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Old 28-08-2008, 12:41 PM   #1456
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Aug 24, 2008
HDB resale market going strong
Deals of more than $700K are still being done, with demand fuelled by PRs and new families

By Joyce Teo
While sentiment in the private homes market remains gloomy, the market for Housing Board resale flats offers another story.

Deals of $700,000 and above are still being done this year, after 'record deals' of more than $700,000 first surfaced during last year's boom, though these are few and far between.

The good news for sellers is that prices continue to rise, pushing up valuations.

Volume is seen remaining healthy as home seekers continue to check out resale flats, largely oblivious to the credit crisis consuming the world, market watchers said.

Demand for HDB resale flats comes mostly from newly formed families and new permanent residents (PRs), they said.

Mr Leong Sze Hian, president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, thinks that HDB prices are still rising because there is not enough supply to meet demand.

'For example, last year, there were about 78,000 new citizens and PRs. So they may be buying HDB flats which they may not have been eligible to buy previously,' he said.

HDB flat seekers also include those who are priced out of the private market given that mass market prices there remain relatively strong.

But there is a limit to the gains for an HDB seller. Already, HDB prices are considered high, said Mr Leong.

Also, agents say that buyers are showing more resistance to sizeable cash-over-valuation (COV) amounts. The COV is the cash sum that is paid over and above the valuation of a flat.

It cannot be paid from a home loan or with Central Provident Fund monies.

Generally, once you cross the barrier of $600,000, there will be strong resistance, said the assistant vice-president of ERA Asia Pacific, Mr Eugene Lim.

High-priced transactions have been registered in a few estates such as Marine Parade, Queenstown and Bukit Merah. For instance, a $750,000 deal for a 10-year-old, high-floor 124 sq m unit in Holland Close in Oueenstown was recorded in June.

Once a high-priced deal is done, sellers in the area will raise their asking prices. But these may not be realistic, said Mr Lim.

Increasingly, potential buyers are feeling the pinch of rising costs and negotiating harder for a smaller COV amount, particularly for non-prime flats, he said.

'People are more cost-conscious now.'

For suburban locations, asking levels for COV amounts have come down, said HSR Property Group's executive director, Mr Eric Cheng.

'I would say that $15,000 to $25,000 is common for non-prime districts. Previously, people were asking for $30,000 to $40,000,' he said.

'The resale index rose because of higher valuations.'

Valuations are made based on historical data.

Going forward, HDB resale prices look set to rise, but likely by a smaller margin.

In its second-quarter data release in end-July, HDB said that it planned to offer about 3,900 new flats under the Build-to-Order (BTO) system over the next six months. These will be in towns such as Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang.

For the whole of this year, HDB has a planned supply of 8,400 new BTO flats, up from the 6,000 flats offered last year and just 2,400 BTO flats in 2006. These BTO flats are the main supply of new flats.

With more new flats coming on the market, some demand will be taken away from the resale market, said Mr Lim.

He expects an overall price rise of 10 to 15 per cent, including an 8.2 per cent rise in resale prices in the first half of this year.

Mr Cheng believes the rise in the next 12 months will not be more than 5 per cent.

Last year, HDB resale prices rose by 17.5 per cent.

HDB prices will support the private mass market sector, but selectively. A lot still depends on the general economic outlook, said Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy, Mr Nicholas Mak.

When the economic outlook is less buoyant, HDB upgraders are likely to stay put rather than move to another estate to upgrade, he said.

Typically, demand for a private suburban launch comes primarily from the same housing estate. Unless the market is generally buoyant, sales will start to slow once this pool of buyers runs out, he added.
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Old 23-09-2008, 07:58 PM   #1457
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Our government should do more to help Citizens. It is even reported in Myanmar Times (http://www.mmtimes.com/no434/b007.htm) that their citizens are snapping up our Resale flats.

Everyone knows that it is relatively easy for foreigners to get PRs status in Singapore. and to add to the many problems, The HDB is not building enough flats for Singaporeans and we had no choice but to turn to resale market and yet foreigners are competing with us for them evenly.

The Government should do something such as only Singaporeans are allowed to buy HDB flats or impose a fee on top of the resale flats or provide subsidy for Singaporeans.

July 15, 2008
Citizens may suffer as PRs buy up HDB flats
AS A Singaporean, I felt uneasy when I read your article 'Soaring rents pushing PRs to buy flats' (July 5).
Aren't Housing Board (HDB) flats supposed to be an affordable form of housing for citizens? As indicated in your article, the burgeoning population of permanent residents and their purchasing power is one of the factors driving HDB resale prices.

And it has indirectly resulted in the increase in prices of new flats since HDB priced them on market valuation.

