Sep 29 2011

WBL developing $604m project in Liaoning

SINGAPORE-LISTED conglomerate WBL Corp is developing a new project in the Chinese city of Shenyang that will feature a shopping mall, an office tower, serviced apartments and homes.

Shenyang is the largest city in the north-east Chinese province of Liaoning.

The development, named the Shenyang Orchard Summer Palace, will cost 3 billion yuan (S$604 million) and take up more than 3.2 million sq ft.

It will feature a retail mall, a Grade A office tower, about 400 serviced apartments and about 450 private residential units.

Construction work on the project is currently under way and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

‘Over the years, we have established a close and strong working relationship with the Liaoning leadership,’ said WBL Corp chairman Ng Ser Miang.

‘Our businesses in Shenyang have grown with the city’s economic progress. The iconic Shenyang Orchard Summer Palace project is a mark of our continued commitment to invest in Shenyang.’

Mr Ng announced this commitment on the sidelines of the Singapore-Liaoning Economic and Trade Council meeting yesterday.

During the meeting, agreements were signed for seven collaborative projects between Singapore and Liaoning.

Among them were three agreements signed by Sembcorp Industries and various officials from Liaoning to expand its utilities business in the province.

Mapletree Logistics Trust signed a deal with the Hunnan district government to develop an integrated logistics park in the Hunnan New District in Shenyang.

The Singapore Tourism Board and the Liaoning Provincial Education Department inked a deal to cooperate on study trips, internships and enrichment programmes for students.

Government officials from Singapore and Liaoning also discussed business opportunities available along the province’s coastal economic belt and the Shenyang Economic Region.

The council agreed to strengthen bilateral collaborations in sectors such as environmental services over the next year.

Liaoning is known as a base for traditional heavy industries, with rich mineral resources.

In the first seven months of this year, bilateral trade between Singapore and Liaoning stood at US$1.4 billion (S$1.8 billion).

At the end of last year, Singapore’s cumulative foreign direct investment in the province was recorded at US$2.66 billion, with a total of 838 projects.

Singapore was Liaoning’s seventh-largest investor last year.

An artist’s impression of the Shenyang Orchard Summer Palace, which will feature a retail mall, an office tower, serviced apartments and homes. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. — PHOTO: WEARNES

Source: Straits Times, 29th Sept 2011

Sep 29 2011

Mandai industrial units to go on sale in Q4

10-storey building and workers’ dorm will be built

A FREEHOLD industrial property to be built in Mandai by joint venture Lian Beng-Centurion will be released for sale in the fourth quarter.

The 10-storey building will sit on a freehold plot of around 18,700 sq m that the joint venture bought in January.

Part of the Mandai Estate site in Woodlands Road will be used for the ramp-up building, with the rest earmarked for a workers’ dormitory housing about 4,700 beds.

The industrial building will have a canteen and 141 units that will sell for between $650 and $700 per sq ft each.

Unit sizes range from 100 sq m to 160 sq m.

Construction on the building is expected to begin in the fourth quarter and be completed within 18 months.

The joint venture, a tie-up between dormitory operator Centurion Corp and homegrown builder Lian Beng Group, said in a statement yesterday that the building has a B2 classification.

This means it is suited for heavy, clean and light industries. It will allow direct vehicle access for loading and unloading.

Lian Beng said the dormitory, which would include a basketball court and convenience store among other amenities, has received provisional permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority to house workers from various industries.

It is not confirmed if the dormitory operator will be the joint-venture company or Centurion Corp.

Construction, which will begin after Singapore Land Authority approval, is expected to take up to 15 months.

‘The operation of the workers’ dormitory will provide us with long-term recurring income,’ said Lian Beng executive chairman Ong Pang Aik.

Centurion Corp chief executive Kong Chee Min added that the firm may expand a dormitory it owns at Toh Guan Road East earlier than scheduled due to high demand.

The firm said in a statement yesterday that it was also ‘actively pursuing opportunities in China to acquire or build dormitory projects’.

