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Private home prices in muted fall: URA index

The latest government stats show that the official private home price index has eased 9.1 per cent over 10 consecutive quarters since the peak in Q3 2013.  And that peak had come after a 62.2 per cent ascent from the post-global crisis trough in Q2 2009.  The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) index fell 0.7 per cent quarter on quarter in Q1 this year, after easing 0.5 per cent in Q4 last year.  Some property industry players may continue debating just how accurately the index captures what is going on in the market, but few deny that there has been a definite return in confidence to the market since March, following the stock market recovery.

Suburban condo rents fall closer to HDB price levels

With private rents harder hit by sluggish market conditions, it is no longer that much more expensive to rent a suburban condo than a large public flat.  Renting a suburban condo unit rather than a five-room Housing Board flat could have set you back an extra $1,000 in 2011, on average.  Yet, doing so costs just $500 more a month today. This is based on SRX Property data on median monthly rents for HDB flats and non-landed private residential units outside the central region, excluding executive condominiums.  In 2011, median suburban condo rents ranged from $3,100 to $3,300 each month. For HDB five-room and executive flats islandwide, the range was $2,200 to $2,600.

HDB, suburban condo rental gap shrinks

The sluggish property market has brought rental prices down faster for private property than for Housing Board flats, narrowing the price gap between suburban condominiums and public flats in particular.  Five years ago, renting a suburban condominium unit rather than a five-room flat could have cost more than $1,000 extra. Yet doing so is just $500 more expensive today.  This is based on SRX Property data on median monthly rents for HDB flats and non-landed private residential units outside the central region, excluding executive condominiums.  HDB rentals have thus proven to be more resilient against downward pressure.

Singapore Real Estate

Retail rents fall further as vacancies creep up

Rentals of retail space in Singapore fell 1.9 per cent in Q1, a steeper decline than the 1.3 per cent dip in the previous quarter, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Friday.  Consultants noted that this was the fifth consecutive quarter of falling retail rents, with the sector being hit by labour constraints, weak retail performance and competition from e-commerce.  Prices of retail space also continued to fall, dipping 1.9 per cent in Q1 after declining 0.1 per cent in the previous quarter.

Office rental decline accelerates

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) index for office rentals in Singapore eased 2.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of this year - a steeper drop compared with the 1.8 per cent decline in Q4 last year.  From its recent peak in Q1 2015, the index has corrected 9 per cent.

URA's price index for office space dipped 0.3 per cent in Q1 2016 after easing 0.1 per cent in the previous quarter.

As at the end of Q1 2016, there was a total pipeline supply of slightly more than one million square metres of gross floor area of office space.

Shopping mall vacancies in town highest in 5 years

Vacancies at retail malls in the central region hit a five-year high in the first quarter of the year, driven largely by more vacant space in the Orchard sub-market.  The rate went up from 8 per cent to 8.7 per cent, analysis from Colliers showed, the highest since the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) started tracking retail space data including food and beverage, fitness and entertainment businesses from the first quarter of 2011.

In the Orchard planning area, the vacancy rates rose 1.2 percentage points to 8.8 per cent in the first quarter, URA figures showed.

HDB resale prices in Q1 stay flat

HDB resale prices dipped 0.1 per cent on a quarter-on-quarter basis in the first quarter of 2016, in line with earlier flash estimates.  Property consultants continue to believe that the public housing resale market is "at a new equilibrium" and stabilising.  Resale transactions slumped 10.9 per cent from 4,992 cases in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 4,449 cases in Q1 2016 - although this was expected given the festive season in February, which was also a shorter month.  Year on year, transactions were actually up 7.6 per cent. "This is the strongest - in terms of units transacted - in the past four years," PropNex Realty CEO Ismail Gafoor said.

Can't be 'business as usual', say retail industry stakeholders

The local retail industry needs to up the ante to get customers to bite in an increasingly challenging environment where it cannot be business as usual, say industry stakeholders.  The industry is under siege on a number of fronts as it grapples with issues such as slower economic growth, softening tourism spending, competition from overseas markets, a manpower crunch, high operational costs as well as the popularity of e-commerce.  Recently released data showed that retail sales (excluding motor vehicles) tumbled 9.6 per cent year on year in February despite Chinese New Year, after increasing just 1.4 per cent in January.

