Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Understanding the impact of SARS, H1N1 & the Global Financial Crisis on Singapore's property market will guide you on current market situation
According to Singapore Tourism Board, a total of 3.4million tourists visited Singapore in 2018, making it the top country for inbound visitors. These Chinese tourists spent over $1billion (excluding sightseeing etc.) here, with half the amount on shopping. They were our biggest spenders in Q1 2019.
With travel restrictions in place and the virus causing uncertainty, how will it affect retail, f&b, airlines, hotels and casinos? How will it affect the property market? With possible retrenchment on table, majority of the staff working in these industries would fear upgrading their homes.
Both buyers and sellers alike are equally concerned about the property market and the impact of the current Covid-19 situation on their properties. However, while some are fearful of the current market direction, there are others entering into the private property market with caution. But why are these people confident to buy/invest in a property despite current market situation?
Source: URA, SRX, Propnex Research
Do you remember back in 2003, when Singapore was hit by SARS? The first case was reported on 1st March 2003. In March alone, tourists arrivals fell by 15% and 61% just a month later. Singapore had a total of 238 cases with 33 deaths. During the SARS epidemic, our GDP dropped 7% in the first quarter but subsequently recovered. Overall growth rate for that year was at 1.1%.
Despite that, the property market still saw a total of 10,386 private residential transactions. Of this 10,386 transactions, 2,658 units were later resold within a 5-year time frame. Of this 2,658 units, 2,284 units were sold at a profit. Profitable transactions were 6 times more as compared to non-profitable transactions. Owners made a profit of an average of about $331,000. This means that despite SARS, the buying and selling of properties still went on.
On top of that, cash rich buyers were able to snag some good deals in 2003. Take for example, Cluny Court was sold at $15.5 million or $354 psf through a mortgagee sale. 22.5% discount from the asking price of $20 million. The freehold commercial and residential building at Bukit Timah Road had a price tag of $51 million back in 1997.
Singapore was hit by the H1N1 in 2009 however there was little impact to the economy as compared to the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. During the H1N1 epidemic, we saw a rise in sales volumes of 32.9% to 2,809 units, and average prices of units rose to 48.0% and $1,165psf.
Covid-19 in 2020
So what can previous virus outbreaks in Singapore tell us about the property market with Covid-19?
Did you know the Pier@Robertson was launched in 2003, at a bargain price of $900 psf in May 2003. Now a unit at the freehold condo is valued at $2,000 psf. Another project launched in 2003 was ICON by Far East. It was sold at $700psf. The condominium is now at $1,700psf!
Kelvin Fong, Executive Director of Propnex, on his take on the current property market.
Late February, Wing Tai sold over 70% of its units during it's launch weekend. This happened amidst Covid-19 just before the circuit breaker started on 7th April. It was the first major launch since the virus hit Singapore. The project is located at a prime location in the Core Central Region (CCR) in the Ophir-Rochor Corridor, with prices starting from $980K during the launch. The M is expected to be completed in Q1 2024.
Just last month in April, developers have collectively sold a total of 277 private new homes. This shows a steady movement of property transactions despite circuit breaker measures, stricter movement controls and the closure of show flats.
Developers and real estate agents have made use of technology to sell properties. Technology like this was not present back in 2003.
SARS has taught us that buying a property during a virus could be a good time to invest and buy. The outbreak in 2003 has showed us that Singapore is resilient in times of crisis and able to weather through storms. Data and statistics have shown that Singapore comes out of a pandemic stronger. No doubt there will be some dip in property transactions overall but genuine investors and buyers who make up the bulk of the buying market will still buy into rightly priced projects.
What is the government doing to alleviate the situation?
Addressing financial system risk: The MAS announced in March that it will draw on its new currency swap line with the US Federal Reserve to provide up to US$60 billion of funding to banks in Singapore. Even prior to the above announcements, large Singapore banks had already taken the initiative and announced various debt deferments, restructuring and moratorium measures to ease the financial burdens of its customers.
Alleviate real economy problems: The government unveiled a Resilience Budget totaling S$48.4 billion targeted at saving jobs and protecting workers and livelihoods. This came on top of the previous S$6.4 billion package to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To put this into perspective, the total package announced by the government is worth nearly S$60 billion, which is about 11 per cent of Singapore’s GDP.
Source: Vulcan Post
Market recovery will take time and investors must be able to wait out the storm - have holding power. Recovery will be dependent on Singapore's economy and the real estate market. A new normal will be in place until a vaccine comes along. Nevertheless, we are hoping for the best!
As Warren Buffet once said, "Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."
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