What makes Singapore's real estate resilient?
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore had been in a state of Circuit Breaker for 2 months. (children were told to do home-based learning, adults were asked to work from home, going out only to run essential errands and to buy food / groceries).
We are now into the first phase of three. The road to return to normal life has just begun (It is slightly better than the Circuit Breaker, but still lots of restrictions before everything goes back to normal).
This has resulted in Singapore experiencing a negative first quarter in GDP growth, and Singapore looks set to enter into a recession.
Wah recession, is it that serious?
Sadly, it is! MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) announced in its 2020 macroeconomic report that as a result of the policies introduced during the pandemic, such as travel restrictions (not forgetting Singapore relies very heavily on tourism) and the circuit breaker laws, combined with a fall in demand from export markets, Singapore’s economic activity has been greatly reduced, as seen in figure 1.
MAS has also mentioned that this could potentially be Singapore’s worse recession in recent years, as SMEs struggle to reopen and attract business in lieu of the slow economy.
Till date, Singapore government had introduced four rounds of Budget (close to $100 billion worth of reliefs and grants) from the start of Circuit Breaker to alleviate the financial stress which Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents could potentially faced. (Not a lot, but better than nothing!)
However, despite the gloomy outlook of the economy, Singapore properties have proven to be resilient throughout this pandemic, as can be seen in Figure 2. Sales volume of private non-landed residential units grew instead.
In fact, 433 newly launched condominium units were sold during the first 48 days of the circuit breaker period (7 April to 24 April), when all show flats were closed. Deals were sealed via virtual tours and zoom meetings.
It is also amazing to know that some super luxury and luxury new homes were sold during the circuit breaker period.
Vicki's Zhao husband bought a Penthouse in Admore Park at $28M! in this circuit breaker time, even though he had to pay a 20% Additional Buyer Stamp Duty.
The growth in volume can be attributed to various factors, such as a stable economy, active government intervention in the property market, transparency in our system (be it in doing business or property data), etc. And all these are to remain unchanged.
Active government intervention in the property market
Singaporean property prices are monitored closely by the government, and are kept stable by active government intervention. The cooling measures introduced since 2009 ensured that the property market did not develop into a bubble, and that the high volume of property transactions was controlled.
This helps to ensure that Singaporean properties remain attractive, as it reassures investors that Singaporean properties will remain stable under the watchful eye of the government, and that property prices will not be exorbitantly over or under valued.
As of now, we have not seen significant numbers of homeowners defaulting on mortgages, likely because of several past cooling measures such as the TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio) and Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR). These instil financial prudence in buyers by capping a borrower’s gross monthly income used to service their housing loans.
By Christine Sun, Head of Research & Consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie
Yeah, agents and aspiring multiple owners frowned when government introduced TDSR / MSR / ABSD (Additional Buyer Stamp Duty) back then, we now have to thank the government for their forward thinking mind-set. Owners had higher holding power in today’s market, and you hardly see fire sales compared to past economic crisis.
First, a little background on the Singapore economy.
Singapore has proven itself to possess forward-looking and diplomatic politicians that looks to benefit its business partners rather than just itself. This has made Singapore into an attractive location, and while it means that the country itself is partially dependent on the global economy and other countries, its foreign policy and diplomatic stance promotes peace and partnership wherever possible, attracting many foreign investors.
We had positioned ourselves from export-manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy. This has resulted in the economy of today, where Singapore has become a leading financial hub and a popular location for events and business tourism. Singapore had emerged from a third world country to a first world in a mere 50 years!
Singapore properties are becoming increasingly appealing to foreign investors as an asset, especially in part to the recent and ongoing Hong Kong riots.
With Beijing looking to bring Hong Kong back into its sphere of control, demand for Hong Kong properties will continue to fall. This demand had been diverted to Singapore, a country that is competing with Hong Kong to be Asia’s premier business hub.
Beijing’s new stance towards Hong Kong has thus started a capital flight, leading to a fall in Hong Kong stocks and its dollar, as well as Hong Kong property prices. Singapore’s safe and stable economy, combined with active government intervention to ensure that the property market does not develop into a market ensures that foreign buyers will continue to view Singapore properties as an asset that will appreciate in the future, and thus make them an attractive investment.
Even today at our circuit breaker timing, Singapore had secured S$13 billion worth of foreign investments, creating a few thousand jobs for us for the next few years.
Hedging is often used by those who have a significant exposure to currency volatility, and want to protect the value of their assets.
If property could make you (a Singaporean) good profits locally, it will also be a more stable investment for foreigners who could profit both capital gains as well as from currency exchange.
Taking for example for a Korean client of mine,
He bought a 3 bedroom unit in City Lights Residences 2012 at a foreign currency exchange rate of 1:924, Singapore dollar to Korean Won.
He sold the unit in 2015 at the same price he bought. It seems like he didn’t made any money, right? But he did.
Why? Let’s take a look.
Let’s assume he had bought the unit at 1 million Singapore dollar.
In 2012, when the exchange rate was at 1:924, he used $924M Korean Won to purchase the property.
In 2015, when the exchange rate was at 1:805, the sale give him $1,147M Korean won in return.
As a result of Singapore dollars has gained over Korean Won, he gained a profit of $233M Korean Won, giving him a profit of 25.21%.
In Singapore dollars then, that $233M Korean Won was worth SGD$289,441! That was quite a good profit.
Singapore properties are still attractive in the rental and leasing market despite the pandemic, as there were more leasing transactions and rental renewals recorded last quarter.
Rents had also rose across all property types, as the overall rental increased by 1.1% quarterly, and 1.4% yearly as of Q1 2020. This is due in part possibly as many talents were reluctant to search for alternative accommodation, but also due to some requiring lodging to serve stay-home notices after returning from abroad.
No nation has been spared from this pandemic and every leader is taking every step cautiously as they open up the economy. We have to wait patiently and trust that the government has the best interests for the nation in mind. They are doing their best for the success of the people and the economy, and we will hopefully see a recovery in the recent future.
Buying activities may rebound in some locations when circuit breaker measures ease, given the pent-up demand.
China has experienced a 3-fold increase across 30 cities once they lifted the lockdown. After travel restrictions are lifted, there is no reason why the Chinese will not return to our shores.
Ultimately, buying a property is a long term investment. Singapore will continue to be a top investment destination and a safe haven for investors, and the fact that Singapore remains one of the top places to do business will not change overnight!
I hoped the above will give you some pointers in your investment journey.
If you need someone to talk to, call/text/watsapp me at 9027-7899!
Hi, I am Jasleen Yeo, a realtor in Orangetee & Tee.
Having been in the industry for 16 years, I have helped many clients to rent, buy or sell their properties, be it residential, commercial or industrial.
I take each and every case seriously and this has earned referrals clients to me. Many clients are my friends now, my expat tenants jio me for coffee when they are in town. I want to be your third pair of eyes to point out blind spots which may cost you money to rectify or worse, hard to sell because of that obstacle.
I take pride in what I do, which involve constantly reading up and updating myself with latest news and regulation changes, so to give my clients advice they deserve.
Being a mother of 2 monsters (yes, they are monsters), has taught me to be patient and take every tasks/problems/issues as a challenge!