Singapore Market Review
From a negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth recorded in 2009, the Singapore economy staged a dramatic rebound to achieve a record expansion of 14.5% in 2010. This was Singapore’s best performance ever and earned the city-state the accolade as Asia’s best performing economy in 2010.

RESIDENTIAL

Singapore’s private residential market in 2010 continued to strengthen on the back of healthy demand amid a robust economy, positive job prospects and a low interest rate environment. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) real estate statistics, developers sold 17,344 units (including executive condominiums) of new homes in 2010, an all time high and 18.1% more than the 14,688 units sold in 2009. In 2010, prices of private residential properties increased by 17.6% as compared with 1.8% in 2009.

In 2010, prices of private apartments increased by 14.2% in the Core Central Region (CCR) while those in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR) increased by 17.6% and 15.0% respectively. CCR comprises the prime districts 9, 10, 11, Downtown Core and Sentosa Cove, while RCR refers to the area within the Central Region that is outside CCR.

Numerous new private residential project launches in 2010 witnessed healthy take-up. For example, Tree House, a 429-unit project jointly developed by CDL and Hong Realty (Private) Limited, sold over 85% of the 350 units launched during its preview in April 2010, and is now fully sold. Similarly, The Glyndebourne, a freehold luxury condominium developed by a subsidiary of CDL, met with enthusiastic response with 75% of the total 150 units snapped up during the private preview weekend in October 2010.

In view of the robust demand for private housing and buoyant conditions in the property market, the Government announced on 19 February 2010 two new measures – the introduction of a Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) on all residential properties bought and sold within 1 year from the date of purchase and lowering the Loan to Value (LTV) limit to 80% for all housing loans. The Government further announced on 30 August 2010 that the holding period for imposition of SSD would be increased from one year to three years. For property buyers with one or more outstanding housing loans at the time of a new housing purchase, the Government also increased the minimum cash payment from 5% to 10% of the valuation limit. At the same time, the LTV limit was reduced from 80% to 70%.

To maintain a stable and sustainable property market, further measures were announced by the Government in January 2011 - the holding period for imposition of SSD would be increased from three years to four years. The SSD rates were also raised to 16.0%, 12.0%, 8.0% and 4.0% of consideration for residential properties which are bought on or after 14 January 2011, and sold in the first, second, third and fourth year of purchase respectively. Simultaneously, LTV limit for non-individuals was lowered to 50% and LTV limit for individuals with one or more outstanding housing loans at the time of new housing purchase was reduced to 60%.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has forecast a GDP growth of 4.0% to 6.0% in 2011. With the positive outlook in economic conditions, coupled with a low interest rate environment, substantial amount of liquidity floating in the market, sustained inflow of hot money expected from the West as well as Singapore’s reputation as a world-class global city that remains attractive to professionals and high net worth individuals, demand fundamentals are expected to remain healthy for Singapore’s residential property market in 2011.

According to URA real estate statistics, rentals of private residential properties rose by 17.9% in 2010. In light of increased corporate expansion and hiring activity amid a better business climate and confidence, expatriate arrivals to Singapore are expected to rise and leasing activity is likely to increase in 2011.

 
The Glyndebourne, a distinguished freehold luxury condominium located in the prestigious District 11, saw sales of over 75% during the private preview weekend.
The nature-inspired Tree House derives its name from the eponymous Chestnut Tree Houses located at the heart of the estate.
 

OFFICE

The Singapore office market witnessed a significant turnaround in 2010. As the economy expanded strongly, both leasing activity and rentals experienced strong positive growth. According to URA statistics, islandwide occupancy rates remained unchanged at 87.9% in Q4 2010 compared to a year ago. However, rentals of office space posted an impressive growth of 12.6% for the whole of 2010. Against the backdrop of an astounding economic rebound, Grade A office space turned in a sterling performance in 2010. According to a CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) market report, Grade A office space rents in the Central Business District (CBD) posted an increase of 22.2% year-on-year to $9.90 per square per month in Q4 2010.

Amid soaring business confidence, the office market saw heightened leasing activity levels. Financial institutions, insurance firms, and professional services companies took advantage of the availability of large contiguous space offered by new office developments, or in older buildings where firms have relocated to newer outfits, to consolidate and expand their operations ahead of a pick-up in rents. The office sector capped off a great year with a positive take up of about 1.13% (70,000 square metres) in Q4 2010.

