Market Updates

In the past two years, HDB has completed 55 per cent of BTO projects - or 52 projects - delayed by pandemic-related factors.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Proportion of delayed BTO projects down from 90% to 40%, HDB expects to clear backlog in 2 years

About 40 per cent of ongoing Build-To-Order (BTO) projects are delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Housing Board said it expects to clear the backlog in about two years. HDB on Saturday said the proportion of such delayed BTO projects has come down from more than 90 per cent in 2021 on the back of the improving Covid-19 and migrant manpower situation, as well as government support for the construction industry. In the past two years, HDB has completed 55 per cent of BTO projects - or 52 projects - delayed by pandemic-related factors. This project completion rate is the highest in the past five years, said HDB chief executive Tan Meng Dui. "Over the next two years, we will continue to work hard to minimise delays of our BTO projects and press on to deliver more homes to our flat buyers, without compromising safety and quality, " he said. The first BTO project to be completed without any delays since the pandemic began will be ready by the first quarter of 2023, said HDB. Keat Hong Verge, located in the non-mature estate of Choa Chu Kang, has 571 two-room flexi, three-room and four-room units across three blocks. HDB noted that flat owners would have waited just slightly over two years for their units in this project when they get their keys, despite its August 2020 launch at a time when the construction industry was suffering a manpower and supply crunch. Since 2018, HDB has been offering some BTO flats with shorter waiting times of less than three years by starting construction works before launching the projects. To date, close to 11,000 flats with shorter waiting times have been launched. Of these, about 7,200 flats were launched between 2020 and 2022. Although the pandemic affected the pipeline of such BTO flats with shorter waiting times, HDB said it aims to launch more of such flats in the future. HDB said that up until about a year ago, it had a shortage of 25 per cent of the workforce needed to build BTO projects, because of various Covid-19 measures and restrictions. To help contractors reduce construction delays, HDB sourced workers from overseas and helped them enter Singapore safely to tackle labour shortages. The board also shouldered some of the Covid-19-related cost increases. Senior project director Chua Hoe Seang, 65, who oversaw the construction of the Tampines GreenVerge BTO project, said his project would most likely have been further delayed if not for the skilled foreign workers whom HDB helped bring into Singapore during the pandemic. The company he works for, Kay Lim Construction and Trading, now has four BTO projects under its belt, with construction activities almost back to pre-Covid-19 levels. HDB also said it is piloting new technologies - such as 3D concrete printing that can increase construction productivity and cut material wastage - at two BTO projects, Garden Waterfront I & II @ Tengah, launched in November 2022. These technologies are expected to increase productivity by 25 per cent compared with other BTO projects and could be rolled out for future BTO developments. In 2023, HDB will launch up to 23,000 BTO flats to meet the strong demand for housing. It launched 23,184 flats in 2022.

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Take a look at how Kempas Residences BTO project, a complex project located in a brownfield site at Whampoa, is built.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

How are BTO flats built, and why do waiting times vary so much?