Most of these permanent residents are willing and able to fork out huge cash-over-valuation (COV) sums that sellers are asking these days while most Singaporeans are being priced out of the market.

My Singaporean neighbour has sold his flat to a permanent resident couple at a COV of $40,000.

Additionally, with more and more Chinese and Indian nationals attaining permanent residency, how would they affect the HDB ethnic quota?

Would that mean that there will be less flats available for Chinese and Indian citizens?

A separate quota for permanent residents may be necessary to ensure that public housing remains affordable and available to most Singaporeans.

HDB policy makers should share their thoughts with the public.

Chua Teck Kee
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Old 26-09-2008, 12:03 AM   #1458
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Question why so much different

Flat value dropped due to different market conditions[/SIZE]

Friday • March 24, 2006

Letter from Joan Chan
Director (Valuation), CKS Property Consultants
and Marcus Oh
Executive Director, OrangeTee.Com

We refer to the letter, "Why did flat valuation drop by $35,000 in seven months?" (March 17), from Mr Wong Teck Tian, regarding the valuation of his HDB five-room flat in Toh Yi Drive.

The valuations for Mr Wong's flat was carried out by Orange Tee in June last year and CKS Property Consultants in February this year for the purpose of obtaining a mortgage loan and withdrawal of CPF monies for the purchase of a HDB flat.

On both occasions, bona fide sales between willing buyers and willing sellers for similar flats in the vicinity were used as a basis to determine the value of the flat. Adjustments were made to reflect the location of the unit, floor level, size, orientation, age and renovation. This is an established valuation principle and methodology in the industry.

As the two valuations were done at different times, the market conditions and the most recent sales during the two periods could not be exactly the same.

In particular, in June last year, the transactions for similar flats in the preceding four months were between $340,000 and $396,000, while in February this year, the transactions for similar flats in the preceding four months were between $320,000 and $330,000.

Hence, it is only natural that there is a difference in the value of the flat assessed.

We would like to assure Mr Wong that we have done our valuation professionally and our valuations are reflective of market conditions for the respective periods.[/QUOTE]
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Old 01-10-2008, 03:50 PM   #1459
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Oct 1, 2008
HDB coverage safe, says AIG subsidiary
I REFER to Mr Philip Khoo's letter last Saturday, 'Are we assured HDB apartments are fully covered?'
We thank Mr Khoo for his concern. We understand there may be some confusion among the public following the current financial turmoil in the United States and the situation facing our parent company, American International Group (AIG), in the US.

We would like to reassure all our customers that the financial issues of the parent company have no impact on its insurance companies' ability to pay claims and underwrite new policies. AIG's insurance companies remain strong and well-capitalised, and are strictly regulated by the authorities in each country.

In Singapore, the American Home Assurance Company Singapore (AHAC Singapore) has been appointed by the HDB via open tenders to underwrite HDB fire insurance since 1997. As with all insurance companies here, we are subject to stringent regulatory and capital requirements by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and we more than meet these.

These regulations stipulate that insurers must maintain sufficient assets to meet all our liabilities to policyholders. These assets and funds are ring-fenced, kept separate from the parent company and fully protected - they cannot be touched or drawn on to offset any needs of the parent business in the US.

Some other key facts:

Our operations in Singapore remain in strong financial condition, with Standard & Poor rating of A+;

Our capital adequacy ratio is approximately 50 points above the requirements set by the MAS, and is believed to be the best in the market;

AHAC Singapore continues to maintain strong liquidity with over $100 million in cash and constantly generates positive cash flow; and

We hold over $650 million in assets as of Aug 31 this year - all in Singapore.
In short, your policies are safe, and you are protected.

Our business in Singapore continues to be healthy and we are confident that AHAC Singapore will continue to serve customers for many more years with the same excellent quality of service and value. We remain firmly committed to all our customers and wholeheartedly appreciate their support.

For more information on AIG and AHAC Singapore, visit our website at www.aiggeneral.com.sg.

Kevin Goulding
American Home Assurance Company Singapore
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Old 01-10-2008, 04:19 PM   #1460
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Sep 30, 2008
Shouldn't new HDB flats be priced less than market rate?
I REFER to last Saturday's article, '$645K: HDB's priciest flats go on sale'.
I was shocked that HDB has priced its new stock of flats in Tanjong Pagar at $545,000 to $645,000. I am not surprised the higher-end flats have relatively few takers due to steep pricing. As it is, HDB has priced its new flats according to surrounding resale market prices and built in a discount before launching them to the public.

