High rentals don’t worry some MNCs

High rentals don’t worry some MNCs


They are still expanding their premises: C&W report




RISING office rents may have forced some businesses to adopt a wait-and-see approach on expansion here but others are expanding anyway.


A report by Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) reveals that key leasing transactions in December 2007 include Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer taking up 26,000 sq ft of office space at HarbourFront Tower 1, US-based global engineering, construction and diversified services company Flour Daniel leasing 15,000 sq ft at 80 Robinson Road, and US-based drug development services company PharmaNet relocating to 5,000 sq ft premises at Springleaf Tower.


Bank Julius Baer was the fastest growing company in the finance and banking services sector in 2007 and its spokeswoman Lim Li Koon said that leasing the HarbourFront premises is part of its ‘business continuity plan’ strategy. Ms Lim also said that it would continue to operate out of its office at One George Street.


C&W managing director Donald Han said that the office market is experiencing a ‘flight to availability of space for expansion’ with tenants also hoping to take advantage of lower rents in the office sub-markets.


According to C&W, latest data showed that prime office net effective rents were at an average of $14.30 psf per month in November 2007, an increase of 3.5 per cent over October 2007.


Similarly net effective rents for the Top 25 Grade A office buildings rents rose to an average of $16.02 psf per month in November 2007 from $15.54 psf per month in October 2007.


Mr Han said many businesses in Grade A areas like Raffles Place, where occupancy is close to 100 per cent, are currently negotiating to renew their leases. ‘Companies that need to be located close to their clients cannot move far from this comfort zone,’ he said.


Those that can are looking outside the CBD. Average rents for the office sub-market in areas like Beach Road and HarbourFront are around $10-$11 psf per month.


‘The secondary (sub) market is becoming the primary target for tenants looking to relocate at the moment,’ Mr Han said.


Source: Business Times

Back lane in Balestier up for sale

Back lane in Balestier up for sale


Other properties up for auction include Changi bungalow, studio apartment




THE Official Receiver is auctioning off a back lane at Jalan Bunga Raya in the Balestier Road/Irrawaddy Road area.


The freehold strip of land, with a land area of 3,331 sq ft, is behind a row of seven terrace houses which are part of a set of 15 terrace homes at Jalan Bunga Raya which have been bought by a consortium involving a Chinese developer and some local partners.


Knight Frank is auctioning the back lane on Jan 10 on behalf of the Official Receiver. The plot is understood to have been owned by a now-defunct company, Bag Transpack Investment Co Pte Ltd.


Market watchers reckon the consortium that bought the 15 homes at Jalan Bunga Raya will be the most natural contender for the back lane, although BT understands that a party who owns a pair of semi-detached houses on the other side of the backlane is also a potential buyer.


Knight Frank has indicated a price of about $750,000 to $800,000 for the back lane, which works out to $80 to $86 per square foot of potential gross floor area.


The 15 neighbouring terrace houses were sold recently for $61 million or an all-in unit land price of $739 psf per plot ratio.


Knight Frank’s auction, which will be held at Amara Hotel, will also see several other properties going under the hammer.


These include two bungalows – one a Good Class Bungalow at 10 Swiss Club Lane with an indicative price of $18 million or $1,025 psf based on its 17,557 sq ft land area, while the other, at 18 Toh Close in the Changi area, has a $2.8 million to $3 million indicative price range, which works out to $420-450 psf.


The Toh Close bungalow has a 6,669 sq ft land area. Both bungalows are freehold and are being sold by their respective Singaporean owners.


Other properties in the auction include a 23rd level studio apartment at The Metz at Devonshire Road, a semi-detached house at Jalan Ishak in the Eunos area, a three-storey shophouse at Craig Road in the Tanjong Pagar area and a two-bedroom apartment on the 26th level of High Street Centre.


