ERA Daily Research - 30 August

The Watergardens at Canberra sells 60% of units at launch

Edgeprop, 29 Aug 2021, Sun 7:04 pm    

By Cecilia Chow

On Sunday, August 29, UOL Group announced that it has achieved 60% sales at The Watergardens at Canberra on its launch weekend. Two-bedroom units, with sizes from 646 sq ft, were sold at prices starting from below $920,000 ($1,424 psf; three-bedroom units from 904 sq ft, were priced from below $1.3 million ($1,438 psf); while four-bedroom units from 1,302 sq ft were priced from below $1.8 million ($1,382 psf).

“This is the first private development to come to the market in the northern part of Singapore in over six years,” says Jesline Goh, UOL chief investment and asset officer. “Based on what we observed, buyers are particularly attracted to the project’s strong product attributes, lush greenery as well as its proximity to Canberra MRT station and the future North Coast Innovation Corridor.”

The buyers were mostly homeowners, with the sales well spread across all unit types, adds Goh. The Watergardens is a joint venture between UOL Group, Singapore Land Group and Kheng Leong Co.

"The sales was within expectation,” says Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex. “It’s an OCR [Outside Central Region] project, and there’s a limited supply of such projects in this year. That’s why the take-up rate was strong.”

Gafoor estimates average selling price at The Watergarden to be below $1,500 psf. “What gave homebuyers confidence was the fact that the developer maintained the selling price throughout the first day of launch,” he adds. “There wasn’t a price hike after the developer sold 30% of the units; nor when they crossed the 50% mark. That gave buyers confidence, especially those who made their decision to purchase near the close of the first day of launch yesterday.”

A significant number of buyers were those from other parts of the OCR in the north, northeast and eastern regions, says Nicholas Mak, head of research at ERA Realty. “One of the major selling points was the proximity to the MRT station,” he adds.

Mak attributes the strong demand in the OCR to the number of HDB flats that are eligible to be sold on the resale market since 2019. The number of flats that crossed the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years was 30,169 units in 2019; another 24,163 units in 2020; and 25,530 units in 2021. Next year, another 31,325 units is expected to hit MOP, according to HDB data. “The transactions of these newer flats could contribute to higher HDB resale prices,” he adds.

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Sales of homes in Sentosa Cove soar to new heights

The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2021, Sun 5:00 am    

By Joyce Lim

ales of apartments and houses in Sentosa Cove hit record heights in the first eight months of the year, racking up multimillion-dollar takings in the process.

There have been 103 transactions this year until Aug 16 - for 85 condominiums and 18 landed homes - a new benchmark and 84 per cent up on the 43 condos and 13 landed homes sold for all of last year, according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Those sales amounted to $610 million, 72 per cent more than last year.

Some analysts said the high transaction volumes in Sentosa could be a spillover from the rising demand for luxury homes in Singapore's rest of central region, given that prices on the exclusive island were still relatively lower than those on the mainland.

URA data released last month showed overall private property prices rose 4.1 per cent in the first half of this year, and 7.1 per cent year on year in the second quarter of this year.

Mr Nicholas Mak, ERA Realty's head of research and consultancy, said: "The increase in property prices on the mainland makes the resale prices in Sentosa Cove look relatively attractive."

He added that the high volume of transactions this year could see a price recovery for Sentosa Cove homes. "Based on overall market trend, Sentosa Cove property still has some room to run," he said.

Sentosa Cove, which began as a residential zone in 2006, is the only enclave where foreigners can buy landed property, subject to approval.

The area has 2,160 homes ranging from high-rise condominiums to luxury bungalows with adjoining private berths for boats, all aimed at the ultra-rich with its resort-living lifestyle.

The ultra posh waterfront enclave of Sentosa Cove has been home to celebrities and high-profile entrepreneurs.

Last year, Ms Mathilda Koh, founder of home-grown beauty brand Bioskin, who lives in a luxurious two-storey bungalow overlooking Serapong golf course, paid $3.1 million, or $1,327 per sq ft (psf), for a unit at Seascape, well under the $6.26 million the seller paid in 2010.

