Real News‎ > ‎2014‎ > ‎October 2014‎ > ‎

2nd October 2014

Singapore Real Estate

Property prices declined in Q3, according to HDB and URA flash estimates

Property observers say the price drop looks set to continue, with loan curbs remaining in place.

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: Prices of resale flats fell by 1.6 per cent on-quarter in the third quarter of 2014, according to flash estimates from the Housing and Development Board.

HDB on Wednesday (Oct 1) announced that its flash estimate of the 3rd Quarter 2014 Resale Price Index (RPI) is 192.5, a decline of 1.6 per cent over the previous three months. 

It is also the fifth straight quarter of decline. But property observers say the drop is "moderate" as overall price fall is in the single-digit range.

"We expect the index to weaken by between 5 and 6 per cent for the entire 2014. This can be considered a moderate rate of decline, compared to, for instance, when we were faced with economic recessions and financial crises, property prices then dropped 10 to 15 per cent or even 20 per cent in some cases," said SLP International Property Consultants Executive Director and Head of Research, Mr Nicholas Mak.

They say cooling measures such as the 30 per cent cap in the mortgage servicing ratio and the change in resale procedure have helped stabilise prices. Since March, the buyer can only obtain the valuation report after the deal is sealed and the Option to Purchase has been granted to him.

Real estate agency ERA Realty, which says it holds about 42 per cent of the HDB resale market share, noted that most of the transactions it handles are supported by valuation.

But property firm HSR says recently-completed executive condominium projects may have affected prices in the HDB resale market as buyers who are HDB upgraders would have had to sell their flats.

HSR said seven executive condominiums, with a total of almost 3,600 units, obtained their Temporary Occupation Permits during the past 9 months.

Looking forward, property watchers estimate that the HDB resale volume will settle at a new low of about 17,000 units this year, compared to last year's 18,000 units. 

The RPI for the full quarter and more detailed public housing data will be released on Oct 24.

In its press release, HDB noted that about 4,290 BTO flats in Sembawang, Sengkang, Tampines and Yishun will be offered in November. In addition, about 3,000 flats will be offered in a concurrent Sale of Balance Flats exercise. 


Prices of private homes have been falling for a year. In the third quarter of this year, prices fell by 0.6 per cent.

Homes in the core central region (CCR), continued to bear the brunt. Prices there fell 0.9 per cent, as buyers stayed away from these higher-priced properties due to loan curbs.

As for the suburbs, prices dipped by 0.2 per cent.

The city fringe, also known as the rest of central region (RCR), was the most resilient in the third quarter. Prices there dropped by only 0.1 per cent.

HSR International's Head of Singapore Projects Mr Alan Tan said that a large percentage of RCR property buyers would have originally thought of purchasing in CCR instead, but were deterred by the cash outlay as a result of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) and other measures.

"It is wiser for them to move to the RCR. That's why we call it city fringe - it is actually near to the city area, not exactly in the centre of the city area, but the amount of investment opportunities and activities that can happen there is quite great," said Mr Tan.

Observers say prices will continue falling, as long as current loan curbs remain in place. They also note any easing of the measures is unlikely to be soon, as Singapore's economy is in a good shape.

"Interest rates may be one of the considerations on when to ease the cooling measures, but it is not the crucial factor. The important factor is if the Government were to remove the cooling measures now - what are the possibilities prices could grow again at a robust pace," said Mr Mak from SLP International.

"The Government may have to wait for a situation where the chances of a strong rebound in property prices is unlikely to happen, then they will remove some of the cooling measures," Mr Mak added.

Mr Mohammed Ismail, Chief Executive of PropNex also said cooling measures will likely remain. "As long as borrowing costs stay low, the Government is unlikely to reverse the measures. With Total Debt Servicing Ratio being a long-term instrument and together with the Additional Buyers' Stamp Duty, it will continue dampen any speculative activity."

- CNA/es/dl

Private property prices down for fourth straight quarter: URA

Source: Channel News Asia / Business

SINGAPORE: Prices of private residential properties in the third quarter of 2014 fell by 0.6 per cent from the previous quarter - the fourth consecutive quarter of decline, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said on Wednesday (Oct 1).

The price decline was observed across all segments of the non-landed private residential property market, URA said. 

Prices of landed properties declined by 1.7 per cent, matching the 1.7 per cent decline in the previous quarter. 

Prices of non-landed properties in the Core Central Region (CCR) declined by 0.9 per cent from the previous quarter, following the 1.5 per cent decrease in the April to June period.

Prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) declined by 0.1 per cent, after decreasing by 0.4 per cent in the previous quarter. In the Outside Central Region (OCR), prices declined by 0.2 per cent, after the 0.9 per cent decline in the previous quarter.

- CNA/do

Home price fall eases but no rebound in sight

Q3 flash numbers show widening HDB-condo gap, worsening soft private mass market

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

[SINGAPORE] Prices of private homes and HDB resale flats softened further in the third quarter, albeit at a slower rate for the private market. This, market players say, could be due to the holding power of private home owners and developers.

Consultants added that the resulting stalemate does not mean private home prices have bottomed out, but could instead lead to a protracted and slow price correction.

Flash estimates released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Wednesday showed that the overall Private Residential Property Price Index, comprising both landed and non-landed homes, fell 0.6 per cent over the third quarter - after slipping one per cent in the preceding quarter. Prices have fallen 3.8 per cent over four consecutive quarters.

Resale HDB prices also showed continued weakness under the weight of the mortgage servicing ratio (MSR) that has shrunk the pool of potential buyers, particularly for larger units, while a continual supply of BTO (build-to-order) flats has soaked up some demand for resale flats.

Flash estimates from the HDB showed the resale price index falling 1.6 per cent in the third quarter, after slipping 1.4 per cent in the second quarter. Resale prices have fallen by 6.8 per cent since the third quarter of last year.

"With the widening of the price gap between HDB resale flats and private homes, HDB residents will find it more difficult to upgrade into the private mass market," said Ong Teck Hui, JLL national research director. "The weakened support from the HDB resale market will exacerbate the softening of the private mass market."