Source: Business Times

Home prices feel pull of gravity after 31% rise

Home prices feel pull of gravity after 31% rise


Q4 tempers spectacular growth of 2007; mass market may shine this year




(SINGAPORE) Private home prices rose 31.0 per cent in 2007 – the biggest year-on-year jump since 1999 – despite a slowdown in the fourth quarter caused by the withdrawal of the Deferred Payment Scheme (DPS) and sub-prime woes, flash estimates show.


HDB resale prices also climbed some 17.4 per cent last year – the fastest growth seen since 1996 – as private home price gains filtered down. But HDB resale prices also saw a slowdown in growth in the fourth quarter.


At a doorstop yesterday, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said that over the last few months, the government had taken several steps to try and cool down speculative activity in the property market. However, the market is also being affected by external factors beyond the authorities’ control, he said.


‘For Singapore, we are optimistic that we will continue to do well but there are many things beyond our control,’ Mr Mah said. ‘It is up to us to keep a close eye on the market and be able to tweak those policy levers that we can in order to keep property prices stable.’


Private home prices rose 6.6 per cent in the fourth quarter – down from the 8.3 per cent growth seen in the third quarter.


Similarly, HDB resale prices grew 5.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2007 – down from the 6.6 per cent rise for the previous quarter.


Experts said that the slowdown was brought on by both poor global market conditions as well as the removal of the DPS scheme.


Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said that the fourth-quarter slowdown was not surprising considering the sub-prime crisis in the United States.


‘People are still waiting for signs as to how bad the sub-prime situation will turn out,’ Mr Tan said. ‘It affects the whole outlook; people are uncertain.’


Demand could also be muted as lending by banks in the US, UK and Europe has been tremendously curtailed since the crisis, he said.


On the other hand, OCBC Investment Research analyst Winston Liew believes that the bigger culprit is the withdrawal of the DPS. ‘After the DPS was withdrawn, the whole market went down – the resale market, new launches and the stock market,’ he said. He has a ‘neutral’ rating on the Singapore property sector.


For the HDB resale market, the slowdown could also be attributed to buyers holding back in the face of rapidly increasing asking prices, said ERA assistant vice-president Eugene Lim.


‘The slowdown in price increase was largely expected as the market hit resistance level in the light of unrealistic sellers demanding for high cash-over-valuation (COV) transactions – particularly for the five-room and executive flat-types,’ said Mr Lim.


The slowdown in price growth, experts said, will continue in the first quarter of this year.


‘It is unlikely that there will be much activity in January or February,’ said Knight Frank’s Mr Tan. Agreed OCBC’s Mr Liew: ‘I would expect the rate of growth to slow down.’


CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), for example, expects the take-up of new homes to be between 9,000 and 11,000 units for 2008. By comparison, the property firm estimated that a record 15,000 new homes were sold in 2007, 34.5 per cent more than the 11,147 new homes sold in 2006.


This year, the property market will be driven by mid-end and mass-market homes, experts said. Prices and take-up of luxury homes are expected to moderate.


In the fourth quarter of 2007, the price increase was led by non-landed homes in outside central region (OCR) where the index showed an increase of 7.5 per cent.


The strong showing, CBRE said, could be attributed to new project launches during the quarter, such as Park Natura and Hillvista. Prices in the core central region and rest of central region rose by 7.0 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.


For 2008, ‘we expect a moderate rise in overall prices as luxury prices are likely to firm up at current levels while mid-tier and mass-market prices have the potential to rise by about 10-15 per cent’, said Li Hiaw Ho, executive director for research at CBRE.


Others were more bullish about the mass market. Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore, predicts that mass-market prices will climb by 30-50 per cent this year.


In response to a question about the rapidly climbing prices in the mass market, Mr Mah told reporters that the government is watching the segment closely and will take action if necessary.


‘People who can’t afford the central region to buy or to rent are starting to look outside, which I think is the sensible thing to do,’ he said. ‘We will continue to keep an eye. We’re watching it every day. If necessary, we’ll do something, if not necessary we’ll just let it be.’