I wonder if this is a fair comparison as the property market rides through the up-and-

down cycle and if a new buyer buys now, he runs a high risk of buying at the high end of the market trend and may lose on his investment when the market goes down. This often happens to HDB resale or private property buyers who buy high in an uptrend market but lose heavily when the market goes south. It will be tragic if a buyer of a new HDB flat also goes through this financial heartache with his first ever housing unit.

There is generally not much premium earned on buying brand-new HDB flats now. One wonders if it is more prudent to buy a resale unit with the $30,000 rebate given as a sweetener, rather than buy a brand-new unit at such a high price.

Gone are the days when new HDB flats were much cheaper than in the current market. I bought my first new executive flat about 15 years ago at $143,000. I paid less than $500 a month for a mortgage loan. I later sold it a few times over when the property market was booming five years after I bought it. That was my first new HDB flat experience as I could buy only private or resale flats after that.

As the property market matures, I wonder if HDB has lost its mission to allow Singaporeans to own affordable housing with cheap loans. With new flats priced so high, home owners not only have to pay exorbitant loans but also worry that their flat valuation may drop if the market turns sour. Buying a new flat becomes more of a risky investment than providing a roof over one's family.

HDB also needs to price its new flats better by considering factors other than surrounding resale valuation. To prevent home buyers immediately selling their flats after the five year lock-in period to make a profit, HDB can tie home owners to a longer lock-in period of eight to 10 years, enabling it to price flats cheaper. Many Singaporeans stay in their flats after more than 10 years, some for sentimental reasons, while others do not want to lock themselves into another big mortgage loan when they buy another property.

Gilbert Goh
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Old 02-10-2008, 08:58 AM   #1461
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Oct 2, 2008
The MRT guide to home prices
Buyers increasingly keen on units near stations, which can command up to a 20% premium

By Fiona Chan
HOME seeker Wan Kum Wai is hunting for a flat that is well-located - specifically, within walking distance of an MRT station.
For this convenience, the multimedia designer and his wife Jessie are willing to pay 10 to 20 per cent more than they would for a home a few bus stops away from a station.

'We don't drive, and the cost of living is running high,' he said. 'We don't mind paying more because we think this will help us save on transportation costs and other expenses in the long run.'

In an era of sky-high petrol prices, multiplying Electronic Road Pricing gantries and increasing worries over environmental degradation, the all-important 'location, location, location' element of a home purchase has taken on a new slant.

While the classic prime districts of 9, 10, 11 are still sought after, home buyers are also increasingly keen on properties near MRT stations.

Apart from non-drivers, MRT-accessible homes also attract buyers with school-going children as well as investors who want to rent the units to expatriates, many of whom rely heavily on public transport, say property agents.

Ms Mylene Kwan, a PropNex agent who is helping Mr Wan find a home, said some of her clients have only one priority: to be near an MRT station.

'Many of them don't drive, so it's very important to these buyers,' she said.

But such proximity comes at a price.

Ms Kwan estimated that HDB flats with this privilege have their valuations alone jacked up by at least $20,000 or $30,000, and buyers often pay even more in cash on top of that.

The most popular HDB flats near MRT stations are those close to town, such as in the Tiong Bahru, Redhill and Queenstown areas, she said.

But even in the suburbs, a nearby station can give a big boost to prices.

In Woodlands, owners of flats near the MRT station are asking $40,000 to $50,000 above valuation just because of the location, said Ms Rohaizah Ramjan, another PropNex agent.

Whenever these flats come on the market, they get snapped up within two or three weeks, she added. For 'normal ones' further from the station, it can take a few months for a sale to be closed.

'Flats near MRT stations are harder to come by, because owners are comfortable there and don't want to sell,' she said. 'So if a buyer has the budget and they see a well-located flat for sale, they just grab.'

The same principle applies to private property. Condominiums near MRT stations can command a premium of up to 20 per cent over similar units a bit further away, said Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of HSR Property Group.

The price difference stems partly from the convenience of these homes, but is also due to their limited supply, he added.

'If you look at the whole map of Singapore, I dare say only about half the MRT stations have condos right next door. Of course, they command a premium, a good 10 to 20 per cent above neighbouring properties 10 minutes' walk away.'

At Tiong Bahru MRT station, for instance, new condos that are at the doorstep of the station - such as Twin Regency and Regency Heights in Kim Tian Road - fetch $1,240 per sq ft (psf) on average.

About five to 10 minutes away, prices average $1,072 psf, or about 15 per cent less, at the equally new The Regency at Tiong Bahru on Chay Yan Street.

'Most of these units are rarely on the market,' said Mr Cheng. 'Even if the owners are not staying in them, they might not want to sell because they can get very high rental returns.'