While the price decline in private homes in the third quarter has been most moderate since prices turned south in the fourth quarter of 2013, Mr Ong said it is not a sign of prices bottoming out, but a result of thin sales volumes and sellers maintaining their asking prices.

Chia Siew Chuin, director of research and advisory at Colliers International, also noted that the impasse between buyers and sellers has lent support to private home prices.

She added that given their current financial muscle and the belief that it will be some time before interest rates rise, sellers are in no hurry to lower their price expectations.

"Developers too have enjoyed the gains in the residential property price run-up from 2005," she added. "With the amount of profits made during the boom years, some of them have the financial power to maintain current prices or else offer moderate discounts."

At the same time, potential buyers are holding back in anticipation of lower prices down the road, consultants noted.

While the price fall for non-landed residential homes has moderated, the URA flash estimates showed that prices of landed properties extended a 1.7 per cent fall in the third quarter.

Mr Ong felt that this is because the pool of buyers for the more pricey landed properties has shrunk much more than that for private condos due to borrowing constraints under the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR).

Private non-landed homes in the Core Central Region saw prices slipping 0.9 per cent in Q3, after a 1.5 per cent fall in Q2, while prices in the Rest of Central Region slid 0.1 per cent, after a 0.4 per cent dip in the previous quarter. Prices in the Outside Central Region dipped 0.2 per cent, after a 0.9 per cent fall in the previous quarter.

URA's flash estimates are based on transaction prices from caveats lodged during the first 10 weeks of the quarter, supplemented by survey data on new units sold by developers. The figures will be updated four weeks later when the URA releases the full real estate statistics for the third quarter.

CBRE research head Desmond Sim believed the flash estimates might not have included units sold from Highline Residences and Seventy St Patrick's, which were launched in the later half of September. Highline Residences reportedly sold 140 units at around $1,900 per square foot (psf) while Seventy St Patrick's sold 96 units at $1,630 psf.

"By the time these units are added in the computation, it is probable that the quarter-on-quarter fall in the URA price index for Q3 2014 might be less than 0.6 per cent," he said.

Given the lending restrictions and fewer new project launches, the number of new homes sold in Q3 could have fallen to 1,500-1,600 units, down from 2,665 in Q2, based on CBRE estimates.

Consultants' estimates for the full year generally fall within a total 5-6 per cent drop in private home prices and a 5-8 per cent fall in HDB resale prices.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim noted that the moderate price declines reflect some market resilience, underpinned by stable economic and employment fundamentals.

He added: "Also, the measures implemented by the government are designed to stabilise prices and not cause any huge sudden drop."

-By Lynette Khoo

Price squeeze on HDB resale flats tightens further

Flash estimates show price decline is steeper than that for private homes

Source: Straits Times / Top of The News 

IF THE private property market is suffering price pangs, then those seeking to offload their public housing flats are under even greater pressure.

Housing Board resale prices are still falling more steeply than those of private homes, official flash estimates showed yesterday.

HDB prices fell 1.6 per cent in the third quarter, faster than the previous quarter's fall of 1.4 per cent.

The decline in private property prices stabilised somewhat, slipping 0.6 per cent in the latest quarter, compared to the 1 per cent decline previously.

This is the fifth straight quarter of decline in the HDB market and the fourth in the private market, with HDB resale prices consistently falling more than those for private homes. Compared to a year ago, HDB resale prices have fallen 6 per cent and private home prices, 3.8 per cent.

Experts said the cooling measures have hit public property harder. "The HDB buyers' ability to pay is severely affected by the mortgage servicing ratio of 30 per cent," said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim, referring to the cap on how much income can be used to service housing loans.

The private market also continues to see some demand from aspirational buyers and investors, added R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng.

SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak noted that the private property index includes both new sales, which have stayed stronger, and private resale, while the HDB index is just for resale flats.

The slowdown in the private market was less severe in all segments except landed property, according to Urban Redevelopment Authority flash figures.

In the city centre, prices for non-landed private homes fell 0.9 per cent, less than the second quarter's 1.5 per cent slide.

The suburbs saw a gentle dip of 0.2 per cent, compared to 0.9 per cent before. In the city fringe, prices fell 0.1 per cent, compared to 0.4 per cent previously.

But landed property prices continued to fall steadily. Prices were down 1.7 per cent, the same decline as in the previous quarter.

The third quarter saw developers launching more projects and pricing their launches attractively so as to move sales, said Mr Lim.

Experts agree that the downward trend is set to continue till at least the first half of next year.

"The softer fall may be a sign that prices have stabilised and (the market) is starting to find its footing," said Mr Lim.

ERA's projection is that HDB resale prices will fall by 5 to 8 per cent for the whole year, and private home prices by 5 to 6 per cent.

Mr Ong, however, thinks private home prices may start falling faster than HDB resale prices in the next six to nine months. The demand for private property could dry up, he said. "As home loan curbs continue, aspirations have to take a reality check."

-By Janice Heng

Sliding flat values in tale of two markets

Source: Straits Times / Top of The News

SINKING property prices seem to be the order of the day, so another quarter of tumbling prices came as no surprise.

More notable is an emerging trend that private home prices appear more resilient now than those of HDB resale flats. Since the third quarter of 2013, prices of HDB resale flats have fallen more than those of private homes.

Cooling measures sent private home prices down by 3.8 per cent in the past year, flash estimates indicated yesterday. Housing Board flat values tumbled a steeper 6 per cent in the same period.

Over the year, experts predict that private homes prices will ease 5 to 6 per cent while HDB resale prices slide by 5 to 8 per cent.

This reverses the usual pattern.

Rises or falls in private home prices mostly outpace changes in the HDB market, especially during a global or economic crisis, said Ms Chia Siew Chuin, director of research and advisory at Colliers International.

She cited the 1997 Asian financial crisis when private property prices dived 44.9 per cent as HDB resale prices shed 20.4 per cent. "HDB flats are a basic housing provision... the public segment tends to be insulated from external shocks during those times."

A shortage of new flats had also forced buyers to look to resale flats, propping up prices, said Mr Ong Teck Hui, JLL national director of research and consultancy.