The overall price index for private homes could climb by anywhere between 10 per cent and 25 per cent this year, depending on how quickly the market recovers, experts said.


And for the HDB resale market, prices could climb by between 10 and 15 per cent, they said.


‘With the buoyant economy and expected positive market sentiment in 2008, the HDB property market in Singapore is likely to enjoy a double-digit growth in the 10-11 per cent range,’ said Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of property agency PropNex.


Source: Business Times

Land price hits a high at Johor’s Iskandar region

Land price hits a high at Johor’s Iskandar region


Analysts see positive effect of rise on companies’ shares





LAND prices in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) continue to spurt, with a transaction done last week at RM50 (S$21.7) per square foot (psf), compared with RM43 psf four months ago and several times the price two years ago.


It was announced last Friday that a consortium between Dubai’s Limitless Holdings (60 per cent) and Malaysia’s state-owned UEM World (40 per cent) would embark on a high-end, waterfront development on 45ha of land at Nusajaya that it had bought for RM242 million, or RM50 psf.


Nusajaya, almost in the middle of the IDR, is where a new state administrative capital is being constructed.


The IDR – a special economic zone three times the size of Singapore – has been made a development priority by the administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. Special incentives, including tax holidays, liberal investment rules and the absence of affirmative action policies that favour ethnic Malays, are aimed at drawing in foreign investment.


The Dubai-UEM World transaction is the third sizeable land purchase in the IDR in as many months.


Recent land purchases totalling RM5.8 billion epitomise a mindset shift by the policy-makers in Kulala Lumpur, who are trying to attract new foreign investment by opening up Malaysia’s property markets in selected areas like the IDR.


So far, the new investors have all been well-heeled Middle Easterners with a development track record in other countries.


This influx of predominantly Islamic investment into predominantly Muslim Malaysia has obviated criticism from ethnic Malays disgruntled by Mr Abdullah’s suspension of affirmative action policies in the IDR.


The continuing inflow of foreign investment into the area could also jump-start the relatively slow-moving project as it will not only diminish execution risk but, in the nature of a virtuous cycle, also attract other investors beguiled by rising land prices.


The authorities certainly seem to think so. Last week, New Straits Times quoted Johor Chief Minister Ghani Othman as saying at least RM7 billion of projects in the IDR will begin by April this year. They include highways, river clean-ups, residential and office complexes and leisure facilities.


Analysts are excited by the effect of rising land prices in Johor on the share prices of companies with large land banks there. The biggest beneficiary is reckoned to be UEM World, a listed entity that still owns 4,137ha at Nusajaya.


‘Its current share price (around RM3.90) imputes an average valuation (of its land bank) of RM12.50 a square foot despite the fact that bungalow and industrial lots are already transacting above RM20 a square foot,’ a recent UOB KayHian report estimated. ‘At RM50 a square foot, UEM World’s real net asset value would jump to RM12.46 a share.’


Source: Business Times

Two property investment opportunities in the offing

Two property investment opportunities in the offing


Changi Hotel site going for $55m, Geylang shophouse devt priced at $36m




THE site of Changi Hotel, on Changi Road, is being offered for redevelopment with an asking price of $55 million.


The 26,433 square foot site has a plot ratio of 3.0 and can be redeveloped with a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 79,299 sq ft. The site is being marketed by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).


The property consultancy estimates that, including a development charge of about $12.5 million, the unit price for the site equates to about $850 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).


Various corporate buildings sit on this same stretch of road, including AIA Changi and Great Eastern @ Changi.


CBRE executive director of investment properties Jeremy Lake said: ‘This regular site provides an excellent investment opportunity for the redevelopment of a corporate building or a boutique hotel.’


Colliers International has also put up for sale a newly restored two-storey shophouse development located at 512-534 Geylang Road with an indicative price of around $36 million.


To be sold via private treaty, the freehold property comprises 12 two-storey shophouse units with a total strata floor area of 29,504 sq ft.


Under the 2003 Master Plan, the subject property, which is also located in the Geylang Conservation area, is zoned for commercial use.


