Friday, August 29, 2014

Wing Tai Chairman: No "fire sale" (for now)

Wing Tai Holdings chairman Cheng Wai Keung has said that slashing prices is not the best way to increase sales in the luxury home segment amid the current property climate, as developers run the risk of tarnishing the brand image of their offerings. This is according to a report on the CNA website this morning.  
This is one of the reasons the company has not taken that option with its freehold Ardmore Park project, Le Nouvel Ardmore. Wing Tai has sold only three of the 43 units on offer but, under the Qualifying Certificate (QC), it has until mid-2016 to sell all the units. 

And for its 156-unit Nouvel 18 located next-door, a joint venture with City Developments, QC rules dictate that it must obtain its TOP by Dec 17, which means all units must be sold by late 2016. 

“There is no point in lowering the price … it’s almost like retail — you don’t see the high-end, luxury products on a fire sale. If LVMH does that, it is destroying its brand. In the high-end segment, you’re selling a brand image; not for utility. If it’s for utility, you can never sell at that kind of price,” said Mr Cheng. 

“We still have one-and-a-half years for Le Nouvel Ardmore. We will hold our price and wait until that time to make a decision.” 

Several developers have in the past months lowered prices of their projects to move units. For example, MCL Land had cut prices of its Hallmark Residences in Bukit Timah by about 10% earlier this year. 

The wife and I cannot find any transacted price information for Le Nouvel Ardmore, since it is not mandatory for caveat to be lodged with the URA. However, we did find an August 27 listing on PropertyGuru for a 3,800sqft unit asking for $18 million. This worked out to be more than $4,700psf!  

And looking at another soon-to-TOP project nearby with comparatively smaller-sized units, the transacted prices for the 84-unit Ardmore 3 averaged around $3,300psf over the past 2 years (Aug 2012 - Aug 2014).

So Mr Cheng may indeed have a point there: The luxury home market is catering to an entirely different playing field and even if prices were to drop by 20% (hypothetically), the absolute price quantum is probably still way too rich for even the "above average Joes". Given that the sector may not be as price elastic as the mass market segment, dropping prices to try and increase sales may not necessarily do more good (moving more units) than bad (brand erosion).

But the question remains - how much further are developers of luxury projects with large number of unsold units prepared to hold on to their prices especially with their QC datelines looming?  

There is always a bright side to everything though: Those who have already bought into these projects need not worry about parking spaces when inviting their Lambo or Ferrari-driving friends over for dinner parties and such... for quite awhile at least.
Have a great weekend!
P/S: As for the white background surrounding the text, it is just one of them unexplained Blogger "eccentricities" that the wife and I have to live with...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

July resale prices slipped... yet again!

Resale prices of private homes slipped lower in July according to Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) estimates, which were released on Thursday (Aug 28).

The SRPI, compiled by the National University of Singapore's Institute of Real Estate Studies, showed overall prices fell 0.3% in July from the previous month. In June, prices fell 0.5% from a month earlier.

Prices of small unit homes led the decline, with a 0.8% fall in July from the previous month. A small unit has a floor area of 506sqft or below.

Prices of homes in the central region, excluding small units, declined 0.7% on-month. However, home prices in the non-central region edged-up 0.1% in July from June. These figures exclude prices of small units in the non-central region.
Source: CNA

Despite the consecutive fall in resale prices for June and July, some may argue that the % drop were rather insignificant. While the wife and I cannot disagree with that one, we are always mindful of the Chinese saying "积少成多" - literally translated as "accumulation of little becomes a lot".

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pine Grove revisited

Someone asked about Pine Grove last evening. What are the chances of en bloc? Is it still worth getting a unit there?? 

The wife and I have not written specifically about Pine Grove since the demise of their last en bloc attempt in 2011. So we deemed this morning as an opportune time to revisit an "old friend" that was previously on our "buy" radar. 