But the rug seems to have been pulled from under the feet of the HDB market, as demand shifted from resale flats to new flats.

The market is now flush with new HDB flats after the Government ramped up its building programme to meet first-time buyer demand. About 25,000 new flats were launched last year, with 22,000 more due this year.

A mortgage servicing ratio limiting monthly housing payments at 30 per cent of the buyer's gross monthly income hit many. And newly minted permanent residents can buy an HDB flat only after three years.

Private home buyers have been hurt by tough mortgage lending guidelines and higher stamp duties but one key difference is that high land prices paid by developers act as a limit on discounting.

"They're floating on thin margins," as Mr Alan Cheong, research head at Savills Singapore, noted.

Also, private property owners would have gained from the 60 per cent surge in private home prices during the most recent market upswing. They are unlikely to lower their selling expectations.

Still, the private home market could be hit by an external shock, much like the Asian financial crisis, or internal issues, like rising vacancies owing to an oversupply of new homes.

The market will soon abound with completed condo units - many of which have been bought for investments - in the face of a shrinking pool of foreign tenants.

"If loan servicing is affected by reduced rental income, there could be selling pressure resulting in price declines," said Mr Ong.

-By Cheryl Ong

Two hotels to be built at site of former Joo Chiat Police Station

Source: Channel News Asia / Business

SINGAPORE: The former Joo Chiat Police Station will be re-developed into a complex with two hotels, including what will be Singapore's first Hotel Indigo, the successful bidder for the site said on Wednesday (Oct 1).

Hotel Indigo is a fast-growing chain of boutique hotels with design features that reflect the area's culture and history. The chain is managed by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), whose brands include Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.

Keong Hong Holdings, one of the joint venture partners that successfully bid for the site, said the new complex will have a gross floor area of 25,000 square metres and will comprise the 131-room Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong, the 451-room Holiday Inn Express Singapore Katong, food and beverage outlets and retail shops.

The two hotels are scheduled to open in 2016. Under the hotel management agreement with IHG, the hospitality giant will provide the full spectrum of hotel management services, including consultancy on the design and construction of the two new hotels.

Keong Hong - which is listed on the Singapore Exchange's Catalist board - and its partners won the tender for the former Joo Chiat Police station site earlier this year with a top bid of S$352.8 million.

One of the conditions in the tender was that the "historically and architecturally significant" former Joo Chiat Police Station be restored as part of the future hotel development. 

- CNA/xk

Plotting the 'high life' at low cost

Source: Straits Times / Money

ARCHITECT Tan Cheng Siong has come up with a grand scheme that he says could triple Singapore's land space by creating a vast network of elevated decks.

This vision, which he calls "Skyland", involves elevated decks of about 20m wide or more, built to link MRT stations above the rails and available for use by cyclists and pedestrians.

Affordable homes could also be built on the decks, said Mr Tan, who designed Singapore's first condominium (Pandan Valley) and its first super high-rise (Pearl Bank Apartments).

This vast project would free up enough space to ensure there is no need to increase plot ratios or even have people living underground to cope with the rising population, Mr Tan told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

"We have all this space in the sky, which can provide Singapore with low-cost land for the next 50, 100 years."

He has been displaying his vision at the inaugural architecture exhibition ArchXpo at Marina Bay Sands over the past three days.

He said the authorities are aware of his plans but will, of course, require time to consider the massive proposal.

Under his plan, the Government would repossess HDB land in more mature estates where old flats would need replacing.

Above these areas, the Government would build elevated decks to link MRT stations, or community malls. The cost, he believes, would be at about $100 million for every 1km, or $60 per sq ft (psf).

This is money that a central authority - likely the Housing Board - may recoup by tendering the newly created space to developers, at about $100 psf.

Citizens may buy a 1,000 sq ft plot to build their home at about $150 psf, with a renovation budget of $50 psf. This would bring the total cost to $200 psf, or $200,000 per 1,000 sq ft unit.

The land below the decks may be re-zoned for enterprise use or communal, low-rise facilities for sports, schools or other amenities.

In this way, business space could be more affordable for small and medium-sized enterprises as well, Mr Tan said.

He added that with the safe separation of cyclists and pedestrians from cars, Singaporeans could also save on travel costs.

So instead of having super high-rises, Mr Tan hopes these homes will be a maximum of 50m to 80m high, or 15 to 20 storeys.

He said a good place to start would be older HDB towns such as Serangoon, Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh.

However, he envisions linking up the largely residential north as a "north constellation of hubs".

Under his proposed master plan, the green spaces in central Singapore could be preserved, as there would no longer be any need to eat into them.

Mr Tan also has plans for some of the major trade and communications infrastructure.

He proposes what he calls the "south world corridor" - which includes the airport and ports and will take time to evolve - "built to engage the world and present the best with tourist icons".

Additions he is suggesting include V-shaped office towers, which would allow more open space below, and a Marina South extension to Gardens by the Bay which will again leave ground space for public use.

"We built a city with low- cost housing. I'm sure we can build a future with low-cost land," said Mr Tan.

-By Rennie Whang

Real Estate Companies' Brief

Singapore property development and investment

Source: Business Times

The property price index and the HDB resale index fell 0.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent q-o-q respectively in Q3 2014 and are now 3.8 per cent and 6.8 per cent below previous peaks, according to flash estimates. The pace of decline slowed in the private sector, with the rest of central region and outside of the central region registering a decline of 0.1-0.2 per cent q-o-q (versus contraction of 0.4-0.9 per cent q-o-q in Q2 2014; the core central region registered a dip of 0.9 per cent, versus fall of 1.5 per cent q-o-q in Q2 2014.

Area of concern in marketing commercial properties

Source: Straits Times / Forum Letters

A GROWING number of commercial property marketing agents are advertising prices of built-up areas instead of floor areas in their brochures.

The additional built-up space can be in the form of mezzanine floor structures, typically used for small offices or storage areas, built inside the factory.

Needless to say that the actual floor area is much smaller than the inflated built-up area.

The practice is so pervasive that some new commercial property launch brochures do not even state the floor areas.

Aren't developers required to be transparent when marketing their properties?

