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Buyers home in on condos launched in 2015 and earlier
Oldies can be goodies too, as homebuyers showed by snapping up units at projects launched before last year.
A check with developers found that those which enjoyed buoyant sales last year - Hong Leong Group, MCL Land, Qingjian and MCC Land, for example - got a sizeable boost from selling apartments released in 2015 and earlier.
Hong Leong sold 1,140 units last year for a total value of about $1.45 billion. Earlier projects, such as Commonwealth Towers in Commonwealth Avenue and Coco Palms in Pasir Ris, which were both launched in 2014, accounted for 715 of the units sold.
Chinese developer Qingjian sold 768 units last year, with 466 coming from two projects rolled out in 2014 - Bellewoods in Woodlands and Bellewaters in Sengkang.
A Qingjian spokesman told The Straits Times that the average price per square foot of the units sold at Bellewaters last year was $786, which is within the $750 to $820 psf range announced at the launch.
Analysts said there were several reasons for the popularity of existing projects.
There was a "spillover" effect from successful new launches in the area. A case in point is The Santorini. With the successful launch in September of The Alps Residences in Tampines, some of the sales spilled over to the nearby Santorini.
The 597-unit Santorini was launched in March 2014.
Mr Tan Zhiyong, managing director of MCC Land, said it sold 106 Santorini units last year, versus 32 in 2015. In all, MCC Land sold 745 units last year - 360 at The Alps Residences, 277 at The Poiz Residences and the rest at Santorini and TRE Residences.
Demand for private homes last year was driven by the total quantum in terms of price, as well as upcoming areas with potential like Bidadari and Jurong Regional Centre.
MCL Land benefited from the Government's plan to develop the Jurong Lake District as a second central business district.
It sold 1,010 units, up from 594 in 2015.
The boost was largely due to its Lake Grande project in Jurong West, where 553 of the 710 units have found buyers.
Sim Lian, another top-selling developer last year,said it had sold 1,003 units at its two executive condominium projects - Wandervale in Choa Chu Kang and Treasure Crest in Anchorvale Crescent.
A Hong Leong spokesman said this year's outlook is expected to be challenging owing to the uncertain interest rate environment, slowing economy and property cooling measures.
However, she added that the moderation of residential-home supply through the Government Land Sales programme will hopefully help developers sell more unsold units.
Adapted from: The Straits Times, 21 January 2017
Developers race to beat ABSD deadline
Faced with nearly S$700 million in potential charges for unsold private residential properties this year, developers in Singapore are ramping up efforts to offload the units before the additional buyers’ stamp duty (ABSD) hits, offering discounts and deferred payment schemes to prospective buyers and, increasingly, the bulk sales of unsold units.
About 1,300 units remain unsold in 20 developments that will be affected by the ABSD remission clawback this year, according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and a Deutsche Bank report. Developers of these projects could face about S$697.6 million in ABSD charges, the Deutsche Bank report showed.
On top of that, developers of 17 projects, with a combined 1,124 unsold units, could incur Qualifying Certificate (QC) extension charges this year, the Deutsche Bank report noted.
The potential charges facing developers were brought back into the spotlight after reports last week that Mr Wee Cho Yaw, chairman emeritus of United Overseas Bank, had bought all 45 unsold units at The Nassim for S$411.6 million through his family’s private real estate arm, Kheng Leong, helping the project’s developer CapitaLand escape substantial QC penalties.
Mr Wee’s bulk purchase represented a discount of about 18 per cent.
Property analysts said they expect more of such bulk deals to take place during the rest of the year, as deadlines for the respective charges loom, with the most likely targets being luxury projects in the city centre.
It will almost certainly likely happen for high-end projects in the Core Central Region (CCR) that have been stuck for a long while with unsold stock.
There is, however, still a small chance that this can also happen for mid-range or mass-market condo projects because, after all, such properties are way cheaper on a per quantum basis, so it actually makes good sense for developers to have a bulk sale of such low-end and mid-range condos to avoid paying taxes.
Residential investors will be drawn to properties in upmarket regions such as The Nassim, as such developments offer potential upside in capital values when the market recovers.