Buyers of the 94 Build-To-Order (BTO) projects currently under construction have to wait between two and 5.9 years for their homes, with a median waiting time of around 4.3 years. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the waiting time for a BTO flat was around four to five years, up from the pre-pandemic norm of three to four years. The Housing Board on Saturday said BTO waiting times vary due to the location of the site and complexity of the project. BTO projects in built-up areas, such as those near other residential blocks, facilities and infrastructure including underground MRT stations, will require more preparation works to minimise disruption and disturbance to the community. Complex projects - those with taller blocks of 20 to 50 storeys and those with additional design features such as staggered block heights, sky terraces, basement parking and environmental decks - also take longer to build. Likewise, projects that are integrated with developments such as a hawker centre or bus interchange will also require more time to plan, design and construct. In the coming years, the HDB expects to launch more complex BTO projects, including in brownfield sites that previously had developments on them. Some 5,000 BTO flats will be built on the Old Police Academy site in the Mount Pleasant area, and another 6,000 BTO flats on the Keppel Club site in the Greater Southern Waterfront. The HDB said the process of conceptualising and building new housing projects typically takes several years across the planning, design and construction phases. Large housing areas are drawn into the masterplan years before any developments are launched. Infrastructure such as roads and utility services, parks and community facilities are factored into the plan. For sites with environmental or heritage considerations, the HDB will conduct studies to guide its development plans. About one to 1.5 years before a BTO project is designed, the HDB works with various agencies to finalise the requirements. The Urban Redevelopment Authority has to approve the gross plot ratio and site development boundary. Land preparation works are carried out during the two years taken to call and award the various building tenders for the development. Then, construction of the BTO project starts. The HDB provided details of an ongoing complex BTO project, Kempas Residences, in the mature estate of Kallang/Whampoa. Launched in May 2019, the project was slated to take around four years and eight months to build, but the pandemic delayed its expected completion by six months to end-2024 to early 2025. Kempas Residences has four blocks ranging from 29 to 37 storeys, and the site is located near Boon Keng MRT station and buildings such as Kallang Polyclinic and Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital. The Straits Times looks at how this project is being built. To minimise noise disruption, a higher hoarding of 12m has been constructed for the site, which sits near existing HDB blocks and a hospital. Regular hoardings are 6m high. The HDB liaises with various parties to ensure existing underground services, including electricity cables, telco cables, water pipes, gas lines and sewer lines, as well as infrastructure such as roads and train stations are not impacted during construction. As the site sits near a busy road, HDB had to obtain conditional access for heavy vehicles from the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Soil improvement works to strengthen poor-quality soil as well as earth works are carried out where necessary. Steel and concrete piles are drilled into the ground to serve as a sturdy base for the development. As this BTO site is near homes and a hospital, piling works have to adhere to the National Environment Agency's (NEA) noise guidelines. The ground slab - or foundation - of buildings is constructed. As these works are susceptible to wet weather, some time may be required to pump out water from excavated pits. Underground sewers and a service tunnel used to house cables that will supply essential services to each flat are also constructed. Large precast components such as facade walls and pre-fabricated bathroom units are produced in precast yards. These yards are in Malaysia, as Singapore does not have enough space for large-scale production and storage of components. The precasts are transported to the BTO site via trailers, and stored in a multi-storey carpark area. Precast components ranging from three to 20 tonnes are hoisted to the upper floors to be installed. Depending on the size of the component and the surface preparation needed for installation, each piece can take between one and two hours to be completed. Due to space constraints at the BTO site, only one temporary construction lift is placed at each block to take workers and raw materials such as cement to the upper floors. This adds to the construction time. Cement is poured on-site for the corridor and common areas of this project that could not be precasted. The project also has sky terraces and void decks with high ceilings spanning eight floors that add to the construction complexity. Sample units of different flat types are constructed within the project to serve as a baseline for the contractors' quality of work. These units are checked for tile lippage - an uneven surface when two tiles are not laid on a uniform level - internal fittings and other finishes. Sanitary fittings, windows, and wall and floor finishes are installed within the units. This project did not get the NEA's approval to carry out less noisy works on Sundays or public holidays to speed up the progress as it is near existing blocks and facilities. Exterior works such as block painting, landscaping and construction of signage, drop-off porches, service roads and ramps are carried out. Part of the existing Kempas Road had to be widened from a one-way to two-way road to meet the LTA's requirement. Quality checks are conducted on each completed flat, and the HDB will rectify substandard fittings. Regulatory documents are submitted to the authorities including the NEA, national water agency PUB, the Building and Construction Authority and the Singapore Civil Defence Force to get clearance before the HDB can hand over the keys to home owners. The HDB caters a buffer of six months for unforeseen circumstances such as inclement weather, minor supply issues and soil factors. Total duration taken to construct the Kempas Residences BTO project: 56 months, or four years and eight months.

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The supply of public housing has been ramped up, with more than 23,000 flats launched in 2022, and up to 23,000 more flats will be launched in 2023.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Home owners facing 'double whammy' of higher home prices and rising mortgage rates: DPM Heng

