January 27, 2015

How to Identify a Value Buy – Cashew Heights Case Study

Hello again, dear readers!

After the last two articles on how to market your property in a challenging market and case studies on how I achieved record-breaking prices for my seller clients in 2014, we finally have something for readers on the buy side! 

If you’ve been actively house hunting, you are probably familiar with and perhaps rather jaded by the marketing terms, “Value Buy!”, “Star Buy!” and its variations – these catchphrases have been overused and misused far too often. So today, I’d like to demonstrate what a true value buy should look like.

Value Buy Doesn’t Have To Mean Below-Valuation

Firstly, a sound investment doesn’t have to mean buying at a steep discount. (Although this is everybody’s ideal! ) Most buyers (and their agents) seem to think that simply checking past transacted prices for the particular development and then slashing the price by oh, say 10-20%, is The Way to getting a “value buy”.

That, my friend, is more likely to get you a rejected offer and disappointment. Sellers have access to the very same transaction data, so barring severe cashflow problems, a haunted house, or insanity, they’re unlikely to agree to getting ripped off.

A more sensible, realistic approach is to seek out properties that are undervalued, with good latent potential. This definitely takes more brain work and research, but less is left to luck and chance. So let’s get cracking!

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Cashew Heights

Nothing like a live example to illustrate a concept, so let me use an exclusive listing I have at Cashew Heights as a case study. Based on my price of $905psf for a mid-floor 1,658sft unit, I consider this a stellar example of a “Value Buy”, for reasons I shall subsequently explain. Continue reading

January 5, 2015

Selling in today’s market: 2014 Record Breaker Case Reviews

Happy New Year to all readers! Am typing this on my phone while holidaying in Japan, so please forgive me for any typos and editing errors.

As promised in my last post, I will be sharing 3 case studies of record breaker sales I personally conducted in 2014.

Twin Regency
First up, a 980 square foot 2-bedroom apartment I marketed in late April, which subsequently sold in June.

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The Challenge: Third floor unit facing a noisy children’s water play area. All units sold in recent times had been high floor units. Banks had given me valuations of between $1.7-1.78M. Also, many buyers were awaiting release of info on Keppel Land’s Highline Residences at the time. Thus despite plenty of enquiries and frequent viewings, I received only two offers which were below my client’s target price.

The feedback was that they found my asking price too high for a low floor apartment. We also faced a lot of competition from cheaper leasehold projects in the vicinity, including a huge upcoming supply of new units in district 3. We needed to sell within a fixed timeline and at a good price if my clients were to upgrade to a larger home for their new family.

What helped seal the deal:

A relationship of trust between client and myself
Firstly, they entrusted me with an exclusive sale, of which I’ve explained in my previous post, is one of the first things a seller should do if keen to secure the best possible price for their property.

Secondly, they were willing to accept my advice and feedback and we completed some minor repairs in the apartment prior to viewings being conducted.

I recall viewing a bargain apartment with a buyer client previously, where we observed leakage stains on the ceiling. While the owner and his agent assured us that the underlying problem had been resolved, unfortunately the first impression had already been cast. Spending a little money to fix minor things like cracks , a loose tile, or stains on the walls can go a long way towards securing the most favorable price for your apartment.

Thirdly, besides tucking away personal items like family photos and keeping the property neat and tidy for viewings, the owners were able to pass me a set of keys to conduct viewings with just 2-3 hours notice. This turned out to be a critical factor, as the eventual buyers were in fact in town for a very brief window of time, and the second viewing was requested at the last minute before the cheque was secured.

Running a Successful Auction Sale
The reason why we often say sales is an art – different methods are applicable to different situations. In this case, I had built up sufficient genuine interest in the property, however due to the wait-and-see buyers’ market we were in, offers were either too low, or just not coming in.

I realized this after the first few weeks of marketing, and after discussion with my clients, we set a date for a possible auction sale. I began to follow up with both cobroke agents and direct buyers, informing them that if the seller’s baseline was not met, we would be conducting an auction at the end of June.

This gave prospective buyers sufficient time to mull over the best possible price they were willing to pay for the apartment. Under the strict bank loan rule these days, having sufficient financing is a very real concern, and buyers are unlikely to offer before they can ascertain whether their bank will finance their purchase.