Condo prices on the resort island have tumbled about 40 per cent since their peak around 2010. Landed home prices also started falling in 2016.

But prices in Sentosa Cove have been on an upward trend since last year. Half of the buyers this year are Singaporeans.

In May, DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta's wife paid $3.45 million, or $1,705 psf, for a three-bedroom condo unit - well up on the average $1,500 psf for the development.

Last month, an 8,384 sq ft landed home was sold at $20 million, or $2,385 psf, higher than the average $1,841 psf transacted for landed property this year.

Condo prices now hover around $1,500 psf to $1,600 psf, up from an average of $1,484 psf last year.

The median transacted price for the central region and District 4 is around $1,800 psf.

A Sunday Times analysis of URA caveat information showed that of the 23 units sold at The Oceanfront in Sentosa Cove from January to Aug 16 this year, more than half recorded a loss.

Units at projects like Turquoise and Seascape, which were sold at much higher prices in 2007 and 2010, hovering around $2,600 psf, inevitably saw more losses when they changed hands after cooling measures were introduced.

Property agents have been getting more sale and rental inquiries since last year.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a key reason more Singaporeans have been looking at Sentosa Cove homes, they said.

Ms Nicole Teo, senior associate group director at OrangeTee & Tie, said: "After a few years of languishing in the property market due to the introduction of ABSD (additional buyer's stamp duty) for foreigners, it's Sentosa's moment in the sun now.

"We're seeing a significant increase in inquiries and also viewings for Sentosa properties.

"The experience of lockdowns and the prospects of restricted movements in the future, coupled with the work-from-home trend becoming a norm - all these are working in favour of Sentosa Cove.

"Suddenly, inconvenience is no longer an objection as people no longer need to travel in and out to the office every day. In fact, being on an exclusive island away from the congested main island is a safer and more attractive idea now."

PropNex associate district director Alex Low said that despite the high demand, some property owners decided to keep their units as they generate good rental yields.

"There are no new projects launching in Sentosa. Stock is limited. Unlike in the past when there were many vacant units, nowadays we get a new tenant even before the lease ends," he said.

OCBC Bank chief economist Selena Ling felt that record-low interest rates coupled with strong household liquidity could have underpinned local demand, despite the pandemic.

She is doubtful that the buying frenzy could spark more cooling measures. "Sentosa properties are really in a different league and appealing more to foreign rather than local demand," she said.

"So even if there is spillover demand from the rest of central region, policymakers are more focused on the domestic market dynamics."


Greatearth collapse: will more construction firms follow as reliefs and government help end

The Business Times, 27 Aug 2021, Fri 9:41 pm    

By Yong Jun Yuan

IN THE wake of news that Greatearth Corporation and Greatearth Construction have gone bust, lawyers working with construction companies said that factors like increased cost of materials and labour could deliver the same fate to more contractors.

On Wednesday, HDB informed affected homebuyers of five ongoing Build-To-Order (BTO) housing projects that there would be further delays as the two related contractors have run into "financial difficulties".

Another two public projects, the Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium under the National Environment Agency and the Gali Batu bus depot under the Land Transport Authority, could be held up as well.

In the first seven months of this year, Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) data showed that 1,324 business entities in the construction sector had ceased operations. This is marginally higher than the 1,282 entities recorded in the corresponding period last year, but still lower than the 1,422 entities recorded in the first seven months of 2019.

Derek Loh, a partner at Singapore-based TSMP Law Corporation, said employers may have refrained from pressing main contractors during the relief period due to the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act. The act was amended on April 5 to extend the relief period for construction contracts, supply contracts or any performance bonds until Sept 30.

It was also amended to require the co-sharing of qualifying costs resulting from delays caused by the pandemic from April 7 to Sept 30 this year.

Both Mr Loh and Danna Er, a partner at Eldan Law LLP, noted that some stumbling blocks faced by contractors include increases in materials cost due to disruptions in supply chains, and labour-cost increases due to the manpower crunch that the industry is facing.

