Real Estate

Singapore home sales plunge 73% in June

Leslie Shaffer | Writer for
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June's headline 73 percent plunge in Singapore's new home sales may look worrying, but some analysts are pointing the blame at the World Cup.

"We didn't see many launches by developers, mainly because of the June school holidays and also there has been an impact from the World Cup on the property market," said Donald Han, managing director at property consultant Chestertons. "Even in the stock market, there was a softer period in terms of trading activity."

Read More Singapore home prices ease for third straight quarter

The sales drop was dramatic, falling to 482 units for the month, compared with 1,806 in June of 2013 and 1,488 units in May. Han expects this year's sales will average around 800-1,200 a month, for a total of around 10,000 for 2014, down from nearly 16,000 last year.

Around 4,500 units have been sold in the January-to-June period, government data show.

Where to look in Singapore's property market

Others aren't entirely sure whether the World Cup should get the blame.

It's a "sensible" explanation, but "it's summer and therefore it's silly season," when activity generally gets light, said Tim Gibson, head of property equities for Asia at Henderson Global Investors.

While he cautions against reading too much into one month's data, Gibson believes people are sitting on the sidelines and playing wait-and-see.

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"Prices are only starting to fall. Whenever prices are falling, people don't want to catch a falling knife," Gibson said. At the same time, "developers are delaying launches because they're waiting to see what happens with interest rates. That's the elephant in the room."

Some aren't giving the World Cup theory much credence at all.

"It's not enough to account for the drop in sales," said David Kuo, CEO of Motley Fool for Singapore. "If property were offered at a good price, people would record [the game] and go buy."

Read More Singapore's property market in a standoff

He believes the real problem is simply that potential buyers aren't able to get financing due to the government's cooling measures, some of which imposed limits on the amount of mortgage debt allowed.

"The demand just isn't there at the moment for buyers. They're waiting for prices to come down or for access to finance," Kuo said. "The property developers also are not launching their properties" as they wait for market prices to firm, he noted.

No 'sharp discounts' coming

To be sure, those hoping for sharp property discounts may easily be disappointed.

Developers in the city-state aren't facing the same level of distress as during the financial crisis, Gibson noted.

"People might be disappointed if prices don't fall as much as they thought," he said. "It's still an attractive market for people to want to own property for the long term. There's money sitting on the sidelines waiting for a better moment to come in."

He noted that developers may simply try to ride out any downturn as margins remain fairly healthy, as many bought their land three to seven years ago.

So far, price declines haven't been overly marked. In the April-to-June quarter, private residential property prices declined 1.1 percent on-quarter, following a 1.3 percent drop in the first quarter, according to government data.

But that follows an over 60 percent surge since 2009, propelled by rock-bottom global interest rates and quantitative easing in developed economies, even as Singapore's government has enacted a series of cooling measures to prevent a bubble from forming.

Read MoreCan Singapore safely deflate its property market?

Another factor that may help the city-state's developers avoid major price cuts: they're also looking outside their home market.

"They're looking at other countries where cooling measures are not put in place," such as in the U.K. and Australia, Motley Fool's Kuo said. "they have the resources so they're going to deploy the resources somewhere else."

Others also think the price declines may be relatively limited.

Chestertons' Han expects prices may fall another three to four percent in the second half of the year. But he sees sales getting some support as the main activity has been in the "outside central region" segment, suggesting mainly buyers who are upgrading from public housing.

"It's more of an end-user market," he said.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter