Hope of rebound as private home prices end 15 quarters of decline

property prices rebound

It has been a long time between drinks, but property owners might just have reason to cheer after private home prices ticked up in the third quarter.

The rise – while modest – ended a long 15-quarter decline and fuelled hopes that a rebound is under way.

Values rose by 0.5 per cent in the three months to Sept 30 compared with the second quarter, according to flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.

But the public housing resale market continued to lag, with prices down 0.6 per cent quarter on quarter and 1.3 per cent lower than the same period last year, Housing Board estimates showed.

The private housing market’s recovery has been long awaited, although growth will be slow, industry watchers agreed, while HDB flat resales are likely to stay in a slump.

Prices were up almost across the board for private homes, with landed home values jumping by 1 per cent after a previous quarter-on-quarter fall of 0.3 per cent.

Non-landed properties in the core central region recorded a 0.2 per cent increase against a 0.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter decline in the three months to June 30, while homes outside the central region gained 0.7 per cent, compared with the previous drop of 0.3 per cent.

The lone exception was non-landed properties in the central region but outside plum districts like the downtown core. Prices there stayed flat between the second and third quarters, after a previous 0.6 per cent rise.

Ms Tricia Song, Colliers International Singapore’s head of research, said a dwindling stock has helped to jump-start the market. She said: “Buyers waiting on the sidelines have decided to jump in, and developers and sellers have more confidence in raising prices.”

Foreign buyers were also spurred, she added, “as Singapore prices look attractive after falling for 15 consecutive quarters while other key gateway cities’ prices have continued to increase”.

Savills senior director of research and consultancy Alan Cheong said the market’s recovery felt overdue because “general sentiments were already stirring” for private apartments by the second half of last year.

Given that the average growth period for home prices has historically been 17.4 quarters long, “this upturn may be the start of a multi-year price recovery”, he added.

But analysts noted that cooling measures could keep a lid on price increases, which are likely to be gradual, with the year’s growth projected to be flat or modest.

They were more bullish about the coming year, with JLL forecasting a 3 per cent to 5 per cent residential price increase for next year, and Edmund Tie & Company pegging the hike at an even rosier 4 per cent to 8 per cent.

Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia, said the overall quarterly increase “is the best indicator that the correction period of the market is past us”.

Still, he cautioned: “It is still too early to call for a rebound, as we need more than one data point.”

The same wait-and-see approach prevails for HDB resales, as prices slid for the fourth straight quarter, falling by 0.6 per cent after a smaller dip of 0.1 per cent in the second quarter.

Mr Eugene Lim, key executive officer at realtor ERA, said: “This could be due to HDB introducing shorter wait times for Build-to-Order flats and the re-offer of balance flats in July this year.”

Mr Ong Teck Hui, national director of research and consultancy at JLL, noted that with 17,000 new flats this year, buyers need not turn to the second-hand market. “It does not appear that HDB resale prices will be recovering soon,” he added.

Edmund Tie & Company’s research head, Dr Lee Nai Jia, also noted that the ticking clock on lease tenures is affecting older flats, saying: “Some buyers would be more concerned about buying older flats. Their main consideration is that the value of the flat would have declined substantially by the time they seek to upgrade or move after the minimum occupation period.”

The URA and HDB will release updated third-quarter statistics on Oct 27.