In 2022, the property market experienced the lowest injection of new supply ever. Developers launched only 4,528 units for sale less than half of 2021’s 10,496 units launched for sale.
The low number of unsold units and pent-up demand supported price growth in 2022. Private property prices increased by 8.6% in 2022. Price growth was muted in 4Q 2022 at 0.4% as there was no major non-landed launches.
Buyers were starved of choices, given that the number of unsold units in the market stood at 16,152 units. This is 11,615 units below the ten-year average (2012-2021) unsold units of 27,767. Hence there was significant pent-up demand in the market and huge crowds were a common sight whenever there is a new project launch.
The first two major non-landed launches in 2Q 2022 – Piccadilly Grand and LIV @ MB in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) were well-received by buyers and sold more than 70% of its units on launch day.
Similarly in 3Q 2022, the three launches in the Outside Central Region (OCR) – AMO Residence, Lentor Modern and Sky Eden@Bedok saw enthusiastic buying. AMO Residence was a near sell-out while Lentor Modern sold 84% of its units on launch day. Sky Eden@Bedok moved 75% of its units on the first day of sales.
These strong sales in the OCR were achieved despite a benchmark median price of more than $2,000 psf and rising interest rates. It showed the demand and desire from buyers for a private home and buyers had accepted the new price norm. The buoyant HDB resale market provided buyers with ample liquidity to upgrade. The rising interest rates did not put a damper on developers’ sales due to the nature of progressive payments. The first drawdown on loan is usually 1 year later when the foundation is completed and that amount at 5% of the purchase price is small.
In 2022, developers sold 7,099 units of which 1,896 units are in the CCR, 2,732 units in the RCR and 2,471 units in the OCR. This is 45.5% lower than 2021 and is the lowest developers’ sales since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Nevertheless, it is still a strong set of numbers considering that developers also launched the least number of units for sale in 2022. The top ten best-selling projects in 2022 are listed in Table 1.
Table 1: Top Ten Projects in 2022 by Units Sold
Source: URA, Huttons Research (Based on caveats downloaded on 27 Jan 2023)
With benchmark prices set in the new sale market, resale prices played catch up in 2022. However, the rising interest rates and tighter TDSR limit set a cap on buyers’ budget and it limited the transaction volume in 2022. The resale market transaction volume was 14,026 units, 29.7% lower than 2021’s level.
Landed home prices increased 9.6% in 2022 compared to 13.3% in 2021. Transactions in the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) market eased in 2022 to an estimated 48 transactions, half the volume in 2021. The total value of deals in 2022 was around half of 2021.
The top five deals by quantum in the GCB areas were the $66.1 million GCB at Chancery Lane, $59 million GCB at Jervois Hill, $55.5 million GCB at Belmont Road, $55.1 million GCB at Astrid Hill and $50.2 million GCB at Olive Road.
There were two EC launches, Copen Grand and Tenet in 4Q 2022. Both launches achieved very strong sales on launch day. Copen Grand is fully sold just one month after launch while Tenet has sold more than 93% of its units after one month. The desire among HDB upgraders to upgrade to an EC is very strong. It offers upgraders an attractive alternative. Furthermore eligible buyers had the option of opting for a deferred payment scheme and avoid the high interest rates currently. Hence it is no surprise to see such strong results.
There may be one EC launch in 2023 along Bukit Batok West Avenue 8. With very low level of unsold EC units, this EC project should do well.
The en-bloc market was a tad slower in 2022 compared to 2021 after the Government raised the ABSD for developers to 40%. The high interest rate was another contributing factor to the slower en-bloc market.
The ABSD is very onerous on developers as it penalises them unfairly for one unsold unit. Government should consider aligning the ABSD with the Qualifying Certificate requirements. Under the QC rules, developers can apply for extension and the extension charge will take into account only the number of unsold units.
The en-bloc market may get more difficult in 2023 as the new rules on GFA, aircon ledges take effect. This can potentially reduce the saleable area by 5% to 10%. If subsidiary proprietors are not realistic in their asking price, the probability of a successful en-bloc may be low.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) rental index of non-landed properties jumped by 29.7% in 2022, building on the 9.9% growth in 2021. Six main themes were driving the non-landed private residential rental market in 2022 – active hiring by companies, delays in completion of new homes, hybrid work, return of foreign students, rising interest rates and co-living operators.
In 2023, the private housing market is expected to see a completion of around 17,427 units. However, it may not bring immediate relief to the rental market. Many of the completions are in the OCR and RCR where the homes are bought for owner occupation and not for investment purposes. Hence there may not be many new homes for rent. Furthermore new projects tend to command higher rents than older projects.
Yet at the same time, demand may flow to the RCR and OCR as tenants’ budget get squeezed. Distance to the CBD is less relevant as more companies allow hybrid work. Furthermore, the cooling measures on 30 September are likely to force some ex-private property owners to rent while they wait out a 15-month period to buy a HDB resale flat.
The slower economic conditions in 2023 is likely to slow down hiring in some sectors of the economy and that may reduce demand. However, the increase in property tax may see landlords passing some of the amount to tenants. Rents in 2023 are forecasted to rise albeit at a slower clip of between 10% and 15%.