Centurion Corp was formerly SM Summit Holdings, a storage disc maker.

It was renamed Centurion Corp after a $95 million reverse takeover by private investment group Centurion, owned by former UOB Kay Hian stockbrokers David Loh and Han Seng Juan.

Mr Loh and Mr Han, who are first cousins, were known in the brokerage industry as the ‘A-team’ for their stockbroking success and for helping Chinese firms to list here.

Lian Beng shares fell one cent yesterday to close at 36 cents.

Source: Straits Times, 29th Sept 2011

Sep 29 2011

Private resale home prices remain flat

Buyers cautious amid economic uncertainty, say property analysts

PRICES of private resale homes stayed flat last month following a similar result in July, according to an index that tracks transactions in completed projects.

Experts say the flatlining prices indicate that buyers are taking a cautious approach to property amid a period of economic uncertainty.

Flash estimates of the Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) indicated zero overall price growth last month while the revised numbers for July also showed zero growth in overall residential prices. Prices rose 0.7 per cent overall in June.

The previously released flash estimates for July had indicated a 0.2 per cent overall price rise.

The previous time the index was flat month-on-month was July last year, according to Ms Chua Chor Hoon, head of DTZ South-east Asia research.

Associate Professor Lum Sau Kim of the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Real Estate Studies and Department of Real Estate, who leads the group that compiles the index, said the situation is not directly comparable to that in July last year.

This is because the index methodology was changed in July this year to ‘account specifically for the influence of small or shoebox units’, she said.

‘What we can say is that our August flash estimate shows that overall housing prices in the non-landed private market have remained relatively unchanged between July and August based on data captured by Sept 21.’

August’s flat price index was a result of rising values of so-called shoebox flats being offset by modest movements in central and suburban areas.

Prices of shoebox units – they are typically around 500 sq ft or under – seem to have defied gravity last month, rising 3.1 per cent and rebounding from a 0.5 per cent price dip in July.

Property analysts told The Straits Times that the flash August values reflected buyer caution, with affordability as the top priority.

Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of research at Jones Lang LaSalle South-east Asia, said shoebox apartment prices could have risen last month with more buyers seeking cheaper apartments.

‘At the end of the day it’s about affordability… it’s the total quantum, total lump sum that buyers are looking at. Shoeboxes tend to fare better.’

DTZ’s Ms Chua also noted that the outlook was more cautious now, although she added that the monthly index tended to be volatile so revised values could be quite different.

As a case in point, flash estimates for shoebox unit prices in July showed 1.4 per cent growth but the revised number was a fall of 0.5 per cent.

Prices of regular-sized flats in the central and suburban areas showed little movement last month.

Central area values slipped 0.7 per cent after a 1.3 per cent decrease in July, while suburban apartment prices rose 0.5 per cent, from July’s 1 per cent increase.

Dr Chua said: ‘The market is in a bit of a wait-and-see (mood), given the economic uncertainty.’

Source: Straits Times, 29th Sept 2011

Sep 28 2011

Huge demand for HDB’s ‘leftover’ flats

More than 14,000 apply for 2,847 units; muted response to BTO launch

THE sale of ‘leftover’ Housing Board (HDB) flats – many in popular mature estates – has attracted an overwhelming response, with more than 14,000 potential home-buyers applying for them.

These 2,847 flats, called ‘balance flats’, are a mix of those left unselected from previous build-to-order (BTO) launches, surplus replacement flats under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme, and those bought back by HDB.

And because so many people went for them, a parallel BTO exercise for new flats launched the same day has seen a muted response. Some BTO estates and flat types were even undersubscribed with just one day left to apply.

Applications for both exercises close today.

The HDB has always advised buyers to opt for BTO flats where possible because there are more of them for sale, increasing a buyer’s chance of successfully selecting a flat.

In BTO launches, 95 per cent of the flats are reserved for first-time buyers.

But this has not deterred potential home-owners from trying their luck at getting one of the balance flats, which are popular because they are often in mature estates which are more central in location. They also involve a shorter waiting time since some are completed and most others are already being built.

