The Singapore Residential Property Market Outlook 2021

Prices in the Singapore residential property market have been rising between the closing quarter of 2020 and the opening quarter of 2021. Properties viewed as residential are Housing and Development (HDB) flats, Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) apartments, condos, bungalows, terraced houses, and cluster houses. 

Trends 

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the first quarter of 2021 showed a price increase for private residential properties in Singapore by 2.1 percent. However, an even steeper increase of 3.3 percent growth in price occurred between the first and second quarters of 2021. As estimates were lower, the property market has responded better than expected for sellers. This is the highest increase since the second quarter of 2018. The upward trend has continued unabated for four quarters in a row. 

Landed properties in Singapore rose by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021, making up for a decline of 1.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020. The increased prices for condominiums coupled with a desire for additional space has made landed properties popular. 

The price of non-landed properties rose by 3 percent in the last quarter of 2020 and by a whopping 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 in the central region (RCR). Prices in surrounding areas (outside central region OCR) did not increase as dramatically – 1.8 percent in the last quarter of 2020 and 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021. The core central region (CCR) showed a 3.2 percent raise at the end of 2020, followed by a much more moderate increase of 0.5 percent in the next quarter. 

The good performance of the sellers’ market saw 4,249 properties sold in the last quarter of 2020 increase to 4,519 sales in the first quarter of 2021, up by 6.4 percent. More than half of these were resales versus new properties, with 3,493 units sold by developers.

Reasons for the strong performance of the residential property sector can be attributed to the recovery of foreign investment demand and a high desire to own private residential property locally. Singapore is considered one of the safest countries to live in globally, thereby attracting the foreign market. Despite this, property prices in Singapore remain in the highest three most expensive locations in the world.

Factors Affecting Foreign Investors

Many foreign investors find it suits them to work and live in Singapore. Business policies in the country make it an ideal base for reaching out to the Asia Pacific region.

However, these buyers face additional charges when purchasing a property here. Local buyers pay Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) and a lower Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) while foreign investors must pay BSD and a much higher ABSD. Both of these items are calculated on the higher the purchase price and the property’s current value. ABSD liability is also determined by whether the purchaser is a private individual or a business, whether or not the buyer is a resident of Singapore, and by how many properties the person or entity currently owns. The Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) is responsible for granting residency status to persons. 

Foreigners buying a residential property in Singapore were charged 20 percent ABSD in 2018, whereas permanent residents paid 5 percent when purchasing their first home. Costs can be cut by becoming a permanent resident. There are fewer restrictions for foreigners when buying a business property such as an office building than a residential property. Furthermore, certain residential properties can only be purchased by residents, such as Housing and Development Board public flats, bungalows above a certain size, and certain landed properties. Approvals are needed from the Singapore Land Authority. 

Private condominiums are a good option for foreign investors due to zero restrictions. There is no limit on the number of condos that can be purchased. 

Selecting a Property for Purchase

Once the decision has been made to purchase a residential property in Singapore, the buyer can start examining the market for a prospective home. While this is more difficult for the foreign investor, it can be simplified by going through an agency such as PropertyGuru. This company provides a comprehensive question and answer service using AskGuru. Questions range across a multitude of useful subjects such as advice on the choice between two properties for investment purposes and topics such as inheritance and legacy planning. 

There are several steps for buying property in Singapore. Firstly, an affordability test is needed, then a check to see what taxes will be required. Next, available listings can be checked to see what is on the market and an estate agent hired. Finally, apply for a bank loan and make an offer on the desired property. 

The residential market in Singapore is a seller’s market and the trend is set to continue throughout 2021.

Hong Kong Export Assessment for Mid-2021: Strong Recovery but Mixed Pace

Export business

With the gradual easing of epidemic prevention and control measures in several major economies and the implementation of increasingly aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus policies, Hong Kong’s exports rebounded sharply by 30.8% in the first four months of 2021 compared to a year earlier, and international trade also grew strongly by 10% in the first quarter of 2021. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the global economy will grow by 6% this year, and by 4.4% in 2022. The World Trade Organization also predicts that world trade volumes will grow by 8% in 2021. However, threatened by the emergence of new strains of the virus and the lack of vaccine supply in less developed economies, the pace of global economic recovery is expected to be very mixed, and the situation is feared to be exacerbated by continued tensions between the United States and China and unpredictable geopolitical changes. The latest HKTDC Export Index of 48.7 represents a sharp rebound from its historic low of 16 in Q1 2020, indicating a continued improvement in exporters’ perceptions across key sectors and major markets. In light of the improved market sentiment and strong export performance, the HKTDC Economic and Trade Research has revised its export growth forecast for 2021 from 5% to 15%, albeit from a low base of comparison.

