HDB resale flat prices fell by 0.8 per cent, from 132.6 in 4th Quarter 2017 to 131.6 in 1st Quarter 2018, but if past property booms are indicative, HDB resale prices will rebound soon. From the 2nd Quarter of the year 2000, HDB resale prices began to fall and it picked up on the heels of the en bloc frenzy of 2007/2008.
Analysts are almost unanimous in predicting that there will be more demand for HDB resale flats in the near future, which may drive up the prices of public housing. PropNex Realty CEO Ismail Gafoor, for example, said that there may be “a greater demand for HDB resale properties with some en bloc owners considering bigger sized resale flats in the second half of the year”. Mr Ismail believes that HDB resale prices could climb by 1 per cent this year, especially given the ongoing en bloc fever.
A recent sale of a Queenstown HDB flat for a record $1.08 million, is perhaps predictive that HDB resale prices will head north soon.
Located at Block 148 Mei Ling Street, the Queenstown HDB flat (an executive apartment) has a balance lease of about 76 years. Close to Queenstown MRT station and Anchorpoint mall, the higher floor unit features 1,615 sq ft and sold for about $669 psf on the built-up area.
The sellers of the Queenstown HDB flat , who have been staying at the flat for 23 years since 1995, engaged ERA Realty property agent Mohamed Ameen to broker the sale. Speaking to reporters, Ameen revealed that the unit had been listed with an asking price of $1.1 million for less than two weeks, and attracted over five groups of buyers for viewing during this time.
The Queenstown HDB flat was eventually sold to a Singaporean woman who previously stayed at a private property and was looking to downgrade. Ameen shared, “The buyer was willing to pay a premium for the unit due to its large size and proximity to an MRT station.”
The median resale prices in the various towns tabulated in the 1st Quarter of 2018 indicated that HDB resale flats in the Central region and Queenstown commanded top prices. 4-room HDB resale flats in the Central region commanded a median resale price of $850,000, while flats in Queenstown commanded a median price of $722,500. At $650,000 and $640,000, the median resale prices in the estates of Bukit Merah and Clementi came in at third and fourth highest respectively.
Median resale prices of 4-room HDB flats in several estates came in at the $500,000 range. These flats include those in the estates of Bishan, Geylang, Kallang/Whampoa and Toa Payoh. 4-room HDB resale flats in Choa Chu Kang and Woodlands commanded the lowest median resale prices at $331,000 and $330,000 respectively.
Paul Ho, chief mortgage consultant at icompareloan.com, agrees with experts like Mr Ismail that HDB resale prices will increase soon. “As more and more condominiums make new benchmarks, HDB estates surrounding and around premium condo estates that has risen in value will see a higher upside,” he said.
He added: “Those around Tanjong Pagar, Queensway, Kallang, Orchard, River Valley and Newton may see more and more prices transacted above $1 million. Unfortunately, a $1 million HDB property is going to become more and more common.”
Just like the murmurs that were heard in the early 2000s when HDB resale prices slumped, there has been loud protests from some quarters about the prices of public housing which have kept dropping over several years now. Some have likened the leasehold limitations of HDB flats to a “ticking time bomb”.
In early April, a letter published in the Straits Times claimed that the promise of owning a 99-year-leasehold HDB flat as an investment for old age is no longer valid today. The letter writer said that “many seniors who want to downgrade to Built-To-Order studio apartments for the elderly are in a fix as they are unable to sell their old flats”, and that many such seniors “stand to lose their deposits on their new flat if they cannot sell their old flat.”
In expressing his disappointment in the price drop of HDB resale flats, the letter writer said: “Most of them were hoping to downgrade and live on the profits from selling their flats but have become disillusioned. The Government needs to step in to manage this problem and not just leave things to market forces.”
Housing Development Board chief executive’s recent comments have added to the worries of some HDB flat owners. The chief officer, Dr Cheong Koon Hean, suggested that home seekers should pay less for resale flats with shorter lease. “The price you pay (for your resale HDB flat) should (be) commensurate with the lease,” she said.
Some believe that this will further depress the prices o HDB flats which has been on the downtrend for some years now. But it’s good to note that Dr Cheong’s suggestion is only applicable to flats which are running out of lease, leading to home loan restrictions kicking-in.
Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Government will allow the HDB resale prices to drop for a continued period without intervening to correct it.
With more than 80 per cent of Singapore’s population living in HDB flats, the Government will have to pay a high price at the next election if it allows the price slide to continue. The Government will be mindful of the political price it would have to pay for the continued slide.
HDB resale prices have been steadily slipping after hitting a peak in 2013, due to measures introduced by the Government to cool the public housing market. Such measures include the restriction of HDB mortgage loan terms to a maximum of 25 years and the Mortgage Servicing Ratio cap of 30 per cent.
The upbeat property market sentiments together with the belief that the Government will intervene to prevent the free-fall of prices in the public housing market, may reverse the decline of resale flat prices. For the full year, experts expect HDB resale prices to be flat or grow by up to 1 per cent. How much it will grow by next year, as we draw nearer to the next General Election, is anyone’s guess.
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