The balance flats in this exercise are scattered across 15 towns, including mature estates such as Queenstown and Bukit Merah, and non-mature estates such as Punggol and Woodlands.

Some are wildly popular. As of last night, the 30 four-room balance units being offered in Yishun had attracted 858 applications.

More than 1,800 applicants were vying for 422 three-, four- and five-room flats in Clementi, and there were almost 2,500 in the queue for 491 three- and four- room flats in Bukit Merah.

The balance flats were put up for sale last Thursday together with 5,415 BTO flats in Sengkang, Punggol, Jurong West, Jurong East and Ang Mo Kio in a bumper launch of sorts.

The BTO units range from 398.3 sq ft studio apartments with a starting price of $70,000 in Sengkang, to 1,205.5 sq ft five-room units costing from $375,000 in Punggol.

Balance flats cost from $82,000 for a two-room unit in Sengkang, to $611,000 for a five-room flat in Bukit Merah.

As of yesterday evening, there were only 7,200 applicants for the BTO units, with some three-room flats in Sengkang and Jurong East undersubscribed.

Property experts say the huge demand seen in this launch is partly due to last month’s revision of income eligibility rules, from $8,000 to $10,000, which has made more people eligible to buy flats.

‘The Sale of Balance Flats exercise was supposed to be the supporting cast and the BTO exercise the main star of the show. But the supporting cast has outshone the main star now,’ said property consultancy SLP International’s research head Nicholas Mak.

PropNex chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail said the response was within his expectations, but noted buyers must take responsibility for their own actions if they end up not getting a flat in this exercise.

‘Those who chose the Sale of Balance Flats know they are taking a chance, and those who were not distracted by the balance flats and chose BTO flats will be rewarded for it,’ he said.

‘As far as the ministry should be concerned, this launch will have helped over 8,200 people clear the queue.’

Banking executive Claude Lee, 24, is keeping his fingers crossed. He applied for a four-room balance unit in Sengkang, which was more than three times oversubscribed yesterday evening.

‘I knew the flats would be popular. You could say it’s a calculated risk,’ he said. ‘I decided to try my luck because the balance flat is still cheaper than a resale unit, and if I get it, I won’t have to wait as long as I would for a BTO.’

Balance flats are popular because they are often in mature estates. Some are completed and most others are already being built, so the waiting time is shorter. — ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Source: Straits Times, 28th Sept 2011

Sep 27 2011

Doing well living large in a shoebox apartment

Only cities which can make such residents happy can truly say they have arrived

SHOEHORN yourself into a shoebox apartment?

There is wide-eyed curiosity and some narrow-minded incredulity at the ballooning number of people doing that.

Sales of tiny apartments – nicknamed ‘shoebox’ for their size – have increased more than six times, from 300 units in 2008 to 1,900 last year. They represented 6 per cent of new private home sales in 2008, doubling to 12 per cent last year.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan wrote on his blog in June warning that while he did not want to second-guess the market, buyers of tiny apartments should go in with their eyes open. Some market observers warn that the penchant for small living is just a fad, and suggest that small equals unrentable and unliveable.

Naysayers will tell you that living in a tiny apartment is a step backwards in the housing continuum. You do not go from a pondok to an HDB three-room flat to an executive condominium, only to retreat to a 400 sq ft shoebox.

I beg to differ. The way I see it, the popularity of small apartment living is an index of a city’s sophistication. Only cities which can make shoebox dwellers happy can truly say they have arrived.

You see, McMansions sprouting from the soil may spell prosperity, for the house owners and the neighbourhood. But mansions are about people building the bells and whistles (and bathrooms and pools) for themselves. They are buffered by their employees, driveways and groomed hedges from their country, evolved or not. The next-door neighbour could be an unhygienic hyena of a man – but he is producing dirt and noise hundreds of metres away.

Not so for a shoeboxer. Your country or city as a whole needs to be civilised before you can feel like a million bucks in 500 sq ft.