Still, not all MRT stations are equal. Property values can differ widely between two consecutive stops, such as in the case of Novena and Toa Payoh, where condos around the former are almost double the price of those around the latter, according to an extensive analysis done by property firm Savills Singapore.

Even stations within a few kilometres of each other can see significantly different prices.

Savills' data showed that condos around the Dhoby Ghaut station, for instance, fetched an average of around $1,600 psf in the first six months of the year. Less than 2km away, condos near the Little India station cost only two-thirds that on average, or $1,071 psf.

'Apart from the proximity to an MRT station, buyers do look at other factors,' said Mr Ku Swee Yong, Savills' director of marketing and business development.

'Equally important is the quality, age and tenure of the project and its facilities, how much the unit can fetch in rentals and what amenities are nearby.'

Mr Ku cited Lavender and Farrer Park MRT stations, separated by just 1.5km in distance but about $200 psf in price.

At Lavender, well-equipped condos such as Citylights boosted prices in the vicinity to an average of $1,104 psf in the first six months of the year. But Farrer Park is surrounded by several smaller condos with minimal facilities, so rents and prices tend to be lower, said Mr Ku.
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Old 02-10-2008, 03:41 PM   #1462
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Q3 prices of resale flats up 4.2%; that of private property down 1.8%

02 October 2008 1401 hrs

SINGAPORE: Prices of resale flats rose a preliminary 4.2 per cent in the third quarter of this year.

HDB said on Thursday that the figure is just slightly lower than the 4.5 per cent increase in the second quarter.

For the year-to-date, prices of resale flats have risen almost 13 per cent.

HDB said it has to date launched about 5,000 of the planned supply of 8,400 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats for 2008.

Subject to demand, HDB plans to offer another 3,400 new flats under the BTO system in the remaining months in towns such as Punggol, Sengkang and Yishun.

The new BTO flat supply will be in addition to the sale exercises offering balance flats from previous offers.

HDB will provide more details of the BTO flats when the projects are launched.

It said it will continue to monitor the market situation closely, and new sites will be launched based on assessed market demand.

Unlike resale flats, prices of private property declined in the third quarter.

Flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore, showed that prices fell 1.8 per cent from the second quarter - the first quarterly contraction in more than four years.

URA also released on Thursday the flash estimates of the price changes in the three geographical regions.

For the third quarter, prices of non-landed private residential properties decreased by two per cent in Core Central Region and 2.1 per cent in Rest of Central Region.

Prices of non-landed properties outside the Central Region rose 0.1 per cent.

The flash estimates are compiled based on transaction prices given in caveats lodged during the first ten weeks of the quarter supplemented by information on the number of new units sold.

The statistics will be updated four weeks later when URA releases the full third quarter real estate statistics, when more data on the caveats lodged and the take-up of new projects are captured.
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Old 03-10-2008, 01:06 PM   #1463
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Oct 3, 2008
Private home prices: First fall in 4-1/2 years
By Fiona Chan
PRICES of private homes have fallen for the first time in four-and-a-half years, marking an end to the property boom that started in 2004.
And prices are likely to keep falling well into next year, squeezed by continuing financial turbulence and a looming global recession, say property consultants.

At least HDB flat owners have some reason to cheer. Resale prices continued to climb in the third quarter, pushing values to their highest level since 1996.

Official estimates yesterday showed that HDB resale prices rose 4.2 per cent in the July to September period, on top of a 4.5 per cent rise in the previous quarter.

But overall prices of private homes slipped 1.8 per cent in the period, after flattening out in the second quarter. Consultants called it a turning point after almost a year of deadlock between buyers and sellers in which sales all but dried up.

Most had expected the drop, given the financial problems in the United States and global economic slowdown.

'It was only a matter of time before overall private home prices started to fall as well,' said Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

Homes in the city-fringe areas led the price decline, dropping 2.1 per cent in areas ranging from Queenstown and Bishan to Marine Parade and Sentosa. In the choicest Orchard Road, Holland and Bukit Timah districts, prices fell for the second straight quarter. They dipped 2 per cent, after falling 0.1 per cent in the April to June period. But suburban prices held steady and actually rose slightly by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter, on top of a 0.9 per cent rise in the previous three months.

Despite the overall fall in the third quarter, private home prices have risen about 2 per cent since January. But they could fall 10 per cent over the next 12 months, and even more beyond that, said Mr Mak.

'Developers may start to offer 'soft discounts' such as giving vouchers and absorbing stamp duty, and could hold back launches as far as three, four years,' he added.