Colliers executive director of investment sales Ho Eng Joo said the island block of shophouses comes with 24 strata titles. They will be sold with vacant possession.


Mr Ho said that a potential use for the property is as a food and beverage establishment, as the area is already known for F&B. ‘Alternatively, the property is also suited for showrooms, karaoke lounges, pubs, shops and offices,’ he said.


Source: Business Times

Rental flats for needy to be allocated from this month

Rental flats for needy to be allocated from this month




A TOTAL of 2,194 rental flats will be added to the public housing supply by early 2010 to help the needy, in a move first announced in November 2006.


The first batch of newly converted flats – consisting of 180 one and two-room units at Block 852, Woodlands Street 83 – will be allocated from this month. One-room flats generally go for about $30 a month and two-room flats for $50-60.


In March, 748 units will be made available when the Housing and Development Board (HDB) completes the conversion of vacant blocks at Boon Lay. In addition, 290 converted units at Redhill will be added to the supply early next year. HDB is also building 976 new rental flats at Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang and Yishun. This last batch will be ready by early 2010.


National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the flats will help ease the burden of those who are really needy. ‘This additional supply will help meet demand from lower-income Singaporeans who cannot afford or are not yet ready to buy their own flats,’ he said.


While demand seems to be increasing, Mr Mah attributed this to rental flats being an attractive option, rather than more people suffering financial hardship.


‘There is always strong demand for rental flats as they are heavily subsidised,’ he said. ‘Those who are financially capable of owning a flat or renting accommodation from the open market, and those who have family who can support them, should not deprive the more needy of subsidised rental housing.’


From this month, HDB will suspend the allocation of rental flats under the Daily Selection Scheme. Rental flats will continue to be allocated through monthly selection exercises.


Source: Business Times

Private home prices up 31% last year

Private home prices up 31% last year


But fourth-quarter figures show signs of slower growth; HDB resale prices up 17.4%


By Fiona Chan




HOME hunters can ring in the new year with some cheer – the roaring property market is finally showing signs of slowing.


Prices of all categories of homes grew at a lower rate at the end of last year, after months of climbing at a breakneck pace.


Growth braked the most at the highest end of the market, allowing cheaper suburban homes to lead the price rises for the first time in years.


Even with the slowdown, private home prices still beat most forecasts by shooting up 31 per cent for the whole year – triple that of 2006 and the most since 1999.


HDB resale prices climbed 17.4 per cent – the highest rise in a decade – up from only 2 per cent the year before.


‘It’s a spectacular rise,’ declared Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.


Mr Li Hiaw Ho of property consultancy CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) estimated that developers sold a record 15,000 new homes last year, up from 11,147 in 2006.


Most property experts are unfazed by the smaller price rises in the last quarter, saying that the deceleration was ‘expected’ and ‘healthier’.


Growth in home prices slowed across the board from October to December, according to estimates released by the Government yesterday. The official figures will be out on Jan 25.


Overall, private home prices rose 6.6 per cent in the period, less than the 8.3 per cent in the previous three months.


At the top end, prices of homes in central areas such as Orchard, Cairnhill and Tanglin rose 7 per cent, down from 8.3 per cent growth in the July to September period.


City-fringe homes, such as in Marine Parade and Bishan, rose in price by 7.3 per cent, from 7.9 per cent earlier.


Suburban properties were the quarter’s star, thanks to new projects launched at benchmark prices, said Mr Li. Homes in areas such as Bukit Batok and Choa Chu Kang saw prices rise 7.5 per cent, just below the 7.9 per cent previously.


As for HDB resale flats, prices grew 5.6 per cent, a tad lower than the 6.6 per cent in the previous three months.


The lower price rises ‘may indicate that buyers are turning cautious in view of events in the fourth quarter,’ said Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president of property firm ERA Singapore.


These include the global fallout from the United States sub-prime mortgage crisis and concerns over a possible US recession, which could have hurt investor confidence.


