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.
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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”

Beware the Waiting Game: Some Points to Ponder While You Wait.

dreamhome
Market naysayers claim that cheap financing has resulted in hot money, which has in turn created an unsustainable property bubble. While I constantly remind young, first-time home buyers not to overstretch their budgets by projecting affordability on the basis on today’s abnormally low interest rates, the continued upward march of property prices here was certainly not due to low interest rates alone. In any case, with the various phases of loan-to-value and loan tenure restrictions introduced since February 2010, the capacity for interest rates to create heat in the property investment market has been brought down to a minimum. (After the latest cooling measures in January 2013, the maximum loan-to-value in certain situations is a mere 20%.)

And so, when a property agent friend recently asked me for my opinion on whether she should advise her home-buyer client to “wait for property prices to drop”, I responded with a question in kind, “how long can she wait?” If you ask me for my honest opinion, today’s market is indeed a challenging one for buyers seeking an investment unit in the residential sector, and it takes a sharp eye to spot a gem worth surmounting the ABSD payable(there ARE such gems out there, I can personally vouch for that!). However, for those without a home to their names hoping to eventually get out of the rental cycle, I silently worry when they confide that they are waiting for prices to drop. (I stay silent in such cases, as my policy is never to give unsolicited advice, the opinions shared on this blog are for you to consider only if you choose to.)

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Investing in Property: Property Shares

Now that the government has clamped down on buying and selling of property, perhaps it is time to look at other ways you can invest in property. One of these ways is to buy shares of companies that deal with property, whether as developer, contractor or owner-manager. Some such counters are Capitaland (developer), Ho Bee (developer), Wee Hur (developer, contractor), Suntec REIT (owner-manager).

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Tightening on Mortgage-Servicing-Ratios Expected

After murmurs on the subject have been rippling through the market for weeks, I believe the move to further restrict Mortgage Servicing Ratios (MSR) on private residential property is on the cards over the coming week, possibly as early as tomorrow.

belttightening
According to multiple sources, MSRs are likely to be brought down from the current 30-60% to just 30-40%. To illustrate what this means in practical terms, let’s take the example of a $1.5M property:-

A $1.5M home with 30-year, 80% loan-to-value housing loan of $1.2M at an interest rate of 1.5%p.a. ($4,141.44 monthly installment) would previously require a monthly income of $10,353.60 to support a 40% MSR threshold. When MSR is reduced to 30%, a corresponding one-third increment is monthly income is necessary to support the same loan.($13,804.80/month). Alternatively, the buyer with a $10,000/mth income would need to reduce his loan to $900K and either come up with more cash or assuming he maintains his cash/CPF downpayment at $300K, shift his sights toward properties $1.2M or below.

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Budget 2013: Impact on the Property Market

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:

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The 7th Property Cooling Measures: Further Tweaking Required?

Even in this humble household appliance we have different thermostat/humidity controls for different compartments... should we not expect more of our property cooling measures?
Even in this humble household appliance we have different thermostat/humidity controls for different compartments… should we not expect more of our property cooling measures?

It has been just less than two months since the most recent and extensive round of cooling measures were implemented on 12th January 2013. Despite the initial shock and awe across the island, it appears from January’s transactional activity that the market is increasingly resistant to cooling attempts. We expect this to continue given that residential property vacancies are low at 5-6% islandwide, jobs figures remain healthy, and loan interest rates are set to stay low till at least end-2014.

To be sure, January’s data cannot be taken at face-value. While transactional volumes hit record levels, with new home sales hitting 2,013 units, several market analysts have pointed out that the bulk of these numbers were clocked in prior to the cooling measures taking effect. For instance, star-performer for the month, 810-unit La Fiesta brought forward its launch date and extended sales operating hours the night before the cooling measures kicked in, clocking in 404 units in January, of which an estimated 90% were deals closed prior to the measures. Continue reading “The 7th Property Cooling Measures: Further Tweaking Required?”

After the Cooling Measures and White Paper: Is Property Still Viable?

Now that the new cooling measures and the White Paper on population has had time to sink in, it’s time to figure out what the effects are, and how they will impact the property buying/selling decision.

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Our Weekly Property News Heat Map

We originally planned to retire this section with the start of 2013, but have received a couple of requests for it since. In the interests of dedicating our time and efforts to topics/segments that our readers wish to read, we’re holding a poll. If we have 50 or more interested readers, we’ll start up this section again! Please vote! You may also wish to let us know which topics/areas you would like us to cover in the near future.