You have to have enough potential shoebox buyers who have evolved beyond the anxious and unsubtle race to accumulate and display ever more square footage and material goodies.

You have to have shoeboxers whose appreciation for design has evolved beyond demanding just sheer, voluminous space – attractive though that will always be – and embrace clever design.

You have to have public spaces that are beautiful, stimulating and yet safe enough for shoeboxers to relax in as shared extensions of their homes.

Little apartments can have the adventurous effect of pushing shoeboxers out the door.

I moved to a 431 sq ft home from a place that was more than twice as big, and while I like cooing in my bird’s nest, I also make emotional claims on parts of the neighbourhood as my home – the many eateries as my kitchen-fridge-dining room, the inviting parks as my garden and the cafes as my sofa-living room.

And sometimes, the lively neighbourhood claims my home as its own, when friends en route to the eateries nearby make a pit stop at my shoebox.

Eight of us once took ourselves on a food tour of the neighbourhood; we began with popiah at a hawker centre, moved on to garlic crayfish at a kopitiam in an industrial estate, then loaded on carbs in the form of beef hor fun with black bean sauce at another kopitiam at the foot of an HDB block.

The evening ended and the night began with all eight (8-1/2 if you count the engorged tummies) fitting themselves into one-third of my place for champagne and wicked laughter into the wee hours.

The ceiling may be relatively high, but I did not need to have my guests arranged in a vertical fashion. Thanks to interesting interior and product design as well as a tweak in my mindset, they were all parked on proper seating: A sofa that doubles as a bed, an ottoman that folds out into a bench (and can fold out into a bed if the bubbly overwhelms), a ghostly see-through chair that takes up little visual space and a black chair that disappears against a background of black cabinets.

When I started living here, I rearranged more than furniture. I rearranged my preconceptions of what I really need in a home and what goes into which room. Must a bedroom be literally a room with a bed? To go further, must a bedroom remain as a bedroom? Why must a room’s function and furniture be dictated by a property developer or architect’s vision? A room can shift its space and shape and be whatever you need it to be for the moment.

I dropped the notion of ‘bedroom’ and even ‘bed’. I regained space the volume of a queen-sized bed, which held my visitors that champagne night, and will become something else some other day.

Pillows and a blanket taken out of a cabinet make a bed wherever I snooze – just like the Japanese bring out futons at night to spread on tatami mats and turn rooms into bedrooms.

Lean on evolved mindsets, designs and public spaces, and you can have champagne dreams and tobiko wishes even in a small apartment.

However, you also need neighbours who have evolved beyond being unhygienic hyenas.

When I visited Japan, I deeply appreciated the country’s standard of courtesy, even in packed conditions. You could be cheek by jowl with your fellow commuters or pedestrians, but you did not feel crowded; the polite words and apologies, the sense of spatial awareness and the valiant attempts to inch away to avoid bumping into you softened the stress.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a call to turn Singapore into a nation of shoeboxers. I still dream of a home of airy art gallery proportions for myself.

But being able to live well together on less is cause for celebration, not regret. Just as we can feel pleased that we can live together fairly amiably in the shoebox of a nation called Singapore.

Are we fully there yet? No way. But we are on the way. Enough for me to feel at least half a million bucks in less than 500 sq ft.

Doing well living large in a shoebox apartment — ST ILLUSTRATION: MIEL

Source: 27th Sept 2011

Sep 22 2011

West Coast collective sale fetches $171m

HONG Leong Garden Shopping Centre, a mixed-use development in the West Coast neighbourhood, has been sold to an Oxley Holdings-led consortium for $171 million.

This hefty sum is the largest collective sale of the year in value and is also the largest collective sale in terms of land size for the past four years.

The other members of the consortium are Heeton Holdings, KSH Holdings, TEE International and Zap Piling.

Measuring about 150,800 sq ft, the development has a gross plot ratio of 1.6 and can be built up to an allowable height of 12 storeys, with a maximum gross floor area of 241,306 sq ft.