Home owners are facing a double whammy of higher home prices and rising mortgage rates even after two rounds of property cooling measures, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said at the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore's (Redas) annual spring festival celebration on Friday. Warning of a need to guard against a sustained increase in prices that is not backed by income and other fundamentals, he noted that Singapore's property prices have remained buoyant despite global uncertainties and a greater supply. This is as demand for owner-occupied private and resale homes remains strong. With borrowers facing larger monthly repayments on home loans, there is a need to pay attention to "the significant increases in mortgage interest rates", said Mr Heng. He noted that the three-month Sora, a widely used benchmark for floating mortgage rates, has shot up from 0.2 per cent to 3 per cent in the past year, and could rise further in the coming months before stabilising. Still, the pace of home price increases has moderated in the fourth quarter and transaction volumes have also dropped. The supply of public housing has been ramped up, with more than 23,000 flats launched in 2022, and up to 23,000 more flats will be launched in 2023. Some 6,300 private units were added in 2022 through the government land sales programme, and another 4,100 units will come on in the first half of 2023. New Redas president Tan Swee Yiow, in his maiden speech, noted that the past few years have been challenging for many businesses, including those in the real estate sector, with global growth slowing due to higher inflation, rising interest rates, and disruptions resulting from the Ukraine war. The outlook for 2023 remains challenging as the global economy is projected to slow further this year, he said. "In Singapore, with rising life expectancy and a low fertility rate, 25 per cent of the population is expected to be 65 and above by 2030. We need to address this demographic shift and provide sustainable urban solutions, including ones with a focus on senior living, " he said. Mr Heng said that with the construction sector recovering and the easing of manpower bottlenecks, it is timely to refocus on the built environment sector. "Most pressing is the need to ramp up construction productivity, for which digitalisation and tech adoption is key. . . The focus is not just on research discoveries, but also turning good ideas into practical industry solutions, " he said. Mr Heng also pointed to the critical need to pivot to a much greener built environment, which today accounts for 40 per cent of annual global CO2 emissions. "With global demand for smart and green buildings on the rise, (developers') investment in these areas can give them an edge as they internationalise, " he said.

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HDB said it will launch up to 23,000 Build-To-Order flats in 2023 and monitor housing demand to adjust plans as needed.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

HDB resale prices rise 2.3% in Q4, slowest increase in 2022

Prices in the Housing Board resale market rose for the 11th consecutive quarter, even as price growth slowed and the number of transactions declined on the back of property cooling measures that kicked in on Sept 30 last year. Resale prices rose at a slower pace of 2.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2022, compared with 2.6 per cent in the third quarter, data released by HDB on Friday showed. This was the slowest quarter-to-quarter price growth in 2022, noted HDB. Resale prices grew by 10.4 per cent in the whole of 2022, slower than the 12.7 per cent rise in 2021, it added. Property analysts said price growth has moderated as buyers resist higher prices amid rising interest rates and the latest round of property curbs. The curbs include a tightened loan-to-value limit of 80 per cent for HDB loans, and an interest rate floor of 3 per cent for HDB loan eligibility letter applications from Sept 30. Also, private home owners who wish to buy HDB resale flats now have to wait for 15 months after selling their homes. Huttons Asia senior director of research Lee Sze Teck said: "The