Ms Er said: "Construction companies that have been able to stay afloat during this difficult Covid-19 period have been able to do so because of a combination of strong financial reserves and government support received."

When these reliefs and other government assistance schemes end, these companies could resort to legal proceedings or face insolvency, she added.

Mr Loh also foresees that employers will need to shoulder some of these costs, or the financial health of the industry will worsen, resulting in more failures.

"This will be to the detriment of employers as well as they would have to employ replacement contractors who would naturally quote higher prices, thereby adding to the construction costs of employers," he said.


Troubled contractor Greatearth closed BTO sites abruptly last week; several subcontractors are owed money

The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2021, Fri 6:14 pm    

By Michelle Ng

Several subcontractors face heavy financial losses after the shock closure of five Build-To-Order (BTO) projects by troubled construction company Greatearth last week, The Straits Times (ST) understands.

The firms could not only miss out on the contracting fees owed them by Greatearth but they are now locked out of sites, so they cannot retrieve valuable building material such as steel components.

The HDB confirmed on Thursday (Aug 26) that Greatearth Corporation and Greatearth Construction had "run into financial difficulties" and were unable to continue work on five BTO projects under their management.

The affected projects are Sky Vista @ Bukit Batok, Senja Heights and Senja Ridges in Bukit Panjang, Marsiling Grove in Woodlands and West Coast Parkview in Clementi.

Two other public projects - Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium and Gali Batu bus depot - also face possible hold-ups.

Mr Yee Sern Wei, the director of Gin Chia, a subcontractor that specialises in tiling, told ST: "We found out about the issue only on Saturday when they started locking up the gates. There was no statement or notifications from them; we only knew what was happening because they were closing the sites.

"If they have financial problems, at least they should have informed us so subcontractors can move their materials out. Now, whatever materials like steel and cement that are left in the work sites will belong to HDB, even if they are not paid for yet."

Mr Yee said he had not been officially notified by Greatearth and found out about its financial woes only through media reports.

Greatearth subcontracted his firm to work on Senja Heights, Senja Ridges and Marsiling Grove in Woodlands.

Mr Yee estimates he is owed about $300,000 to $400,000 in labour costs, the bulk of which is through the retention clause that is standard in most construction contracts.

The retention sum is used by the developer or main contractor to remedy any defects that a subcontractor may fail to address after work is completed.

Typically, subcontractors get the money at the end of the one-year defects liability period, which starts from the date of key collection.

Mr Yee said there had been industry speculation that Greatearth was facing issues.

"There were rumours that other subcontractors were not paid on time, but in our line, we won't usually pry into other people's issues. As long as we're paid, it's OK," added Mr Yee.

A manager at Lea Hin Co, a subcontractor in charge of installing windows at three BTO sites, told ST that he was still corresponding with Greatearth up until last week when the sites were closed.

"It's quite sudden, but we heard rumours going on for a few weeks. When a main contractor misses payment for one or two months, of course people will start talking and it spreads," said the manager, who declined to be named.

He said his company had worked on various BTO projects over the past 10 years with Greatearth.

The manager estimates that his company is owed around $800,000 for its work on the now closed projects West Coast Parkview, Sky Vista @ Bukit Batok and Marsiling Grove, including around $400,000 from Marsiling Grove alone.

The Marsiling Grove BTO is the biggest of the five affected projects, with 1,246 units spread over five blocks.

The Marsiling Grove BTO is the biggest of the five affected projects, with 1,246 units spread over five blocks. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The Lea Hin manager asked: "We have already installed the windows, what can we do? Take them down?"

Greatearth's office at Techpoint in Ang Mo Kio was deserted when ST visited on Friday afternoon (Aug 27), although the lights were on.

The home-grown company has worked on more than 400 projects, including Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine campuses in Boon Lay and Novena.

It has won a number of honours over the years, including the Building and Construction Authority construction excellence award for projects such as Raffles Town Club and Asia Pacific Property Awards for its architecture work at Gem Residences in Toa Payoh.