In this case (the bulk sale of The Nassim), the property is freehold, so Kheng Leong has the option of either renting out the apartments, or finding buyers on its own as it is not affected by any deadline to offload the properties.
The ABSD, first introduced in 2011 and revised upwards in 2013, is a tax levied on both individual property purchasers and developers. Developers are required to pay an ABSD of 10 or 15 per cent, including interest, on the land cost of a project, unless they build and sell all units within five years of being awarded the site. The amount buyers have to pay depends on their residency status and number of properties they already own.
Among the projects that could incur ABSD clawback in the first half of this year are The Trilinq, Mon Jervois, Hillview Peak, Stratum, Vue 8 Residence, Pollen & Bleu and Sant Ritz.
Malaysian plantation and property group IOI Corp, the developer of the 755-unit The Trilinq at Clementi, could face a S$52.1 million bill this month if it fails to sell the 267 remaining unsold homes, the Deutsche Bank report and URA data show.
Singapore Land, the developer of Mon Jervois (42 unsold units) and Pollen & Bleu (93 unsold units) in district 10, faces fees of S$15.2 million and S$14.4 million, respectively, if the remaining units are not offloaded by February and June, respectively.
Hillview Peak, with seven unsold units, could see developer Kingsford Development fork out S$31 million in ABSD payable, while Elitist Development of the Stratum project on Elias Road faces S$21.6 million for the 14 remaining units.
Likewise, Capital Development, the developer of Vue 8 Residence in Pasir Ris, could see a S$26.9 million bill for 63 unsold homes, and Santarli Corp could pay S$14.7 million for the eight remaining units at Sant Ritz in Potong Pasir.
In addition to the ABSD, developers with foreign holdings also have to meet QC rules that require them to complete construction within five years of buying the land and sell all dwelling units in the next two years. Those who need more time to meet these requirements are required to pay extension charges pro-rated to the proportion of unsold units.
Developers who bought land through the Government Land Sales programme and on Sentosa Cove do not need to apply for a QC.
Among the projects facing QC extension charges is TwentyOne Angullia Park at Orchard. Its developer, China Sonangol Land, was previously reported to be in talks with several parties, including ZACD Property Fund Management, for the bulk sale of the 38 units remaining in the project.
In addition to CapitaLand’s bulk sale of The Nassim this month, several other developers have also made similar arrangements to escape punitive QC charges, including iLiv@Grange’s Heeton and Nouvel 18’s City Developments Ltd.
Besides bulk transactions, other strategies undertaken to push sales include deferred payment schemes — such as those rolled out by Capita-Land at d’Leedon and The Interlace — which allow buyers to move in after paying an option fee, with the balance deferred for a stipulated time period.
Developers are also offering sweeteners such as discounts of up to 8 per cent to individual buyers to move unsold units.
Because property times are just so adverse, buyers are still on the sidelines and jumping only into opportunity buys or newly launched projects with attractive pricing.
The downside to offering discounts though is that they could leave a bitter taste for the earlier batches of buyers who bought the properties at higher prices.
Bulk deals also tend to have a negative impact on the pricing of developments nearby. Prospective buyers would use (the discounted price) as a benchmark to negotiate.
Developers will be cautious not to slash prices too excessively, so as not to upset previous customers.
Developers will be looking out for buyers who have such deep pockets, but they do not come by so easily.
Adapted from: TODAY, 23 January 2017
The Big Read: At some suburban malls, retailers confront the sound of silence
It is an increasingly common sight these days in the heartlands: Spanking new mixed-use developments with rows and rows of empty shop spaces plastered with posters and banners screaming “For Rent” or “For Sale”.
From Kensington Square along Upper Paya Lebar Road and Novena Regency to The Midtown @ Hougang and MacPherson Mall, to name a few, the retail slump — which first hit the prime shopping districts several months ago — is starting to bite suburban retailers, and the impact on strata-titled malls in housing estates is stark. At the real estate investment trust (Reit)-owned malls such as Jurong Point, Nex in Serangoon, Northpoint in Yishun and AMK Hub, landlords are pulling out all the stops through promotions and loyalty programmes to stave off the chill. However, amid the economic slowdown and uncertain job market, vacancy rates are creeping up and tenants are reporting lower earnings as shoppers tighten their belts, even during the festive period.
