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Fewer launches as developers await upturn
DEVELOPERS launched just 73 private homes last month - less than a tenth of what they released in August, and the lowest figure since December 2014's 53 units.
The Chinese Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, two-thirds of which fell in September, may have been partly the reason for this, but observers suggest that developers have also been holding back on launches of private residential projects lately, in the hope of riding a price recovery next year.
Lee Nai Jia, head of research in Edmund Tie & Company, said: "A few developers have stopped selling their projects and closed their showflats for now, and will probably re-open them after Chinese New Year.
"I sense developers are holding back new launches with the approaching year-end school holiday and travel season. It makes more sense for developers to gear up for launches after Chinese New Year, when demand can be expected to be strong, supporting higher prices."
With fewer new units on the market, developers' sales contracted 47.3 per cent month on month to 657 private homes in September.
Year on year, however, the figure was up 29.1 per cent, going by data released on Monday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), based on its surveys among licensed housing developers.
The preliminary third-quarter figure for developers' private home sales figure stands at 3,015 units, 2 per cent lower than in the previous quarter, but up 52.2 per cent year on year.
In the first nine months, developers' sales surged 60.1 per cent year on year to 9,054 private homes.
In addition, they moved 3,596 executive condominium (EC) units (a public-private housing hybrid) between January and September - up 10.1 per cent year on year.
JLL national director Ong Teck Hui highlighted that this jump comes despite a 41.5 per cent year-on-year drop in the number of EC units launched in the first nine months of this year.
"While demand has been buoyant, supply has become limited, with only 1,620 unsold, launched EC units," he said.
The figure comprises 1,591 uncompleted and 29 completed units as at end-Q2 2017, a drop of 53.6 per cent year on year.
No new EC projects or units were launched in September, and yet developers' sales for ECs was still "quite healthy" at 249 units, noted ZACD Group executive director Nicholas Mak. The September EC sales figure was down from 341 units sold the month before; year on year, it was also a fall from the 260 units sold in September 2016.
Mr Mak noted that only one EC project is now in the pipeline - Hoi Hup Realty and Sunway Developments' 600-plus unit project in Anchorvale Lane, which is expected to be launched next year.
"At the current rate of sales, the developers' inventory of launched and unsold EC units - which slipped to only 698 units in September - would be exhausted before Christmas if there are no new project launches.
"As a result, there could be overwhelming pent-up demand for this project, and its developer is in a highly-enviable sweet spot."
PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor agreed with this view, but highlighted that the project's developer would nevertheless be sensible about pricing it, given that ECs come with many restrictions, including a S$14,000 monthly household income ceiling and 30 per cent mortgage servicing ratio cap.
Last month's top-five selling projects chalked up sales of between 40 and 48 units each. These were Parc Life and The Criterion EC projects, and Kingsford Waterbay, Symphony Suites and Principal Garden private housing developments.
In the private-housing segment, at least two projects are slated to be released soon. One is Sing Holdings and Wee Hur's 735-unit Parc Botannia in Fernvale Road, which is expected to be launched around mid-November.
The other, also expected to be launched next month, is Roxy-Pacific's 48-unit Navian freehold apartment development in Jalan Eunos. The project will be priced at an average of about S$1,500 psf.
Mr Ismail expects developers to end the year with sales of about 4,000 EC units and 11,000 to 12,000 private homes. Last year, they moved 3,999 EC units and 7,972 private homes.
ERA Realty Network key executive officer Eugene Lim predicts primary market sales for this year will come in at 3,800 to 4,200 EC units and 10,000 to 12,000 private homes.
CBRE Research's head of Singapore and South-east Asia, Desmond Sim, said: "There are very limited launches identified in the pipeline; this might be a dampener to an otherwise encouraging full-year volume."
Most analysts believe that private home prices have turned around. Earlier this month, the URA said that, based on its Q3 2017 flash estimate, its private home price index rose 0.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter, its first rise after 15 consecutive quarters of decline.