1,156 psf respectively. Soon after the implementation of TDSR, the prices of central landed homes took a sharp dip while suburban home prices have remained relatively resilient.

With TDSR in place, some buyers who could previously afford to buy a landed home in the central region now had their options limited to the suburban landed market. Suburban landed homes enjoy a larger potential demand pool due to their lower prices, compared to those in the central region. The relative affordability of suburban landed units also contributed to their stability during crises.

RECOVERY UNDERPINNED BY LOW SUPPLY

As at Q4 2015, the total completed private housing stock stood at 327,448 units, of which 71,992 units were landed properties. This translates into about 22 per cent of the current private housing stock. By regions, the Central region holds the highest number of completed landed homes, followed by the North-east and East regions. The North and West regions hold the lowest numbers of landed home supply.

As high volumes of completions are expected to enter the market, the Singapore residential market may be facing a housing glut. The bulk of supply would mainly come from the non-landed segment. A total of 60,159 private residential units are in the pipeline, and only 3.2 per cent of incoming new supply would be from the landed segment. The available landed stock is expected to increase by 3.2 per cent over the next few years, ensuring that landed homes remain scarce. The low available supply should underpin price growth when market sentiments recover.

DECENTRALISATION A BOON

Over the long run, the decentralisation of commercial activities should bode well for suburban landed homes. For example, there are plans to consolidate all port activities at the Tuas mega port from 2027. The maritime sector is one of the key pillars of Singapore's economy, contributing about 7 per cent of Singapore's GDP and providing over 170,000 jobs.

The consolidation of port activities would move a substantial number of jobs to the West region, creating demand for homes in the area. Some of this demand would spill over into the landed segment in the vicinity. There are now only 5,798 landed homes in the West region of Singapore.

DEMAND RESILIENT FOR SUBURBAN LANDED HOMES

Latent demand for landed properties still exists, and owner occupiers would be looking to buy in spite of current cooling measures. With the market facing tightened financing, demand for suburban landed properties will remain stable, given their lower price and quantum. Though current headwinds would dampen any growth in prices in the short term, current prices are supported by low existing and upcoming supply.

Furthermore, the decentralisation of commercial activities will be a positive demand driver for suburban homes in the long term. For buyers looking to board the landed property ship, suburban landed homes may be ideal for those looking for a smooth journey.

  • The writer is senior manager for research and consultancy at OrangeTee.com.
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