Singapore home sales collapse as cooling measures bite
Private home sales in Singapore - one of the world's most expensive property markets - fell more than 80 percent on year in December as the government's cooling measures began to take effect.
According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, only 259 units were sold last month in the Southeast island nation of Singapore, a sharp fall from the 1,410 sold a year earlier, recent data showed.
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The dramatic decline in sales suggests the government's seven rounds of cooling measures are starting to pay off, as developers invest in fewer major projects and buyers face borrowing restrictions.
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Singapore, along with several other Asian countries, has been concerned about how the effect of low global interest rates and high levels of liquidity have impacted its property market, which has seen prices rise over 60 percent since 2009. Thus, authorities enacted measures to prevent the formation of a bubble.
One of its most recent measures introduced rules to ensure that a buyer's monthly payments do not exceed 60 percent of their income, enforced in June last year, a move designed to ensure buyers are not caught out by a spike in interest rates.
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Prices have remained resilient despite the measures, although in recent times there have been some signs that the policies are having an effect.
Last week, data showed that private home prices in the city-state registered their first drop in seven quarters in the October-December period, falling 0.8 percent on-quarter. Meanwhile, developer sales fell 30 percent to 14,678 units in the first eleven months of 2013, from the 20,880 units sold in the same period a year earlier.
"Not withstanding December being a generally slow month due to the holiday season, the dismal sale of only 259 private residential units by developers also reflects a highly cautious mood in the market," said Ong Teck Hui, national director of research & consultancy at real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle.
"This is in stark contrast to the 1,410 private homes sold in December 2012 when developers and buyers remained confident and active in spite of the holiday month," he added.
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Ong told CNBC the sharp decline was due to an absence of fresh launches by developers in December, while buyers stayed on the side lines awaiting new launches at better prices, and gave previous launches under the old price regime a miss.
Analysts told CNBC the impact of the new rule in June last year, which means buyers can't make payments beyond 60 percent of their income - the TDSR - is starkly evident when last year's sales are evaluated. The number of residential unit sales plunged to 5,065 in the second half of the year from 9,950 in the first half, according to URA data.
"The cooling measures in place, particularly the TDSR, will continue to impact demand in 2014," added Ong, adding that he expected private home sales to total between 10,000 and 12,000 in 2014.
"Having sprinted for the first half of the year, developers took a breather in December to allow the dust of the TDSR to settle and took the opportunity to gear up for the new year," said Desmond Sim of Singapore-based CBRE Research.
"In the absence of major new launches, the few buyers who made purchases bought from existing stock. The December numbers are clearly the result of a function of supply," he added.
— By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie