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Overseas developers making stronger pitch

They are prompted by the continued interest here in overseas projects

More overseas developers are opening property galleries or sales offices in Singapore to step up their marketing here, prompted by a continued interest in overseas projects - PHOTO: SUMANSA

[SINGAPORE] More overseas developers are opening property galleries or sales offices in Singapore to step up their marketing here, prompted by a continued interest in overseas projects.

While most have traditionally relied on their marketing agents to hold property exhibitions here on weekends, there is a growing trend of foreign players wanting to have a permanent presence here.

In the course of a week, two overseas developers have joined the fray. Australia's Crown Group opened its sales office at Suntec Tower Two, while Malaysia's UMLand opened its property gallery in Anson House at Tanjong Pagar.

BT understands that London developer Galliard Homes is about to open a sales office in Singapore soon.

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Together, they join several other industry peers from the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Malaysia and China who have opened shop in Singapore, including notable names such as UK's Berkeley Homes and China's Country Garden. The latter opened a sales gallery here to showcase its Danga Bay project in Malaysia.

"Booming Asia is an important platform for us and we want to be ahead of that trend," said Crown Group's Indonesian-born CEO Iwan Sunito. Overseas buyers make up 30 per cent of Crown Group's clientele, with Chinese and Indonesians forming the majority of this pool.

Sydney-based Crown Group, which achieved some A$20 million (S$23.3 million) of sales from buyers in Singapore last year out of A$300 million of group sales, hopes to reduce its reliance on agents here and derive more sales from direct marketing.

Its director of sales and marketing Adam Sparkes said that the Singapore office marks the start of a longer term plan of developing residential projects globally. Its first overseas office in Jakarta was opened last year.

The fast-growing Crown Group is also looking to set up an office in either Shanghai or Hong Kong within a year and to list the company within five years - possibly in Hong Kong.

UMLand's opening of its sales gallery is timed with the launch of its premium mixed-development Star Residences in Kuala Lumpur. "The presence of the property gallery will further enhance purchasers' confidence of UMLand," said group CEO Charlie Chia. "If the opportunity arises, UMLand will certainly be interested to venture into property development in Singapore."

UMLand has been marketing projects in Singapore since 2003 when its tie-up with Singapore's The Ascott Limited in Somerset Seri Bukit Ceylon in Kuala Lumpur, a strata-titled serviced residence project, drew significant interest from Singapore-based buyers.

Its sales gallery will now serve as a one-stop shop for potential investors and buyers to explore other projects in Iskandar Malaysia and Klang Valley.

HSR International Realtors analyst Wong Shanting noted that Singapore's property cooling measures, including a loans cap under the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR), and relatively high property prices have prompted Singaporeans to look elsewhere.

The high-speed rail between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which is targeted to be ready by 2020, will enhance Malaysia's draw, she said.

Mr Chia pointed out that new growth areas such as Iskandar Malaysia are only 30 per cent of Singapore's property prices. "With this push factor of TDSR, Singaporeans ultimately throng to Malaysia to enjoy better terms and ease of end-financing with Malaysian banks for their investments," he said.

Doris Tan, head of international residential properties at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), said that sales of London properties to Singapore buyers have slowed recently as many have already bought their units in the past few years.

And with rising prices in London and a capital gains tax on non-residents that will kick in next year, investors are adopting a wait and see attitude, she said.

Colliers International told BT that many of its clients still prefer to continue holding property exhibitions on overseas projects here due to the cost factor.

"It's very expensive for overseas developers to set up and fit out a permanent office in Singapore. This is why most of our clients rely on Colliers as their agent to sell their schemes, without them having the added expense of a local office," said Nina Davies, Colliers' operations director for international properties in South-east Asia.

However, there are still advantages of having sales representatives closer to potential buyers.

Malaysia's SP Setia Berhad has seen double-digit growth in annual sales to Singapore-based buyers since it opened a sales office here in 2009. Having a presence here allows the developer to provide better after-sales follow-up, said Neo Keng Hoe, SP Setia general manager for Singapore.

This move was also part of the group's international expansion into Vietnam, Australia, China, the UK and Singapore. SP Setia is behind the Singapore condos - 18 Woodsville and Eco Sanctuary - launched in 2012.

"We also market our investment grade developments in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Iskandar, Melbourne and London and we do see growing interest for the Iskandar region," Mr Neo said.

"The TDSR encourages overseas property purchasers to secure offshore financing and developers with good proven records will continue to do well here," he added.