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12th March 2015

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Former homeowners renting HDB flats a 'worrisome trend': Maliki Osman

The Minister of State for National Development says assistance will be "targeted" and is meant to "create the right enabling conditions" for as many Singaporeans as possible to be homeowners.

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: More families entering the public rental system used to be homeowners, and this is a "worrisome trend", said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 11).

Five years ago, these families used to comprise only 52 per cent of public rental applicants, but the proportion is 59 per cent today, Dr Maliki said at the 2015 Committee of Supply debates. Some of them have enjoyed housing subsidies and cashed out more than once, thus rendering them no longer qualified for subsidised HDB flats, he added.

"In a rising property market, or when one is financially strapped, the temptation to sell is a very real one. But my advice – resist the temptation and don’t cash out. Keep your home; protect your nest egg. Life may be harder in the short-run, but it will work out," Dr Maliki said.


The purpose of offering highly-subsidised public rental flats is to help families that are unable to buy a home immediately, he said. "We will target assistance where it is needed and create the right enabling conditions for as many Singaporeans as possible, including those in the lower income group living in rental flats, to be homeowners, with a stake in this country and its future."

He acknowledged that such an effort is "not easy" for these families and he empathises with their plight, but the ministry, together with community partners, "stand ready to help them get back on their feet again".

To this end, the Government has increased its stock of rental flats from 42,000 in 2007 to 51,000 at present, a figure that will reach 60,000 by 2017, he said. The waiting time to be allocated a public rental flat has been slashed from 21 months in 2008 to 5.5 months now.

The cheapest rental rate still stands at S$26 a month - a price set 35 years ago in 1979, said Dr Maliki,

- CNA/kk

Singapore Real Estate


BCA to launch S$20m scheme to lead green technology testing

Source: Today Online / Business

SINGAPORE — The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will roll out a S$20 million scheme to spearhead the testing of energy-efficient technology in buildings.

The move, called the GBIC-Building Energy Efficient Demonstrations Scheme (GBIC-Demo), is the latest in encouraging the development of green building technology.

In a statement yesterday, the BCA said the technology that will be tested under the scheme should achieve 20 to 40 per cent improvement over the current best-in-class technology.

Such technology can come from successfully-completed research-and-development (R&D) projects or proven technology, either local or overseas, that has not been widely implemented in Singapore, the BCA added.

Examples include air-conditioning innovations, such as chilled ceilings and under-floor cooling systems.

The BCA said the scheme will also cover the cost of removing the technology, should the trial be deemed unsuccessful.

BCA’s group director of research Tan Tian Chong said: “The scheme will help mitigate the risks involved in trialling new technology by co-funding incurred costs such as (those of) equipment, installation and commissioning. In doing so, we hope to spur wider replication and eventual commercialisation of novel energy-efficient solutions for buildings in the longer term.”

The GBIC-Demo scheme is one of the three key measures under the S$52 million Green Buildings Innovation Cluster programme, first launched by the BCA in September last year.

The other two are the GBIC-National Building EE Repository — a central database that collects information from GBIC-Demo projects, existing buildings and reports from successfully completed R&D projects — and GBIC-Energy Efficient Research and Development, which consists of tailored R&D programmes intended to build core capabilities in green buildings. 

-By Channel News Asia

Rents for condos, HDB flats slip further in Feb: SRX

Softness was widely expected and will likely persist this year, say property consultants

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

Softness persisted in the residential leasing market, with rents for both private non-landed homes and public housing flats still heading south in February. Rents of non-landed private residential units posted a 0.8 per cent drop in February, compared to a month ago,

-By Lynette Khoo

Standalone shophouse block at Sultan Gate sold for S$20.8m

Price works out to S$2,618 psf based on floor area; buyer plans to operate its own F&B outlet on lower level

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

A freehold standalone shophouse block along Sultan Gate in the Kampong Glam area has just been awarded for S$20.8 million following an expression of interest exercise that closed recently. Located near the corner of Sultan Gate and Pahang Street, the cluster of shophouses bears three addresses - Nos 32, 34 and 34A Sultan Gate.

More public rental flat applicants used to be home owners

Source: Straits Times

Nearly six in 10 public rental flat applicants today are former home owners who sold their flats. This is up from 52 per cent five years ago, Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman told Parliament yesterday.

