Last week, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam gave his Budget Speech for 2013. Amongst the main themes of the speech, the most glaring to me was the re-distribution of costs from the lower-income/lower-wealth group to the higher-income/higher-wealth group. This is a natural progression in a maturing economy and should be expected. Of the items listed as part of this theme, those that pertain to the property market are:
We’ve been expecting the government to trot out another round of cooling measures, as I mused on Facebook just hours before the official announcements came out. Prices have continued to defy gravity despite the 6 earlier rounds of cooling, and the recent ruckus over $2M Executive Condos had also alerted Minister Khaw to the need to bring developers back in line with the original mission statement behind Executive Condos.
Still, the 7th round of cooling measures does stand out amongst its predecessors as the broadest spectrum of cooling measures we have seen, affecting both private and public housing, as well as the industrial property market. The measures have drawn a mixed response, ranging from fiery profanities from property agents concerned about their rice bowl, to mild jubilation from Singaporean first-home buyers (and more cursing and swearing from PR buyers yet to secure a home.)
On the whole, I agree with the government’s decisive move this round. The market, jaded by countless rounds of “cooling” measures, has reached a stage where anything less than draconian simply won’t cut it. However, I question whether the ABSD measures introduced will truly serve the interests of those they are seeking to protect -the Singaporean first-time home buyer. Today’s post shall be focused mostly on the ABSD hike and its repercussions.
Here’s a flow chart to (hopefully) make things clearer for those still confused by the new ruling:
After several rounds of cooling measures, Singapore’s residential market has continued to climb in Q2 and Q3 of 2012. Thus MAS has stepped in once again, and as of today, borrowers will no longer be able to take loans of longer than 35 years. Given that the average tenure of residential property loans in Singapore is well below 35 years (29 years, according to MAS’ official press release yesterday), and bearing in mind that this average does not take into account the percentage of homes in Singapore that are fully paid-up, I don’t foresee this measure having a huge impact on the market.
We asked you, our readers, to vote on where you think the property market will be at the end of 2015 relative to beginning 2012. Thanks to all those who voted! Here are the results!
An overwhelming majority (80%) voted either down or up by less than 10%, with slightly more voting on the downside. To be honest, I had expected a higher number of people voting the extreme cases, but I guess our readers are a little more conservative with their opinions. In any case, let’s have a thought about what to do in each scenario.
In the mutual funds universe, you have index funds on one end of the spectrum, and “special situation” funds at the other. The former simply track the market index, rising and falling in tandem with the market’s peaks and troughs. The latter, on the other hand, attempt to home in on unique upside opportunities and gain alpha.
As a property investor, you should try as far as possible to emulate the latter rather than the former. I draw inspiration from strategies taken by the fund manager behind a special situations fund I once invested in. He looked for themes that were on the uptrend, then dug beyond the obvious to seek out a more targeted vehicle for harnessing that trend. For instance,when he felt that international trade was set to boom, instead of banking on shipping stocks, he bought into ports, as the latter represented a more finite resource – you can have as many ships as can be built, but ports are strictly limited by geographical and administrative factors, amongst other constraints. Similarly, when he sought a means of investing into Asia’s growing need for infrastructure, he avoided construction companies, and went for the one key player providing the cranes to the many construction companies. This all took place years ago, but I reckon there is timeless wisdom in the investment style adopted.
Where will property prices be in the next few years? Will property prices plunge 30 – 50% as per the doomsday prophets? Will property prices trundle along sideways, moving up and down within a 10% band? Or will property prices continue its steady climb upwards? Unfortunately, I don’t know, so I can’t tell you. If I knew for sure, I wouldn’t tell you either. So, since I don’t know for sure, I will lay down how I think the different scenarios may play out so you can make your own educated guess. But before we go into the heavy stuff, let’s have some fun with a poll!
Have a read of the article out today in The Straits Times.
In a nutshell, for someone interested in property as an investment, there are 3 main takeaways:
1. Rentals are seasonal. If you’re planning to rent your property out to expats, April and May (or more accurately the couple of months after that) are crucial months;
2. The rental market is still firm for now. However, there seems to be somewhat of a temporary bootstrapping effect, with rents supporting prices and prices supporting rents; and perhaps most importantly
3. Expat packages are waning. Increasingly, expats are now being localised with little or no housing allowances.
You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about what this means for you, but this information certainly helps to steer my investment decisions…
I love to lie on my belly to read. And as a young child growing up in England, I used to imagine that my dream home would have a lovely bay window looking out to a sprawling garden, with colorful cushions and loads of natural sunlight streaming in. I would picture myself nestled there, enjoying a good book.