Data show that the average vacancy rate of suburban malls, including Reit-owned and strata-titled shopping centres, has more than doubled from less than 1 per cent in 2013 to 2.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year. Average monthly gross rents for prime retail space in these malls have also fallen by 7.1 per cent in the final three months of last year, compared with the fourth quarter of 2015. The decline is catching up with the fall of 7.5 per cent in rentals for prime retail space in Orchard Road over the same period.
While the heartlands are a strong source of catchment, they are also vulnerable to any decline in disposable income or concerns about job security.
Analysts noted that the recently-launched strata-titled malls — where shop owners or investors own the individual units — were sold by developers during the property bull run between 2010 and 2013, and bought at high prices by cash-rich individuals. These investors are likely to leave their shops vacant for now, instead of lowering rents, the analysts said.
Kensington Square, for example, has 57 commercial units, apart from its 141 residential units. When TODAY visited the development last week, there was only one tenant open for business — a Giant supermarket, which occupies several units. Another unit is undergoing renovation, but the rest of the shop spaces are empty.
Residents living in the adjacent Tai Keng Gardens private housing estate had been looking forward to the mall, as there are few shops in the area, but they have been left disappointed so far.
“We were initially glad that we will not need to take a long walk to get to the eateries or shops across the road, or to take the bus to the nearby Nex ... but look at it now,” said Mr Kendo Chan, a 75-year-old resident.
At the older strata-titled malls, such as East Village in Simpang Bedok, the shop spaces end up being dominated by eateries, which tend to be more resilient in an economic slowdown.
Ms Natasha, who works at the snack bar Chulop at East Village, noted that several non-eateries have recently closed shop. “They were not able to do good business,” she said.
STRATA-TITLED MALLS BADLY HIT
The woes of old strata-titled malls, including former household names and those in prime shopping districts, are well documented. Yet, investors were swayed by optimistic projections by developers and agents during the property boom into ploughing their money into the new ones.
Back then, there was this desperate need to park money in property since interest rates were low.
There was also a belief that the suburban market, with a ready catchment of shoppers, is more resilient to the vicissitudes of the economic cycle. But the rental evidence seems to point to the two paralleling each other. The more it mirrors each other in future, the more the belief that suburban malls are sturdier in rental support turns to myth.
During a retail slump, strata-titled malls will find the going especially tough. As ownership is fragmented, they generally lack a coordinated marketing programme and this results in a lack of identity or positioning for the malls. This can weaken the appeal of the mall to shoppers and, hence, retailers.
Moreover, due to the current weak and challenging economic and retailing climate, retailers, and food and beverage (F&B) operators are becoming increasingly selective about their store locations. Retailers and F&B operators have adopted the strategy of focusing on rechanneling funds and manpower towards profitable outlets, while consolidating loss-making and unprofitable outlets within Singapore. This thus reinforces the appeal of malls with a central marketing team.
An owner at one of the newly-launched strata-titled malls said she ended up running a food business herself to make use of the shop space, after receiving rental offers that were too low for consideration. A shop assistant at Giant in Kensington Square said there are hardly any customers on weekdays. “We have been hearing that some shops are going to open but we don’t see much action,” she said.
The Midtown, a two-storey retail podium that is part of a mixed-use development, was jointly developed by Oxley Holdings and Lian Beng Group. Oxley Deputy CEO Eric Low said that of the 107 retail units, all but one have been sold. While the developer does not operate the mall or receive any rental income, Mr Low said the rise of e-commerce has significantly affected the retail scene.
“The convenience and efficiency offered by online shopping have definitely taken a toll on retail property,” he said.
Oxley has gradually shifted its focus overseas over the past few years, and the bulk of its revenue in the coming years will come from abroad, he added.
The Midtown, which is located near Hougang MRT, opened its doors around the middle of last year. However, at least three-quarters of the shop spaces remain empty when TODAY visited the mall earlier this week.
