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Shrinking private housing supply, swelling rental demand: Property trends to watch in 2022

SINGAPORE: Private and public housing markets saw a buoyant year in 2021, with prices reaching new peaks and annual sales hitting their highest in several years.

But the abrupt roll-out of cooling measures in December has changed the industry’s previously sanguine outlook for 2022.

The full impact of the property curbs will be revealed as the dust settles in the year ahead. But while the fallout of the measures will loom large over the property market, CNA looks at some other issues to keep on the radar this year.

DWINDLING SUPPLY AND FEWER LAUNCHES

The existing stock of unsold private homes has fallen to 17,140 units as at the end of Q3 2021 – the lowest such level in about four years.

Fewer units from new launches are also expected in 2022, after land supply from the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme was moderated over the past two years to keep pace with the uncertain economic outlook, said Christine Sun, OrangeTee & Tie’s senior vice president of research & analytics.

About 5,400 units may be offered across some 40 launches in 2022, according to Mr Lee Sze Teck, Huttons Asia’s senior director of research. This is down from the more than 10,500 units launched in 2021.

In particular, competition in the executive condominium (EC) segment may get tighter, said Mr Lee, noting that units from current EC launches will likely be fully sold out by February or March.  

Demand may be spurred by the fact that those buying new ECs do not have to pay any upfront Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), which are rates that were further raised in the latest round of cooling measures.

“Even without the cooling measures, demand for ECs has been very strong. Selling 50 per cent of units on the first day has been something we are seeing for this year itself. That could happen in 2022 also,” said Mr Lee.

While authorities have increased land supply under the confirmed list of GLS sites in the first half of 2022 by about 40 per cent on-year, the impact of this is unlikely to materialise so soon. But it means there could be more private properties to look forward to in 2023 and beyond, said PropertyGuru Singapore's country manager Dr Tan Tee Khoon.

GROWING RENTAL DEMAND

The rental market has picked up momentum – with rates for private housing rising 7.1 per cent in the first three quarters of 2021 alone – and is likely to continue gaining pace.

This growth comes on the back of the re-opening of Singapore’s borders, which has allowed more foreign expatriates, workers and students to return to the country, said Ms Sun.

Construction delays may also remain, pushing those who need immediate housing to rent in the meantime. Those who cannot afford to buy a home or who want to wait for a potential price correction in the market may also rent, she said.

Amid a tight supply of completed homes and robust demand, rents may rise at a faster pace of 8 to 11 per cent next year, and leasing volume may climb by 3 to 4 per cent, said Ms Sun.

HDB RESALE MARKET TO REMAIN ROBUST

One sector that may be spared from the fallout of the cooling measures is the Housing & Development Board (HDB) resale market, which saw a stellar performance in 2021.

More than 28,000 units were sold in the first 11 months of the year, beating annual figures over the last decade, noted PropNex’s head of research and content Wong Siew Ying. HDB resale prices also hit new highs in Q3 2021, surpassing the previous peak from 2013.

Nicholas Mak, ERA Realty’s head of research & consultancy, expects the market to remain resilient because cooling measures "did not target the root cause” of the upswing in demand and prices.

“It is primarily the supply chain disruptions that caused delays and shortages, which led to delays in (Build-to-Order) completions, which led buyers in more urgent need of flats to buy from the resale market. The measures didn’t address that,” said Mr Mak.

He added that demand may be further fueled by measures such as the tightening of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), which limits the amount homebuyers can borrow. This could push buyers towards purchasing HDB resale units, which are generally more affordable than resale condominium flats, he said.

MORE CLARITY ON PRIME LAND HOUSING

One key housing announcement from 2021 was about the Prime Land Housing (PLH) model, which places tougher restrictions on buyers of flats in certain areas.

Since the model was introduced, questions have been raised over what qualifies as “prime land”. HDB said there are plans to release about one such PLH site per year – and analysts say this will flesh out the nuances of the definition.

Looking forward to the next release for 2022, ERA’s Mr Mak said: “When the Government offers more of such projects and clearly states this is PLH, hopefully they will say why with the rationale – then we might start forming a better understanding of what goes into criteria to make particular BTO project a PLH project or not.”

Huttons’ Mr Lee noted that a possible upcoming PLH site could be the plot where Keppel Club stands in the Greater Southern Waterfront.

With its lease expired on Dec 31, 2021, the land will be returned to authorities, making it a possible BTO site soon, he said.

OUTLOOK

Overall, the residential property market will likely be less buoyant in 2022, said analysts.

Property prices will "continue on a growth trajectory", albeit a more gradual one, said PropertyGuru's Dr Tan. Sales volumes will also take a hit as buyers pause to consider their options and wait to see the reaction by sellers and developers, he said.

But amid the ongoing pandemic, a major factor to bear in mind is the possible emergence of more COVID-19 variants, said ERA's Mr Mak. More infectious or more lethal variants would have widespread implications on the economy, travel, manpower and other areas across society.

"We don't know what else will come out. The worst case is that it's something that's (more infectious and more dangerous) ... Then we're back to the first or second quarter of 2020."

Source: CNA/cl
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