higher borrowing costs are eating into buyers' budgets, and they are also baulking at the prospect of paying cash over valuation, given that economic conditions have turned cloudy in the second half of 2022. " But the preference for larger HDB flats, as work-from-home and hybrid working arrangements become the norm, pushed up prices in the past year, said PropertyGuru head of real estate intelligence Lee Nai Jia. "Rising resale flat prices have spurred some buyers to take a pre-emptive approach and purchase a larger unit before they are priced out of the market for these flat types, " he said. He added that the dwindling supply of bigger flats allows them to command higher prices. A total of 6,597 HDB resale flats changed hands in the last quarter of 2022, a decline of 12.6 per cent from the 7,546 in the previous quarter, when the number of transactions went up after falling for three quarters. Compared with the fourth quarter of 2021, when 7,940 resale flats were sold, resale transactions were down by 16.9 per cent. In 2022, total resale volumes were 10.1 per cent lower than in 2021. OrangeTee & Tie senior vice-president of research and analytics Christine Sun said that sales performance last year was healthy, given the record-high prices and stiff competition as more than 23,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats were launched. The last quarter saw 93 HDB resale flats changing hands for at least $1 million, down from the peak of 111 in the previous quarter. A record 370 million-dollar flats were transacted in 2022, up from 259 such deals in 2021. These make up 1.38 per cent of total transactions for the year. According to HDB data, five-room flats in mature estate Bukit Merah were the most expensive in the last quarter, with a median price of $899,000, up from $875,000 in the previous quarter. This was followed by Bishan, where the median price of a five-room flat was $877,500, rising from $855,000 in the previous quarter. HDB data did not provide the fourth-quarter median resale price of four- and five-room flats in the central area, which covers The Pinnacle@Duxton, as there were fewer than 20 transactions. Despite an estimated 31,000 HDB flats reaching their minimum occupation period last year, resale flats sold with a lease start date of 2017 were in the minority, noted One Global Group senior analyst Mohan Sandrasegeran. "It is likely that some home owners choose not to sell their property because they plan to continue living in it as owner-occupiers, while others chose to rent out their flats to take advantage of the red-hot rental market, " he added. In the HDB rental market, more flats were leased in the last quarter of 2022, up slightly by 0.5 per cent to 56,647 units, compared with 56,372 in the previous quarter. The number of approved applications to rent out HDB flats rose by 3.5 per cent to 8,476 cases in the last quarter. Rents for five-room flats in Queenstown were the highest, with a median of $4,200 a month, up from $3,600 in the previous quarter. Ms Sun said rents have escalated as tenants are signing longer leases, which will progressively lead to fewer homes for rent. "However, a worsening economic outlook and inflation may mitigate steep rental hikes. Therefore, we may see rents rising at a slower pace of between 15 and 18 per cent this year, " she added. PropertyGuru's Dr Lee said demand for HDB resale flats is likely to gradually taper off in 2023, as more BTO projects are completed and launched quarterly. "The momentum of price appreciation is expected to slow down, and the HDB resale market should stabilise in the coming quarter, barring any economic shocks, " he added. Huttons' Mr Lee expects prices to increase by not more than 5 per cent, while Ms Sun estimates prices to grow at a slower pace of 5 per cent to 8 per cent for the whole of 2023. HDB said it will launch up to 23,000 BTO flats in 2023, and monitor housing demand to adjust flat launches as needed. In February, it will roll out about 4,400 BTO flats in towns such as Jurong West, Kallang Whampoa, Queenstown and Tengah. In May, between 3,800 and 4,800 flats will be on offer in towns such as Bedok, Kallang Whampoa, Queenstown, Serangoon and Tengah.