Mr Christopher Ng is renting a 450sqf space for S$9,000 a month to operate his spectacle shop iProfessionals. He has rented the space since September.
Noting that rental rates have fallen by about 40 to 50 per cent for new tenants, he said: “It is not hurting me much as I am able to break even. I also use this space as my office for other businesses, besides keeping costs low with mostly a one-man operation.”
At Novena Regency, TODAY understands that upscale supermarket chain Jasons has deferred the opening of its outlet, given the low take-up of the shop spaces at the mall. The development has 45 commercial units, and the vast majority are empty.
Tenants told TODAY that they are trying different ways and means to improve business, including turning to social-media marketing and relying on food delivery services. They are banking their hopes on the re-opening of the nearby Novena Church — which is undergoing renovation — slated for the first quarter of this year.
SUBURBAN MALLS LOSING RESILIENCE
Retailers agree with analysts that suburban malls are becoming less resilient to the downturn even with their captive market in the heartlands.
“Although suburban malls tend to be better insulated from market volatility, the entire retail market is slowing down. Suburban malls are no exception. This is definitely because core consumer spending is down. Consumers are spending less money, and when they do, they look for good value,” said Mr Pang Fu Wei, executive director at Mothercare. The kids’ clothing retailer said it has seen declining sales at its suburban outlets since the third quarter of 2015.
Rental negotiations, Mr Pang added, are always tough with landlords, especially when the malls are owned by Reits, whose investors expect steady growth in returns. “If landlords continue to demand high and increasing rents, retailers will be forced to consider different channels and focus on online instead,” he added.
For Ms Kazankina Ena, shop assistant at a Fragrance shop in Northpoint Shopping Centre, it is tough to make even S$100 in sales on some days. Even during this festive season spanning Christmas and Chinese New Year (CNY), the maximum sales she is able to achieve amount to around S$400 to S$500 a day, she said.
“Last year, we could do close to S$1,000 on some of the days during the peak season … My customers now say they choose to go to the Chinatown market for CNY gifts, or their children buy for them online. Others say they choose to go on holiday abroad for the amount they would spend during the festive season in Singapore,” Ms Kazankina added. The fragrance company has been around for more than 14 years with outlets across eight suburban malls in Singapore.
However, some landlords, especially the Reit-owned malls, are singing a different tune. These mall owners say their shopping centres continue to experience heavy footfall, given their appeal with the communities in the vicinity.
A spokesperson at Frasers Centrepoint Malls said: “These are popular meeting points located at the doorsteps of families and friends who enjoy the integrated experiences of dining, shopping, catching the latest blockbusters in cinemas and participating in wellness regimes as a group.
“The success of Waterway Point in Punggol is a testament to this. Despite December being a popular outbound travel period, the mall maintained a steady stream of visitors, especially among those who wanted to experience Christmas festivities within their neighbourhood. Overall, the mall recorded a 5 per cent increase in average monthly traffic since its opening in January 2016.”
Most of these mall owners have been offering incentives to retailers besides working with them on joint campaigns to provide some buffer during tough times. Many malls have also intensified loyalty programmes and social-media initiatives to pull buyers.
Said Mr Tan Kee Yong, managing director of AsiaMalls: “We recognise the changing shopping habits and behaviour of our shoppers as they become more digital-savvy now. This has also opened up fresh opportunities … In order to continually improve the shopping experience, we are always looking out for new and unique ways to enhance convenience for shoppers, and to provide what they truly need.”
The company has embarked on asset enhancement initiative (AEI) work at White Sands in Pasir Ris and Tiong Bahru Plaza over the past three years. As a result, White Sands experienced 25 per cent more foot traffic in December last year compared with December 2013, Mr Tan said.
Other initiatives included the introduction of a shopper reward programme in December 2015, and a revamp of its mobile app, AMperkz, to enhance the shopping experience. The app allows customers to reserve seats at restaurants, check available parking lots and redeem points for e-vouchers.
At the same time, malls have been re-organising their tenant mix to have a greater share of F&B, education hubs and personal grooming centres. CapitaLand, for instance, has converted the Level 5 open roof at Tampines Mall into a new education hub with well-known operators.
