Singapore’s home prices rebound on cheap money, better economy

October 23, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Katrina Nicholas
Bloomberg

Singapore’s private home prices rose 15.8 percent in the third quarter, the most in 28 years, as cheap money and improving economic conditions lured buyers.

The price index of private residential property jumped to 154.3 from 133.3 the previous quarter, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said on its Web site today. The increase was the first in more than a year and the biggest quarter-on-quarter gain since March 1981, according to the authority.

“Asset values were knocked down considerably in the global financial crisis and nervous investors pulled out of the market,” Chris Fossick, South East Asia managing director for Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., said in a phone interview. “But unlike the U.K. and U.S., where people were overstretched and had way too high debt levels, in Asia that wasn’t the case.”

Singapore marked its biggest private residential sale in two years yesterday near the main Orchard Road shopping strip. The government raised its forecast for economic growth this month, and Moody’s Investors Service today reiterated the city- state’s top grade Aaa rating, noting Singapore’s “very high economic resilience and robust government finances” derived in part from its high per-capita income.

Singapore’s overnight interbank rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other, is 0.25 percent, down from 2 percent in January 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Hot property deal

Gains were most pronounced for non-landed properties in the quarter.

China Sonangol International Ltd.’s purchase of a site that can accommodate a 36-storey development for $S283 million ($203 million) yesterday was Singapore’s biggest private residential sale in two years, according to CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. The site can house 52 three- and four-bedroom apartments and two penthouses. The price equals about S$2,058 per square foot.

CB Richard Ellis is the world’s largest publicly traded commercial-property broker, followed by Jones Lang LaSalle.

“Many investors, after losing faith in the financial system, have come back to basics, which is bricks and mortar and things they understand,” Joseph Poon, head of Macquarie Private Wealth Asia, said in an interview in Singapore today. “Real estate provides good leverage and when asset inflation takes hold you benefit.”

Clients of Macquarie Private Wealth Asia must have liquid assets of at least $30 million.

Gambling boost

Kim Eng Holdings Ltd.’s Singapore-based property analyst Wilson Liew said price increases were more subdued for landed and luxury properties only because buyers in that segment typically tend to exercise more caution.

“Because of the absolute quantum that’s required to purchase such apartments, some people are waiting,” Liew said in a phone interview before today’s price statistics. “Buyers want to see the integrated resorts become fully operational because they’re targeted at bringing in the high-rollers. If they put Singapore in the limelight, more people will start putting their money in.”

Genting Bhd., Asia’s biggest publicly traded casino operator, may open its S$6.6 billion resort in Singapore before the end of 2009, CIMB Investment Bank Bhd. said Aug. 4 after a recent visit to the site, while Las Vegas Sands Corp. aims to open its casino-resort on the island by February.

Singapore Tourism Board Oct. 12 stuck to its forecast of attracting 17 million tourists to the city-state by 2015 and tripling tourism revenue to S$30 billion.

Improving economy

Singapore’s economy is forecast to shrink between 2 percent and 2.5 percent this year, the government said Oct. 12, raising a previous prediction for a contraction of as much as 6 percent.

The total wealth of millionaires in the Asia-Pacific region shrank 22 percent to $7.4 trillion in 2008, compared with the global average drop of 19.5 percent, according to a report by Cap Gemini SA and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management this month.

Rents for offices dropped 4.1 percent after declining 7.7 percent in the second quarter, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said. Those for retail spaces fell 0.9 percent, compared with a decline of 2 percent the previous quarter.

“The office space is in complete contrast to the residential market, but I would think that’s stabilizing now,” Li Hiaw Ho, Singapore-based executive director of CB Richard Ellis, said in a phone interview.

Rents for private homes fell 2.2 percent during the quarter, versus a fall of 5.2 percent the previous three months, the authority said.

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