The first thing that struck us when we arrive at Pine Grove was the amount of construction that is happening next to and across from the estate. Closer inspection revealed that these are for canal upgrading purposes - seemed like the PWD had finally decided that they ought to do something about those "once-in-50-year floods" that had already happened numerous times over the past 2 years.

Driving around the estate, we were once again greeted by the familiar sights of space and greeneries. And how many developments these days can actually boast of having 3-bedroom apartments of 1,600+ and even 1,700+sqft... and without PES at that?


However, the estate do look like it could use a fresh coat of paint. The wife and I are unsure when the last repainting exercise for Pine Grove was carried out but hopefully the next one will come soon (if not already!).


Looking at the transactional side of things, the wife and I discovered that   

·         There were only 55 transactions at Pine Grove over the past 3 years.  

·         Between August 2013 to August 2014, only 11 units were transacted. Out of these, 4 were for the 1,600+sqft units and 4 for the 1,755sqft units. 

·         The 1,600+sqft units were transacted at an average price of around $1.4 million. This seems to be holding steady throughout the past one year. 

·         The 1,755sqft units were transacted at an average price of around $1.55 million. However, it seems like prices for this unit type has been on the decline during the past year - from $1.588 million in Nov 2013 to the recent $1.5 million in Aug 2014. 

Now to provide our humble "non expert" opinions on the 2 questions asked:

What are the chances of en bloc?
There is always a chance, but the wife and I reckoned that it will be slim to none over the next 2 or even 3 years.  

The current depressed market sentiments, which is expected to worsen further over the next 2 years, is likely to stifle developers' interests in collective sale plots. This is especially for an estate such as Pine Grove, where the plot size is huge and the amount developers have to pay to top up the land-lease is substantial. And coupled with the new government ruling imposed on developers that all units within a new project must be built and sold within 5 years of site acquisition, this will definitely make them think twice about Pine Grove over the next 2 - 3 years.  

There is also the question of disparity between Sellers and Buyer expectations - the folks at Pine Grove have shown that they are only prepared to sell-out at the "right" price, while developers are not so convinced that the asking prices so far are "right". This probably explained the 3 previous failed attempts to en bloc. 

Is Pine Grove still worth the buy?
When the wife and I were considering the estate back in 2008 - 09, the 1,755sqft units were only asking for about $1.2 million (if our rusty memories served us right). However, those were different times then and we recalled one unit was subsequently sold for over $1.7 million when talks of en bloc were at its fever pitch back in 2010 - 2011. So prices have certainly came off a bit.

Our answer to this question is simply "If you are not buying it at the peak of the market and have the financial capability to hold on to the unit for the next 5 years or so, then it is probably a worthy buy". Having said that, there are not that many units available in the market going by experiences over the past 3 years. So even if you are prepared to pay the asking price, your choices are likely to be limited. This is especially if you are particular about the unit orientation, facing, high/low floor etc. 

Hope the above will be of some help to those looking at buying into Pine Grove!

Click on link below to access the URA caveats for Pine Grove from August 2011 - 13:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

GuocoLand @Sims Drive: Concept discussion and Feedback session

The wife and I attended a concept discussion and feedback session organised by GuocoLand for its Sims Drive site last weekend. 

Sims Drive is an old housing estate located on the fringe of Geylang, which for many of us, is a love-hate relationship - you probably love Geylang for the food but hate it (especially amongst women) for the somewhat dodgy nightlife and "extracurricular" activities.

And Sims Drive, given its relative proximities to the city and with a slew of exciting developments set to take place in its surrounding area such as Kallang and Paya Lebar, may soon be transformed into a hip and modern town at the city fringe.  

This is what GuocoLand will like us to believe anyway...


GuocoLand acquired the 99-year leasehold housing site in April of this year. The developer paid $530.89 million or $687.88psf ppr for the nearly 2.4-hectare (263,000sqft) plot fronting Sims Drive, Aljunied and the PIE. Guocoland envisaged a 19-storey condo project with about 800 - 850 "affordable compact-sized units of mainly one, two and three-bedders". The project is expected to be launched by mid-2015.


