SINGAPORE: Sales of new private homes fell in March due to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, as developers refrained from launching new projects and potential foreign buyers were not able to visit Singapore to view the properties.
Developers sold 660 homes – excluding executive condominiums – last month, 32.4 per cent lower than the 976 units sold in February, data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed on Wednesday (Apr 15).
It is also 37 per cent lower than the 1,054 units sold in March last year.
Including executive condominiums, 904 units were sold in March, a 31.3 per cent decrease over the 1,315 units sold in February.
The decline in March was expected, property analysts said, adding that the market is expected to deteriorate even further after the full impact of COVID-19 circuit breaker measures are felt.
Singapore has put in place strict safe distancing measures during what it calls a circuit breaker period to stem the spread of COVID-19. The measures - which include closing non-essential workplaces and schools - will be in place for one month until May 4.
"Taking into consideration the closure of sales galleries due to circuit breaker measures and the ban on foreign visitors into Singapore, new sales volume is likely to hit a roadblock in April 2020," said Mr Desmond Sim, head of research, Southeast Asia at CBRE.
DEARTH OF NEW LAUNCHES
Only one mega development project was launched last month - OLA, a 548-unit executive condominium project.
The 378-unit Kopar at Newton released only eight units for sale last month, while three other smaller projects - Tedge in Changi Road, 77@East Coast and 19 Nassim - were also launched.
Excluding the executive condominium, developers released 578 units in March, down 38 per cent from the 933 units in February and 68 per cent from the same period last year.
New home sales in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR) - which rose 7.2 per cent and 10.6 per cent, respectively - remained resilient as many deals were probably near completion prior to the worsening of the COVID-19 outbreak and before stricter safe distancing measures kicked in at the end of March, said Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie.
Some investors may have also bought properties to diversify their investment portfolios after the stock market rout in March, added Ms Sun.
Due to stricter border controls and the dearth of foreign buyers last month, the proportion of Singaporeans buying non-landed new homes rose to 86.3 per cent, the highest since April 2009's 87.7 per cent.
Property analyst Ong Kah Seng said that amid the worsening COVID-19 situation, property buyers have become "very cautious, price sensitive and opportunistic".
"Developer sales momentum in 2020 will be highly hinging on how swift developers are in making pragmatic decisions once Singapore’s circuit breaker period is over," said Mr Ong.
Competitive pricing and the release of attractive units could help developers "close the deal quickly on the physical table", he said.
Ms Sun added that with show flats now closed and viewings postponed as part of the circuit breaker measures, sales are likely to worsen in April.
"Once the situation stabilises and safe distancing measures ease, new homes sales will likely pick up when show flats reopen and house viewings resume," said Ms Sun.
"The growing economic uncertainties around the world may also propel more investors to seek shelter for safe-haven assets here, of which private residential properties will remain attractive to investors in the long term," she added.