Family spent $198k from flat sale in less than 2 years

Source: Straits Times 

She sold her four-room flat and collected nearly $200,000 in cash proceeds. But after a series of bad decisions and ill fortune, Madam A and her family spent all the cash and had to seek help in getting a rental flat. Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman yesterday cited the real-life example as a cautionary tale of families selling their flats for a short-term profit.

Rebuilding construction

Views, Reviews & Forum


Don't blame ABSD for overseas property buys

Cash-rich Singaporeans need more education on the various investment options available

Source: Business Times / Opinion

Benvolio: "Be ruled by me, forget to think of her."

Romeo: "O, teach me how I should forget to think."

Benvolio: "By giving liberty unto thine eyes; Examine other beauties."

- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

ARGUING for a removal of the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD) for Singaporeans, Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said on Tuesday that the additional taxes have led cash-rich Singaporeans to invest in riskier foreign properties in Malaysia, Cambodia, the US and UK.

"With the influence of friends and fellow investors, coupled with the low initial downpayments and fewer restrictions in foreign properties, Singaporeans are enticed to look abroad. This not only does little benefit to our economy, but we are putting our people at risk," she argued. "I feel we should keep the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) to encourage prudence in financial spending, but remove the ABSD for Singaporeans."

There are many things wrong with the argument to remove the ABSD, to encourage cash-rich Singaporeans to buy private residential properties here.

First, domestic properties beyond the first home are not necessarily suitable investments. They cost a lot and can be hard to sell. Much debt needs to be incurred. Getting rental income is a hassle and not guaranteed.

A Singaporean investor looking to retire will need investments that can pay out a decent yield and can be sold quickly in case of emergencies, like a medical operation. Property does not tick either box.

Most investors do not have a long-term horizon. For them, property investing is a leveraged, risky bet to make money quickly when prices are rising.

Second, the ABSD should not be blamed for pushing Singaporeans to invest abroad. For citizens, it is a 7 per cent tax on the second residential property, and a 10 per cent tax on the third and subsequent properties.

Is a 10 per cent tax so onerous as to discourage buyers from buying their third property? Not if they expect prices to go up by much more within their time horizon, such that they get a suitable rate of return for the risk they are taking.

What the ABSD discourages are speculators: those looking to make money from a quick flip. If people truly believed in the potential of a property, they would be eyeing a 30, 40 or 50 per cent increase in prices over 10 years or more. In fact, not too long ago, prices were going up 5 per cent a quarter. A 10 per cent tax won't deter anybody in that kind of environment. (Nor will rising interest rates, for that matter.)

So don't blame the ABSD for making local property unattractive to Singaporeans; blame a gambling mentality, excess capacity, and prices that have gone out of sync with incomes.

Third, overseas properties are not necessarily risky purchases. In property, as with all investments, there are riskier choices and less risky ones. Buying a centrally located property directly from an established developer here or abroad will be less risky than buying a property away from any established infrastructure. It is also not the wisest thing to go through several middlemen to buy a piece of land in the middle of nowhere, in a country with dubious rule of law.

With all overseas assets, potential investors have to carefully evaluate regulatory risks, currency risks, and counterparty risks.

Moreover, Singaporeans buy properties for many reasons, not all of them financial. Financially, there are "pull" factors, not just "push" factors. For example, currencies in Australia and Malaysia have been depreciating against the Singapore dollar, making assets there more attractive.

Meanwhile, Singaporeans might just want a home for their children to stay in should they ever study or work abroad. Some might simply desire a retirement home across the Causeway, where the pace of life is slower.

Finally, the income gap will only widen in a very visible way if cash-rich investors, Singaporeans or foreign, snap up local properties, push up their prices, and pass them on to their children. A small city-state cannot afford that kind of rift.

Dr Lee, in her speech, highlighted something important: many Singaporeans have spare cash and do not know what to do with it.

We should encourage them not to be fixated on property, but to examine traditional, liquid assets that can offer a reasonable return without leverage, like stocks and bonds. Property should be just one part of a balanced portfolio.

We also need more education on the topic of investing itself, on how to get a financial return suited to one's time horizon, liquidity requirement, wealth, and risk tolerance.

This message would be better heard in a property downturn.