Credo Real Estate, the agency handling the sale, said the tender exercise was keenly contested, with four interested parties taking part.

‘The sale price translates to a land rate of approximately $804 to $819 psf per plot ratio, depending on the mix of commercial and residential quantum proposed by the developer,’ said Mr Tan Hong Boon, deputy managing director of Credo Real Estate.

The offer is slightly higher than the sellers’ initial expected offers of between $160 million and $170 million.

Built in the 1980s, the development consists of 72 apartments and 66 shop units.

The sale price of $171 million will mean that each apartment owner stands to receive between $1.17 million and $1.64 million, with shop owners getting between $792,000 and $1.51 million each.

The site is zoned for residential use, with commercial use on the first storey.

Mr Tan said the site could be transformed into a condominium development that could offer an array of amenities and dining options for West Coast residents.

The first nine months of this year saw a total of 37 collective sales, totalling close to $2.24 billion. This far exceeds last year’s total of 36 deals amounting to $1.77 billion.

Source: Straits Times, 22nd Sept 2011

Sep 22 2011

Property agents’ reprieve on exam

Those with provisional licences given six more months to pass industry test

PROPERTY agents who have yet to pass a manda-tory industry exam by the year’s end will have six more months to do so.

The Council for Estate Agencies’ (CEA) new deadline of June 30 next year will spell respite for 2,753 provisionally licensed agents who, as of Aug 31, make up 8 per cent of some 33,000 registered property agents here.

Earlier this year, the CEA said agents who brokered at least three transactions over the last two years have up to Dec 31 to pass the Real Estate Salesperson Examination. They were given provisional licences in the meantime.

CEA’s director of licensing and investigation, Ms Purnima Shantilal, said the extension stems from the council’s acknowledgement that agents need more time.

‘The extension will thus help them to better prepare for the exam. The CEA will work with the estate agents closely to ensure that their salesmen take the exam by the deadline,’ she said.

The new deadline also applies to those sitting the Real Estate Agency Examination, which is for partners, directors and key executive officers of property agencies.

The CEA, a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development, made it mandatory for all agents and those running agencies to take proficiency exams to raise the professionalism of the industry, which was largely unregulated before the council was set up in October last year.

But property agencies said they received feedback from some agents who had problems passing the exams set in English mainly because they were not proficient in the language. The CEA said it has arranged with the Institute of Estate Agents to come up with Mandarin courses to teach agents how to pass the Real Estate Salesperson exam.

The exam is a mix of multiple-choice and short-answer questions testing issues such as an agent’s knowledge of property law and regulations.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said agents need to take the exam more seriously, now the CEA has given them more time to do so, as well as try to overcome the language barrier.

This is because the CEA expects agents to understand English, which is used in documents in property transactions.

‘They should not expect the CEA to keep extending the deadline. The reason the CEA has announced this extension is really because it recognises that this job is a ‘rice bowl’ for many people, so agents now have to play their part,’ he said.

The news comes as a relief to Mr Colin Zhang, 30, a property agent with real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

‘I’ve not really had the time to sit down and study for the exam, which deals a lot with property law,’ he said.

‘If not for the extension, I would have had a real headache by the year’s end. Now I have more time to study, the exam shouldn’t be a problem.’

The CEA will also conduct its first licensing and registration renewal exercise – for those who have passed the mandatory exam and whose registration expires on Dec 31 – from Oct 1 to Nov 15 and update the list of property agents registered for next year.

They are also urged to undergo six hours of continuing professional development (CPD) before March 31 next year.

CPD is a scheme to update agents and property companies on the latest government policies and real estate procedures.

The courses, which are recognised by the CEA, are conducted by vendors from the public and private sectors.

Source: Straits Times, 22nd Sept 2011

Sep 22 2011

Fresh en bloc bid by condo in Cavenagh Rd

$480m to $500m expected for prime site near Orchard Road

THE Cavenagh Gardens condominium near Orchard Road is up for collective sale with an expected price of between $480 million and $500 million.