While sales will slow in the fourth quarter, 'there could be some sparks of activity if interesting projects such as Marina Bay Suites, Sentosa Quayside and The Arte on Thomson Road are launched', said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of ** Richard Ellis Research.

For the first time since 2006, the Urban Redevelopment Authority did not highlight the number of upcoming private homes in the flash estimates, after concerns that the large headline supply figures did not reflect delayed completions and may further dampen market sentiment.

Housing supply statistics will be released with the full set of third-quarter property data at the end of this month.

But this will be scant comfort for property developers, many of whom saw their shares drop sharply yesterday after analysts downgraded their counters.

Citigroup analyst Wendy Koh predicts that high-end home prices will fall by 25 per cent, the mid-end by 15 per cent and mass market by 5 to 10 per cent.

'I'm definitely going to wait for prices to fall some more; signs are clear that things are going to get worse before they get better,' said potential buyer Chris Low, 28, who works in a technology research firm.

The only bright spot is the HDB market, where resale prices have jumped 12 per cent this year and could rack up a 15 per cent rise for the whole year, said Mr Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of property agency PropNex.

'We can even expect to see this strong demand continuing into next year, mainly because of the time lag to build flats, coupled with stronger demands from PRs due to higher rental costs,' he added.
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Old 06-10-2008, 09:43 AM   #1464
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Oct 6, 2008
Five times more rental flats recovered
147 units seized from tenants who made profit from illegal sub-letting
By Jessica Cheam
MORE rental flat cheats are being exposed, with the number of flats seized by the Government for illegal subletting increasing five-fold this year.
New figures obtained by The Straits Times show that 147 rental flats have been recovered by the Housing Board as at end August, compared to just 28 flats recovered last year. Less than 20 flats were seized in 2005 and 2006 each.

This year's number is set to go up further as the HDB steps up its efforts to weed out errant tenants who abuse their rental flats to make profits.

Rental flats rates currently range from $26 to $205 for a one-roomer and $44 to $275 for a two-roomer, depending on household income and other factors.

There is a long waiting list of more than 4,000 applicants for these flats, which the Government reserves for needy, low-income families that cannot afford to buy a home or pay market rental rates.

What rental cheats do is sublet these rental flats at market rates instead of staying in them. Many flats are being sub-let for about $1,000 a month, netting their original tenants handsome profits.

The Straits Times had reported in May a surge in the number of such tenants illegally sub-letting rental flats to cash in on the demand for low-priced housing.

Demand has spiked on the back of last year's property boom, which has upped rentals islandwide, and an influx of foreign workers looking for cheap accommodation.

Anecdotal evidence, based on interviews with residents, shows that in some estates, as many as one in five rental flats were illegally rented out, often to foreign workers or students from Malaysia, China and India.

'It's great that HDB is discovering more of such cases,' said MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Mr Teo Ser Luck.

'These units shouldn't be used for profit and denied to a citizen who is really in need,' he said.

The HDB has stepped up its enforcement blitzes, extending its net to more areas across the country. This was partly in response to a call-for-action by MPs, residents of rental blocks and genuinely needy Singaporeans who have been left waiting in the queue.

'I fully support HDB's enforcement actions. Rental flats shouldn't be used as a money-making machine,' said North West District Mayor Dr Teo Ho Pin, who is also MP for Bukit Panjang.

HDB said the increased awareness of such abuse this year has helped in its enforcement, with more residents calling its hotline. Of the 147 units recovered, 31 units - or 21 per cent - could be traced to feedback from residents.

The increase in such cases comes at a time when local demand for rental flats have escalated - a 'worrying trend' singled out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech.

The number of people seeking such flats has 'tripled' in just a year, he said. There are about 4,387 in the waiting list as at June, with a waiting time of nine to 18 months. In 2006, the wait was just two to six months.

HDB has since said it will ramp up its current stock of rental flats from 42,800 to 49,860 by end-2011. Tenants illegally renting out their home can lose the flat and face a five-year ban from renting or buying HDB property
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:04 PM   #1465
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Oct 7, 2008