I know, I know… This contravenes common salesperson knowledge that you should avoid giving buyers the chance to view alternatives or get cold feet. Hard-selling tactics are most commonly utilized by agents who care more about their bottom line than their clients’ interests, since a closed case ensures money in their pocket, versus holding out for a better offer. And it’s definitely a given when marketing an open (non-exclusive) listing – time is of essence lest the competing agents close the deal before one is able to secure an offer.

As a result of consistently following up with viewers and building up interest to launch an auction-style sale , I was able to secure a price that exceeded my clients’ expectations without a need for ruthless hard-selling.

La Maison
Next, a 1,292 square foot three-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor that I originally listed for rent, and over 3 weeks of sales viewings sold for 8.5% above the last high.

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The Challenge:
This 24-unit apartment block has a great location close to Novena MRT station, but was poorly maintained by the management. Despite the tiny grounds and considerable maintenance fees, the pool decking was rotten and the exterior walls had not been repainted in close to fifteen years.

Of the two layouts available for standard units, the unit I was marketing had the less-preferred one. I faced several objections to the triangular-shaped master bedroom and the development’s proximity to the communicable disease centre and tuberculosis control unit.

Properties like La Maison often lag in performance, as the low frequency of transactions means the price never gets to run up much. This can be observed from the past performance – of the 16 resale transactions that have taken place since TOP, 5 were loss-making. My clients made a respectable 5.6% per annum gain, whereas almost seventy percent of La Maison sellers in the past made losses, or gains below 2% per annum.

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Here’s how we did it

Feeding off feedback
The common misconception is that all successful salespersons have a gift of the gab, or so-called “sales talk”, but the truth is, we gain more sales ammunition from listening, both to prospective buyers and our sellers.

It can sometimes be disheartening to keep hearing negative feedback and objections to properties in our portfolio, however it’s critical to take all feedback in a positive light.

I make it a point to try and gather feedback from all viewers. Constructive criticism can help in conversations with your seller clients – not just what agents commonly term as “staging”, or trying to get sellers to soften on their pricing, but in gaining an in-depth understanding of the of the property as a home too.

For example, in this instance when I updated my clients on viewers’ feedback and objections, they shared with me many of their personal experiences living in the apartment -how they had in fact started out with renting an apartment in the project, enjoying it so much that they subsequently sourced for a unit to purchase, taking a year before finally securing a unit at this rarely available development. This exchange gave me many valuable nuggets of info to present both the tangible and intangible aspects that made the property a great home.

Open House Effect
This is again easier for an exclusive marketing agent to carry out. Open listers would fear requestors enquiring with other listers if they insist on viewers coming down on a specific open house date rather than catering to the prospect’s preferred timeslot.

I held open house viewings over two weekends, with between 4-6 viewers on both dates. This definitely went some way towards creating the right momentum needed for a record breaking price.

Oftentimes I’ve found with ad hoc viewings, the offers tend to be too spaced out in time, which often results in offers stagnating. “Last offer $2M? When was that? Oh, 3 weeks ago? Can I try $2M again?”

Buyers who view during an open house are already given mental preparation that if they view and like the property, they may need to make an offer shortly after.

And true enough, we clocked in a sale $70K above the last record for a similar unit.

Holt Residences

And finally my third 2014 case study that I’d like to share is for a 2,067 square foot 4-bedroom apartment that I secured in September and sold a month later.

The Challenge:This exclusive sale listing had in fact originally begun as a rental listing, but the apartment had gone vacant for close to 3 months, with potential rental having dropped some 25% from what my clients were previously earning.

Having experienced the poor level of interest from prospective tenants, with viewing enquiries being infrequent despite being smack in the midst of the hot leasing period from June to August, and having had negative feedback from tenants on the dated, circa 2000 original interiors and the small grounds with limited facilities and tiny pool, I suggested that we simultaneously market the property for sale.

The project had been experiencing very flat performance since suffering a severe drop in prices back in 2008-09. It made sense to cash out if the the right price was achieved given the lackluster rental yields and limited upside in the short-medium term.

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Recipe for Success

Creating Demand-side Competition
How do you create competition for your property in a market where buyers and tenants are spoilt for choice? Pit tenants against buyers.

We indeed landed up with that situation for this sale, when a letter of offer for rental came in just days before the prospective buyer was due to view. My clients were anxious not to let the prospective tenant go in case the sale failed to materialize, but thankfully the buyer was also serious about snapping up the unit vacant.

Buck the Trend
If you want above-average results, you need to steer away from what the crowd of average joes are doing.

