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New private home sales slip in April on fewer launches

16 May, 2019

April saw a big pullback in new home launches as developers turned cautious despite relatively resilient sales in March. Only 444 private homes were released for sale in April - the lowest so far this year - down 75 % from the previous month's 1,812 units, and 33 % less than the 664 units launched a year ago, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority yesterday.

Just three new projects were launched in April compared with 10 in the previous month. In the absence of major launches, developers' sales dropped about 30 % to 735 private homes in April, from the 1,054 units they moved a month ago, but almost the same as the 733 units booked in the same month last year. In all, the three new launches accounted for just 3.8 % of the 735 units sold last month, with the bulk of sales coming from earlier launches.

JLL senior director for research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui noted that the "mismatch between the 1,812 private homes launched and the 1,054 units sold in March sent a clear message that there is a lack of demand to absorb so much supply being placed. "Most of the projects launched in March suffered weak take-up rates. Taking the cue, developers turned cautious and scaled back their launches in April to avoid poor sales progress in their projects."

More buyers are on the sidelines following two quarters of decline in private home prices and a substantial launch pipeline in the coming months, Mr Ong said. Reflecting the weaker sentiment, a total of 2,573 units were sold in the first four months of this year, while 3,433 units were launched, said Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE's head of research, South-east Asia. This compares with the 2,360 units that were sold in the same four-month period a year ago, when 1,732 units were launched, he said.

But other analysts see the glass as half-full. Despite the month-on-month decline in sales, April's figure is still relatively decent, given the far fewer units launched, said Ms Tricia Song, head of research for Singapore, Colliers International. Several projects that did well in March continued to lead sales in April. These included The Tre Ver (81 units at a median price of $1,624 per sq ft), Parc Botannia (61 units at a median price of $1,294 psf), Treasure at Tampines (51 units at a median price of $1,326 psf) and Riverfront Residences (50 units at a median price of $1,308 psf).

But Ms Song noted that most buyers remain price sensitive, with the lowest-priced projects in the suburbs or outside central region, such as Parc Botannia, and the lowest-priced projects in the city fringes or rest of central region, such as The Tre Ver, topping the charts. Mr Sim believed that some buyers are won over by competitive pricing amid weakened sentiments, post-cooling measures and a weaker economic outlook.

Mass market launches are propping up sales, with 96.2 % of sales coming from previous launches, he said. Price remains a major factor, with 65 % of new sales tagged at $1.5 million and below last month, said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

Meanwhile, including executive condominiums (ECs), developers sold 744 new units last month, also about 30 % less than the 1,062 units in March, and down 44 % from the 1,329 units in April last year.

Eight EC units were sold at Rivercove Residences and one unit at Northwave. All eyes will be on the next EC launch in Sumang Walk, in Punggol, which is likely to be launched soon, Mr Sim said.

Adapted From The Straits Times, May 16 2019