Seventh Time Lucky for Singapore Property Measures?
Third time lucky for some, could it be a case of seventh time lucky for Singapore? The city-state has just unveiled its latest and most stringent measures to cool a sizzling property market, which has defied a slew of steps since 2009.
Late on Friday the Asian financial hub increased a tax on foreigners and corporates buying residential property via an additional buyer's stamp duty of 15 percent of the purchase price, up from the previous 10 percent.
The city-state also introduced, for the first time, a seller's stamp duty of 5 to 15 percent on those who buy and then sell industrial properties such as warehouses and factories within three years, in an attempt to bring down prices in a market that has stayed hot despite a weak economy.
The latest measures, which analysts say are the most comprehensive, certainly appear to have given the property market a fright, with shares in Singapore's big property developers Capitaland, CityDevelopments and Keppel Land tumbling more than 5 percent on Monday, dragging the broader market lower.
"It (the Singapore government) has taken these measures, knowing that it is hard to predict the outcome of the property market where the effect of measures is lagged," said Vishnu Varathan, market economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank in Singapore.
"The main intention of the measures is taking the foot off the accelerator rather than put the foot on the breaks of property prices. But the context of the sheer momentum of a market where previous measures have not dampened prices is why we now have this pretty comprehensive sweep of measures," he added.
Singapore private home prices rose 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 from the third, accelerating from a 0.6 percent rise in the third quarter, despite an economy that just avoided slipping into recession last year and government efforts in October to cool the market by limiting the maximum tenure for housing loans.
Private home prices in Singapore, ranked as one of the world's most expensive cities to live in human resources firm Mercer, climbed 2.8 percent last year, according to estimates by the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority.
It was this backdrop of rising prices that had many analysts expecting further property-cooling measures.
According to analysts at Barclays, the latest property announcement will help bring down volumes in the property sector and stabilize prices.
"We think the reaction to this set of comprehensive measures will be the most significant thus far, relative to the earlier six rounds," Barclays analyst Joey Chew said in a research note."Coupled with the large supply pipeline of public and private housing over the next few years, we think property prices will very likely stabilize, if not fall, this year."
Nomura expects the number of homes due for completion this year to reach 42,309, including 24,551 public-housing units built by the government. This compares with an estimated 21,859 units completed in 2012 and average annual housing demand of just fewer than 20,000 units since 2001.
Singapore is not the only country in Asia that has been trying to cool its property market amid capital inflows from the West that have helped push down interest rates and fuel inflation. Both Hong Kong and China for instance have also ramped up measures in recent years to keep a lid on property prices.
Analysts said that while the latest property measures would likely discourage speculators from snapping up Singapore property, long-term interest in the sector was unlikely to be dented too significantly given an environment of low interest rates.
Robert Prior-Wandesford, director, Asia economics at Credit Suisse, said he expected private residential property prices to continue to increase"modestly" until interest rates start to rise.
"Singapore's property market has proved remarkably resilient and the reality is that low interest rates, banks willing to lend and a tight labor market tend to offset government measures. The real risk is when these factors start to turnaround,which is still some months away," he told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box."
Mizho's Varathan said that in addition to low interest rates, demographics and regional trends would also support property prices, which he expected to consolidate this year.
"We have baby boomers who are retiring and sitting on a nice nest egg which is being used to invest in property or buy property for children who they worry will not be able to afford homes. This psyche is being underestimated," he said. "Also regional dynamics have changed and there is still a big interest in holding property outside your home country. That effect has somehow multiplied and added momentum to the market."
And given those factors underpinning the market, there were some reasons to be hopeful about the outlook for the property stocks that took a beating on Monday, analysts said.
"We will see more pessimism about the share prices of these Singapore property firms but it would be a good time for investors who are looking at good property companies to invest in," Roger Tan, CEO at SIAS Research told CNBC Asia's "Cash Flow."