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 “Just to share…”

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 “Affordable homes in Singapore? Looking beyond cooling measures.”

Hot off the Press: MAS Introduces Debt Servicing Framework for Property Loans

MAS has just announced the introduction of a debt servicing ratio framework, with effect from tomorrow, 29 June 2013.

Whilst the cap of 60% on debt servicing ratios (monthly debt obligations versus monthly income) is not something drastically different from banks’ current practices, my focus would be the impact of the following restrictions:-

  • borrowers named on a property loan must now also be mortgagors (ie. co-owners) of the residential property for which the loan is taken;
  • “guarantors” who are standing guarantee for borrowers otherwise assessed by the bank at the point of application for the housing loan not to meet the TDSR threshold for a property loan are to be brought in as co-borrowers (and therefore, must also become co-owners); and
  • in the case of joint borrowers, that banks use the income-weighted average age of borrowers (based on borrowers’ gross monthly income) when applying the rules on loan tenure (i.e. lower LTV-ceilings for loan tenures exceeding 30 years or extending past a borrower’s 65th birthday ). Continue reading “Hot off the Press: MAS Introduces Debt Servicing Framework for Property Loans”

The all-monies mortgage: Interest rate hikes are not the only risk

If you own private property in Singapore, it’s highly likely that you took up a mortgage loan when you first purchased it. Given the widespread use of mortgage loans here, I find it rather alarming that the vast majority of people who have taken up mortgages in the past are unclear on even the basic terminology used in mortgage loans.

A common mistake laypersons make is using the terms “mortgagor” and “borrower” interchangeably. In simple situations, where for example a home is bought by a single person and the loan is similarly taken in single name, the borrower and mortgagor would indeed be the same person. However, the term “mortgagor” specifically relates to an owner of the property that is being mortgaged, whereas “borrower” refers to any parties that are contracting with the lender bank (the mortgagee) to pay back the mortgage loan granted. By necessity, all owners of a mortgaged property are required to contract as borrowers, thus all mortgagors are borrowers, but not all borrowers are mortgagors.

The distinction between the two becomes relevant when non-owner borrowers are included as co-borrowers to support loan applications. Due to the rise in property prices and the various cooling measures introduced, some property purchasers have resorted to adding non-owner parties as co-borrowers, or buying properties together with parties who are either younger in age or able to provide stronger income documents (or both) in order to obtain larger loans, or loans of longer tenure. Continue reading “The all-monies mortgage: Interest rate hikes are not the only risk”

What is really happening in the Singapore property market, as told by the Heat Map

Over the last 4 weeks since we restarted The Straits Times Property News Heat Map, news flow has actually been pretty slow. With 53 articles talking about the property market in 4 weeks, that’s an average of 13.25 articles per week or 1.89 articles per day. In Season 1 (9 Sep 12 – 19 Jan 13), there were 273 articles in 19 weeks, or 14.37 articles per week, or 2.05 articles per day on average.

 Week of  Negative  Neutral  Positive  Total
13/5/13  1  6 3 10
20/5/13  2 6  3 11
27/5/13  2  13  5 20
3/6/13  2 8 2 12

The proportion of articles that were positive, neutral or negative is also instructive. We had 7 negative (13%), 33 neutral (62%) and 13 positive (25%) articles in the last 4 weeks. In Season 1, we had 10% negative, 49% neutral and 40% positive. Continue reading “What is really happening in the Singapore property market, as told by the Heat Map”

Announcing the return of the Straits Times Property News Heat Map

Our readers have spoken, and so, as promised, I have started the 2nd instalment of the heat map. Check it out under its own page here.

Singapore Luxury Property: A Dormant Market Worth Exploring

With personal income tax capped at a modest 20% and no capital-gains tax, it’s unsurprising that Singapore has become a magnet for wealth around the region. In a recent survey of 1,000 mobile millionaires, Singapore was deemed the most desirable place to call home in Asia – billionaires Richard Chandler and Eduardo Saverin are amongst the notable individuals who have chosen Singapore as their home-away-from-home.

According to Boston Consulting Group’s 2012 Global Wealth Report, Singapore has the world’s highest density of millionaire households at 17.1% or 188,000 households. At the same time, its popularity as an offshore banking hub is also growing in leaps and bounds, with wealth under management set to overtake Switzerland by 2020. Switzerland currently manages some $2.8trillion in assets, whereas Singapore has seen assets under management grow from just $50billion in 2000, to $550billion by end-2011.