Perhaps the relevant authorities should step in to ensure marketing agents and property developers state clearly the actual floor areas in their brochures.

-By Kevin Quek Swee Poh

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

GIC buys 30% of Spanish property group

Source: Business Times / Property

[SINGAPORE] Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC will acquire about 30 per cent of Spanish real estate group Gmp. The company said on Wednesday that it would invest more than 200 million euros (S$321.6 million) to enable its affiliate, Gmp, to "strengthen its position as a major investor in the office and business park segment in Madrid and Barcelona".

Chris Morrish, regional head of Europe, GIC Real Estate, said: "As a long-term value investor, this is a good opportunity for GIC to gain access to a large and diversified office portfolio in Madrid and leverage on Gmp's local expertise to grow our exposure."

Said Gmp chief executive officer Francisco Montoro: "The funds will be used to foster growth through new investments, refurbishment and development projects. These will strengthen Gmp's position as a specialised office property owner."

Gmp has embarked on a strategic plan that focuses on creating value in three ways - selective investment in office buildings; active management of the Gmp portfolio that includes refurbishment work, repositioning and improvements in building sustainability and energy efficiency; and disposal of non-strategic assets. Gmp said that it acquired the former headquarters of Altadis on July 15, an office building at 10 Eloy Gonzalo Street in Madrid, in line with the strategic plan. Full refurbishment work of the building has started.

-By Claire Huang

Seoul office vacancies rise to 25% on job loss

Source: Straits Times

Newscorp buys operator of real estate websites

Deal will jump start firm's real estate services business

Source: Business Times / Property

[NEW YORK] News Corp, the publishing company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, agreed on Tuesday to buy Move Inc, an operator of real estate listings websites, for US$950 million in cash, as the newspaper publisher continues to branch out into new businesses.

The transaction is the latest, and largest, by Mr Murdoch's publishing arm since it split from 21st Century Fox last year.

Under the terms of Tuesday's deal, News Corp will pay US$21 a share through a tender offer for Move's stock.

Facing steep declines in advertising and subscription revenue, News Corp is trying to stretch beyond newspapers like The Wall Street Journal. News Corp paid US$415 million this year to take control of Harlequin Enterprises, the publisher of romance novels, to add to its HarperCollins publishing division. News Corp also paid US$25 million in 2013 for Storyful, a social and video news agency. "This acquisition will accelerate News Corp's digital and global expansion and contribute to the transformation of our company, making online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio," Robert Thomson, News Corp's chief executive, said in a statement. "We intend to use our media platforms and compelling content to turbocharge traffic growth and create the most successful real estate website in the US."

-From New York, US

Home-price surge spurs RBA loan-policy rethink

Parliamentary panel asks central bank to explain why it's considering changes

Source: Business Times / Property

[SYDNEY] To see why Australia's central bank has had a change of heart on home lending curbs, look no further than Sydney's inner city where a one-bedroom apartment sold at the weekend for 35 per cent more than its last price in 2012.

The 581-square-foot property in Surry Hills was purchased by an investor for A$647,000 (S$718,000), said Con Fotaras, a sales consultant at Belle Property Surry Hills who brokered the transaction. "It's really hard to put a price on a property at the moment," he said of a Sydney market where the median home price is higher than in New York.

Policymakers have taken a U-turn on their past dismissals of macroprudential measures as they seek to slow lending to investors in a market that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has described as "unbalanced".

Governor Glenn Stevens said last week that regulators are exploring "tools that might, at least, lean on that a bit" and analysts say that these could include forcing banks to calculate loan approvals at a higher interest rate and set aside more capital when the economy is growing strongly.

-From Sydney, Australia

San Jose and Dallas see biggest rise in US office rents in Q3

Source: Business Times / Property

[SEATTLE] San Jose, in California, and Dallas led the US in office-rent increases in the third quarter as US cities benefiting from growth in the technology and energy industries outperformed the gradual national recovery.

Rents after any landlord discounts, known as effective rents, climbed 6.7 per cent from a year earlier in San Jose, compared with the US average increase of 2.6 per cent, property researcher Reis Inc said.

Dallas rents rose 5.2 per cent, followed by San Francisco's 5.1 per cent gain, Houston's 4.4 per cent increase and New York's 3.9 per cent advance.

The national sluggishness in the office market's growth is being bucked by parts of northern California and Texas, where large bases of technology or energy workers drive demand for space, Reis said.

-From Seattle, US

Increases in U.S. Office Rents Led by San Jose and Dallas

Source: Bloomberg / News

San Jose, California, and Dallas led the U.S. in office-rent increases in the third quarter as cities benefiting from growth in the technology and energy industries outperformed the gradual national recovery.

Rents after any landlord discounts, known as effective rents, climbed 6.7 percent from a year earlier in San Jose, compared with the U.S. average increase of 2.6 percent, property researcher Reis Inc. (REIS) said. Dallas rents rose 5.2 percent, followed by San Francisco’s 5.1 percent gain, Houston’s 4.4 percent increase and New York’s 3.9 percent advance.

The national sluggishness in the office market’s growth is being bucked by parts of Northern California and Texas, where large bases of technology or energy workers drive demand for space, Reis said. Throughout the U.S., increases in office occupancies show that the market “is in the midst of a recovery,” according to the New York-based company.

“Five years removed from the advent of economic recovery in the United States, the office-market recovery remains in early stages,” Ryan Severino, senior economist at Reis, said in the report. “If the labor market recovery continues its acceleration, this will change, but through the third quarter of this year its struggles continue.”

Nationally, payrolls expanded by 142,000 jobs in August, less than economists estimated, putting the unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, Labor Department data show.

Occupancy Gains

Office landlords nationwide had net occupancy gains, known as net absorption, of 7.16 million square feet (665,000 square meters) in the third quarter, up from 6.65 million square feet a year earlier and 3.17 million square feet in the second quarter, according to Reis.

The gains outpaced new supply last quarter, Reis said. Completions of new office space totaled 4.79 million square feet, down from 5.98 million square feet a year earlier and 4.82 million square feet in the second quarter.