Owners stand to reap between $2.5 million and $3 million each for their units – 35 to 45 per cent more than if they sold their homes individually, said marketing agent PropNex yesterday.

The expected price is between $1,620 per sq ft per plot ratio and $1,688 psf ppr for the 130,000 sq ft site. This includes the additional 10 per cent balcony allocation.

If adjoining parcels of state land are included, the freehold site in Cavenagh Road could increase to 150,000 sq ft and bring the price down to $1,413 psf ppr to $1,471 psf ppr.

Cavenagh Gardens consists of 172 homes spread across two 13-storey towers and a five-storey block. The estate in Cavenagh Road could be redeveloped into 350 units of 1,000 sq ft each.

This is at least the third time the development has been up for collective sale. Owners wanted $619 million in October 2007 but dropped that to around $450 million in June 2008 amid the global financial crisis.

PropNex added that developers can apply to retain the towers and develop them with additions and alterations.

While the estate is in a prime area, a successful deal might be hard to pull off as collective sales of more than $500 million, including those of Pine Grove, Pearl Bank Apartments, Tulip Garden and Hawaii Tower, have failed to find buyers.

Developers have shunned large projects in favour of less risky investments of less than $100 million. A big supply of state land released has also siphoned capital away from the en bloc market, say experts.

‘With the influx of foreign investors and the interest of high-end home buyers, this land site has (many) opportunities,’ said Mr Charles Chua, head of PropNex investment sales department.

‘(It can) be developed into high-end residences, serviced apartments or small office, home office apartments.’

He added that the project’s price of about $1,620 psf ppr is ‘reasonably attractive’. By comparison, the collective sale of nearby Cairnhill Mansion has a reserve price of about $2,308 psf ppr.

The breakeven price of a re-developed Cavenagh Gardens is estimated to be between $2,138 and $2,223 psf ppr or reduced to $1,950 to $2,028 psf ppr if adjoining state land parcels are included.

But the selling price is expected to range from $2,500 psf to $2,600 psf in both cases, Mr Chua noted.

Nearby 200-unit Waterscape at Cavenagh was launched at an average selling price of about $1,880 psf in March last year. About 75 per cent of the units have been snapped up.

The average transacted price for two units sold in May and June this year was $1,939 psf, according to caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Mr Tan Kok Keong, OrangeTee’s head of research and consultancy, said developers’ risk appetite has decreased further amid global market uncertainties.

Smaller sites are still preferred as they also require a shorter time to be launch-ready, reducing the risk.

‘The sale of bigger prime collective sales can still take place but the unsold inventory in the market must first be cleared before developers’ appetite for these large sites comes back,’ Mr Tan said.

‘Even with the Government’s bumper supply of state land, collective sales are still the main way for developers to get prime freehold sites.’

The sale of Cavenagh Gardens, consisting of two 13-storey towers and a five-storey block, may fetch owners 35 to 45 per cent more than if they sold their homes individually. — PHOTO: PROPNEX

Source: Straits Times, 22nd Sept 2011

Sep 21 2011

Commercial site in CBD draws only 3 bids

ONLY three bidders joined the tussle for a commercial site fronting both Robinson Road and Cecil Street as bullish sentiment fizzles out amid economic uncertainties.

Far East Organization and Orchard Parade Holdings jointly lodged the top bid of $311.8 million, or $882 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr), for the 99-year leasehold site.

This was below market expectations: Experts had expected bids of between $325 million and $530 million when the 0.29ha site was launched in June.

The other bidders were not far behind: IOI Properties unit Multi Wealth (Singapore) offered $303 million while Frasers Centrepoint bid $300.5 million.

Colliers International’s director of research and advisory, Ms Chia Siew Chuin, said the lukewarm interest was unexpected as the plot is a rare commercial site in the Central Business District.

‘The interest level and bid prices point to cautious bidding amid the current uncertainties surrounding the economic climate, as well as concerns about the upcoming ample supply of some 11.3 million sq ft of office space till 2016,’ she added.