Market analysts had estimated that the breakeven cost would be around $1,090 - $1,130psf and a launch price of around $1,220 - $1,300pf. 

As part of their Public Communications Plan, GuocoLand have been holding sessions to discuss concept and solicit feedback for their Sims Drive project.  

The event was held over lunch at the Fansida, a "fine dining" restaurant serving Western/European food located at the corner of Sims Avenue and Aljunied Road.

About 10 invited guests were present at the session. No project detail or pricing information was given, rather a short presentation on the potential that the Sims Drive site can offer. These include: 

·         Excellent location at the fringe of the city - the CBD, Marina Financial District, Orchard Road and Kallang Sports Hub are all within a 15-minute drive away. 

·         Within 5 minutes walk to the Aljunied MRT station. 

·         The site is mere minutes drive or 1 MRT stop away from Paya Lebar Central (Ex Singapore Post Building next to Paya Lebar MRT station), which has become another hub for banks and IT-related companies.  

·         Choice of primary schools within 1-km of the site - Canossa Convent Primary, Macpherson Primary and Geylang Methodist Primary. 

·         James Cook University will be moving into a bigger campus at the former site of Majusri Secondary School in Sims Drive. This will probably happen sometime in 2017 and should help to drive up rental and even resale demands around the vicinity. 

·         Mid to high-end F&B outlets are beginning to mushroom around Geylang and its fringe areas like Cassia Crescent and Guillemard Road. Fansida is one such example. Other newcomers include The Tuck Shop, Maple & Market Cafe and Backstage Cafe. Such development may change the demographic and help to "raise the right profile" around the area, much like what Tiong Bahru has experienced over the past years.

Over lunch, viewpoint and feedback were sought from participants on what they like to see in the upcoming project at the Sims Drive site. Opinion on how much in terms of $/psf is considered a "fair price" for this project was also sought.  

Below are what the wife and I have to say about the site and proposed new project, some of which we had shared during the feedback session and others we came up with after driving around the site for a bit. 

·         One of the slides during the presentation has associated the Sims Drive project with other new projects around the city fringe like Commonwealth Towers (Queenstown) and L'VIV (Newton). We find this comparison a tad unrealistic as not all city fringe areas are perceived equal. We are already struggling to associate Sims Drive with say, Balestier, much less Newton. 

·         Although Geylang and its fringe areas are moving towards the right sort of  transformation, we will not be quite as hasty to say that it will soon become the "Tiong Bahru of the East". In terms of size and spread, Tiong Bahru is definitely a much smaller area to transform. It also did not come with as big a "perception baggage" that required unloading.   

·         Although the participants were told that GuocoLand are still working on the project detail and pricing, the $1,400psf number was floated supposedly for discussion purposes. And you do not typically suggest a number without prior consideration and more importantly approval from management. With The Panorama (Ang Mo Kio) currently selling at an average price of around $1,200psf and Thomson Three (Upper Thomson) at a tad below $1,300psf, we do feel that $1,400psf is probably way too ambitious. This is especially when every father, mother, son and even their pets are saying that the property market outlook is going to be worse come next year. 

·         The Sims Drive-Aljunied area currently consist of primarily HDB dwellers. As such, the catchment in terms of potential buyers are more likely to be upgraders. Although there may be some demand for one-bedroom units from singles and investors seeking rental income (in view of the new James Cook university campus situated round the corner), we reckon the bulk of the interests will probably be for the bigger 2- to 3-bedroom units. So GuocoLand may want to put more of these into the project instead of maximizing on the one-bedders. 

·         The wife and I decided to take a drive around the actual site and we were not too impressed by the location. The site is really right smacked at the junction of the Aljunied Road and Sims Drive, with the PIE (make that the Aljunied Flyover) running along the back of the plot. And if the Anak Bukit Flyover at Upper Bukit Timah is any indication, the decibel levels coming from vehicular traffic on the flyover can be quite deafening especially for units on the higher floors. So GuocoLand will probably have to design the project to minimize such noise impact, e.g. building the apartment block as far away from the flyover as they possibly can and providing lots of tall trees at the back of the plot to "absorb sound".  

