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12th May 2014

Singapore Real Estate

Falls in landed home prices 'may ease'

Source: Straits Times

A severely limited supply of landed homes may help their prices hold up better this year compared with condominiums. Analysts say although landed home prices have fallen over the past few quarters owing to generally poor market sentiment, the segment's slowdown could ease off this year and even bottom out.

31 projects win awards for their user-friendly designs

Source: Straits Times

Making a building user-friendly is not just about having ramps or handrails, but also helping people find their way about and giving them spaces to relax. These principles of "universal design" are captured in the 31 projects being awarded the Building and Construction Authority's Universal Design Mark this year.

Ads must not refer to HDB flat's valuation, agents reminded

Source: Straits Times

Property agents have been issued a reminder about proper marketing procedures for Housing Board resale flats, after new rules were introduced in March. The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) recently advised the heads of property firms here that advertising efforts must not refer to the actual valuation of the flat. Only references to the seller's asking price should be mentioned.

Views, Reviews & Forum

Some practices deter condo owners from participating in estate management

Source: Today Online / Voices

I refer to the letter “Impractical to force condo owners to attend AGMs” (May 10).

While I agree that it is impractical to force condominium owners to attend annual general meetings (AGMs), I disagree that the 10 to 15 per cent regular attendance witnessed at AGMs is due to the excellent job done by councils and managing agents (MAs). It seems more to do with the lack of publicity by MAs about the dates of AGMs.

The writer is correct in saying that important issues are decided at AGMs. He is also right in pointing out that it is wrong to say the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA) is inadequate for protecting the interests of subsidiary proprietors (SPs).

It then falls back on how the Act would be interpreted fairly to resolve issues and whether employees act professionally in their interpretation.

The AGM at my condominium is scheduled for May 31. As a concerned SP, I submitted a requisition motion for an ordinary resolution at the coming AGM.

Under the BMSMA, this requires 14 days’ written notice. My request was sent on May 9, which is more than 21 days’ notice. However, the strata residential manager rejected my request.

Publicity about AGM dates is meant to achieve good attendance. But, with such an attitude, how will it attract more SPs to attend AGMs?

This incident illustrates only one of many such practices by MAs and Management Corporation Strata Title councils, where matters are taken into their own hands, even though the BMSMA is meant to protect interests of SPs. This turns off SPs who may have a keen interest in how their estate is managed.

-By Yak Chin Hua

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

US housing data may hold sway

Source: Business Times / Singapore Market

LAST week's column suggested that the play for the forthcoming five days would revolve around US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen's testimony to the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday. Our forecast was for weakness at the start of the week, followed by a midweek rebound. As it turned out, things played out almost exactly as forecast - the Straits Times Index (STI) was weak on Monday to Wednesday, before rebounding on Thursday and Friday reportedly because of Ms Yellen's reassurances.

In the absence of any major local developments, this week's direction will probably also be dictated by external events, mainly out of the US. As always, the recommendation would be to stick to the STI's components as this is where the meaningful action, liquidity and interest lie.

It is very likely that the market will focus on US housing data this week. Why housing? Because, though Ms Yellen last week did not really spring any surprises in her testimonies, she did single out housing as the troubling sector that bears watching. According to some expert observers, this departure from the norm is worth keeping in mind.

The National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index is due to be released on Wednesday, this being a weighted average of separate diffusion indexes: present sales of new homes, sale of new homes expected in the next six months, and traffic of prospective buyers in new homes.

-By R Sivanithy

US economy growth still in doubt: Fed exec

It may not be clear for a while if pick-up is sustainable, adds Dennis Lockhart

Source: Business Times / World

[DUBAI] The US economy should accelerate in the second quarter to an annual growth rate of 3 per cent or more, but it may not be clear for some time if the pick-up is sustainable, a Federal Reserve official said yesterday.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta president Dennis Lockhart also said he expected the US central bank to have run down its bond-buying programme by its October or December meeting and to start raising interest rates in the second half of next year.

The US economy hardly grew in the first quarter but has gathered pace since. Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser said on Thursday he expected full-year growth of 3 per cent.

Speaking to a business gathering in Dubai, Mr Lockhart was more circumspect. "It may not be clear for several months, or even quarters, whether the US economy is undeniably on a stronger and sustained growth path around a run rate of 3 per cent," he said.

-From Dubai, UAE

GST in Malaysia a learning experience for firms, authorities: KPMG

Source: Business Times / Malaysia

[KUALA LUMPUR] It could take up to two years before businesses are able to operate smoothly once the goods and services tax (GST) is implemented.

The time after the introduction of GST is critical as uncertainties and changes made by the government would most likely arise, making it especially challenging for businesses, according to Malaysian daily The Star. The implementation of GST will prove to be a steep learning curve for most businesses within the country that have no exposure overseas. "It is a learning experience for businesses and tax authorities," says KPMG's leader for Indirect Taxes Centre of Excellence in China Lachlan Wolfers. For this reason, he adds that it is critical for the government to provide some leniency to businesses in the initial one to two years after the tax is implemented.

"The implementation of GST in Australia was successful because the government was trying to encourage the people to do the right thing and voluntarily comply and when you do that, people will naturally take the effort. So, I think having the same leniency is very important," he says.

For Malaysia, the benefit of coming on board the GST train at this time is that it can learn from the successes and failures from implementation in other countries.

-From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Taiwan moves to cool housing market

Source: Straits Times