Will home sellers jack up prices after increase in housing grants?

This article is more than 12 months old

With the announcement of enhanced resale flat grants comes the question on homebuyers' minds: Will sellers raise prices?

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) housing grants, which are effective for resale flat applications from Monday, were raised by $10,000 to $20,000 for first-timer families, and $5,000 to $10,000 for first-timer singles, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech.

But some prospective buyers, like Miss M. L. Yong, 30, are concerned that sellers could jack up the price if they find out she is a first-timer applicant.

For the past two years, she and her fiance have been looking for a Housing Board flat near his parents' home in central Singapore.

The couple, who have a monthly combined income of $10,000, are tying the knot later this year.

"The grants are very welcome and make resale flats near his parents more affordable now.

"But what is to stop sellers from charging us more?" asked Miss Yong, who works in an architecture firm.

Industry watchers said Miss Yong has little cause for concern, though it is still possible that some sellers may attempt to pocket the gains.

Mr Nicholas Mak, research head at SLP International Property Consultants, said: "Some sellers will certainly try and perhaps raise prices by half the grant amount.

"But it is very unlikely for most sellers to do that."

He said the resale market is and has always been a buyers' one.

"Raise the prices? There's a simple solution for the buyers. They simply go to the next flat," he added.

With an expected rise in demand for resale flats, R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng believes that sellers may soon be able to sell their units in a shorter time, which currently averages around three months.

Mr Ong predicts that the impact on resale prices will be minor, with a possible rise of 0.3 per cent this year.

Meanwhile, resale transactions are expected to increase due to the measures.

PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor estimates the volume of transactions will go up by about 10 per cent.

A total of 20,813 resale flats traded hands last year, and the number is expected to cross 22,000 this year.

Mr Ismail said: "Indeed, with the recent price corrections in the HDB resale market in the past few years, and now with the increased grants, the Government's decision is timely.

"It opens up more choices for young couples who are considering purchasing HDB resale flats."

These grant enhancements are meant to help new couples looking for a home, Parliament heard on Monday.

But property experts believe the rationale for implementing them now is also to encourage financial prudence in homebuyers in the current economy.

The measures may also "encourage some couples to tie the knot earlier and have children soon after marriage", said OrangeTee's head of research and consultancy Wong Xian Yang.