-By Cai Haoxiang

In a world awash with liquidity, a cooling property market isn't bad

Source: Business Times / Opinion

Some People's Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament spoke out on Tuesday in the Budget debate, cautioning the government against overdoing property market cooling measures. A few things are worth pointing out in this regard. First, one must not forget the systemic risk posed by a heated property market in the few years following the global financial crisis, before loan curbs in mid-2013 finally slowed things down. The intricate links between property prices, debt and the banking system mean that governments cannot let prices spiral out of control.

Companies' Brief


Interest rate volatility may lead to capital flight from S-Reits: Credit Suisse

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

Interest rate-related volatilities may bring the market back to a risk-on mode and result in capital outflow from the Singapore real estate investment trust (S-Reit) sector. If this happens, it would present a better opportunity to buy Reits, compared to the current situation where valuations are expensive, a Tuesday Credit Suisse report said.

-By Lee Meixian

Frasers Hospitality launches third property in KL

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

Frasers Hospitality has opened its third serviced residence in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

Boasting 445 units, Fraser Residence Kuala Lumpur is both the city and the Frasers Centrepoint hospitality arm's largest serviced residence to date.

WE Holdings to buy sand supplier for S$25m

Company also plans to issue S$25 million of three-year convertible bonds to partly fund the purchase

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

We Holdings has yet another acquisition deal on the table and another potentially dilutive plan to fund it as well. The target this time is marine sand supplier Hua Kai, which will cost WE S$25 million if certain balance sheet and profit targets are met.

-By Kenneth Lim

GLP inks new China deals

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

Global Logistic Properties (GLP) has signed new agreements totalling 63,000 sqm with four customers in China. The customers, whom GLP did not name, are in the e-commerce, packaged foods, and pharmaceutical industries. Three are multi-location GLP customers in China.

Global Economy & Global Real Estate


Qatar Air buys Sheraton hotel at Heathrow

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

China Jan-Feb property sales post biggest fall in 3 years

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

US Treasury urged to scrutinise foreign real estate buyers

They should be screened for potential money-laundering risk: 17 non-profit groups

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

London's housing shortage seen hurting tech industry

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

Denmark's eye on home price as it defends krone

House price distortions may arise as rates go below zero in battle to keep currency peg to euro, says minister

Source: Business Times / Real Estate       

Govt urged to cool Norway's property market

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

Seattle's tallest tower set to go on sale

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

Clock Ticks for China Billionaire on Sydney Mansion Sale

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- For sale: Five-bedroom mansion featuring handmade terracotta roof tiles and an infinity pool facing Sydney harbor and its iconic opera house. Owner must sell fast.

The Australian government on March 3 ordered Chinese billionaire Hui Ka Yan’s property company to sell the A$39 million ($30 million) Villa del Mare in the upscale suburb of Point Piper within 90 days, after finding the November purchase violated foreign investment rules. It typically takes at least twice that long to sell a more than A$25 million Sydney home, property data provider CoreLogic Inc. estimates.

“It is just short of a fire sale,” Elliot Placks, a director at Sydney-based realtor Ray White Double Bay, said by phone. “It seems like a short time to get a premium price.” Placks is marketing three luxury homes in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Hui’s Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd., which bought the mansion, is the most high-profile casualty of the Australian government’s crackdown on illegal homebuying by foreigners. The action has the potential to cool the top end of the market, real estate firm BradfieldCleary says. Sydney is among the world’s least affordable housing markets, according to Demographia.

‘Shelf’ Companies

Hui may still get close to what his company paid as the Australian dollar’s decline has made homes more affordable to foreigners, Placks said. The proceeds will likely still be short of the estimated A$45 million total cost including taxes and other expenses, he said. Villa del Mare has yet to be publicly listed.

The mansion in Point Piper was bought via a string of “shelf” companies in Australia, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands, and the transaction didn’t meet Australian foreign-investment rules, the government says. Point Piper is Australia’s second-most expensive suburb, CoreLogic estimates.

Overseas buyers are only allowed to purchase newly built homes with permission from the Foreign Investment Review Board, known as FIRB, which the government says Evergrande didn’t seek.

Evergrande declined to comment on the progress of the sale in an e-mailed response to queries from Bloomberg News sent through public relations firm iPR Ogilvy & Mather in Hong Kong.

Chinese investment in Australian residential and commercial real estate surged 42 percent from a year earlier to A$5.9 billion in 2012-13, according to the latest data from FIRB. Foreign buying of Australian property is “very active” in Sydney and Melbourne, Reserve Bank of Australia Assistant Governor Christopher Kent said in Hobart Wednesday.