Buyers who buy when others are staying clear of the market have far stronger bargaining power than when everyone is rushing back into the market. Likewise when it comes to selling.

Whilst Holt Residences is a small development, all units aside from the 4 penthouse units have similar layouts. This made it challenging when it came to sourcing for tenants as there were at least 3-4 of the same layout available for rent at any one time.

Units for sale, on the other hand, were in limited supply. Our negotiation power was thus bolstered, as the only other available unit for sale was on a low-floor. The proof is in the pudding- we were able to sell at $3.4M, despite most banks pegging valuation at $3.1-3.2M.

Parting shots
As you can see from the various marketing strategies I employed, it does not require rocket science nor a devious plot to sell well, even in a challenging market. If you or your clients are looking to upgrade homes or rebalance portfolio within the next 5 years, I recommend selling now before the bulk of new supply comes online.

December 22, 2014

Selling your home in a buyers’ market – The first 3 things you should do

Hello dear readers! It’s been a busy and fruitful year, and as a result, the blog has sadly taken a back seat! But now that the holiday season is upon us, it’s a great time to reflect upon the wealth of experiences notched in 2014!

One phenomena I’d like to discuss today is what I’d term ” The Upgrader’s Dilemma”- you already own a home, but want to shift to a bigger place and/or closer to good schools for the kids’ sake etc. Upgrading makes sense in a soft market, since you can buy your next bigger, better home at more attractive discounts these days (and in the coming months), but the dilemma is – how do you fetch a good price for your current home in a such a “slow” market?

Not sure if I’ll regret sharing these little “secrets”, but to me they’re fairly common sense, and often times it’s not just a matter of knowing but putting your awareness into practice.

Some tips are targeted at home owners, while others are more for fellow agents, so bear in mind some notes may be less relevant to your personal situation. Now, let’s get on with it! Continue reading

February 13, 2014

Interim Review of Crystal Ball Prediction

By Centauri78

If you have been following the blog, you may recall a prediction that I made a while back in August 2012 with regard to the residential property market, as measured by the URA housing price index. The prediction was for prices to rise for a couple of years from the beginning of 2012, and for prices to stagnate thereafter. Now that the first period of the prediction is over, let’s take a look as to where the market is now. Continue reading

November 23, 2013

An idea to explore if you’re renting (Part II)

By Centauri78

If there’s part I, there must at least be a part II, right? Of course!! If you’ve been waiting for this sequel, sorry I’ve kept you waiting for so long. I hope I pack enough of a punch here to be worth your waiting time!

So anyway, some of you out there may be thinking that you’re nice and comfortable living in your rental place and moving’s such a hassle. However, property ownership still sounds like a good option to hedge against rising rentals. Well, certainly, you can do both! However, there are a few options, and correspondingly, there are a couple of questions you have to ask. Continue reading

October 22, 2013

Investing for income

By Centauri78

This article isn’t about property, but I thought since I’d written about property shares and REITs previously, this may be relevant to some of our readers.

While I am a proponent of investing for income, one thing that irritates me to no end when I read it in articles written by income investors is the concept of yield over original cost.

I read an article a while back by an ex-financial advisor. In it, he was saying how while he was still a rookie, he advised his client to switch from a low-yielding share to another counter having a higher yield. The client refused, saying that while the yield is low, it is actually giving her more than her original buy price each year, or more than 100% yield over original cost! The author, unjustly shamed, took this “lesson” and presented it as a truth of income investing.

Continue reading

September 11, 2013

End of Season 2: Review and Thoughts…

By Centauri78

Dear Readers,

Season 2 of The Straits Times Property News Heat Map has come to an end. We are taking a break from updating the heat map for a few weeks. We will inform you in due course when Season 3 will start up. Here are the results of Season 2:

Week of Negative Neutral Positive Total
13-May 1 6 3 10
20-May 2 6 3 11
27-May 2 13 5 20
3-Jun 2 8 2 12
10-Jun 0 10 2 12
17-Jun 1 15 2 18
24-Jun 3 11 2 16
1-Jul 2 10 3 15
8-Jul 0 11 1 12
15-Jul 3 10 3 16
22-Jul 2 7 1 10
29-Jul 3 4 2 9
5-Aug 2 6 2 10
12-Aug 1 7 2 10
19-Aug 3 7 2 12
26-Aug 1 5 0 6
2-Sep 1 6 0 7
Total 29 142 35 206
% 14.08% 68.93% 16.99% 100.00%

Based on the data above, we can see that the news flow is rather slow, with an average of 12.11 articles per week. Negative and positive news are pretty much balanced. The NUS SRPI currently is only updated till July, but we can definitely see a slow-down. I feel confident in predicting that when the figures comes out for August and September, it should continue the sideways movement.