SINGAPOREANS FEELING DOWN
As the rest of the Asia-Pacific region remained hopeful despite a faltering global economy, Singaporeans have grown pessimistic as a result of employment and income uncertainties. The MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence highlighted a “significant deterioration” in Singapore’s score, which slumped 10.7 points to 33.6 in the first half of 2016, the lowest since June 2009 when the world was still reeling from the global financial crisis. A steep decline was reported in all of the survey’s five categories: Employment, economy, regular income, stock market and quality of life.
This slump in consumer sentiment is hurting the retail subsectors. The average vacancy rate in the fourth quarter of last year was the highest for the Marina area sub-market at 6.2 per cent, followed by Orchard Road at 3.9 per cent, compared with the suburban sub-market at 2.4 per cent.
However, some bright spots are emerging amid the gloom, as some retailers take advantage of falling rentals to expand operations, while new international brands are pouring in as they consolidate regional operations.
Around the middle of last year, Japanese lifestyle brand Muji opened its tenth local outlet, together with its second Cafe & Meal Muji at Raffles City. IT giant HP Singapore announced the opening of its 1,500sqf flagship store at Marina Square, Japanese retailer Uniqlo unveiled its first global flagship store in South-east Asia in September at Orchard Central, while fashion house Michael Kors opened a two-storey flagship store at Mandarin Gallery.
For the suburban malls, rents have fallen for the fifth straight quarter, and demand from F&B as well as the beauty and health segment continued to drive leasing enquiries.
Sengkang’s Compass One mall reopened in the third quarter of last year, with its F&B share of the tenant mix rising sharply to 33 per cent, from 20 per cent previously.
Those malls located near transport nodes and in residential areas will continue to perform and may be considered by new-to-market brands.
Mr James Fong, senior lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, said the recent launches of suburban malls such as Waterway Point and Compass One “show that there are still opportunities and growth” for these shopping centres. Whether retailers are able to survive and emerge from the slump is in their own hands.
“The outlook for retailers in the next two years is very much dependent on how they upgrade themselves by gaining knowledge on social-media engagement, digital marketing, e-commerce and delivering the right value proposition,” he said.
Adapted from: TODAY, 21 January 2017
Boustead, SWF to co-invest S$250m in new industrial facilities here
Boustead Development Partnership, a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Singapore-listed developer Boustead Projects, has agreed to commit S$250 million in equity to be invested into the development and re-development of new industrial facilities in Singapore.
Once fully invested and leveraged, the investment portfolio will be worth in excess of S$800 million, said UBS Asset Management in a press statement.
The latter's real estate and private markets business will be managing the deal. This is the second award to the banking unit by the sovereign wealth fund.
Of the S$250 million, S$119 million has already been committed across four projects, two of which have been completed.
One of the initial investments was the new regional headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline, which was completed in November last year. The 14,350 sq m asset is located in the 200ha One North precinct, which is designed to host research facilities and business park space.
The two latest investments, agreed this month, include a 39,487 sq m mixed-use development at Mediapolis, also in Singapore's One North precinct, and Continental Building Phase 3, a 11,151 sq m research and development (R&D) centre in Kallang iPark, which will be developed for Continental Automotive Singapore, an R&D hub owned by global automotive supplier Continental Corporation.
Both are targeted to be completed next year.
Earlier in the month, Boustead Projects had already announced the co-investment and development contract for Continental Building Phase 3. It also said Continental Building Phase 3 will adjoin the hub's existing Continental Building at 80 Boon Keng Road within Kallang iPark.
Continental Building Phases 1 and 2 were also developed by Boustead Projects under design-build-and-lease arrangements and completed in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Graham Mackie, head of real estate Asia-Pacific at UBS, said his unit continues to see strong interest for real estate investment in its priority markets of Japan, Australia, China and Singapore, as well as demand from Asia-Pacific investors seeking exposure to Europe, the US and emerging markets such as Brazil.
The mandates team in Singapore is now managing over US$1.3 billion of committed equity on behalf of institutional and private wealth clients, which equates to a total portfolio value of around US$3 billion once fully invested.
Adapted from: The Business Times, 21 January 2017
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