Are We Running Into Yet Another En Bloc Fever?
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and rewind back to the last en bloc fever that took place between 2016–2018.
In 2017, the most notable land sale was recorded on Stirling Road (now known as Stirling Residences) at S$1 billion (S$1.003 billion to be exact) for a 227,221 square feet 99-year leasehold land. First launched on 5 July 2018, the development is, at the time of writing, almost 100% sold with just 2 units left unsold. The development consisting of 1259 units reached a new high of $2350psf for a 441 square feet 1 bedroom apartment in 2021.
In runner-up position, we have the collective sale of Shunfu Ville (now known as JadeScape) — a former Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) sitting on a 408,927 square feet 99-year leasehold land, raking in a remarkable S$638 million.
In 2017, a total of 27 en bloc residential deals were recorded with a cumulative value of S$8.6 billion.
2018 then ended with a total of 35 en bloc residential deals amounting to a cumulative value of S$11.02 billion.
The 2016–2018 en bloc fever added up to 65 deals amounting to S$20.72 billion just shy of the 2005–2007 cycle record of S$21.8 billion.
Following the en bloc frenzy, a slew of cooling measures were implemented in July 2018 — raising the Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) for developers from 15% to 25%. This thwarted developer’s confidence in acquiring new plots of land for redevelopment.
At the end of Q4 2021, there was a total supply of 46,276 uncompleted private residential units (excluding ECs) in the pipeline. Of which, 14,154 units remained unsold. Based on the expected completion dates reported by developers, 11,247 units (including ECs) will be completed in 2022. Another 19,840 units (including ECs) are expected to be completed in 2023.
Assuming transaction volumes continue to follow the average annual sales from 2004 -2020, the remaining supply in the pipeline can be exhausted in less than 1.5 years.
As a reference, what triggered the onslaught of en bloc deals in 2017 was the low supply of unsold inventory which was 23,300 back in Q2 2016 (incidentally, this is higher than the current unsold inventory).
What about Government Land Sales (GLS)?
The government’s stance in this is to ensure sufficient supply of private housing units to meet the demand and promote market stability.
The distinct lack of GLS options coupled with the fact that most developments from the previous en bloc cycle have or are reaching 100% take-up rate, developers will definitely be worrying about their land banks should demand persist. Furthermore, the demand since borders were closed were mainly from locals. It is expected that once border restrictions are eased, foreigners will be making plans to purchase private residential units.
Moving Forward, What are Developers’ Thought Process?
Developers are definitely starved for land.
We all know that demand is going to persist (at least for 2022 that is) especially once border restrictions are eased. It seems that developers will once again turn to the en bloc market to acquire land for redevelopment.
However, if you’ve been keeping up with real estate developments, you’ll be familiar with the latest cooling measures implemented at the wee hours of 15 December 2021. This time, the government is one step ahead of us investors and developers.
The more notable changes are the reduction in Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) and increase in ABSD. Developers are now slapped with an additional 10%. What this means is that if developers aren’t able to build and sell all units within 5 years from acquiring the land, they will be subjected to a 35% tax.
This curveball thrown at developers will definitely shake their confidence to take on larger projects for fear of incurring the 35% tax should they fail to build and sell all units within 5 years.
The hopes of owners of mega projects like Laguna Park and Mandarin Gardens are certainly dashed. Developers will take some time to monitor the market before taking actions. And when they do, it’s not surprising to find them concentrating more on re-developing small to mid-sized developments.
En bloc sales will continue to take place albeit at a slower pace for now as developers closely monitor market sentiments. Nonetheless, it is an undeniable fact that the current supply in the pipeline is at an all time low and if the government doesn’t release more land for sale, en bloc sales will start to pick up in the near future.
I hope this article serves purposeful in helping you make a more well-informed decision, regardless of whether you’re purchasing a property for own-stay or investment. As always, feel free to share your opinion in the comment section and I will take time to address them when I can. Till next time!