Recently, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has released 1Q2016 statistics and it clearly shows that our property market is still weak and can potentially see further price correction, in consumer’s favour.
The prolonged price struggle between property developers and consumers has occurred since the introduction of the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) and developers are growing weary, as the end does not seem to be anywhere near (kudos to the government).
New private property launches have reached an all time low since 2011 at only 953 units with take up rates nearing its lowest point too in 1Q2016. Looks like property developers are also feeling the pinch despite their strong balance sheet.
Here are some reasons why we should not be looking at buying a property in 2017.
TDSR and ABSD are here to stay, at least a little longer
Brand new finance minister, Heng Swee Keat, have laid the “smack down” in the faces of property developers when he said that it is premature to remove the cooling measures given current market conditions.
If we have to pick two key cooling measures, it would be the TDSR and the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD).
A quick summary of what TDSR does. It basically means that we cannot purchase anything else on credit if our repayment per month exceeds 60%. For example, if home monthly mortgage is $2,000, credit card bills averages $500/month and car monthly repayment is $1,000, it sums up to $3,500/month. This means that we must at least earn $5,833.33. So even if we have the extra $2,333.33, we still cannot borrow more money to purchase another property.
ABSD simply means, the more properties we buy, and the more we will be taxed. Our first property will be taxed at 1% for the first $180,000, 2% for the next $180,000 and 3% for the remainder.
Our second property will have an additional stamp duty of 7%, with the third and more being taxed at 10% extra. Imagine buying a few $1 million condominiums and get taxed $100,000 per transection.
Since these two cooling measures will not be removed or reduce its severity, our property market is not expected to rebound from its downward cycle. In fact, it will continue to dampen property appetite with prices continue to dip.
Rising number of vacant and available properties
As of 1Q2016, there are 24,919 vacant private residential properties while available properties have soared to 330,303. Comparing this to pre-cooling measure period at end-2012, with 15,980 vacant and 268,768 available.
This meant that we have more choices to choose from and should therefore take our own sweet time. For once, we can be picky and demanding without feeling the urge that someone else will outpace us in grabbing that dream property of ours.
Rising interest rate environment
Interest rates and property owners have a love hate relationship. The lower it goes, the happier property owners will be for two reasons, (1) lower interest rate = higher theoretical property value and (2) lesser monthly mortgage payments.
However, since 2015, we have been hearing from the Federal Reserve (Fed) of the United States, that their benchmark interest rate is expected to increase into 2016. Upon the release of that information, we have witness our Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (SIBOR) increasing to as high as 4x from its lowest point.
For those who are intending to purchase a property soon, you might want to plan ahead for the impending interest rate hike. This will definitely create a larger dent into the disposable income, as a larger portion of our salaries will be used to pay down our mortgage.
With higher interest rates, we are expecting property prices to continue falling to compensate for the potential increase in interest burden of mortgage payers.
Global economic jitters and disappointing recovery
The United States and most Asian countries have recovered very well from the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/2009. It is this largely fueled by supranational support (e.g. IMF) and global governments coming together to inject steroids to stop a depression from happening.
This steroid is called credit. Just looking at China’s balance sheet, we know that these steroids cannot be injected indefinitely. Structural reforms are painful and a drag to the economy, but it’s a path that these big economies must take.
As a small nation, we get shoveled into these big boys’ game of Russian roulette without volunteering to be part of it. Other than importing foreign talent, we have also imported the global slowdown. This can be seen from an uptick in retrenchment and slower rate of job placement.
These are all instrumental to property prices, as people spend lesser during slowdowns. Therefore property prices again are expected to drop further.
How sure are we that property prices will continue to drop further?
Theoretically, with all these negatives, property prices will have to drop in order for consumers to pick up appetite and participate in the market again. It can be witness that since 2Q2013, property prices have decreased steadily.
However, we have to note that property developers in Singapore are not Company XYZ or “I am poor” Inc. They are powerful names such as Far East Organization, Wing Tai Holdings, CapitaLand and City Development. If there is something that they have, it is money. They might very well arrest price reduction and hold on to the property until the market picks back up again.
We believe that 2016 will be a rough year for property agents and developers as consumers continue its bargain search and unclear global headwinds. However, in 2017 when the smoke that is causing our confusion alleviates, the property market might go back to its upswing again.
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