Japanese brands doing well despite local retail slump

Even as some brands like British fashion store New Look and French menswear chain Celio exit Singapore amid a weak retail scene, several Japanese labels - spectacles chain Owndays, fashion store Uniqlo and lifestyle retailer Muji - are bucking the trend and expanding.  Earlier this month, Owndays opened its 18th outlet in Tiong Bahru Plaza, following its first store here at Plaza Singapura in July 2013. And it is planning to open even more outlets.  Owndays Singapore's managing director Takeshi Umiyama told The Straits Times that in the next two years, the chain plans to bump the number of stores up to 25.

Companies' Brief

40% of Sturdee Residences' units sold in VIP preview

SL Capital (1) has sold 122 units of the 305-unit Sturdee Residences at an average price of S$1,550 per square foot during a VIP preview event held on April 23, said the developer on Sunday. SL Capital (1) is a subsidiary of Sustained Land.  Of the buyers, about 20 per cent are foreigners and permanent residents.  In terms of units sold, 80 per cent were one- and two-bedroom units. A total of three penthouses were sold; two of these are the largest formats (1,830 sq ft) and were priced at S$3.2 million each.

On the move: China Yuanbang Property Holdings

Tse Kwok Hing, Henry: Appointed as chief financial officer and company secretary from April 18. Mr Tse, 32, will be responsible for the preparation of the group's financial statements as well as reviewing and developing effective financial policies and control procedures within the group.

Frasers Centrepoint Trust's Q2 DPU up 2.6%

Lower property expenses helped to lift returns at Frasers Centrepoint Trust (FCT) and delivered a higher distribution per unit (DPU) for the second quarter.  DPU rose 2.6 per cent to 3.039 cents for the three months to March 31, up from 2.963 cents a year earlier, said FCT manager Frasers Centrepoint Asset Management yesterday.  Despite a 0.8 per cent dip in gross revenue to $47.1 million, net property income for the second quarter rose 0.4 per cent to $33.7 million.

UIC's quarterly earnings slip 2% to $59.7 million

The lack of contributions from a joint-venture residential project sent first-quarter earnings falling at developer United Industrial Corporation (UIC).  Net profit fell 2 per cent to $59.7 million for the three months to March 31, compared with the same period a year earlier, while revenue rose 4 per cent to $201.3 million on the back of higher trading property sales.  Transactions of trading properties grew 12 per cent to $70.4 million with progressive sales recognition for Alex Residences, Mon Jervois and Pollen & Bleu. These residential projects were launched in 2012.

Views, Reviews & Forum

Look at resale condos as value is emerging

Going to a showflat is quite an experience. Having been to some of them over the course of my job as a property reporter, I have accordingly lusted over condominiums islandwide - from Bartley to Yishun, Farrer Road to Marine Parade.  Most recently, I marvelled at the modern black and grey tones and clean lines of an Orchard showflat. I fantasised for a moment a trendy existence that I know would never be my reality anyway, going by the one year I rented a place of my own during my university days - I had devolved into a batty lady who had a cat to keep the mice away. (Nothing against animal lovers as I am one.)

GST voucher not for citizens with more than one property

Ms Chua Lay Hong raised a question about the safeguards to ensure that households do not benefit twice from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Voucher – Utilities-Save (“Plug gaps in issuance of U-Save vouchers”; April 15).  The GST Voucher – U-Save forms one of the three components of the permanent GST Voucher scheme, and is paid out four times a year: January, April, July and October. As the U-Save rebate is based on the active utilities account of the premises, it acts as a safeguard to prevent buyers or sellers from enjoying the rebate twice.

Three phases of retirement for the affluent

The affluent in Singapore and Hong Kong increasingly view their retirements as "a new lease on life", according to a recent UBS survey.  The high-net-worth individuals surveyed generally saw retirement in three distinct phases, instead of one continuous phase.  The first involves cutting back on working hours in their 50s to 60s, the second phase focuses on increasing travel and leisure activities in their 60s to 80s and the last phase prioritises relaxation and spending time with family in their 80s to 90s.

Global Economy & Global Real Estate