Estate agents on 'too easy' exam

WE REFER to the letter, 'Self-regulation in estate agency industry' (Sept 2)
by Mr Jeff Foo, president of the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA).
It is indeed disappointing for Mr Foo to run down the Common Examination for
Salespersons (CES) by saying it is a watered-down standard for agent
accreditation. We are a few of those who have taken the CES. We can testify
that this examination, though the format is based on multiple-choice
questions, is no less easier than the Common Examination for House Agents
To pass the CES, we need to be familiar with all aspects of HDB resale
transactions, the basic law relating to real estate, property tax, stamp
duty and property law. We also need to have appreciation of the property
market, factors affecting market value, basic calculation and fundamentals
of property investment and so on, which are necessary to properly advise our
property clients.
We therefore applaud the efforts of the Singapore Association of Estate
Agents (SAEA) to introduce the CES for people like us. We feel extremely
proud to have qualified and be accredited as SAEA salesmen. We believe we
are better trained compared to many others we know who do not even have any
basic qualification and knowledge about real estate but act as agents. We
urge the authorities, such as the Housing Board, to make it mandatory for
all agents dealing with HDB resale transactions to have CES as a minimum
We should all support the work of the SAEA, which came up with the
accreditation scheme. Instead of criticising, the IEA should support the
scheme, if it is sincere in wanting to help improve the level of
professionalism in the industry.
Serene Teo (Ms)
(This letter carries 22 other names)
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:07 PM   #1466
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Oct 7, 2008
On the hunt for illegal tenants
The HDB has stepped up enforcement blitzes to stop the illegal subletting of its subsidised rental flats. Jessica Cheam joined Housing Board officers in the search for illegal tenants at a block in Circuit Road last week.
ONE sign that something fishy might be going on at a rental flat is this: closed shutters and doors - especially if the lights are on.
HDB officers were on the lookout for such flats at a 16-storey rental block with two- and three-room units in Circuit Road as part of their stepped-up checks last Tuesday.

Such checks are in addition to HDB's regular visits to all rental flats to ensure tenants are not illegally subletting the flats for profit.

Those with nothing to hide usually leave windows and doors open for ventilation as rental flats typically do not have air-conditioning.

When The Straits Times joined them on their inspection last week, the officers spent little time at several flats that had their doors open, taking only a few seconds to verify the status of the tenants.

Equipped with a file detailing tenants' names and particulars, they went around in pairs, knocking on doors. They said they typically visit after working hours or during weekends, when tenants are likely to be at home.

When a tenant answered the door, they asked for names to verify identities. They also kept a lookout for any irregularities in the flat or in an occupant's profile, such as a mismatch of his or her stated age with the records on file.

Units with doors closed were harder to inspect. In some cases, nobody was at home and in others, the occupants had apparently decided not to open the door.

After knocking on about 10 doors, the officers stopped at one flat where no one had responded. Although the windows and door were firmly shut, the lights were on and faint noises could be heard - betraying the presence of its occupants.

The officers rapped loudly on the window's metal shutters. One officer, Mr Tan (not his real name), called out: 'Is anybody home?'

No answer.

'It's the HDB,' he called out again, this time identifying himself.

Still no answer.

Mr Tan and his colleague were about to move on when a girl aged about 15 opened the door. She said she was staying at the flat for a week with her parent's female friend, who was not in at the moment.

According to Mr Tan's records, the tenant was a 70-year-old man.

The officers exchanged knowing looks. Mr Tan politely but firmly asked her to unlock the gate, assuring her it was a 'regular HDB inspection'.

She looked scared but let them in. They took photographs of the interior, part of their procedure to gather evidence, and noted that it appeared to be occupied only by her.

There was just one bed in the two-room flat. Books and girls' clothing were strewn all over the flat; a laptop and a television sat in the corner. On a table were some Thai baht notes.

Mr Tan explained that he needed a statement from her. Looking worried, she finally confessed.

She said she was a student from Thailand who went to a secondary school nearby. Her 'parent's friend' did not live with her and visited only occasionally to collect the mail. Obviously not aware of the rental rules, she revealed - to raised eyebrows - that she paid $1,000 a month to live there.

This meant that her landlord - the legal tenant who pays a base rent of $44 - had been making a tidy profit of up to $956 a month.

Mr Tan asked the girl if they could have the contact number of her 'parent's friend' but she refused to give it to them.

The team thanked her for cooperating and left.

The next day, HDB pasted a 'Notice to Quit' on the door - giving the tenant notice to contact the Housing Board and vacate the flat within a month.

What if the girl had not answered the door?

Mr Tan said 'it's three strikes and it's out' - at the third visit, if no one answers the door, a similar 'Notice to Quit' is pasted on the door.

'This usually gets the tenant ringing us in a hurry,' he said.

He added that neighbours have helped HDB with its checks by ringing its hotline to give feedback.

The HDB is not ruling out imposing a heftier penalty - in the form of fines - on tenants who illegally sublet their flats.

Currently, tenants illegally renting out their home can lose the flat and face a five-year ban from renting or buying HDB property.
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Old 14-10-2008, 09:04 AM   #1467
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Robust demand for recent HDB launches
Two offerings of wide range of flats attract more than 10 applicants per unit

By Elizabeth Wilmot
DEMAND has been red hot for two recent launches from the Housing Board, with over 10 times more applicants than flats available.
An offering of 150 smaller flats - studios to three-roomers - was swamped with 2,426 applications in the space of just a week.

