Singapore home sales soar in July

By BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE • Private home sales in Singapore soared to the highest in 16 months in July as buyers rushed to snap up properties hours before curbs aimed at quelling speculation came into effect.

Developers sold 1,724 units last month, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said in a statement yesterday. That’s more than double the 654 units sold in June and the highest since March 2017.

The government took renewed steps last month to cool Singapore’s property market after home prices posted a second-straight quarter of strong gains, fuelled by aggressive land bids from developers and so-called en-bloc transactions, which is where a group of owners band together to sell entire apartment buildings.

Changes to additional buyer’s stamp duty and loan-tovalue limits were announced at around 7pm local time on July 5 and came into force at midnight.

“The strong increase was a knee-jerk reaction as buyers rushed to secure deals,” said Justin Tang, the head of Asian research at United First Partners.

The total number of unsold units in July came in at 11,036, versus 11,148 a month earlier, the URA data show.

Local media reported last month that more than 1,000 units were sold at three projects in just a few hours on the evening of July 5 as developers brought forward condominium launches to allow buyers to lock in deals.

Older projects, however, are expected to see a continued slowdown in interest, according to Christine Li, a senior director of research at Cushman & Wakefield plc in Singapore.

Under the new rules, individuals taking out their first housing loan face stricter borrowing limits, meaning they have to put up more cash upfront. For foreign purchasers of residential property, the additional buyer’s stamp duty increased to 20% from 15%. For Singapore citizens, the extra charges only apply from their second home purchase.

An index tracking property stocks excluding real estate investment trusts that tumbled 6.4% on the announcement of the curbs has since recovered and is now down 3.4%.