·         We also reckoned that the view for the higher-floor units may not be too pretty.  The surrounding area consists mainly of older HDB flats and flatted factories. Although there are talks about the Government wanting to redevelop and revitalise the Sims Drive area, nothing concrete is in the pipeline as yet. So GuocoLand will probably have to double their efforts to beautify the interior grounds of the project to compensate for the "not-so-exciting" external view.


Our humble opinions aside, the wife and I felt that such concept discussion and feedback sessions, while more of a PR stint, is actually a pretty good idea. At least it demonstrates to some extent that the developer is keen to obtain (and consider) the viewpoints and suggestions of potential buyers. Hopefully more developers will adopt the same approach for their upcoming new launches.

And just for our own feedback purpose (not on behalf of the developer), what do you think about the Sims Drive area and how much in terms of $/psf will you deem the project as "fairly priced"?


Monday, August 25, 2014

TEL may boost collective sales in East Coast!

According to a report in Lianhe Zaobao today, market analysts said that several residential developments along the newly announced Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) may see higher potentials for collective sales. However, developers are unlikely to move on these till 2017 at least. 

These developments, which are freehold, include Amber Point and Parkway Apartments (near Amber MRT station) and Katong Park and Equatorial Apartments (near Katong Park MRT station). All are more than 20 years old and given their smaller plot areas, may be "bite-size" enough to raise developers' interests.

But with current depressed market, the climate for en bloc sales is less than rosy given the big disparity in price expectations between seller and buyer.

A report published last week by Colliers International has indicated that during the 2010 - 11 en bloc "peak" period, a total of 78 collective sales were concluded. However, the numbers have been falling since, with only 22 sales concluded in 2012. And up to July of this year, there was no en bloc transaction made in 2014.

The failure rate of collective sales have correspondingly been increasing over the last 2 - 3 years. This was 67% in 2013, up from 61% in 2012. Developers have generally been partial towards acquiring new land sites via Government Land Sales (GLS), while keeping their options opened on en bloc sites.

However, analysts expect that developers may become more active in the en bloc market come 2017, which is 6 years before the scheduled completion of the TEL in 2023. And older developments that are 20 years or older and having less than 200 units each, in areas such as Amber Road, Katong, Marine Parade and Siglap will be especially in their radars, given the smaller purchase quantum and corresponding lower risks.

Some developments along the TEL have already made several attempts to en bloc. These included

  • Laguna Park (near to Siglap MRT station), a 99-year leasehold development with 63 years left on its lease. The last en bloc attempt was in October 2011, where the asking price was $1.25 billion, equivalent to $954psf ppr.

  • Hawaii Tower (near to Amber MRT station), a freehold development that last attempted to en bloc in 2011 as well with an asking price of $700 million.
So with the announcement of the TEL and location of its MRT stations, these two developments may now stand a better chance of finding buyers.
Collective sales aside, the TEL may also provide a new lease of life for new projects with unsold units that are currently under construction. As of Q2 2014, new projects launched along the TEL included The Meyerise - a 239-unit freehold development, of which 101 units are sold, and Amber Skye - a 109-unit freehold project with majority of units unsold.

After reading the zaobao report, the wife and I wish to add 3 more candidates to the list of "enhanced en bloc potential due to TEL", given their supposed proximities to the Tanjong Rhu Station:

  • Costa Rhu - a 99-year leasehold project that will be 19 years old come 2017. It is located at the very end of Tanjong Rhu and nearest to the Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay.

  • Pebble Bay - a 99-year leasehold project that will be 20 years old come 2017. It is situated along the Kallang River Basin and has excellent view of the area around the Sports Hub.

  • Park Shore - this is the only freehold projects around the area and will be more than 20 years old come 2017. Given its smaller plot size/number of units compared to Costa Rhu (737 units) or Pebble Bay (510 units), Park Shore (152 units) probably has the best potential for collective sale amongst the three.