Civil Penalty

The rule the government cited in ordering Evergrande to sell the property has been around for 20 years and was seldom pursued aggressively, said Bob Guth, a director at BradfieldCleary in Sydney. If the government upholds the rule strictly, it could “slightly slow” the luxury home market, he said, adding that three months isn’t long enough to sell a house like Villa del Mare.

Last month, the government said foreigners who illegally buy homes in Australia would have to pay a civil penalty of as much as 25 percent of the value of the property and be forced to sell it.

A parliamentary committee in November found there had been 17 forced sale orders by FIRB between 2003 and 2007 and none under the Labor governments in office from 2007 to 2013. It said the A$85,000 FIRB fine at the time was “seen by many as simply the cost of doing business.”

Home prices in Sydney jumped 13.7 percent in February from a year earlier, the fastest pace in five months, according to CoreLogic data.

Long Cycle

Evergrande bought the 2,000-square-meter (21,500-square-feet) property, which spans three levels and boasts a gymnasium and wine cellar, from recruiter Julia Ross after it had languished on the market for more than 18 months, the selling agent, Bill Malouf of LJ Hooker Double Bay, said by phone Tuesday. The home also features five en-suite bathrooms, a self-contained apartment and bespoke wrought-iron gates.

“The sale cycle is generally very long, maybe up to 12 months for such a property,” Cameron Kusher, a Brisbane-based research analyst at CoreLogic, said by phone. “ Even though the Sydney market is strong, it is hard to find buyers for this kind of stock.”

Elaine, a Sydney harborfront property listed in February last year, is still up for sale, according to Ken Jacobs, managing director of the firm bearing his name and an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, which features the listing on its website. The property could fetch as much as A$100 million, according to the Australian and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

Australia’s most expensive home, in the Perth suburb of Mosman Park, sold for A$57.5 million in 2009.

Property Developer

Hui, also known as Xu Jiayin in Mandarin Chinese, has built Evergrande, based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, into the nation’s fifth-largest property developer by sales. He has a net worth of $4.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

His legal options for avoiding having to sell are limited to cumbersome processes, according to Malcolm Brennan, a Canberra-based partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons.

“The easy path to appeal is not available,” Brennan said. The FIRB decision can be challenged by filing a prerogative writ under the common law, which comes with a “fair bit of risk around time and cost as well as the prospects of the appeal.”

-By Narayanan Somasundaram

Houston Home Sales Fall for the First Time in Six Months

Source Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Houston home sales fell in February for the first time in six months, a sign lower oil prices are spooking buyers.

Sales of single-family houses dropped 5.8 percent from a year earlier to 4,521 homes, the Houston Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. Purchases fell among residences costing less than $150,000 because of tight supply, and among properties selling for more than $500,000 as wealthier buyers paused amid economic uncertainty, said James Gaines, research economist at Texas A&M University’s real estate center.

“They don’t know what the real impact of falling oil prices is,” Gaines said in a telephone interview from College Station, Texas. “We’re living in the twilight of uncertainty.”

Houston, capital of the U.S. oil industry, is home to the headquarters of companies such as ConocoPhillips and Halliburton Co., which have been hurt by the plunge in crude prices since last year. Halliburton said last month it’s cutting 8 percent of its global workforce of more than 80,000. Houston-based Cal Dive International Inc., a marine contractor for the oil industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last week.

Michele Marano, an agent with Champions Real Estate Group who is a former energy commodity broker, said the housing market has softened because buyers are taking their time.

“Since oil has been down, there has been a pause in our market -- people are more cautious” said Marano, who specializes in houses for energy-industry professionals. “People know right now that time is on the buyers’ side.”

Listings increased 0.7 percent from a year earlier to 27,990 properties, the Houston Association of Realtors reported. Inventory remains tight, at 2.7 months of supply, compared with 4.7 percent nationally.

Exxon Mobil

Marano said she’s in the market for a new home in the Woodlands, a high-end master-planned community near where a new Exxon Mobil Corp. corporate campus is being built, and is waiting for prices to drop before buying.

“There’s a lot of brand new construction, and it’s not like it’s moving fast,” Marano said. “When we look at houses, the selling agent calls me back 10 times asking if we will come in again.”

Home sales also are expected to suffer in Texas cities such as Midland-Odessa, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, where oil drilling and related services play a big role in the local economies, Gaines said.