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At LIV@MB, some 80 per cent of the land will be devoted to nature and recreation, with the remaining allocated for residential space.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Next to Katong Park MRT station and near the CBD: This property in District 15 is where to build your dream home

Mountbatten Road in the east of Singapore evokes an old-world charm of another era when gracious living was de rigueur. The area was popular with plantation owners and merchants in the late 19th century, and their elegant villas faced the sea. Dubbed the millionaires' row, these villas with their iconic architecture continue to be part of the allure of District 15. Now, the prestige of owning an address along Mountbatten Road is possible with LIV@MB, a sophisticated development amid the conservation enclave in the Mountbatten area. LIV@MB sits on a sprawling 140,000 sqft plot of land with 80 per cent of it dedicated to nature and recreation. The development's sleek architecture will soar above the landed enclave in the Mountbatten area, providing a panoramic view of the houses in the neighbourhood and changing the skyline. District 15 is traditionally a popular and highly sought-after area by Singaporeans, expatriates and families with school-going children. That is why they will find LIV@MB appealing. The development also stands out for its close proximity to the soon-to-be-completed Katong Park MRT, its central location, a good network of nearby schools and an array of amenities in the neighbourhood. Singles, empty-nesters, "East-siders" - what those that have deep affinity with the eastern part of Singapore are affectionately known as - as well as investors will be impressed by what LIV@MB has to offer too. The Mountbatten area is bounded by the lifestyle enclaves of Kallang, Marine Parade, Katong and Joo Chiat - each with their distinctive vibe, amenities and food options. It is hipster cafe, artisanal bakery and local fare galore in each of these neighbourhoods. For residents who prefer to go car-free, three minutes is all it takes to stroll to the soon-to-be-completed Katong Park MRT station, which is only five stops to the Shenton Way station in the Central Business District. The existing Mountbatten station is also merely a 10-minute stroll from LIV@MB. Complementing the rail transport is a network of roads and expressways, enhancing connectivity to the CBD and Changi Airport. Families with school-going children will find the development particularly attractive. It is located near a cluster of reputable schools, including EtonHouse International Pre-School, Kong Hwa School, Tao Nan School, Dunman High School and Chung Cheng High School (Main). LIV@MB is due to receive its Temporary Occupation Permit in the fourth quarter of 2024, which gives families a good head start to planning the education of their young ones, especially with priority admission to the nearby schools in time for the upcoming 2023 Primary 1 registration exercise. Not only that, there is also a host of enrichment centres - ranging from ballet schools to mental arithmetic classes - in shopping malls such as Parkway Parade, Paya Lebar Quarter and the newly-renovated I12 Katong. Shopping for necessities and dining out at these malls is a breeze too. A short drive away from LIV@MB are the Singapore Sports Hub and Singapore Indoor Stadium, where major entertainment and international sports events are held, as well as the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. Sports enthusiasts will be elated with the close proximity to the many sporting facilities in and around the Sports Hub. LIV@MB residents can also easily escape to East Coast Park for the sun, sand and sea with a whole host of activities, including cycling, stand-up paddle boarding and wakeboarding, suitable for all ages. A short walk away from the development using the underpass, the park provides a quiet respite for all urbanites. There are also various F&B outlets within the park. For LIV@MB's design, President*s Design Award recipient ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, drew inspiration from the surrounds, reinterpreting the area's heritage into the design. For instance, the bold, elongated hexagon façade on the buildings is influenced by the balustrades' pattern found on the balcony of the heritage houses in Katong and Joo Chiat. The clubhouse's five pavilions are also aligned along the "shoreline" of the main pool, reminiscent of the seafront-facing bungalows of yesteryears. In the middle of LIV@MB's sprawling site will be an expansive green lawn, separating the apartment towers. At 55m wide, the expansive lawn will act as a large spatial divider between the blocks, creating privacy and comfort. The landscaping will feature dense foliage to evoke the tropical landscape found in the plantation homes of the past. The planting will be zoned into thematic precincts with each corner having its own identity and lifestyle. In fact, there are 57 facilities across three landscaped decks for the young and the young at heart to relax, enjoy and bond. These include The Mountbatten Lawn, The Indoor and Outdoor Gymnasium and The Water Gym on the first level; The Jacuzzi Pool, The Sky Lounge, The Study Lounge and The Dining Lounge on Level 11; and The Yoga Yard, The Lap Pool, The Sky Grill and The Mountbatten Villa on Level 20. All the 298 apartments are designed to provide cross ventilation and will have a north-south orientation, which allows for good natural ventilation all year round. This, along with other green features such as electric vehicle charging points and verdant foliage, is set to earn the development a Green Mark Gold Plus award from the Building and Construction Authority. The apartments at LIV@MB come in configurations of one to four rooms, in sizes from 495 sqft to 1,668 sqft. All one-bedroom units, however, have been completely sold. With efficient design and layout in every unit, there is sufficient living space for all the areas in the house. Family and friends can gather for cosy get-togethers in the spacious living and dining areas, while the bedrooms are roomy enough to rest and relax comfortably. In fact, all master bedrooms can easily fit a king-sized bed. And it's the little details that sets LIV@MB apart from the competition. There is quality finish throughout every unit, which is fitted with appliances from premium German home appliance marque Bosch as well as sleek sanitary fittings from Kohler. Those who prefer peace and quiet will appreciate the exclusive private lift that comes with the three- and four-bedroom units. For a limited period, potential homeowners can select from different layouts to suit their lifestyle, needs and preferences at no extra cost. There is also a choice of an open or enclosed kitchen. Each apartment also comes with smart features, an important consideration as work-from-home becomes part of working life. From the get-go, there's the smart digital lockset at the main door. The "smartness" continues inside - lighting, air-conditioning, water heating and smoke detector systems can be controlled from an app on your smartphone. Using the smart community app, residents can also book facilities and access the letterbox while visitors can enter LIV@MB with car licence plate recognition. A complimentary* concierge service will also be available, providing residents with attentive porter service, lounge refreshments, transport arrangements, rental of umbrella for that rainy day, and parcel and postal services. The future of the Mountbatten area looks bright as well. Currently, there are two master plans - the Kallang River Master Plan and the East Coast Sustainability and Greenery Plan - in place. These plans will transform the area, enliven the environment and improve the infrastructure. With that, LIV@MB homeowners will benefit from a new work-and-play lifestyle, not forgetting how the investment value of the property will appreciate in the long run. That's why LIV@MB is one prime address suitable for all.

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Most shophouses sold in the second half of 2022 were freehold, with the 54 units making up 80.6 per cent of total sales volume.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Shophouse sales fall to $1.6b in 2022 from all-time high of $1.9b in 2021