Latest NUS SRPI up to July 2013. Thanks, NUS!

Qualitatively, we are seeing the cumulative effects of the latest cooling measures in Jan and the TDSR taking hold in the market. It has now become so onerous to buy properties as an investment that the market is taking a break as sellers want to be compensated for their replacement costs and buyers wait for prices to come down, resulting in stagnant prices and low volume.

Personally, I think that with all the cooling measures put in place, those who bought property during this time are in such a secure investment, given the huge amount of equity, that they are able to hold on to it even if times are bad. Chances of fire sales are becoming less and less likely. If anything, the government measures have put a base on prices, and people should recognise this as the new normal.

Over the last week, various people have told me that property prices would drop 5 – 10% over the next few years. They may well be right. After all, with volumes so low, price movements are bound to be exaggerated. However, it doesn’t mean that you will be able to buy the property that you want, even if the index says that prices have dropped. You would need something drastic to happen, like a crisis in China, or something. However, we also need to remember that the cooling measures (or at least some of them) are reversible, so you would need to keep that in the equation.

Disclaimer:
Centauri78 is not a licensed financial advisor. The information contained here is purely personal opinion, and whilst I make every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information, this information should not be relied upon as a substitute for formal advice or as basis for investment.

August 5, 2013

An idea to explore if you’re renting (Part I)

By Centauri78

I imagine that in every tenant’s mind, there comes a time when they will question whether it is better to continue renting or to buy a home. After all, rent paid is basically water under the bridge, lost forever. If they were going to pay anyway, wouldn’t it be better to pay your own mortgage and build equity? Just about everywhere, home ownership is the cornerstone of the [insert country name here] Dream.

Of course, there are pros and cons to renting vs owning. Here’s a quick (non-exhaustive) rundown of the main pros and cons:

RentOwnProsCons
Continue reading

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July 27, 2013

Just to share…

I was recently invited to blog on BTInvest, a new online portal by The Business Times, a cherished opportunity to learn from professionals more knowledgeable than myself and also share my personal views and personal experience on investments.

Just thought I’d share my first BTInvest post with all my dear readers here. I will of course still be publishing news and my views on the real estate market here, so please do continue to lend us your kind support by visiting regularly! Continue reading

July 5, 2013

Affordable homes in Singapore? Looking beyond cooling measures.

The 8th round of property cooling measures announced by MAS on 28th June is intended to be a long-term one, put in place not just to tackle the current market situation, but to maintain prudent credit controls in the years to come.

I think at this point it would be timely to remind ourselves why Singapore’s government is so fixated on avoiding a property bubble. Sure, housing affordability is always of certain political significance in any country, but I struggle to think of any other nation where the government is quite so heavily involved in the property market. Having chosen to take on the mantle of providing public housing to over 80% of the population for all these decades and being so closely involved in the control of the private housing market too, it is unsurprising that the electorate considers the health of the housing market a key element when assessing their overall satisfaction with the ruling party’s performance.

As Minister Khaw has pointed out previously, he faces the delicate task of balancing the public’s call for affordable housing, with the need to maintain stable property prices to protect the interests of many Singaporeans whose homes and real estate holdings represent the bulk of their total net assets. Thus in the government’s efforts to provide affordable public housing, they must at the same time avoid a property crash at all costs.

Bending over backward to balance

Bending over backwards to balance

The main focus thus far has been on beefing up rules and regulations: hiking stamp duties imposed on buyers and sellers, and reducing the availability of financing by lowering loan-to-value ceilings, restricting loan tenures, and general tightening of credit controls. But as any honest draftsman or legislator would be able to tell you, it is near impossible to draft a completely watertight book of rules without becoming unwieldy and impractical to implement. And in any case, is there substantive proof that heavy regulatory control is better at maintaining a stable market than free market forces?

An increasingly complex, convoluted series of rules and regulations governing the property market certainly poses a challenge for layperson consumers seeking to purchase or deal with their property holdings. I believe it would be helpful to take a look at trends that have been taking place both in Singapore and other cities for alternative means of coping with rising home prices. Continue reading

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