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It has been more than a year since the outbreak of the new crown, but the economic performance of many major economies remains very mixed and unstable. Some economies are recovering at a faster pace due to the gradual reduction of newly diagnosed cases, but others have to tighten their preventive and control measures due to the rebound of the local epidemic. Hong Kong’s relatively effective anti-epidemic measures, coupled with the government’s massive financial support, led to a return to real growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2021, up 7.9% from a year earlier, ending six consecutive quarters of contraction. During the same period, GDP in the Mainland grew by 18.3%, while GDP in the US also edged up by 0.4% over the same period last year, although GDP in the EU and Japan fell by 1.7% and 5.1% respectively over the same period last year.

Hong Kong’s exports rebounded strongly in the first four months of 2021 as a result of the recovery in major markets, even if unevenly, and a low base of comparison. In the first four months of 2021, Hong Kong’s exports of final consumer goods grew by 32.2% over the same period last year, while exports of raw materials and semi-manufactured goods rose by 41.1%.

Overall, Hong Kong’s export performance was in line with a number of neighboring economies, indicating a general rebound in supply chain activity across major Asian economies. Specifically, in the first four months of 2021, Hong Kong’s total exports grew by 30.8% over the same period a year earlier, while exports from Mainland China grew by 44%, Japan by 13.1%, South Korea by 18.8%, Taiwan by 28%, and Singapore’s non-oil exports also recorded a significant increase of 14.6%.

Hong Kong’s exports to a number of major markets recorded significant growth from January to April 2021 due to a rebound in demand. Among them, Hong Kong’s exports to the Mainland surged 34.2%, while exports to the European Union and the United States also surged 20.2% and 19.9% respectively. As for Taiwan and Vietnam, which are closely linked to the supply chain, Hong Kong’s exports also grew by 45.3% and 30.7% respectively.

Industry, electronics exports account for about 70% of Hong Kong’s total exports, the first four months of 2021 than the same period last year, an increase of 32.8%. Due to Asia’s well-established electronics manufacturing production network and strong intra-regional trade, Hong Kong’s electronics exports to Mainland China, Taiwan and Vietnam all grew significantly from January to April 2021, up 37.3%, 38.2% and 33.2% respectively.

Exports from all major sectors performed well, with only a slight decline in exports from the garment sector, down 2.3%. However, as most Hong Kong garment companies have set up offshore production facilities, mainly in mainland China and Southeast Asia, and offshore trade is not recorded in the traditional trade data, so the above export data may not fully reflect the actual export business of Hong Kong companies. In fact, the recent HKTDC Export Index survey shows that sentiment among apparel exporters has improved, with the index rising from 36.1 in the first quarter of 2021 to 43.3 in the second quarter, an increase of 7.2 points. Thus, while Hong Kong’s apparel exports have apparently fallen, they do not necessarily accurately reflect the industry’s actual situation. Given that in the first four months of 2021, apparel exports from Mainland China and Vietnam grew by 51.7% and 10.7% respectively over the same period of the previous year, the actual situation of Hong Kong’s apparel export industry is likely to be much brighter.

Mainland China leads the recovery

The new crown epidemic led the world into a severe recession in 2020, but Mainland China’s preventive and control measures were effective and cushioned the downturn. In fact, the mainland recorded 2.3% GDP growth in 2020, one of the few economies in the world to do so, and by all indications in the first four months of 2021, this upward momentum is expected to continue.

Looking ahead, some developed economies have begun to record growth again as city closures and other preventive and control measures are gradually lifted. Business activity is slowly returning to pre-epidemic levels, and many local governments are providing financial support to different sectors to stimulate economic growth. Other countries, especially developing economies, have been hampered by the rebound of the epidemic and the shortage of vaccine supplies, among other issues. Now, in addition to the negative impact of the epidemic, many developing economies may have to endure additional challenges such as tightening global financial conditions and volatile external demand. The International Monetary Fund said in April that vaccination programs are expected to drive economic recovery in the second half of this year, with the global economy estimated to rebound by 6% this year and slow to 4.4% in 2022.