Yesterday, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan told reporters that while such ‘external factors’ are beyond the Government’s control, it will ‘keep a very close eye’ on the property market.


‘It’s really up to us…to tweak those policy levers’ to keep property prices stable or let them move in tandem with economic fundamentals, he said.


Already, the Government’s scrapping of the deferred payment plan in October may have cooled sentiment, especially for luxury homes.


But despite these pressures on demand, developers are not cutting prices, said Mr Lim. ‘We are seeing a situation where prices are not coming down, but neither are they going up.’


For this year, some buyers expect a market correction, as more homes come on stream.


But experts said home demand is set to stay strong this year on the back of a growing economy and population.


CBRE’s Mr Li expects luxury home prices to stay at current levels and cheaper homes to grow in price by 10 to 15 per cent. More bullishly, Mr Ku Swee Yong of Savills Singapore predicts suburban home prices will rise by 30 to 50 per cent.







Fourth-quarter prices


·  Private homes up 6.6 per cent (8.3%)


·  Top-end homes up 7 per cent (8.3%)


·  City-fringe homes up 7.3 per cent (7.9%)


·  Suburban homes up 7.5 per cent (7.9%)


·  HDB resale flats up 5.6 per cent (6.6%)




Source: Straits Times

HDB price gains expected to ease after 17.4% rise

HDB price gains expected to ease after 17.4% rise


By Jessica Cheam




IT’S official: HDB flat prices enjoyed a spectacular bull run with a 17.4 per cent gain last year – the strongest growth in a decade – but market watchers say a repeat this year is unlikely.


Industry experts estimate that this year’s total growth figure will be less than 10 per cent, due to general resistance in the HDB mass market to higher prices.


Flash estimates released by the Housing Board (HDB) yesterday for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 showed home prices grew 5.6 per cent from the previous quarter. This is a dip from the strong 6.6 per cent rise in the third quarter and brings the total growth for last year to 17.4 per cent.


The fourth quarter slowdown was expected, due to the recent onset of a more cautious mood among home buyers, said housing analysts.


‘The high resistance level in the resale market is also due to unrealistic sellers demanding high COVs,’ said ERA Realty’s assistant vice-president Eugene Lim.


COV, or cash over valuation, is the cash buyers need to pay upfront over and above a flat’s market valuation.


HDB’s third-quarter data, for example, showed median COVs pushing $100,000 for five-room flats in the Marine Parade, Queenstown and Central areas.


Most HDB buyers cannot afford such money upfront, and this led to a drop in transactions in the fourth quarter, said Mr Lim.


The hiatus in property launches in the private sector also contributed to a general slowdown in resale activity, said HSR Property Group executive director Eric Cheng.


He has put this year’s forecast for HDB flat price growth at a modest 5 per cent to 8 per cent.


‘HDB resale prices also have limited growth, as the government tries to keep homes affordable by offering more supply,’ he added.


PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail, however, is more bullish, saying growth could hit 10 per cent or 11 per cent, if Singapore’s economy continues to perform well.


‘There are still many cash-rich buyers from en bloc sales looking in the resale market,’ he said.


Prices in the resale market will still be fuelled by high demand this year, he added.


To address the current housing shortage, HDB recently announced plans for about 4,800 new flats in the first half of this year under its build-to-order scheme, in which flats are built only when a certain level of demand is reached.


It also recently launched a plum site in Bishan for condo-style HDB homes to be built, with more such sites in Simei, Toa Payoh and Bedok to come.


The full data for the fourth-quarter of last year will be released at the end of the month, said HDB.


Source: Straits Times

Singles housing grant on par with families’

Singles housing grant on par with families’


I REFER to the letter, ‘Revise CPF housing grant for singles too’ by Ms Florence Tan Siew Bee (ST, Dec 27).


Our public housing policy is pro-family in orientation. As a general policy, HDB flat buyers need to form a family nucleus before they can qualify for housing subsidies. The Additional CPF Housing Grant was introduced in 2006 to provide more targeted assistance to lower-income families, by giving them an additional grant when they buy their first home.


