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VIRUS OUTBREAK

Showflat reopening a relief for developers, but new launches unlikely till July

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Frasers Property will reopen the showflat for its 455-unit residential Rivière this Friday as the country adapts to the "new normal".

Singapore

DEVELOPERS will get some reprieve this week after getting the green light to reopen sales galleries for residential projects starting Friday, although new launches aren't expected to make their debut just yet.

Launches are more likely to take place from July as developers will need time to roll out marketing activities while others may take a wait-and-see approach given the weak economic climate, consultants say.

The latest announcement is good news for developers, said Cushman & Wakefield's associate director (research) for Singapore and South-east Asia, Wong Xian Yang, after restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic prompted the closure of sales galleries back in April. "(Virtual) viewings can work, but showflats still ultimately help to boost sales."

However, he doesn't think that developers will rush to launch new projects this month. "Due to Covid-19, things are a bit different. There are a lot of things that developers need to get clearance for and get clarity on. They will need time. Launches should ramp up from July onwards," Mr Wong added.

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"It will take time to get the whole machinery cranking again," said ERA Realty's head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak, who expects July to be the earliest that major launches will take place.

On the other hand, it may be easier for small projects to prepare for a launch, with end-June being a possibility, he added. Mr Mak also pointed out construction of sales galleries may have been affected by the halt of construction activities during the two-month-long "circuit breaker".

Huttons Asia research director Lee Sze Teck highlighted that developers may time their launch depending on a variety of factors such as sentiment, the readiness of their showflats and competing projects. "The extension of the ABSD by six months gives developers some leeway to launch their project," he added.

Given that some projects were unable to launch in April and May, developers may be mindful that launches could potentially bunch up in the third quarter and may take a wait-and-see approach to avoid the competition, Mr Wong also said.

Since the circuit breaker was implemented on April 7, developers have had to shutter their show galleries, denting sales for new residential projects. In a circular to licensed developers on Tuesday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Controller of Housing (COH) informed developers that they could resume operations from June 19, although measures have to be introduced to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.

These include controlling the number of people in the show gallery and within show units to not more than one person per 10 square metres of space; viewings by appointment only, capped at five persons per group (including salespersons); using the SafeEntry visitor management system to log people in; maintaining a minimum distance of one metre between groups; wearing masks; and regular cleaning and sanitising of high-touch areas.

Developers have to submit a checklist of the safe management measures in place at their show gallery to the COH at least two working days before they re-open.

Real estate agents will also be able to conduct physical viewings from June 19. The Council for Estate Agencies issued a separate advisory on Tuesday, listing the measures and precautions that need to followed.

City Developments Ltd (CDL) told The Business Times that it is targeting to reopen all its six showflats on Friday, subject to the necessary approvals. Its projects are Sengkang Grand Residences, Piermont Grand, Haus on Handy, Amber Park, Boulevard 88 and Whistler Grand.

A spokesperson said: "CDL has been actively adapting and implementing initiatives to prepare for the reopening of showflats, such as deploying GovTech's SafeEntry visitor management system, conducting deep cleaning at our showflats and the provision of hand sanitisers and hand soap, on top of temperature screening, to all visitors."

Anchorvale - a joint venture between Evia Real Estate and Gamuda Land - is also among the developers aiming to receive visitors at its sales gallery for executive condominium OLÁ.

Meanwhile, Forett at Bukit Timah, a freehold project by Qingjian and Perennial Real Estate Holdings, is now expected to launch in Q3 this year. Yen Chong, deputy general manager for Qingjian Realty (South Pacific) Group, said: "The circuit breaker has inevitably affected the work for the upcoming Forett sales gallery, but it was necessary to ensure everyone's well-being. We will continue to observe the situation as Singapore moves into the next phase of re-opening."

In the meantime, the sales gallery for Qingjian's project, JadeScape, will re-open its doors from Friday morning. However, viewings will be by appointment only, and walk-in visitors will be turned away. Other measures include safe-distancing marks and staggered appointment hours.

Similarly, Frasers Property will also reopen the showflat for its 455-unit residential Rivière this Friday as the country adapts to the "new normal".

According to a Frasers Property spokesperson, the company has - in line with recommendations by the authorities - prepared and put in place health and safety measures such as split-team arrangements for staff and salespersons, as well as temperature scanning, safe distancing, and the use of SafeEntry to support contact tracing for all visitors to the showflat.

The spokesperson added: "We will minimise social contact by limiting group sizes, arranging virtual appointments whenever possible and shortening the opening hours of the showflat. In addition, we will prepare the reopening of the showflat with cleaning and disinfecting processes to ensure a safe and hygienic environment for all."

Since May 2019, Frasers has sold 55 of the 100 units launched at Rivière. Prices start from S$1.48 million.

As Singapore's economy progressively opens up, some consultants expect that developers will continue to use virtual viewings to complement physical viewings, as it offers prospective buyers a convenient way to gather information about a project from the safety of their homes.

During the circuit breaker, sales of new private homes plunged 58 per cent month-on-month to 277 units in April, before rebounding by over 75 per cent month-on-month to 486 units in May. This is down from 737 units and 952 units in April 2019 and May 2019 respectively.

With the local economy reeling from the fall-out of the pandemic, new private homes sales for 2020 as a whole could take a big hit. Cushman & Wakefield's Mr Wong forecasts that sales for this year will clock 6,900 to 7,900 units, while ERA Realty's Mr Mak puts the figure at 7,000 to 9,000 units. This is down from the 9,912 new private homes sold in 2019.

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