And, last Friday, the half-yearly sale of three-room premium, four-room and bigger flats achieved an extraordinary response: 7,036 applications have been submitted for 683 units, yet the offer runs until Thursday.

The launch of the smaller units featured three-roomers, two-roomers and studios in estates across the island, including Bukit Merah, Geylang, Jurong East, Sengkang, Ang Mo Kio and Marine Parade.

There were 582 applications for studios and 1,844 for two- and three-roomers combined in the offer from Oct 2 to 8.

Studio prices range from $62,900 to $116,400. A two-roomer goes for $74,000 to $106,300, while a three-room flat will set you back $134,500 to $275,200.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail was not surprised at the robust demand. He said: 'HDB prices, although subsidised, have gone up. Lower-income households are left with not much choice but to turn to three-room flats as a starting platform.'

Three-roomers also provide the highest rental yields in the long term, he added, making them profitable for buyers.

Such flats are offered to lower-income households. Studio applicants must be 55 or older and their gross monthly household income must not exceed $8,000.

The gross monthly household income for applicants for three-room flats must not exceed $3,000. The limit for those hunting for a new two-roomer is $2,000 .

This month's launch shows some changes from the previous small-flat offering held in July. Then, 103 two-room flats and 97 three-roomers were offered, attracting 1,809 applications.

Two-roomers were priced from $72,800 to $99,800 while three-room flats went for $99,000 to $211,000, far lower than this month's offering.

Demand is also robust for HDB flats at the other end of the price spectrum.

A total of 9,083 applications came in for 992 homes offered in a balloting exercise held between Sept 26 and Oct 9.

Four-roomers at the Pinnacle@Duxton, for example, are priced from $457,000 to $555,000 and attracted 2,291 applicants; 825 people applied to buy five-room units at the same development priced from $545,000 to $646,000.
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Old 14-10-2008, 09:11 AM   #1468
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New HDB flats below market value
I REFER to Mr Gilbert Goh's letter, 'Shouldn't new HDB flats be priced less than market rate?' (Sept 30). New HDB flats are indeed priced below their market value. The HDB takes a market-based approach when pricing new flats so as to reflect the true subsidy to buyers. To determine the market value, HDB takes into account the actual selling price of similar flats in the vicinity, bearing in mind variations in location, design, internal finishes and other attributes. The flat is then sold at a discount to this price.
The Pinnacle@Duxton is an iconic public housing project. It is situated in a prime location with easy access to Tanjong Pagar and Outram Park MRT stations. This special project has an international-award winning design, with unique features such as sky gardens and bridges linking its seven tower blocks, and planters, balconies and bay windows. The relatively high prices of these flats are a reflection of the premium attributes and prime location. However, they are still priced below the resale prices of similar flats in the vicinity. As of last Friday, the subscription rate was already over seven times the supply offered. This high demand shows the flats are attractively priced.

The Government is committed to providing affordable public housing, and offers a range of subsidised flats to meet the needs of flat buyers with different incomes. First-timers who bought new flats from the HDB last year used, on average, about 20 per cent of their monthly household income to service their housing loans, and most flat buyers (at least 70 per cent) could service their housing loans entirely from their CPF contributions.

The minimum occupation period is imposed to prevent speculative purchases of HDB flats. The current five-year period provides a good balance between the need to prevent speculation, and giving flat owners the flexibility in selling their flats after a reasonable period of occupation.

We thank Mr Goh for his feedback and suggestions.

Ignatius Lourdesamy
Acting Deputy Director (Marketing & Projects)
Housing & Development Board
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Old 29-10-2008, 09:09 AM   #1469
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Oct 29, 2008
Natura Loft to be launched on Friday
QingJian upbeat about condo-style HDB project despite market blues

By Jessica Cheam
UNDETERRED by gloomy sentiment in the local financial and private property market, Chinese firm QingJian Realty is launching Singapore's fourth condo-style public housing project on Friday.
Natura Loft at Bishan, a project under the Housing Board's Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), will feature three 40-storey blocks of 160 four-room units and 320 five-roomers.

The four-room units of about 95 sq m each are priced from $465,000 to $586,000 while the five-roomers of 120 sq m will go from $600,000 to $739,000.

That works out to around $450 to $570 per sq ft (psf).

QingJian Realty's move reflects the relative strength of the HDB market amid a general downturn in the property market here. Managing director Zuo Hai Bin said demand is still strong and resale flat prices are holding.