It is somewhat counter-intuitive then that Singapore’s luxury property market has performed dismally in recent years, particularly when the property market as a whole has had a spectacular run. One could blame it all on the whopping 15% additional buyer’s stamp duty payable by foreigners, but ABSD was initially introduced only in December 2011 and raised only recently in January 2013, whereas the luxury market has been slow since the financial crisis of 2008, never recovering its shine unlike the mass-market sector which experienced a rapid rebound beyond previous highs. Sales of non-landed homes above S$5M screeched to a halt between October 2008 to March 2009, and barely hit 400 transactions in the whole of 2012. In 2007, there were more than triple that number of transactions, at a time when there was a lot less money and a lot more exciting alternative investment options competing for a share of the pie.

The Marq by SC Global
The Marq by SC Global
The Ritz-Carlton Residences
The Ritz-Carlton Residences

Continue reading “Singapore Luxury Property: A Dormant Market Worth Exploring”

Interest rate watch: When to fix your mortgage rates?

With interest rates staying at all-time lows, mortgage loans have been so affordable that the government has almost been forced to throw measure after measure at the property market to cool demand. However, conventional wisdom tells us that this abnormally protracted period of low interest rates cannot last, and that interest rates should revert to its long-term mean of about 2 – 2.5% pa, or implied mortgage rates of around 3.5% pa vs current mortgage rates of around 1.1% pa. It doesn’t really sound like much until you actually calculate your monthly payments in dollar terms. For every $1 million of loan of 30-year tenure, the monthly payment is going to increase from $3,263 to $4,490, a whopping 38% increase!

Image : Howard McWilliam (The Telegraph)
Image : Howard McWilliam (The Telegraph)

Continue reading “Interest rate watch: When to fix your mortgage rates?”

Iskandar Malaysia: An Exciting Frontier, But Tread Carefully

The Iskandar region, image courtesy of Temasek.
The Iskandar region, image courtesy of Temasek.

The name “Iskandar” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, and it is impossible to perform one’s duty as a property consultant in Singapore without at least rudimentary knowledge of neighbouring Malaysia’s rapidly developing special economic zone.

Thrice the size of Singapore, Iskandar is set to be a modern metropolis buzzing with economic activity, a conglomeration of various exciting growth sectors, including nine key economic clusters: financial advisory and consulting, creative industries, logistics, leisure and tourism, education, health care, electrical and electronics, petrochemical and oleo-chemical, food and agro-processing. What really piqued my interest was the chief executive of Iskandar, Ismail Ibrahim’s clearly articulated intent to make Iskandar Malaysia “a place to invest, work, live and play.”

The success of Iskandar will ultimately pivot on this – whether they are able to successfully integrate the four vital aspects of a bustling metropolis. They have done exceedingly well on the investment front, with the first development phase attracting a total committed investment of RM56 billion, surpassing its investment target by over 20 percent. Now well into Phase Two, cumulative committed investment in the region stood at around RM106.3 billion in 2012.
Continue reading “Iskandar Malaysia: An Exciting Frontier, But Tread Carefully”

Stratum – First Impressions

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Let me start by stating upfront that my agency SLP is one of the joint marketing agents for this project, thus it would be improper for me to voice overly critical views on Stratum. Happily for me, after studying the marketing information provided to agents and conducted my own independent research, I have to say I’m suitably impressed and feel I’m able air my opinions here without fear of offending the developers. As I believe there’s sufficient marketing material available to readers, I shall be sharing my own personal viewpoints here, so excuse the semi-casual tone of this piece.

When assessing a real estate target, my usual practice is to start with rental yields as leading indicators for future price movement. I was heartened to see that based on 2012 Q4 rental data, projects around the area like Livia and Ris Grandeur both enjoyed a healthy 3.9%p.a. gross yield.

Bearing in mind that there are several residential projects underway, one would be concerned about new supplies putting downward pressure on the rental yields. However, my sense is that this is a neighbourhood with relatively high owner-occupancy rates, thus the supply of units available for rent should form a low percentage of the total number of units coming online over the next few years.

The numbers appear to support my hypothesis. Thanks to the good folks at squarefoot.com.sg, I was able to determine that there were a total of 43 rental contracts concluded at Ris Grandeur in the year 2012. Assuming that most units are leased for 2-year periods, and that the average number of rentals concluded each year is fairly stable, I estimate that roughly 86 or so units at the 453-unit Ris Grandeur are likely to be investor units, a low 20% of the total number of homes there. And of course, with the Additional Buyers Stamp Duty introduced since 7 December 2011 and further increased on 11 January 2013, the percentage of investor owners of upcoming projects in the vicinity is likely to remain low. I don’t expect rentals to be too badly affected by the supplies of new units coming online over the next few years, as the bulk are being bought by end-users. Continue reading “Stratum – First Impressions”