In a segment of the National Day Rally for 2022, Singapore’s Prime Minister — Mr Lee Hsien Loong, shared about what Singapore needs to do to progress forward. As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia remains unresolved, tension between China and the US may force us to take sides eventually. Rising inflation and interest rate hikes remains a pertinent issue but amidst all these, Singapore needs to grow stronger as an independent country. I would say my biggest takeaway from the National Day Rally would be how the Government is taking measures to attract and retain foreign talent. While there has been concerns raised about foreigners contesting for jobs in Singapore, we also need to realise that they are essential for the growth of Singapore — where we do not have the numbers.
In a recent article by CNA, Singapore will launch a new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass, for talents earning at least $30,000 in fixed monthly salary. The pass will be for 5 years, compared to the current 2 years for new EP applicants, and it is not tied to a job role in Singapore. This means that pass holders can concurrently work for a few companies or start their own business. The aim of this is to push new frontiers, draw in greater investments and interest to grow our local ecosystem, and most importantly, create a diverse range of opportunities for Singaporeans.
But What Does This Have To Do With The Property Market?
To put simply, if the Government has taken measures to attract and retain foreign talents, the standard of living in Singapore has to be attractive enough for them to even consider Singapore as a place of residence. Fortunately, the nation’s efforts the past 57 years (since we gained independence) has not been for naught. We rank third in a global survey for real estate demand conducted in 2020. Singapore boasts as the third safest country and even though we are the 13th most expensive city for expats, we still have a constant influx of foreigners aiming to acquire citizenship in Singapore.
Demand for real estate by foreigners will continue on the uptrend and this poses an opportunity for both landlords and property investors.
Local vs Foreign Buyers: Singaporeans Drive the Housing Demand
Analysis on the resident status of homebuyers showed that the increase in demand for private homes sold by developers was primarily driven by Singaporeans. In May 2022, 83.3% of private residential primary market buyers (excluding ECs) were Singapore citizens. The percentage of new private homes bought by Singaporeans had remained fairly consistent at between 80% and 88% each month before and after the recent cooling measures in Dec 2021, indicating a stable demand from Singaporeans.
The percentage of new private homes bought by non-PR foreigners had recovered from under 4% in December 2021 and January 2022 after the introduction of the cooling measures to 6.2% last month. This illustrated the diminishing effectiveness of the cooling measures if the government continue to use the same methods of raising ABSD and reducing the LTV ratio to cool the property market.
Strong Performance in CCR Housing Market
The CCR residential primary market was one of the bright spots among the different market segments last month as developers’ sales volume continued to picked up. Despite the lack of new launches in May, 216 new private housing units were sold in CCR last month, up from the 206 units in April 2022. The number of CCR new homes sold by developers has been on an uptrend since January 2022. This indicates growing demand for properties in prime locations, which could be fuelled by the dwindling stock of new homes in other market segments. As of May 2022, CCR has the highest number of cumulative number of housing units launched but unsold at 1,561 units, followed by RCR and OCR with 849 and 614 unsold units respectively.
Moreover, new projects in OCR has been surprisingly well-received despite developers selling at a new all-time-high. Sky Eden@Bedok achieved a stellar 75% sales on launch day at an average price of $2100psf. This puts some of the current new homes in CCR in the “value-for-money” category.
Return of Foreign buyers to Luxury Housing Market
Another illustration of the limited effectiveness of using the same playbook to cool the luxury property market is the rising number of new luxury home bought by foreigners.
The number of new luxury homes bought by foreigners without permanent residence status in Singapore (i.e. non-PR foreigners) increased steadily from 4 units in February to 25 units in May 2022. In this illustration, new luxury home is defined as private residential properties sold by developers at $5 million or more each.
The percentage of new luxury homes bought by non-PR foreigners also surged in May from 31.8% in January 2022, one month after the implementation of the cooling measures, to 53.2% in May.
The demand for luxury homes by non-PR foreigners in May is unusual compared to previous months in 2021 and 2022, where foreigners typically bought fewer than 18 new luxury units each month. In addition, the 53.2% of new luxury units bought by non-PR foreigners last month was also the highest percentage of total number of luxury units sold in a single month in the 16 months, before May 2022.
Why are Foreign Buyers Still So Active in the Residential Market?
Despite cooling measures by the Government in December 2021, we continue to see strong foreign demand for private housing in Singapore. But why? For the longest time, prices of properties within CCR acts as the price ceiling. In 2017, the average psf of CCR properties were 227.32% and 111.37% higher than that of OCR and RCR properties respectively. However, over the last 15 years, OCR and RCR properties have been appreciating in value faster than CCR properties. We are starting to witness the tapering price disparity between CCR and, RCR and OCR properties.
Over the last 15 years, properties in RCR and OCR have witnessed tremendous growth (80.91% and 125.5% respectively) while properties in CCR has only appreciated in value by 8.96%. The reason that CCR properties has not been performing as well is because of the price disparity between RCR and OCR properties.
Priced at an average psf of $2586 in 2007, it did not allow properties in CCR much room for capital appreciation given that RCR and OCR properties were only priced at an average psf of $1223 and $790 respectively.
Now that RCR and OCR properties are priced at an average psf of $2213 and $1782 respectively, opportunities are aplenty in CCR. Coupled with the fact that more high net worth foreigners will be entering Singapore in the coming years, the demand and rental for CCR properties will increase.
In the past two years, the main source of new private housing supply and hence, most of the sales were from large condominium projects in the suburban OCR. Most of these projects were developed on the site of privatized HUDC estates. Almost all of these new large projects are fully sold or with few unsold units today.
Among the upcoming residential launches, only the EC project at Tengah Garden Walk (Copen Grand) exceeds 600 housing units. The other projects are smaller than 400 units each. There is a shortage of large mass-market suburban condo projects in the pipeline to support the high sales volume that was observed last year. As a result, the primary market sales volume this year could range from 7,500 to 9,500 units (excluding EC), which is lower than the 13,027 units sold last year.
However, the lower supply would also give developers more pricing power, which would contribute to the rise in residential property prices. In addition, price inflation of the construction market and rising land prices would also push up property prices.
Before the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) was first introduced in 2012, majority of CCR properties were bought by wealthy foreigners because of its proximity to prestigious schools, good F&B locations, and wealthy neighbourhoods. However, the high stamp duties on top of these already expensive properties were enough to slow down capital appreciation. Fast forward to today, CCR is now becoming a locally-supported market where property in CCR will continue to be transacted by Singaporeans. In the near future, the CCR market will start catching up to the price appreciation that RCR and OCR markets have experienced.
In my previous article, I highlighted the major transformations around Singapore that investors can focus on. This article aims to give you a comparison on the performance of the 3 regions that Singapore’s housing market is divided into.
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!