Mr Ong Teck Hui, Credo Real Estate’s head of research and consultancy, noted that the site’s top bid was only 1 per cent higher than the $872 psf ppr sale of a suburban Paya Lebar site tendered in April.

‘The caution we have seen in recent residential tenders has filtered through to the commercial sector,’ he added.

‘The mood in April was much more upbeat compared to current sentiments, (and) may spell a slowdown for the economy as well as the commercial property market.’

The site can be developed into a good quality office block of up to 35 storeys.

At least 80 per cent of the maximum permissible gross floor area of about 32,800 sq m must be used for offices.

Mr Alan Cheong, Savills’ research and consultancy associate director, estimates that a top-grade office building erected on the site would have a break-even price of $1,975 psf of net lettable area.

‘Over the longer term, after the global economies and financial markets have stabilised, Far East would reap handsome rewards from this decision,’ he added.

Source: Straits Times, 21st Sept 2011

Sep 20 2011

EC sales perk up with revised income ceiling

SALES of executive condos (ECs) have picked up strongly just days after the higher income ceiling for eligible buyers was backdated to include all unsold units.

Developers have reported quicker sales since last Wednesday’s announcement that the revised household income cap of $12,000 – up from $10,000 – would now apply to five other EC projects with unsold units.

The higher ceiling had initially applied only to EC projects launched after Aug 15, when the announcement was made.

ECs are a hybrid of public and private housing, reintroduced to the market last year after a five-year hiatus.

Qingjian Realty said that more than 50 units had been snapped up at EC project RiverParc Residence in Punggol since Wednesday, with the ‘majority’ of buyers falling into the newly eligible $10,000 to $12,000 income bracket.

This brings total sales to 468 units – or 93 per cent – of the 504-unit project.

City Developments’ (CDL) 602-unit Blossom Residences in Segar Road also found buyers for 20 units over the past week, bringing total sales to 400 units.

Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, CDL group general manager, said that about half of these additional buyers are from the $10,000 to $12,000 income segment.

‘We expect to see continued healthy sales based on the positive feedback from this group of potential buyers that the latest government announcement is beneficial as it offers them more choices for their selection,’ he added.

Similarly, buyers also more than doubled in number compared to a normal weekend before the revised ceiling at United Engineers’ 540-unit Austville Residences in Sengkang, a spokesman said.

About 350 units or 65 per cent of the 540-unit project launched in January have been sold, with visitors at the showflat also doubling over the weekend.

‘In particular, we saw quite a large number of interested buyers, who were previously disqualified due to their combined household income exceeding $10,000, coming back to our showflat to make a purchase,’ he added.

The spokesman added that the firm is positive about the outlook of ECs in the future. Moreover, new EC launches in the past year are better designed and promise a higher building quality, he said.

‘With increased incomes and widespread aspirations of living in a condominium among Singaporeans, young couples and HDB upgraders will always consider ECs as a housing option, especially when EC prices continue to be below those of private condominiums.’

The 406-unit EC project The Canopy in Yishun, which had only about 30 units left last week, also experienced a larger-than-usual crowd at its showflat.

MCC Land managing director Tan Zhiyong said, however, that the new ruling would have little impact on the project’s sales as fewer than 30 units were left unsold. About five units were sold over the weekend, he added.

The new ruling meant that about 600 more unsold units from five earlier EC projects – as well as units from the most recent EC project launched on Aug 31, Arc at Tampines – are available to buyers who meet the new income requirements.

They can now tap an estimated 68,700 additional households that qualify for ECs when the cap was lifted to $12,000, UOB Kay Hian property analyst Vikrant Pandey estimates.

Since the EC scheme returned last year, eight sites have been sold to developers. In all, 4,194 units have been released into the market for sale and over 3,000 more units are expected to be launched in the next 12 months, a Kim Eng research note said last week.

Soucre: Straits Times, 20th Sept 2011

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