Slowing sales may not completely negative for Houston, which has had one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets, he said. Last year, a 83,160 homes sold in the area, surpassing the previous record in 2006.

“A 6 percent decline is still a good year,” Gaines said. “But it’ll take six to 12 months before the full impact is felt.”

-By John Gittelsohn & Prashant Gopal

Deutsche Bank-Led Bid Said Set to Win $1.6B Irish Loans

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Permanent TSB Group Holdings Plc agreed to sell 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) of par-value commercial real estate loans to a group led by Deutsche Bank AG, according to a person familiar with the matter.

PTSB, the Dublin-based lender preparing to raise capital after failing European stress tests, said in a statement that it agreed to sell the loans, comprised of two portfolios, to a group comprised of “a global investment bank and a global alternative asset manager.” The transaction is due to close by the end of June, the company said in Dublin on Wednesday.

Deutsche Bank is the bank involved in the transaction, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the process is not yet complete. Officials at PTSB and Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

PTSB, taken over by the state in 2011 under a net 2.7 billion-euro bailout, disclosed the sale as it laid out plans to raise 525 million euros of capital to bolster its balance sheet after failing European stress tests last year. The company also agreed to sell 3.5 billion euros of U.K. residential mortgage loans to an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management LP, it said today.

PTSB said a drain on capital stemming from the sale of the U.K. loans is within it’s “planning parameters,” and the Irish loan sale may add to its capital.

-By Joe Brennan

Billionaire Bren Is Secret Owner of NYC’s MetLife Tower

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- The owner of the MetLife Building, one of Manhattan’s most well-known skyscrapers, isn’t who most people think.

California billionaire Donald Bren’s Irvine Co. has built a 97.3 percent ownership stake in the 58-story tower in the past decade, said Dan Young, an executive vice president at the closely held company. While Tishman Speyer is still the managing partner of the property, which it acquired in 2005 for $1.79 billion and features on its website, the company’s stake in the MetLife Building has been whittled to less than 3 percent.

“It was just a matter of timing, really,” Young said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It was a very timely opportunity for us.”

Newport Beach, California-based Irvine Co., which doesn’t list any Manhattan office holdings on its website, first acquired a stake in the 200 Park Ave. tower in 2005 and has been increasing its investment since, Young said. Bud Perrone, a spokesman for New York-based Tishman Speyer, declined to comment.

The actual ownership of the MetLife Building, a 58-story skyscraper perched over Grand Central Terminal, has managed to remain a secret in one of the world’s priciest and most highly scrutinized real estate markets. Irvine Co.’s control has come to light as banks are negotiating to refinance debt backed by the tower. That deal values the property at almost $3 billion, people familiar with the matter said last month, making the building one of the most expensive in New York City.

California Focus

Irvine Co. is best known as a developer of master-planned communities in Southern California, with few properties outside the state. Last year, the company purchased 300 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago for $850 million. It set a record for the city, poised to be broken by Blackstone Group LP with its proposed $1.5 billion acquisition of the Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building.

The MetLife Building and three Chicago towers account for all of Irvine Co.’s investments outside California, according to Young.

Bren, California’s wealthiest real estate mogul, has built an empire with 39 million square feet (3.6 million square meters) of office buildings, about 50,000 apartments and more than 40 shopping centers, according to Irvine Co.’s website. Bren, 82, has a net worth of $16.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“We don’t typically talk about or disclose specific investments that we make because we don’t know how long we’ll have those investments for, whether it’s fixed income, stocks or real estate,” Young said.

Tishman Speyer

Tishman Speyer, run by Jerry Speyer and his son Rob Speyer, oversees a portfolio of $68.1 billion of real estate around the world, according to the company’s website. Holdings include New York’s Rockefeller Center, Yankee Stadium and Paris Bourse in France.

In 2010, Tishman Speyer defaulted on a $3 billion loan on Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Manhattan’s biggest apartment complex, in one of highest-profile real estate busts to follow the last boom.

Commercial-property values in the largest U.S. cities are shattering records set in the years leading up to the real estate crash in 2008 as investors from around the globe seek a safe haven for cash. Manhattan’s General Motors Building became the most expensive U.S. tower after a minority stake in the property was sold in 2013, valuing it at $3.4 billion, according to property-research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc.

-By Sarah Mulholland & David De Jong

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