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Market Cooling Measures
Since 2010, the Singapore government has been introducing cooling measures to bring sharp price increases under control. Most significant have been the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), both instituted in 2013.
Photo Credit: St. Regis Residences, Singapore
The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty
The ABSD has imposed an extra fee of 7 percent for Singaporeans and 10 percent for permanent residents buying their second property, while foreigners must pay an extra 15 percent for purchasing any property. Although for the ultra-wealthy the additional stamp duty may not amount to all that much, it has still deterred them from buying.
Alexander Karolik Shlaen, an economist and CEO of Panache Management, is quoted by CNBC saying “rich buyers, indeed, can afford to pay ABSD, but they don’t want to pay 15 percent above local buyers. That is a figure too high to over-pay for the same property.” As a result, local buyers have also stepped back as they are concerned about foreign investors’ loss of interest in the luxury real estate market.
The Total Debt Servicing Ratio
At the same time, Singaporean buyers have been limited by the TDSR, which stipulates that the total of their mortgage and other personal debt repayments does not exceed 60 percent of their gross income.
These measures have successfully dampened interest in the market characterised by a surplus supply. As such, prices have plummeted.
Deadline to Sell
Alongside this lack of demand is the time-sensitive pressure on property developers to sell. A policy implemented by the Singaporean government to stop “property hoarding” by foreigners places an “extension charge” on any units that remain unsold two years after the development’s completion. This fee is set at 8 percent of the proportional land cost for the first year, 16 percent for the second and 24 percent for the third.
Photo Credit: Marina Bay Residences / Christie’s Int.
Avoiding Extension Charges
Only companies that are exclusively Singaporean-owned can avoid these charges. As such, further price cuts may be made as developers seek to offload unsold units. Alternatively they may choose to delist and thereby remove any non-Singaporean shareholders and/or board members.
A Market for Bargain Hunters
Either way, it appears that the luxury property market has cooled down sufficiently for those buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines for a bargain to start gradually coming back. This is particularly true of mainland Chinese, who have a renewed interest in the market with prices being significantly cheaper than Hong Kong.
Future Buying Incentives
Additionally, interest in the market by both foreigners and Singaporeans may further increase following the recent elections. It has been suggested that the incumbent PAP party’s victory may spur the government to loosen some measures at the margin to further curry favour with the electorate. Such a move would reduce transaction costs in an already appealing market and thereby boost sales. Indeed the Singaporean luxury real estate market is back to a buyer’s market.