Greatearth's office was deserted when ST visited on Friday afternoon (Aug 27), although the lights were on. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority searches showed RHB Bank had put charges on Greatearth Holding, the parent company of Greatearth Corporation and Greatearth Construction, in 2018.

A charge is usually taken by a lender or creditor to secure repayment of a loan.

Mr Yee of Gin Chia and the manager at Lea Hin are not optimistic about getting the money back.

Lea Hin Co's manager said: "Now we just wait and see. Maybe we'll sue them? If not, we'll just wait for their company to be liquidated and see if we can get any money back, after they pay off the first- and second-tier creditors."


Frasers' Parc Greenwich EC another test of OCR demand

The Business Times, 30 Aug 2021, Mon 5:50 am    

By Lisa Kriwangko

FRASERS Property's latest executive condominium (EC) project may offer another test of demand for outside of central region (OCR) properties.

The pricing attention comes as in July, the launch weekend of Pasir Ris 8 condominium saw six rounds of price increases in a single day.

While 85 per cent of the 487 units at the 99-year leasehold integrated development were sold at an average price of nearly S$1,600 per square foot (psf) as at the launch weekend last month, the prices for units ranged from S$1,400 psf to S$2,000 psf.

A S$2,000 psf price is usually associated with projects in prime locations.

On Sept 11, Frasers will be launching Parc Greenwich at Fernvale Lane. The 99-year leasehold property that spans 184,385 square feet (sq ft) is in District 28, and is a 10-minute walk from Fernvale Light Rapid Transit (LRT) station.

Jointly developed with CSC Land Group, Parc Greenwich comprises nine residential towers of 14 storeys each, a public park, and a low-rise landed enclave.

Its 496 units comprise two- to five-bedroom apartments, with a starting price of S$895,000 for two-bedroom units. Ranging from 786 sq ft (for a two-bedroom unit) to 1,679 sq ft (five-bedroom penthouse), each unit type also has a penthouse option.

Frasers told The Business Times (BT) that prices go up to a starting price of S$1.055 million for a three-bedroom unit, and S$1.375 million for four-bedroom units.

Prices of five-bedroom units start from S$1.695 million.

The EC is due to achieve its Temporary Occupation Permit in 2024, Frasers said.

Lee Nai Jia, deputy director of The Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies (IREUS) at the National University of Singapore, told BT that sales of Pasir Ris 8 showed that the demand for OCR homes and its buyers' budgets are "higher than initial expectations".

"The hot Housing Development Board (HDB) resale market likely encouraged more upgraders into the market, given the attractive prices that can be fetched," he said. "Additionally, the increasing prices of new sales may trigger purchase decisions."

"I think strong demand will persist until the construction sector is able to resolve its manpower issues and help divert demand away from the HDB resale market," Dr Lee added.

Lee Sze Teck, senior director and head of research at Huttons, said Parc Greenwich is the first EC launch in District 28 in eight years and the only EC launch in the third quarter of 2021.

Among all the districts where ECs are built, Districts 20 and 28 have the lowest supply of ECs, he said.

He noted that unsold EC units, which are a public-private housing hybrid, have been trending down since Q1 2020; demand for the asset class has been "stable".

Frasers currently has showflats and virtual tours for Parc Greenwich's three-bedroom-with-study and four-bedroom apartments. Its e-applications began on Thursday and will end on Sept 6.

Over the weekend, the core central region (CCR) saw the launch of ultra-luxury condominium Klimt Cairnhill by Low Keng Huat.

The 39-storey freehold development holds 138 units, comprising two- to four-bedroom apartments and a pair of six-bedroom penthouses.

Their sizes range from 829 sq ft to 5,920 sq ft, with a starting price of S$2.9 million or S$3,532 psf.

NUS's Dr Lee said: "There is keen interest in the CCR properties, but the mismatch tends to be greater, especially for the larger units. Prospective buyers are willing to splurge on the properties they want, but the right ones may not be in the current market."

"Hence, the search for higher quantum units in the CCR tends to take longer, and the demand tends to show up slower."

