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Singapore investors fearless despite easing prices

Latest data show private property prices rose the slowest pace in three quarters.

Singapore property market easingEnlarge
A general view shows highrise housing apartment buildings in Singapore on Jan. 14, 2013. (Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)

Singapore citizen Theresa Low, 64, purchased her fourth apartment in the island city last month, undeterred by the government's seventh attempt at cooling the red hot property sector, which has priced many buyers out of the market.

Latest data show private property prices rose 0.5 percent in the January to March period - the slowest pace in three quarters - compared with a near 2 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.

But Low is unperturbed. "I'm a long term investor. I believe that properties are good investments. My past three investments have been good decisions - they have all appreciated in value," Low told CNBC, referring to her latest purchase, which was a 570 square foot apartment located in the eastern part of the city.

The government unveiled a slew of curbs in January including increasing a tax on foreigners purchasing residential property and citizens purchasing their second home, in addition to tightening the amount of money home buyers can borrow on their second mortgage.

Despite multiple rounds of curbs, Low remains confident on the outlook for the nation's property market, which is ranked the sixth most expensive in the world by global property consultancy Knight Frank.

"The property market is still hot here. There are a lot of investors in Singapore; they don't know where to park their money. Property will always go up here," she added, despite the fact that she had to pay 7 percent more as stamp duty thanks to the curbs announced in January.

Another Singapore resident, who purchased her first home before the January cooling measures, is also bullish on the sector. "In my opinion if you have luxury of time, prices will always appreciate especially in Singapore where land is so scarce," said the 27-year-old who did not want to give her name.

Despite the recent softness in the market, which has seen sales of new private residences plunge 65 percent month on month in February, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, analysts are confident prices will remain resilient this year.

Alan Cheong, head of research at real estate services provider Savills, believes the sharp fall in transaction volumes is temporary, noting that it was a result of fewer project launches on the island as developers held back until after the Lunar New Year holidays in the middle of February.

"If you don't have project launches sales are slow. We hardly saw any new launches in February. For March, we will see home sales of 2,000 plus," he said. In February only 708 new units were sold.

Cheong forecasts private home prices will gain 3-5 percent this year, in line with the country's inflation rate, which rose to 4.9 percent in February.

"There's a lot of strong underlying demand for the mass market segment of the residential market - that is too strong to cease overnight and will continue for the rest of the year," he noted.

Singapore has seen a rise in demand for apartments in the mass market segment from locals who own a government-built apartment looking to upgrade to a private property. The mass market is categorized by private apartments priced in the S$850 ($687) to S$1,200 per square foot range.

In addition, with Singapore's tight labor market and easy liquidity conditions, purchase demand will be supported, said analysts.

"Barring any further government cooling measures, we expect demand and therefore prices to hold up," said Lee Lay Keng, head of Singapore research at real estate services firm DTZ, who expects overall prices to remain flat this year.

"Prices of new projects are expected to hold up, especially for projects that are well-located near transport hubs and amenities. With their strong balance sheets, developers are also unlikely to cut prices to move units although they could offer more incentives," she added.

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Original Source URL: 
http://www.cnbc.com/id/100607928

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/emerging-markets/130402/singapore-property-easing-fearless-investors