'We're very confident that there'll be a strong demand for our flats, which are new and attractively priced compared to resale flats in Bishan,' he added.

Natura Loft is QingJian Realty's first foray into property development here. The firm is a unit of QingJian Group, formerly known as Qingdao Construction Group Corporation. The China-based builder won the tender in February with a bid of $135.9 million or $237 psf per plot ratio for the Bishan Street 24 site.

QingJian Realty has 15 property and construction units worldwide with real estate developments in Qingdao, Jinan and Beijing. It began operations here nine years ago, starting as a sub-contractor on HDB projects. It then moved to taking on the main contractor role for HDB homes in Sengkang and Punggol and now to being a DBSS developer, said Mr Zuo.

'We've moved step by step in the Singapore market and we see it as an important expansion location in our firm's overall strategy,' he added.

The firm is on the look-out for more DBSS sites to develop but considers the private market 'too risky' to venture into at the moment, said Mr Zuo.

Flat prices at Natura Loft are a notch higher than HDB's third DBSS project, Park Central at Ang Mo Kio. This was priced between $400,000 and $500,000 each for four-roomers, and $600,000 and $670,000 for five-roomers.

Mr Zuo said his firm has already revised the Bishan prices down due to the prevailing cautious sentiment. Its prices are competitive, considering Sim Lian's Clover By The Park condo in Bishan sold for about $750 psf, he added.

Natura Loft is also an eco-friendly project, with bamboo flooring for its bedrooms - a first for public housing - bay windows and energy-saving inverter air-conditioning systems, said architect Tang Too Voon of ADDP Architects.

The homes are also built with universal design, and have amenities such as basement carparks, playgrounds, fitness corners, jogging track and barbecue pits.

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Old 31-10-2008, 11:36 AM   #1470
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It's bleak, say watchers. All prices will come down, even public housing
Cloudy view for property market
WHAT a difference a year makes. Just last October, the property market was buzzing with brisk sales at condo launches. Home-sellers, too, called the shots when it came to pricing.
By Desmond Ng

29 October 2008
WHAT a difference a year makes. Just last October, the property market was buzzing with brisk sales at condo launches. Home-sellers, too, called the shots when it came to pricing.

Not anymore.

Prices for some luxury projects launched two years ago have come off their peaks by up to about 26 per cent, according to a Business Times report.

For some of these upmarket properties, prices started dipping in the third quarter of 2007 and are now between 4 and 26 per cent off their highs, according to data compiled by property firm DTZ.

For City Developments' The Oceanfront @ Sentosa Cove, prices have fallen some 26.4 per cent since the third quarter of 2007.

On the other end of the scale, prices at Wheelock Properties' Scotts Square, fell 3.6 per cent between their peak in the third quarter of 2007, and the second and third quarters of this year.

In both cases, the caveat is that the volume of transactions was relatively low.

The latest quarterly flash estimate by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) doesn't look promising either.

Private housing prices slipped about 2.4 per cent compared to the last quarter - the first decline since the property market bottomed out in 2004.

The decline was led by prices of non-landed homes which fell 2.5 per cent compared to landed homes, which saw a smaller fall of 1.9 per cent.

So is it time to look for bargains yet?

Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy, Mr Nicholas Mak, said that there's no denying that the immediate future looks bleak for the market.

He said: 'It's (property prices) all going to come down, not just the high-end. They're all affected by the same factors - the economy, tightening credit situation and drying up of liquidity.

'The longer this recession lasts, the further and more protracted the price drop will be. We don't know when it'll all end but the mass-market has already come down. And for public housing, it's just a matter of time.'

He said that the current climate is good for buyers because they've stronger bargaining power and more room for negotiation with sellers who have been hard-hit by the times.

Prices likely to dip

Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of HSR Property Group, predicts that prices of private homes is likely to dip another five to eight per cent in the next three months.

He said: 'No one knows when is the lowest. But if you're looking to buy a unit to live in, now is a good time. It's better than trying to time the market.

'As a buyer, you already know you're buying a place cheaper compared to the peak and you can see the price difference if you've been monitoring.'

He agreed that it is a buyer's market now, and they're also seeing more realistic sellers who are more aggressive in selling their units, even offering higher commission to their agents.

Mr Cheng added that there are several signs to note when the market is near the bottom.

He explained: 'Developers will start offering freebies during their launches and banks will also start to offer better interest rates to get more clients.'

One home-buyer, lawyer Roy Yeo, is waiting for the opportune time to go into the market.

Said the 38-year-old: 'Supply is plenty, so I am sure prices will drop. And now with the economic crisis, I am sure prices will drop even faster and more.'
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