Singles are encouraged to live with their parents as part of a family unit for mutual care and support. Nevertheless, the Government recognises some Singaporeans are single and prefer to live on their own. As such, citizen singles aged 35 and above are given the option of buying a resale HDB flat. Singles who meet HDB eligibility criteria can also enjoy a housing subsidy in the form of the CPF Housing Grant for Singles (called the Singles Grant) worth $11,000 and qualify for an HDB mortgage loan at the concessionary interest rate.


The qualifying income ceiling for the Singles Grant is capped at $3,000 to maintain parity of treatment vis-�-vis families. The income ceiling for families to qualify for a CPF Housing Grant is set at a higher level of $8,000 to take into account the higher income earned by the average household comprising three to four individuals. Singles buying a resale flat under the Joint Singles Scheme, where two or more singles come together to buy a flat, enjoy the same income ceiling of $8,000.


We assure readers the HDB reviews its housing policies regularly, taking into account national and flat buyer needs, including those of families and singles.


Leong Chok Keh

Deputy Director (Policy & Property)

for Director (Estate Administration & Property)

Housing & Development Board


Source: Straits Times

Strong showing in some suburban areas and projects

Strong showing in some suburban areas and projects


Bukit Batok home prices soar 43% but other districts drop as much as 20%


By Joyce Teo


PRIVATE homes in some suburban areas proved the most resilient amid a general slowing in price rises across the board, the latest government figures show.


Some suburban areas performed very strongly, but others showed uneven price growth.


Data from Savills Singapore showed that prices in districts 23 and 24 – which include areas such as Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang and Hillview – rose 21 per cent to $694 per sq ft (psf) in the fourth quarter.


Within that overall region, average prices in Bukit Batok soared 43 per cent in the fourth quarter to reach $795 psf. But other districts, such as 16, 17, 18 and 19, paled in comparison.


In fact, some districts saw significant price dips. For instance, prices in districts 21 and 22, which include Clementi and Jurong, fell about 20 per cent to $737 psf in the fourth quarter.


Overall, fourth-quarter prices of non-landed homes outside the central region rose 7.5 per cent, according to initial estimates released yesterday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.


Although that figure is below the 7.9 per cent rise in the third quarter, it is nonetheless higher than the 7.3 per cent fourth quarter rise in the rest of the central region and the 7 per cent rise in the core central region covering Orchard Road and Sentosa Cove.


While these are preliminary estimates, they lend support to a theory put forward by some property analysts – that mass market home prices will rise more than those of high-end and, possibly, mid-end homes.


The fourth-quarter price rise of homes outside the central region was largely supported by resale deals, considering there were few launches, said Savills Singapore director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong.


Existing projects, such as the 99-year leasehold Sun Plaza in Sembawang Drive, saw a 39 per cent rise in average price to $595 psf in the fourth quarter.


The only notable launch was the freehold 192-unit Park Natura across the road from Bukit Batok Nature Park. Buyers picked up 152 units in October and November at a median price of $945 psf.


Mr Ku is sticking to his earlier forecast for a rise of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent for mass market homes this year, which could send the current average mass market price of $730 psf to as much as $950 psf.


However, growth in the private mass market sector – which has the closest correlation to the HDB market – may be weighed down by the public housing resale market, said Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.


Initial estimates showed that fourth-quarter HDB resale prices rose 5.6 per cent, which placed the full-year rise at 17.4 per cent.


‘I don’t think HDB resale flat prices can keep growing at this rate for a year or so, because this group of buyers has a natural resistance to too much of an increase,’ said Mr Mak.


Besides, the Government will step in if HDB prices are growing too fast, he said.


Mass market launches expected this year include four projects on the former Waterfront View estate in Bedok Reservoir Road. Of the four, the 405-unit Waterfront Waves is expected to be launched in the first quarter.


Source: Straits Times