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Published: Friday February 7, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday February 7, 2014 MYT 8:11:59 AM

Lion City's property pull

The Rapid Transit System (RTS) linking Johor Baru and Singapore (in the background) is expected to be up and running by 2018, further boosing the property sector in both regions.

The Rapid Transit System (RTS) linking Johor Baru and Singapore (in the background) is expected to be up and running by 2018, further boosing the property sector in both regions.

Property is an investment that resonates with Malaysians.

Although cooling measures introduced under Budget 2014 have slowed interest a little in Malaysia, industry observers believe that love affair with property is far from over. Developers continue to see strong interest in good projects and property prices have yet to dip.

Additionally, Malaysians are also increasingly looking abroad as a means of diversifying their exposure in property thanks to the rising affluence of the local populace.

According to reports, Malaysians have an affinity for destinations such as Singapore, Australia and the UK, where most students go to study.

Subsequently, foreign developers have become rather keen to tap into Malaysia’s growing appetite for property overseas.

Note that Melbourne-based high-end property developer SPEC Property recently set up an office in Malaysia, marking its entry into the Asean region. The office allows homeowners to remotely manage their properties in Australia such as settlement of utilities and collection of rent.

Similarly, Singapore-based developer Far East Organization is stepping up efforts to market its properties to Malaysians. Far East is the largest private property developer in Singapore with 750 development projects under its belt.

Augustine Tan, Far East executive director of property sales, noted that Malaysians make up a significant number of its foreign clientele.

And despite talks of a slowing market and tightening of belts here, Tan is confident that buying interest from Malaysians in the Singapore property market will remain strong this year.

“We continue to be optimistic about foreign investment overall, with Malaysians traditionally ranking among Far East’s top three buyers of our Singapore properties. This reflects their confidence in Singapore’s property market and the country’s strong fundamentals,” Tan said.

A look across the straits

The city-state is also known for its lively shopping paradise and numerous tourist attractions including Resorts World Sentosa.

Properties in Singapore have been seen as a safe investment option for some time. Notably, property prices have been on the rise in recent years and Barclays reported that residential property prices are currently 61% above 2009 levels.

Nonetheless, Singapore has implemented several rounds of cooling measures including raising the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty to 15% for foreigners. As a result, private home prices showed their first decline in seven quarters in the fourth quarter of 2013.

But interestingly, the proportion of foreign property buyers has reportedly increased. In the first nine months of last year, foreigners make up about 9% of total condo buyers in Singapore compared to 8% in 2012.

Malaysians are the third largest foreign buyers of private property in Singapore at 13% from January to October last year. Mainland Chinese investors topped the list of foreign buyers with 34% while Indonesians formed the second largest group at 32%.

“The introduction of measures to ensure the sustainable value for Singapore property assets reflects the government’s commitment to maintain a stable property market worth investing in.

“Singapore continues to be a valuable and viable option for property investment given the high quality of developments in the market. The region is becoming increasingly competitive and so it is critical to be innovative in order to remain attractive to property investors,” Tan said.

British multinational bank Barclays estimate that home prices will further correct 5% this year and another 5% to 15% in 2015, which would undoubtedly make Singapore property more affordable in the short term.

Additionally, Tan expects the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Draft Masterplan to provide the property market with a strong and sustainable prospect in the long term.

Masterplan

The URA has laid out development plans for Singapore over the next 10 to 15 years under the Draft Masterplan with key focuses in housing, transport, economy, identity, recreation and adding more public spaces in the congested island.

The Masterplan aims to add more homes in diverse locations and more train stations to cater to a projected population of 6.9mil. The financial district will also be expanded and new commercial hubs introduced to maintain a vibrant commercial environment.

Most of the plans also aim to make Singapore a greener and more liveable city. This is particularly telling in its ambitious plans to have almost everyone in Singapore living within 400m of a park.

Tan explained that the Draft Masterplan has impacted the property market positively. For example, Singapore’s port activities will be moved from Tanjong Pagar to Tuas, which has resulted in strong interest in the area.

“This is also reflected in the sales of our Westcom industrial development in Tuas which we launched beginning last year. It is now nearly 90% sold with more than 130 units taken up. Far East will be launching another industrial project in the Tuas area in February,” he said.

Far East, founded by Singaporean billionaire Ng Teng Fong in the 1960s, has developments in varied segments including residential, hospitality, commercial, healthcare and industrial. In the residential space, Far East has products in the high-end market including its 383-unit Silversea condominium located in Singapore’s popular East Coast. Estimated to be completed this year, the condominium features lush landscaping with unblocked views of the South China Sea.

Tan noted that its high-end products have drawn strong interest from Malaysians particularly from East Malaysia.

The developer also has a number of SOHO concept products such as The Cape, also located in the East Coast within close proximity to reputable schools, which is among the considerations of locals looking to buy in Singapore.

“The country’s focus is now on creating environments that promote economic growth and innovation, and sustain high quality living. Developers have taken on a complementary role in shaping the master plan. With new lifestyles and needs, developers have had to be especially creative, challenging physical confines and notions of space in land-scarce Singapore.

“The URA Draft Masterplan will certainly help draw investors interested in tapping into the various property markets in Singapore,” Tan said.

Tags / Keywords: Central Region, Business, Property, Singapore property

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