Demand for office space in technology- and energy-oriented areas has fueled construction even as the national vacancy rate stands at 16.8 percent, unchanged from the second quarter and down from 16.9 percent a year earlier.

Dallas, the country’s fifth-largest office market, ranked behind only New York in office construction this year through September, according to preliminary data from Reis. Dallas developers completed 1.54 million square feet of new office space, almost triple the 569,000 square feet added a year earlier.

“They’ve been riding the coattails of what’s been going on in the energy market the last few years,” Severino said in a telephone interview.

Health Care

Aside from energy-related companies, major employers in Dallas include health-care companies, financial-services firms and educational institutions. From 2010 through the second quarter of this year, 296 companies expanded or relocated in the four major Texas markets, according to a Sept. 30 report by CBRE Group Inc. (CBG), the largest commercial real estate brokerage.

San Francisco office rents, the highest in the U.S. after New York and Washington, climbed the most from the previous quarter as the technology industry surpasses the late-1990s boom. Year-to-date office leasing in San Francisco has broken the previous record, from 1999, according to a Sept. 22 report by brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

The Bloomberg Office Real Estate Investment Trust Index returned 9 percent with dividends during the past year, lagging behind the 11 percent total return of the broader Bloomberg REIT Index.

-By Hui-yong Yu

NYC Commercial-Property Sales Top Transactions Last Year

Source: Bloomberg / News

New York City commercial-property sales this year already have exceeded deals for all of 2013 and are on pace to break the record set at the real estate market’s peak, Massey Knakal Realty Services said.

This year’s transactions have totaled $39.1 billion, compared with $38.4 billion for all of 2013, the New York-based brokerage said in a report today. It projected a citywide dollar volume of $63 billion for this year, higher than the $62.2 billion in 2007.

The market is being driven by low interest rates and an improving economy, including rising apartment and retail rents, along with a global perception that New York real estate is a safe investment, said Robert Knakal, the brokerage’s founding partner. That view is bringing money not just to Manhattan but also to the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

“New York City real estate today is what Swiss bank accounts have been for the past 30 years to the rich around the world,” Knakal said at a news briefing. “They are highly confident that when they want their $10 million or $20 million or $50 million back, that they’ll be able to get it when they buy a property here.”

Capitalization rates -- a measure of yield that drops as prices rise -- have fallen to 5.5 percent citywide, led by Manhattan mostly below 96th Street, where they dropped to 3.6 percent, Knakal said. It was the first time cap rates, which are net operating income divided by purchase price, were lower than 4 percent in the area.

Harlem Rates

Manhattan above 96th Street, an area that includes Harlem and Morningside Heights, became the first section of the city outside Manhattan’s core to have cap rates lower than 5 percent. They fell to 4.8 percent in that area.

“Because cap rates are still above lending rates, we believe that there is the potential for cap rates to compress even further,” Knakal said.

Several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens “are rivaling Manhattan in terms of value,” he said. Sales in upper Manhattan and Brooklyn averaged more than $300 a square foot for the first time ever, with Queens “on the brink” of that mark, at $295 a square foot, Knakal said.

While neighborhoods close to Manhattan’s core -- including Williamsburg, Long Island City and parts of Harlem -- are being “Manhattanized” in their rents and property prices, Massey Knakal brokers also found values rising in such far-flung areas as Ridgewood in Queens and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn.

In Bensonhurst, home to an influx of Asian residents priced out of Manhattan, the average commercial-property price rose to $304 a square foot, up 32 percent since 2011, the market’s bottom.

In Ridgewood, a largely residential neighborhood that borders Brooklyn’s gentrifying Bushwick section, 123 properties have sold this year, compared with 15 in 2010. Prices remain relatively low, at $197 a square foot, according to the report.

-By David M. Levitt

Manhattan Homebuyers Pay Up as Sales Top Listing Price

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Manhattan apartment prices rose 4.2 percent in the third quarter, bolstered by buyers who increasingly agreed to pay what sellers were asking or more.

The median sale price of condominiums and co-ops was $908,242, up from $872,000 a year earlier, according to a report today from appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The average price per square foot increased 12 percent to $1,270, the third-highest in records dating to 1989, the firms said.

Prices in Manhattan have climbed for four consecutive quarters, encouraging more owners to list properties after an inventory shortage last year. With the number of apartments on the market up 28 percent from the third quarter of 2013, buyers focused on those that were not-too-ambitiously priced, said Jonathan Miller, president of New York-based Miller Samuel.

“We’re seeing prices rise and they’re paying more than they were a year ago, but they’re not getting carried away,” Miller, a Bloomberg View contributor, said in an interview. Buyers are “willing to pay at or above list, but only when at or above list” is reasonable for the market.

Total sales slipped 13 percent from a year ago, when transactions set a third-quarter record.

The listing discount, or amount owners agreed to cut the asking price in order to strike a deal, was 1.1 percent in the most recent quarter, suggesting buyers and sellers were often in agreement on the property’s value from the outset, Miller said.

‘Overpriced’ Units

Among completed sales, 49 percent matched or exceeded the listed price, the biggest share in six years, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman reported. Buyers who bid more than what sellers were seeking paid about a 4.1 percent premium, on average.

“Sales are strong where properties are properly priced and justifiably priced,” said Hall Willkie, president of brokerage Brown Harris Stevens, which also released a report on the Manhattan apartment market today.

As many as 25 percent of units listed for sale right now might be considered “overpriced,” Willkie said.

Brown Harris and its sister brokerage, Halstead Property, said the median sale price in the third quarter was $898,500, up 3 percent from a year earlier. In separate reports today, brokerages Corcoran Group and Urban Compass also said prices gained 3 percent.

‘More Normal’

“A year ago, I felt like we were showing signs of a really frothy market just because everything was so frenzied,” said Sofia Song, head of research at Urban Compass, which reported a median sale price of $910,000. “Everything is calming down and it’s acting like a much more normal market -- and more normal is good.”

Condo and co-op sales completed in the three months through September totaled $6 billion, the most since the market peaked in the second quarter of 2008, Urban Compass said. The value of contracts signed in the third quarter was $5.03 billion, according to the brokerage.

