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Private home prices: Analysts see some positive signs

Private home prices: Analysts see some positive signs.

Following two straight quarters of mild price movements after the July 6 cooling measures, some analysts are ready to call an end to the recovery in private housing prices - which they say is the shortest on record, lasting just five quarters.

It certainly appears that way, with a bumper supply of new homes expected to hit the market this year amid higher interest rates. At least 40 new launches will yield more than 14,000 units this year, analysts say. Further, the measures and rising macroeconomic uncertainty exacted a toll on prices of luxury landed property and non-landed property in the prime or core central region (CCR) in the fourth quarter.

Cushman & Wakefield senior director and head of research Christine Li said: "With two-quarters of mild price changes, the housing price boom seen in the first half of 2018 is now a thing of the past. The fall in CCR and landed prices points to a stronger cooling effect on properties that have higher price quantum. The cooling measures have also made it less attractive for foreigners to invest in Singapore property in the near term."

Yet, some analysts point to signs of stabilisation in private home prices, just five months after the cooling measures. In fact, prices have already climbed back at least to where they stood when the cooling measures were introduced, said OrangeTee & Tie's head of research and consultancy Christine Sun. The support could come from the non-landed segment. Barring an economic downturn, prices of new homes in upcoming launches are unlikely to drop sharply as developers had bought land at high costs during the recent collective sales cycle.

And should Singapore's full-year 2018 GDP growth forecast of around 3.3% hold, they see private home prices stabilising, possibly rising at a slower pace of between 1% and 3% for 2019.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim noted: "We are expecting prices to hold steady this year, with (40-plus) new launches lined up. Developers, while mindful to price realistically in order to move sales, are not under significant pressure to cut prices."

Some took heart that non-landed prices managed to eke out a 0.3% gain in the fourth quarter after staying flat in the third quarter, and the transaction volume was healthy despite the measures.

Although the market has cooled, local demand for private property remains strong, and together with en bloc beneficiaries who need replacement homes, this should translate to sustained demand in 2019

The supply of completed units is expected to be below the historical average for the next few years, said Ms.Tricia Song, head of research for Singapore, Colliers International. This should support prices.

Barring external shocks - such as an escalation of the US-China trade war, a messy Brexit and heightened geopolitical tensions - the Singapore economy is expected to chug along steadily in 2019, and this should still drive demand. That said, one key area to watch this year is the pace of interest rate hikes which could affect buying interest, she added.

Adapted from The Straits Times, 3 Jan 2019.