"I expect the demand for CCR to pick up significantly when the borders are reopened," he said.


More Housing Board projects to integrate rental flats, improving inclusivity

The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2021, Sun 5:00 am    

By Michelle Ng

More integrated Housing Board blocks that mix rental and purchased flats are in the pipeline, as they provide the opportunity to enhance inclusiveness within housing estates, said Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

Around 1,300 public rental flats now under construction across Singapore will be progressively completed by 2025, said Associate Professor Faishal, who is also Minister of State for Home Affairs, in an interview with The Straits Times.

Some of these will be in four integrated blocks spread across three Build-To-Order (BTO) projects, the latest being McNair Heights in Kallang/Whampoa launched in February this year.

Two integrated blocks are in Costa Grove in Pasir Ris, launched in August last year, while one is in Fernvale Glades in Sengkang, launched in November 2017.

"We're ramping up the building of rental flats, and, increasingly, we're using the interspersed method, where rental flats are mixed with owned flats in an HDB block," said Prof Faishal.

"It brings the level of interaction to a higher level, but we should take the opportunity to enhance inclusiveness while managing the differences in social demographics of the residents."

Currently, there are two such integrated blocks in two BTO projects - one in West Plains @ Bukit Batok and another in Marsiling Greenview in Woodlands.

As at last year, there are around 62,000 rental flats. Not all are occupied, but Prof Faishal said there is a need to continue to ramp up the supply of public rental flats.

"A home is important, so having a steady stock on hand will help us provide options to those who need them. There'll be a certain segment of the population, such as low-income seniors, who will need a rental home and we don't want to deprive them of that."

Monthly rent starts from $26 for a one-room unit for those earning $800 or less, and goes up to $275 for a two-room flat for those earning between $801 and $1,500.

The three hallmarks of Singapore's public housing policy are affordability, inclusivity and accessibility, and this is uniquely different from some big cities where there is "clear demarcation in the profile of people who live in certain areas", he added.

This is why the Government plans to build rental flats in prime areas such as the future Greater Southern Waterfront.

"We'll make sure that the facilities we build there can cater to different needs, and people from all walks of life can go to school and the markets together," he said.

Nonetheless, rental flats are meant to be interim housing for families who may need more time to get their career, family and financial planning sorted out, he said.

The goal is to support as many families as possible to move from rental housing to home ownership in a "realistic and sustainable way", Prof Faishal said.

About 4,600 families in public rental homes have become home owners of HDB flats over the past five years through various housing schemes and grants.

By 2023, around 1,000 families will be offered help to do the same.

Prof Faishal lived in a two-room rental flat in Marine Terrace, from the time he was seven to the age of 11. His family had moved there from a kampung in Joo Chiat Place in the mid-70s.

After four years, his parents bought a three-room HDB flat in Bedok South, where he and his three siblings lived for the next 10 years.

"We were not the richest, but my parents always invited people to come over for meals. They worked hard to climb the ladder of home ownership to bring better lives to their children," he said.

"I recognise that today's landscape of how and why people live in rental flats may be different from my situation in the past. But I hope many more can experience the journey to achieving home ownership like my parents did."


Experts say mixing rental, purchased flats in same block will bring benefits

The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2021, Sun 5:00 am    

By Michelle Ng & Isabelle Liew

When Madam Arsalinah Mohamed Arsad moved into her two-room rental flat at Marsiling Greenview in 2018, she thought the Housing Board had given her the wrong address.

"Rental flats don't typically look like this. There's a store room and wrought iron gates. I thought, this can't be true - it felt like I was moving into a flat I owned," the 42-year-old part-time cleaner told The Sunday Times.

Her block - Block 182A in Woodlands Street 13 - is one of two completed integrated blocks that mix both rental and purchased flats. It is located in the Marsiling Greenview Build-To-Order (BTO) project.

The other is Block 468B at West Plains @ Bukit Batok, although all 35 rental units on levels 2 to 8 were vacant when ST visited on Saturday.

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