Shophouse transactions declined in the second half of 2022 as investors turned cautious amid rising interest rates, according to a report by Knight Frank Singapore released on Wednesday. Some 67 shophouses changed hands for $625.2 million between July and December 2022, with the transaction value dipping 35.6 per cent compared with the first half of 2022. The shophouse market had posted record-breaking transaction figures in each half-yearly period between 2021 and the first half of 2022, but as interest rates surpassed the yield from recurring shophouse income, institutional investors began to shy away from the asset class, said the real estate consultancy. A total of 187 shophouses changed hands in 2022 - driven by the 120 transactions that took place in the first half of the year - compared with 244 such transactions in 2021. According to Knight Frank, shophouse transactions here reached $1.6 billion in 2022, falling from the all-time high of $1.9 billion in 2021. In 2020, the overall sales value was $912.7 million. Most of the shophouses sold in the second half of 2022 were freehold, with the 54 units making up 80.6 per cent of the total sales volume. This was about half of the sales volume clocked in each half-yearly period since 2021, when between 95 and 102 units were transacted. There were 13 leasehold shophouse deals worth $155.3 million in the second half of 2022, down by 34.6 per cent from the $237.6 million in the first half of the year, and about two-thirds of the $242.2 million registered in the second half of 2021. Despite the slowdown, notable deals were sealed, such as the row of 11 leasehold shophouses in Lavender Street that were sold for $71.3 million to Hafary Holdings in July. Shophouses in the Farrer Park and Serangoon area (District 8) also remained a hot spot amid the slowdown, with 26 deals worth $182.5 million lodged in the second half of 2022. This was in contrast to other districts where fewer than 10 transactions took place in the same period, noted Knight Frank. The $40 million deal in September for a row of five conservation shophouses in Jalan Besar by 8M Real Estate topped the deals in this district, and it was also among the top five deals in the second half of the year. A shophouse unit at 35 Rowell Road changed hands for $4.9 million in October - about 21 per cent higher than its previous sale in June, when it went for about $4.1 million. "Nonetheless, subsequent sales within months of each other remain more the exception to the rule, " Knight Frank added. "For most shophouse owners or investors, the longer the unit is held, the greater the returns over time, where a holding period spanning decades typically results in more than 100 per cent returns. " Knight Frank said transactions are expected to slow in 2023, although shophouses in the Bugis and Serangoon areas are still likely to attract investors due to the upward price trajectory that is supported by tourist activity and gentrification. Family offices and individuals are expected to form the bulk of the buyers, which may drive up rents as they refurbish the property and change up tenancy types. Given the growing cautious climate, the shophouse market is not likely to reach the levels of 2021 and 2022, Knight Frank added. It expects sales to reach between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion in 2023.

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Madam Zaidah Ismail was able to buy a two-room flexi flat in Punggol at a more affordable price under the Fresh Start housing scheme in 2019.

Source: Straits Times

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Single mum has a home to call her own after 8 years in rental flat

While living in a public rental flat following her divorce, Madam Zaidah Ismail worked long hours as a security guard to build up her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings so that she could buy a home. In 2019, she was able to buy and move into a two-room Housing Board flexi flat in Punggol at a more affordable price under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. This was introduced in 2016 to give rental households that had previously bought a subsidised flat the option to buy their second HDB flat on a shorter lease. "I was having quite a hard time after my divorce, as I was also diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn't have enough CPF savings to buy my own home, so for almost 10 years I worked 12 hours a day, sometimes even on weekends and public holidays, " said Madam Zaidah. The 57-year-old is now a freelance massage therapist and lives with her son, 20, who is a student. She has two older children aged 32 and 33. "When I was told about Fresh Start in 2018, I jumped at the opportunity, " said Madam Zaidah, who opted for a 60-year lease. The flat cost about $141,000, including the resale levy, and she received $44,000 in grants. "It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. After eight years of living in a rental flat, I can now just think of my monthly expenses and save for retirement, " added Madam Zaidah, who managed to pay the purchase price in full. Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the HDB's home ownership support team was set up in 2019 to provide more dedicated support for households like Madam Zaidah's. The team guides rental households through the process of home ownership - from planning their purchase till they collect their keys - while considering factors such as family and financial stability. "When I meet those who have purchased a flat, there is a sense of achievement and happiness. . . Our aim is to help families living in public rental flats achieve home ownership and inter-generational mobility, so their children can move up the social ladder, " said Dr Faishal. As at December 2022, the team had reached out to about 1,400 rental households. Dr Faishal said some tenants may face difficulty in buying a home as they do not have sufficient funds in their CPF Ordinary Account - this may be because they have freelance jobs, for instance. "This is where the Community Link programme comes in, where we can share options for alternative employment with CPF contributions to introduce more stability and opportunities for home ownership. " Madam Zaidah said having her own home was always the plan, as her rental flat was cramped and not conducive for her children. "Now, I can have more built-ins, like a TV console and kitchen cabinets. And my children will have a place to live if anything happens to me, " she added.

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Madam Lee Ah Mui moved into a two-room flexi flat in Punggol this month, after 12 years in a rental flat with her two sons.

