Real estate prices in Southeast Asia’s financial center have plummeted since the beginning of 2015. Analysts are now worried the Singapore property bubble could burst soon.
Singapore property market has underperformed since February of 2015. Home sales fell by a whopping 48% compared to 2014. Meanwhile, residential prices fell by 4% in 2014. This was while home values in neighboring ASEAN countries boomed.
Christine Li, Director of Cushman & Wakefield’s Singapore branch, expects poor performance in the future. “I think the decline will continue as long as cooling measures are in place.”
“I expect the full year decline for the high-end market to be in the range of 5% to 8%, as most owners still have deep pockets who are able to hold it out,” she explained.
Foreign Investment Regulations Under Fire
The government of Singapore has tried to cool its property market and avoid a bubble since 2009. Its measures have mostly targeted foreigners. They include higher taxes, borrowing limits, and restrictions on the number of properties which can be owned.
However, initial efforts did not push away foreign buyers. Many have deep pockets, are from countries like India and China, and aren’t letting higher taxes deter them. They see Singapore as a safe place to store their wealth.
The implementation of the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) in late 2011 imposed an additional 10% tax on foreigners buying property. This tax increased to 15% in 2013 which led to reduced transaction volume.
Since then, prices have suffered a massive decline. Real estate developers believe the measures to avoid a Singapore property bubble have gone too far, destroying its luxury property market.
The Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore asked the government to ease regulations and stop prices in the luxury property market from declining further.
“Not many Singaporeans are buying into this segment. Prices have indeed come down substantially,” explained Augustine Tan, the association’s president.
“The imposition of ABSD on this segment runs counter to the government’s efforts to encourage foreign investment flows into the country, to activate the economy, grow investments and create jobs for Singaporeans.” Tan elaborated.
Developers Are Bearish Due to Singapore Property Bubble
City Developments, one of the largest property developers in Singapore, believes the housing market could face foreclosures and fire sales. This will happen as rental demand plummets, making homeowners unable to pay off their mortgages.
“Average residential rents across all market segments, particularly the high-end, are on the decline. This is coupled with a weak secondary market,” warned the chairman of City Developments, Kwek Leng Beng.
“If this trend continues, with prices dipping more, some mortgage borrowers affected by lower rentals may have difficulty servicing their loans, possibly leading to forced fire sales,” said Kwek.
Singapore clearly has a difficult time ahead of it. All eyes are on the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to achieve a balance of keeping the city state’s real estate market robust, yet sustainable at the same time.
EDITOR’S UPDATE FOR 2017: Singapore’s property market still isn’t growing as much as others in Southeast Asia. But for the right type of investor, buying real estate in Singapore might still be worth considering.
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