For Susan Michael and her husband, it took a year of searching, and one broken deal, to find a well-priced home that met their needs. The couple, with their 5-year-old son and 14-pound Jack Russell terrier, relocated to Manhattan from Los Altos Hills, California, and were seeking an apartment with at least four bedrooms and some outdoor space.

While they were willing to spend as much as $6 million, they found many properties meeting their criteria were priced at $8 million or more, with little consistency as to what that money would buy, Michael said. In one building, for example, she saw two similar condos listed for resale at $1 million apart.

Perfect Fit

Working with Douglas Elliman broker Robert Schlederer, the couple thought they found a perfect fit at an Upper West Side townhouse listed for sale at $7.39 million after a price decrease, Michael said. An agreement for close to that amount fell through when the sellers insisted on taking the chandeliers and fixtures, among other conditions, she said.

After that deal collapsed, they found a 20-foot (6-meter)- wide townhouse on East 62nd Street, with an asking price of $7.295 million. Their $7.2 million offer was accepted and they completed the purchase in August.

“A lot of places I saw are still on the market,” Michael said. “Places that I would have liked to have gone to view have now come down to our price range, but it’s too late.”

In the luxury market, the top 10 percent of all sales, the median price jumped 22 percent in the quarter to $5 million, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. The number of purchases dropped 13 percent, even as the supply of apartments in the category increased 47 percent to 1,627 units.

Listing Inventory

Inventory in all price ranges has increased since hitting a 25-year low in the fourth quarter, Miller said. With 5,828 units for sale, the number of listings is still 18 percent below the quarterly average for the last decade.

Corcoran Group said the median price of previously owned condos on the Upper West Side climbed 5 percent from a year earlier to $1.45 million. On the Upper East Side, the median dropped 8 percent to $1.13 million as smaller units made up a bigger share of sales, the brokerage said.

Downtown, the area south of 34th Street through Tribeca, resale condos traded for a median of $1.77 million, up 2 percent from the third quarter of 2013, according to Corcoran.

-By Oshrat Carmiel

Merkel’s Cabinet Backs Rent Control as Home Costs Rise

Source: Bloomberg / News

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet backed legislation to curb rents as rising housing costs in Germany put pressure on her government to act.

The draft law caps rents for new contracts in existing homes at 10 percent above the local average in areas identified as having “tight” housing markets starting next year. The proposal fulfills an affordable-housing campaign pledge by the Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Merkel’s coalition government.

“The rent cap will help keep rents affordable for average earners,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. “Rent increases of 30 or 40 percent in some urban areas are simply unacceptable.”

Rents in Germany’s biggest cities are rising as people are attracted to areas with the most job opportunities, pushing residents out of desirable neighborhoods in Berlin, Munich and Hamburg. Government officials including Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble have warned that excessive liquidity in financial markets maybe fueling property bubbles in parts of some German cities.

German rents rose 9 percent in the past three years, according to data compiled by online broker ImmobilienScout 24. That’s a fraction of the gains seen in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district, where rents jumped about 45 percent, according to data compiled by Bulwiengesa AG.

Long Negotiations

The draft will be reviewed by committees before going to parliament for a vote. An earlier version of the law was included in the coalition agreement between Merkel’s Christian Democratic Unionand the Social Democrats in November. It has since been revised following criticism from landlords and developers. Changes include giving the controls a five-year expiration date and exempting new buildings.

“We welcome the changes to the law as a sound compromise,” Axel Gedaschko, president of the Federal Association of German Home and Property Companies, said in a separate statement. “The coalition recognized at the last second that a time limit must be set in order to not choke off new construction.”

-By Dalia Fahmy and Brian Parkin

Ireland Said to Plan Home Loans Limits to Prevent Bubble

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Ireland’s central bank plans to impose limits for the first time on how much banks can lend home buyers as real estate values soar again in the home of western Europe’s worst property collapse, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The regulator is preparing to publish a consultation paper on its proposals within weeks, said one of the people, who asked not to be named, as the matter is private. Banks and lobby groups will have a chance to comment on the plans, which center on introducing loan-to-value and loan-to-income restrictions. A spokesman for the central bank in Dublin declined to comment.

Irish homes prices are surging even as banks grapple with the aftermath of mortgage crisis that forced the government to bail out most of the nation’s lenders. A quarter of the country’s owner-occupier home loans are in arrears or had their terms eased. Loans granted during the boom for more than 85 percent of the property value were most likely to default in the wake of the crash, central bank economists said today.

“There is no evidence the current price increases are credit driven, but the number of mortgage approvals, a potential measure of new mortgage credit demand, rose sharply in the first seven months of 2014,” said central bank economists Niamh Hallissey, Robert Kelly and Terry O’Malley in a report published today. “This is therefore a key time to investigate the tools available to policy makers to safeguard future lending.”

Soaring Prices

The Bank of England is also seeking to curb lending of riskier mortgages to prevent a buildup of consumer debt. Under the rules published today, no more than 15 percent of mortgages should be set at more than 4.5 times a borrowers’ income.

Irish home prices soared 15 percent in the year through August, driven by a 25 percent jump in Dublin values amid a shortage of properties in the Irish capital, the Central Statistics Office said on Sept. 24. Still, values remain 41 percent off their 2007 peak both for Dublin and nationally.

Any limits would particularly affect first-time buyers, according to one of the people.

Irish mortgage approvals rose by 54 percent in value to 462 million euros ($582 million) in July compared to the same month last year, according to Banking & Payments Federation Ireland. In 2006, mortgage lending surged to 40 billion euros.

Davy, Ireland’s largest securities firm, said that some lenders are beginning to relax lending criteria.

“It appears some banks are willing to lend 4.5 times combined income to higher-rated borrowers, but this is at the upper end of what is typically deemed responsible internationally,” Davy said in a report yesterday. “Typically a limit of 3-4 times is considered a more acceptable level. The onus is on the central bank to put limits on the amount of money that can be borrowed to help keep house prices in check.”

-By Joe Brennan

Malls Offer Discount That’s Not for Customers: Real M&A

Source: Bloomberg / News

The next wave of U.S. mergers may be coming to a shopping mall near you.