Source: Straits Times

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Over 700 families in rental flats bought homes in 2022: HDB

For the first time in more than a decade, Madam Lee Ah Mui spent Chinese New Year in a home of her own, which she decorated with rabbit-themed festive stickers. "I can finally invite family and friends over for the new year. When I was living in a rental flat, everything was too messy. Now, I can be proud of my own home as it's renovated and more beautiful, " she said last Friday. Madam Lee, 53, moved into a two-room Housing Board flexi flat in Punggol in January, after living for 12 years in a rental flat with her two sons. She bought the unit on a shorter lease of 50 years - paying about $122,000, including a resale levy - under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. The scheme made the purchase more affordable for the assistant infantcare teacher, who also received a housing grant of $35,000. "It's so comfortable and, when I turn on the air-con, it feels like I'm in a hotel room. I can even see the sea from my living room, " said Madam Lee. HDB said more than 700 households who lived in public rental flats bought homes in 2022, with some tapping the scheme. Over the past 10 years, more than 7,800 rental households have bought homes, while another 2,300 households have booked units and are waiting for them to be completed. Of the more than 700 households, seven in 10 bought a flat from HDB, with the rest going for resale units. About two-thirds received grants, such as the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to $80,000. A majority bought a three- or four-room flat in a non-mature estate, and used a quarter or less of their monthly income to service their mortgage, HDB said. Beginning with the February Build-To-Order sales exercise, rental households under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme can also buy three-room flats on a shorter lease, on top of the two-room flexi units that are currently offered. The scheme was launched in 2016 to help families with at least one child below the age of 18 and that had previously bought a subsidised flat. To promote affordability, both the two- and three-room flexi flats will be offered with leases of 45 to 65 years in five-year increments, as long as the lease can cover the youngest applicant up to the age of 95, HDB said. Flats sold under the scheme have a 20-year minimum occupation period to ensure a stable home for the families and children. The Fresh Start Housing Grant was also increased from $35,000 to $50,000 from May 2022, with eligible families receiving $35,000 upfront in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Ordinary Account when they collect their keys. The remaining $15,000 is disbursed into the account in equal tranches over the next five years. As at December 2022,95 families have been placed on the enhanced scheme. Of these, 44 have collected the keys to their flats, 48 are waiting to collect their keys, and three are waiting to book a flat. Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said many families living in rental flats aspire to own a home and provide a better environment for their children. "However, their circumstances - such as financial, family, health or employment issues - might make it challenging for them to do so, " he said. "We hope to connect these residents with the Community Link programme, which can provide them with opportunities to achieve stability in family development, income and more. " Dr Faishal said many rental flat tenants, especially those with children, are motivated to buy their own homes. "Some of them also need a bigger space as their children grow older. . . Now that families will have the option to buy a three-room flat, it will be beneficial to those with bigger families, who need more space and a conducive environment, " he noted. Madam Lee, who is divorced, said she had hoped to buy a three-room flat, which was not available when she was placed on the scheme in 2019. She is content with her current home, even though she has to share a bedroom with her two school-going sons, aged 19 and 24. "At my rental place, high-rise littering was quite common and the public areas were not very clean. I'm glad I can give my sons a better environment now, " she said. "They were so excited to chip in with their own ideas for the renovation. Almost everything is new, so it really feels like a fresh start. " Madam Lee said she hopes her flat, which she has fully paid for, provides more stability for her children. She added: "I don't have to worry about rent increasing every two years any more. There's more greenery and fresh air here - I just wish to live happily in my retirement home. "

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Among the housing projects completed in 2022 were ones that were delayed, such as Senja Heights (above).

Source: Straits Times

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Over 20,000 HDB flats built in 2022, the highest number in past five years

