Private home sales surge to 4-year high

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Sales figures point to gradual recovery in private property sector, say analysts

Sales of new private homes defied expectations to surge to a near four-year high last month, when some property cooling measures were adjusted for the first time since they were first implemented in 2009.

Developers sold 1,780 new units - excluding executive condos (ECs) - up about 82 per cent from the 979 homes booked in February. This was also more than double the 843 homes shifted in March last year.

Last month's strong showing took new home sales in the first quarter to 3,141 - the best quarterly effort since the second quarter of 2013, said consultancy CBRE.

Analysts said the sales figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday further point to a gradual recovery in the private residential property sector and are a huge boost to market sentiment.

"This is reflective of a broad-based improvement in demand with buyers not just attracted to newly launched projects but to those launched previously as well," noted Mr Ong Teck Hui, national director of research and consultancy at JLL.

Ms Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield, added: "With liquidity aplenty, waning concerns over the supply situation, buyers are coming back to the primary market in droves, as many are buying into the idea that Singapore's residential market is moving a step closer to a turning point."

Indeed, the level of new home sales last month has not been seen since June 2013, when 1,806 units were sold. Monthly sales then cooled substantially after the Government implemented the total debt servicing ratio framework in June 2013.

Last month's robust sales were partly due to slight easing of some cooling measures by the Government which "have injected a shot of optimism among buyers", said ERA Realty Network key executive officer Eugene Lim.

The Government unexpectedly announced last month that it will shorten the seller's stamp duty holding period for homes bought from March 11 to three years instead of four years. It will also cut rates for each tier by four percentage points.

The two best-selling private projects were both new launches: CEL Development's Grandeur Park Residences in Tanah Merah, which sold 484 units at a median price of $1,406 per sq ft (psf); and Lendlease's Park Place Residences At PLQ in Paya Lebar. This moved 217 units at a median price of $1,805 psf.

"Buyers are more prepared to make a purchase in view of prices possibly bottoming. The impetus to procure land is becoming more urgent for developers as the unsold inventory of projects in the market is steadily being cleared," noted Mr Joseph Tan, executive director for residential at CBRE.

The URA data shows suburban areas led sales last month with 1,123 new units sold, followed by 589 in the city fringe and 68 in the core central region.