Private Residential Outlook
Based on advance estimates, Singapore’s economy grew 3.8% on a year-on-year basis in 2022, better than official forecasts of up to 3.5%. While the Government expects Singapore to avoid a recession in 2023, this is very much dependent on external conditions.
The supply of new homes will pick up in 2023 to an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 units spread over 40 launches. Based on the estimated units, 20% are in the Core Central Region, 50% in the Rest of Central Region and 30% in the Outside Central Region.
The first launch of 2023, Sceneca Residence achieved a strong sales result on launch day, moving 60% of its units. Prices start from $958,000 for a one-bedroom unit; from $1.33 million for a two-bedroom. It is rare to find a 1-bedroom below $1 million in the market. Astute buyers recognised this and snapped up all the 1-bedroom units. The two bedrooms are sold out as well as the quantum is at an attractive entry point for HDB upgraders. The sweet spot pricing is between $1.5 and $2 million and is easily accepted by buyers.
The market had not seen a major launch since Sept 2022 and there was some uncertainty on the market direction in 2023. This strong result should dispel doubts about the strength of the market and set the tone for the upcoming launches in Feb and Mar 2023.
Other projects that may be launched in Feb and Mar 2023 include 8 Shenton Way, Blossoms by the Park, Gems Ville, Lentor Hill Residences, Marina View, Newport Residences, Tembusu Grand, Terra Hill, The Botany at Dairy Farm, The Continuum, The Hill@One-North and The Reserve Residences.
Enquiries and viewings by Chinese buyers have picked up over the last two weeks in January after China relaxed border controls. Several units at Klimt Cairnhill and 3 Orchard By-The-Park are said to be sold to Chinese buyers over the last two weeks. The luxury segment of the property market will benefit from Chinese demand in 2023.
The level of unsold stock in the market is 16,152 units as of end-2022, which is lower than 16,929 unsold units in the previous trough in 2Q 2017.
New sales may be between 9,000 and 10,000 units in 2023 on the back of more launches. Land prices have been stable which means the market is less likely to see benchmark prices. Higher construction costs and low unsold supply in the market may add upward pressure by up to 5% in 2023.
Prices of HDB resale flats rose 2.3% in 4Q 2022 and 10.4% in 2022, slower than the 12.7% price gains in 2021. Growth in prices in the HDB resale market has moderated for the past two quarters due to price resistance, higher interest rates and cooling measures.
The higher borrowing costs is eating into buyers’ budget and buyers are also baulking at the prospect of paying cash over valuation given that economic conditions have turned cloudy in 2H 2022. Despite the uncertain economic conditions, there are some buyers who are flush with cash and have the ability to pay more for a HDB resale flat.
Amidst concerns that prices in the HDB resale market may be getting out of reach for buyers, the Government stepped in with cooling measures on the HDB market on 30 September targeted specifically at private property owners (PPO) buying a HDB resale flat.
PPO are barred for 15 months from buying a HDB resale flat after they had sold their private property. Exemptions are given to those above 55 years old and buying a 4-room or smaller flat.
The impact is felt immediately on the ground as quite a number of PPO are not able to obtain waiver from HDB and had to cancel their purchase. According to HDB figures up to 30 Nov 2022, there were 902 appeals and about 38% of them were successful. The cooling measures took some wind out of the sail for the HDB resale market. Transactions of HDB resale flats fell by more than 10% to 6,474 in 4Q 2022 from 7,546 in 3Q 2022.
The number of million-dollar flat transactions also fell from a peak of 111 in 3Q 2022 to 93 in 4Q 2022. In 2022, there were 370 million-dollar flats which is the highest ever. The number of million-dollar flats made up 1.3% of total transactions in 2022.
HDB expects to complete around 20,000 flats in 2023. Current HDB owners making a lateral move to another HDB flat will have to sell their existing HDB flats. Buyers of the executive condominium (EC), Piermont Grand similarly will sell their HDB flats in 2023 as the EC is expected to be completed end-2022. This will increase the supply of flats.
There may be between 10,000 and 12,000 new private homes launched for sale in 2023 and many HDB upgraders tend to sell their flat and rent in the interim so that they do not need to pay the ABSD. This may increase the supply of HDB resale flats.
The number of 2-room and larger flats reaching the five-year MOP peaked in 2022 at 30,199. However, this will drop by almost 50% in 2023 to 15,364 flats, drastically reducing the number of “newer” flats for sale.
The number of million-dollar flat transactions is estimated to reduce to between 200 and 300 in 2023 as the cooling measures curtail demand. Some buyers may also rethink paying a million dollars for an old HDB flat.
HDB will launch more than 8,000 BTO flats for sale in 1H 2023 and up to 23,000 BTO flats in 2023. The higher interest rate in 2023 may also deter buyers from the resale market and see them applying for a BTO flat.
There may be a shift in demand from PPO from 5-room and larger flats to 4-room flats. This may potentially push up demand and prices for 4-room flats. The downside is that larger flats may see lesser interest in 2023.
On balance, HDB resale flat transactions are estimated to be in the range of 24,000 to 26,000 in 2023. Resale flat prices is likely to trend towards stabilisation and see not more than 5% increase in 2023.