Washington Prime Group Inc. (WPG), a Bethesda, Maryland-based owner of strip shopping centers and regional malls, agreed last month to buy rival Glimcher Realty Trust (GRT) in a $4.3 billion deal. The transaction may spark further consolidation among owners of “B” malls, those that aren’t generally in the top tier of a major metropolitan area or are the main complexes in smaller cities, said DJ Busch, an analyst at Green Street Advisors Inc.

Getting bigger in the mall business allows property owners to increase efficiency and gain leverage in leasing negotiations with tenants. And lower-tier malls offer a better bargain than higher-priced luxury properties, said Jerry Bruni, money manager and founder of J.V. Bruni & Co. Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PEI) and CBL & Associates Properties Inc. (CBL), which trade below the value of their underlying assets, could be the next targets, according to Green Street’s Busch.

With B-mall operators trading at discounts, “something is going to break loose one way or another and we saw that with the Glimcher transaction,” Jonathan Litt, founder and chief executive officer of investment firm Land & Buildings, said in a phone interview. “Assuming others are looking to consolidate as it appears they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these other companies to be under pressure and evaluate a transaction.”

Land & Buildings, based in Greenwich, Connecticut, owns shares in Penn REIT.

Next Step

Consolidation may be the next step in a process that started with large real estate investment trusts jettisoning their less productive properties. Washington Prime was spun off this year from Indianapolis-based real estate giant Simon Property Group Inc., following the spinoff in 2012 of Rouse Properties Inc. (RSE) by Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc.

By now combining efforts, these lower-tier stand-alones can lower costs, improve performance and expand their geographic reach.

“There are a lot of benefits to scale,” Green Street’s Busch said in a phone interview.

Washington Prime will gain 23 properties with its purchase of Columbus, Ohio-based Glimcher. The $2.7 billion REIT also expects to lower general and administrative and operating expenses, while boosting funds from operations -- a gauge of a REIT’s ability to generate cash.

More Attention

The deal “calls a little bit more attention to this sector of the mall market,” Bruni of Colorado Springs, Colorado-based J.V. Bruni, which has $570 million under management and owns shares of Rouse, said in a telephone interview. By owning the dominant mall in a smaller area, where there’s nothing like your property for miles, you’re insulated from competition, Bruni said.

Even Before the Washington Prime deal, Barry Sternlicht’s closely held Starwood Capital Group had been buying up lower-tier mall properties sold off by big real estate owners, including its agreement in June to buy seven malls from Taubman (TCO) Centers Inc.

Penn REIT, the $1.4 billion property owner, and Chattanooga, Tennessee-based CBL, with a market value of $3 billion, are two of the cheapest mall operators.

Bigger Bargains

Both property owners have an estimated net asset value of $25 a share, according to a Sept. 3 report from Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Penn REIT, with properties in a dozen states, closed at a 20 percent discount to that level yesterday. CBL -- which owns, holds interests in or manages more than 150 properties -- traded at an even larger 28 percent discount to its underlying value.

Penn REIT and CBL trade at about 10 and 8 times estimated 2015 funds from operations, respectively, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Luxury mall owner Taubman has a multiple of almost 20.

High-end malls “are kind of pricey right now,” Bruni said. “It appears to be a better bargain in some of these smaller malls.”

Today, Penn REIT climbed 0.9 percent to $20.12 at 11:12 a.m. New York time. CBL rose 0.2 percent to $17.94.

Penn REIT may be a more willing seller than CBL because CBL has been a family business for some time, Green Street’s Busch said. CBL’s chairman is Charles Lebovitz, a longtime real estate developer who was chief executive officer from the company’s initial public offering in 1993 until 2010 when his son Stephen took over as CEO.

“They don’t have the same legacy issues as CBL,” Busch said of Penn REIT.

‘Unique Position’

Rouse, with a market value of $934 million, “is in a unique position to further consolidate the ‘B’ mall space,” Busch wrote in a Sept. 16 report. “In addition, following the Glimcher transaction, Washington Prime doesn’t appear to be in a position to compete if Rouse were to make an offer for one of its lower-productivity brethren, particularly Penn REIT.”

New York-based Rouse trades at less of a discount to its assets than Penn REIT or CBL, based on Stifel’s $20-a-share valuation for the property owner. Rouse shares closed yesterday at $16.17. Today, Rouse rose 0.4 percent to $16.23.

A representative for Rouse declined to comment, while representatives for CBL and Penn REIT didn’t return phone messages asking for comment.

Deal Limits

Some analysts see a limit to how much further consolidation can go. None of the large mall operators are going to buy operators with lower-quality properties and B-mall REIT share prices are low and they don’t have the currency to make deals for each other, said Rich Moore, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Solon, Ohio.

The Washington Prime deal with Glimcher was unique because Washington Prime needed a management team, which it gained with the acquisition, Moore said.

“I don’t think it’s a trend,” Moore said in a phone interview.

Even so, there may be benefits to combining.

“In scale, you can have a successful business with these types of assets,” Green Street’s Busch said.

-By Brian Louis

Lone Star to Invest $1 Billion in Higher-Risk Home Loans

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Billionaire John Grayken’s Lone Star Funds is planning to invest in mortgages granted to U.S. homebuyers unable to borrow from the nation’s largest lenders.

The private-equity firm is raising $1 billion for a fund to buy the riskiest portions of bonds backed by loans given mostly to borrowers with troubled credit histories and first-time homebuyers with high student debt, according to marketing materials obtained by Bloomberg News. The mortgages will be originated by Caliber Home Loans Inc., a lender and mortgage servicer backed by Lone Star, the documents show.

Tight borrowing standards have made property purchases tough for young buyers, who often have limited credit histories and low-paying jobs, as well as the former owners of the more than 5 million properties lost to foreclosure since the housing crash. Lone Star plans to benefit from a gap in lending left by big banks such as Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), which have scaled back originations after after suffering unprecedented losses on loans, lawsuits and regulatory penalties tied to the housing collapse.

Lone Star has been one of the biggest buyers of soured mortgages this year, winning $3.9 billion of the debt in a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development auction in June, and purchasing about $500 million of bad loans from JPMorgan in July, two people with knowledge of the sale said last month.