With the construction industry on the recovery path, more than 20,000 HDB flats were completed in 2022, the highest number in the last five years. This is about a 50 per cent increase from the number of flats completed in 2021, said the Housing Board on Friday. The low figure in 2021 was due to disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, which had led to delays in several projects. The new flats were part of 22 housing projects, the highest number of housing projects to be completed in the last five years. There were also more than 17,100 sets of keys issued to flat buyers in 2022 - 15 per cent more than in 2021. HDB chief executive Tan Meng Dui said the construction industry has seen a steady recovery since early 2022, following the disruptions from the pandemic. He said: "HDB has been working hard with our industry and agency partners to catch up on the delays to Build-To-Order (BTO) projects, even as we ramp up new housing supply. "But unlike other industries which may have rebounded fully from the effects of the pandemic, time is needed to clear BTO construction delays, and we continue to double down on this effort. Riding on the positive momentum of 2022, we target to complete another 20,000 flats across 22 housing projects in 2023, and expect to complete the backlog of pandemic-affected projects in about two years. " Among the housing projects completed in 2022 were those that were delayed when former contractors Greatearth Corporation and Greatearth Construction were unable to complete them due to financial difficulties. HDB subsequently brought on board new contractors to take over the balance of the works at these projects - Senja Ridges, Senja Heights and Sky Vista @ Bukit Batok. HDB said two projects that were formerly under Greatearth - Marsiling Grove and West Coast Parkview - are on track to be completed in 2023. Two other projects that were delayed - Waterway Sunrise II and Anchorvale Village - are also on track to be completed in 2023, it added. Also among the delayed projects that HDB expects to be completed are several projects with a shorter waiting time. These are BTO flats that have waiting times of less than three years. HDB said the bulk of such flats launched from 2019 to 2022 - comprising more than 8,000 flats - will be completed over the next two years and that it aims to launch even more BTO flats with shorter waiting times, possibly from 2024 onwards, subject to site availability and readiness. HDB said it is working to bring down the median waiting time of new BTO projects, which is around 4.3 years for the 94 projects currently under construction, to the pre-pandemic norm of three to four years. HDB said it is also meeting the strong housing demand by ramping up the supply of BTO flats. Up to 23,000 BTO flats will be launched in 2023, and HDB said it will continue to monitor the housing demand closely and is prepared to launch up to 100,000 flats in total from 2021 to 2025, if needed.

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Property agent Terrence Lin is the first person to be prosecuted for providing false information under the Estate Agents Act.

Source: Straits Times

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$5,000 fine for agent who put up fake listing of semi-detached house as marketing tactic

As a marketing tactic, an ERA property agent created a fake listing for a semi-detached house and lied to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) when questioned. On Friday, Terrence Lin, 37, became the first person prosecuted for providing false information under the Estate Agents Act. He was fined $5,000 for his offences. Between September and October 2020, Lin was engaged by the owners of a house at Whitley Residences, a development in Whitley Road which comprises 61 semi-detached units, to sell their property. The owners also engaged another property agent, known only as Gideon, to market their property for sale. In October 2020, Lin placed an advertisement on real estate portal PropertyGuru for the property at an asking price of $4.8 million. This was subsequently lowered to $4.6 million in November 2020 due to a lack of response. Later that month, Lin placed a fake advertisement on PropertyGuru, purportedly for another unit at Whitley Residences. The unit was listed at a lower, more attractive asking price of $4.38 million. Lin did so because he wanted to test the response of house hunters to the unit. He said: "This listing was created by me to direct (potential buyers) to (the) developer's units after I (had) seen zero response for the $4.6 million listing. It worked and I (had) seen a couple of inquiries. " In November 2020, Lin saw that another property agent, known only as Denise, had copied his fake listing to market the property. When he confronted her on Nov 15,2020, she said the contents of her listing had been provided by Gideon. Lin lodged a complaint with CEA against Denise, alleging she had copied his listing without his consent. However, while recording a statement as part of the investigations, Lin provided false information to the council. Mr Gavin Ng and Ms Magdelene Sim, prosecuting officers for CEA, said Lin claimed that he had two resale units at Whitley Residences. Lin said the "owners" of the unit that was listed for $4.38 million had verbally given him consent to market the property. He added that the "owners" were not willing to reveal too much information because they did not want the neighbours to know they were selling the unit at the lowest price in the whole development. On Jan 21,2021, three days after he recorded the statement, Lin wrote an e-mail to CEA confessing he was not authorised to sell the unit. He said in his e-mail: "After much consideration, I've decided to come clean with the details. I (acknowledge) that I've given inaccurate information (in) the statement and am aware of the consequences. . . and truly (regret) it. " He added: "This story was made up by me to get away from the recording officer in probing further on this matter. " In mitigation, Lin's lawyer, Mr Justin Ng from Kalco Law, said: "As the Covid-19 pandemic came into full force in early 2020 and lasted for more than two years, the property market was significantly affected. "The accused struggled to make ends meet as a budding estate agent in what was already a highly competitive industry. It was under these circumstances that the accused resorted to creating a fake listing on the PropertyGuru website. " In response to queries from The Straits Times, CEA said it will commence the process to revoke Lin's property agent registration. An ERA spokesman said: "We expect our agents to uphold themselves to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism when carrying out their jobs as real estate agents. We do not condone behaviours that go against the code of ethics. "

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