According to a CBRE market report, about 8.2 million square feet of new supply of office space is expected between 2011 and 2015, with about 3.0 million of new schemes slated for completion in 2011. Notwithstanding this impending supply in 2011, almost half of this has already been pre-committed. Key developments scheduled to complete in 2011 include Asia Square Tower 1, Ocean Financial Centre and OUE Bayfront, all of which have reported pre-commitment rates ranging from 50% to 63%. In addition, relief to supply will also come in the form of removal of stock from the market for redevelopment.

In 2011, business sentiment and confidence is likely to continue to strengthen. The financial services sector could get a lift from the huge capital inflow that the second set of quantitative easing (QE2) measures in the United States is expected to trigger. In their effort to curb “hot money” inflows, regulatory tightening in many Asian economies could potentially encourage financial services firms to relocate some operations to Singapore, which remains a largely free economy. In addition, Singapore’s travel, financial and transport services are set to benefit from the gradual full operation of the two Integrated Resorts (IRs), as well as the growing affluence in Asian communities. All these factors bode well for the office market as more firms will be looking to expand their operations and new regional setups coming into Singapore, resulting in increased demand for office space.

RETAIL

2010 was an eventful year where retailers and consumers experienced significant events such as the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, the opening of the two Integrated Resorts (IRs) and the annual Great Singapore Sale and Formula One night races. Consumers enjoyed more shopping choices with several new and prominent retail malls completed in 2010, including nex, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Bedok Point and Marina Bay Link Mall.

The opening of the two IRs at Marina Bay and Sentosa not only introduced many new-to-market labels, F&B offerings and entertainment concepts locally, but also enriched the local retail arena by providing a multifaceted retail experience and setting new benchmarks in shopping expectations. Existing malls like Raffles City Shopping Centre also underwent renovation works to stay abreast with changing retail landscape and trends.

According to figures compiled by the Singapore Department of Statistics, the retail sales index (excluding motor vehicles, at constant prices) – which indicates the health of the retail industry – posted its 13th consecutive month of positive growth in November 2010, rising 3.9% year-on-year.

According to URA statistics, vacancy rate islandwide was at 5.8% as at 4Q 2010 and overall rentals for shop space had increased by 2.9% year-on-year, with median rental for retail space in Orchard Planning Area reaching $10.43 per square foot per month. A separate report by Colliers International indicated that the average monthly gross rents for prime retail space in Orchard was about $38.50 per square foot at the end of 2010.

With rising employment and wage increases, 2011 is expected to be a good year for Singapore’s retail property market. Retailers are likely to continue to open new outlets and source for more business opportunities. The enhanced tourist traffic generated by the two IRs, the rejuvenation of Orchard Road and the expended suite of retail offering have strengthened Singapore’s attractiveness as an investment destination for both new-to-market and established brands, some of which are also using Singapore as a springboard into the region. According to a market report by Colliers International, the quantum of new retail space completing in 2011 is projected to be around 1.0 million square feet and this includes Scotts Square (91,400 square feet), Gardens by the Bay (103,300 square feet), and Clementi Mall (190,000 square feet).

HOTEL

The Singapore tourism industry recorded a stellar performance in 2010, on the back of an Asia-led global economic recovery. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) celebrated a major milestone in inbound tourism arrivals in July 2010 when Singapore achieved its first one-million visitor arrivals in a single month. According to STB statistics, visitor arrivals to Singapore in 2010 totalled 11.6 million, an increment of about 20.2% when compared to 2009, with December being the 13th consecutive month of record visitor arrivals.

STB’s hotel statistics showed that hotel average daily room rate in 2010 was about $212, registering an increment of about 12.2% when compared to 2009. Average occupancy rate also increased to 86.0% in 2010, compared to 76.0% in 2009.

Looking ahead, tourism product offerings in the pipeline include the new International Cruise Terminal in Marina South, Gardens by the Bay, the National Arts Gallery and the River Safari in Mandai. These projects will augment Singapore’s exciting repertoire of attractions and leisure precincts, thereby drawing new and repeat visitors.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recently highlighted that the services sector could potentially account for up to two-thirds of Singapore’s GDP growth in 2011, up from around 50% in 2010. Hence, hotel and tourism-related sector are likely to see stronger growth in 2011.