Subprime Borrowers

The new loans from Caliber will be granted mostly to Alt-A borrowers -- those who are self-employed or have limited documentation -- along with some “high-quality” subprime customers, according to the marketing materials from Dallas-based Lone Star. They’ll target Americans with credit scores of 580 to 700. Interest rates will be as high as 10 percent, and loans will be for about 75 percent of property values.

After about $200 million worth of loans have been made, the debt will be packaged into bonds and sold, with the new fund -- Lone Star Residential Mortgage Fund I -- retaining the riskiest pieces, according to the materials. The company expects to provide investors gross returns of 15 percent after three years.

Jed Repko, a Lone Star spokesman at Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer & Katcher, declined to comment on the new fund.

-By Heather Perlberg

Park’s 53% Housing-Permit Jump Spurs Record Bond Plans

Source: Bloomberg / News

South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s success in reviving the property market is prompting the country’s sole issuer of bonds backed by home loans to plan record sales of the notes.

State-backed Korea Housing Finance Corp. will offer as much as 8 trillion won ($7.5 billion) of mortgage-backed debt this quarter, compared with 6.1 trillion won in the first nine months of the year, according to Choi Hyuk Soon, general manager of the securitization business. That would be a record, exceeding the 7.88 trillion won in the last three months of 2012, according to data from the Seoul-based lender.

Housing permits leapt 53 percent in August after President Park’s government eased mortgage restrictions to shore up slowing growth in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Interest in the Acroriver Park apartment complex being built by Daelim Industrial Co. in Seoul’s upmarket Gangnam area has surged on signals of government support for the property market, project sales director Jang Woo Hyun said.

“We’re seeing more underlying assets packaged as MBS as the housing market regains vitality,” KHFC’s Choi said in a Sept. 26 interview. “We’re quite optimistic about next year too.”

The government increased the loan limit for homebuyers to 70 percent of a property’s value from as low as 50 percent, starting from August. Authorities also created a nationwide standard for how much of income can be used for mortgage payments and set it at 60 percent. That’s up from the previous cap for Seoul, which was 50 percent.

Supportive Steps

An index of Korean apartment prices hit an all-time high in September, according to data from Kookmin Bank, the country’s largest mortgage lender. Prices jumped 2.3 percent from a year earlier, the most in two years.

KHFC sold 2.65 trillion won of MBS in the third quarter compared with 1.17 trillion won in the previous three months, according to the company data.

Mounting issuance of mortgage-backed securities, which use home loans as collateral, frees up funds for further lending. That dovetails with Park’s plan, including support for housing, to boost gross domestic product growth that slowed to the weakest pace in more than a year in the second quarter.

The measures to bolster the property market mark a shift after South Korea’s efforts to address record household debt levels helped the country avoid the surge in home prices seen in Hong Kong and Singapore through the last five years.

Bank Loans

South Korea’s outstanding bank loans to households rose by 5 trillion won to 497 trillion won in August from a month earlier, the biggest gain since November 2006, as mortgage demand increased on higher home transactions, the Bank of Korea said on Sept. 11.

The growing supply of MBS provides alternatives for investors struggling with a shortage of bonds issued by state-owned enterprises as authorities force the companies to trim their balance sheets. Issuance by the government-backed borrowers has slumped 16 percent to 57.1 trillion won this year from the same period of 2013, Korea Financial Investment Association data show.

“Because sales of SOE bonds have plunged this year, MBS can quench the thirst of long-term investors such as pension funds,” as some mortgage-note maturities are as long as 20 years, said Lee Kyoung Rok, Seoul-based credit analyst at Daewoo Securities Co., a unit of KDB Financial Group Inc. “With the government’s policy and low interest rates, we expect MBS sales to increase further.”

-By Seonjin Cha and Kyungji Cho

Blackstone Scores $1.1 Billion Gain in Vivint Solar Debut

Source: Bloomberg / Sustainbility

Vivint Solar Inc. closed at $16.01 in its first day of trading, giving Blackstone Group LP (BX), the world’s largest alternative asset manager, and other investors a more than $1.1 billion unrealized gain on their two-year-old investment in the solar-panel installer.

Vivint Solar rose less than 1 percent at the close in New York. The company sold 20.6 million shares for $16 apiece yesterday, pricing them at the low end of the marketed range. Some of the proceeds will be used to repay debt, regulatory filings show.

“We believe that this capital will take us through 2017 with the current growth rates,” Chief Executive Officer Gregory Butterfield said today on CNBC. “In three years, we’ll become the second-largest residential solar company” after SolarCity Corp. Vivint Solar will be cash flow positive “around the end of 2017,” Butterfield said.

Vivint Solar was created nearly three years ago under Vivint Inc., a provider of residential-security services and technology that allows customers to control features in their homes remotely. Blackstone and a group of co-investors acquired Vivint’s three main assets in a $1.9 billion leveraged buyout in 2012, investing $714 million of equity.

The Blackstone-led group, which included Summit Partners, injected about $195 million in Vivint Solar, including $78 million this year, according to filings. Their stake was valued at $1.3 billion at the end of trading, nearly seven times what they invested.

The group sold no shares in the IPO, and will hold a 78 percent stake in the company after the offering, filings show. The group owned 97 percent of the company before the sale.

Blackstone spokesman Peter Rose declined to comment on the offering and Blackstone’s profit.

Solar Leases

Based in Lehi, Utah, the company posted revenue of $6.17 million last year, mostly from selling solar operating leases, filings show. The company offers 20-year contracts for electricity powered by solar energy that costs customers as much as 30 percent less than their current utility rates.

Vivint Solar’s IPO follows a surge in installations of rooftop power systems. Developers installed 792 megawatts of photovoltaic panels atop U.S. homes last year, up 60 percent from 2012, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Shares of SolarCity have jumped 58 percent over the past year, as the San Mateo, California-based company continued to add more megawatts of new residential and commercial solar systems.

Vivint’s shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol VSLR. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Corp. and Credit Suisse Group AG managed the offering.

-By David Carey