Singapore property market: In 2006, 15 groups of people would view a condominium unit for rent. Now it’s 15 landlords looking for that one elusive tenant. And those who are less stubborn will even slash prices to secure a tenant

Property market: Dark clouds ahead?

Thursday, Jul 04, 2013

Linette Heng

The New Paper

SINGAPORE – Stick a hand out anywhere in Singapore and you’re likely to touch a millionaire. A paper millionaire, at least. The Republic has the highest concentration of millionaires in the world. Try 17 per cent of all households here, according to a 2012 report by The Boston Consulting Group. But so much of it is tied down to property. Spoils from property account for 58 per cent of their overall wealth, according to a 2013 Barclays report. Things have been good after the global financial crisis in 2008 with money pouring in. But market watchers say things are set to change with forecasts of higher interest rates and more units coming into the market. More than 30,000 units, including HDB flats, will be completed by the end of the year. And those relying on rents to pay off their investment properties may have no idea the water is slowly coming to a boil. Real estate agents The New Paper contacted have seen the signs. In 2006, property agent Harold Teo would regularly have about 15 groups of people viewing a condominium unit for rent. Now the game has changed. He said: “Now it’s 15 landlords looking for that one elusive tenant. And those who are less stubborn will even slash prices to secure a tenant.” They are even willing to reduce rent by up to $500, said Mr Teo, for an apartment originally demanding $4,000 a month. What has changed? Mr Teo calls it the perfect storm – fewer foreigners, less money and more units.Salary levels raised

In 2011, one fifth of Singapore’s 142,000 employment pass holders were affected when qualifying salary levels were raised.

“Singaporeans demanded that fewer foreigners be allowed in and that’s already happening. Then those who do come in have less money to spend. To top it off, potential tenants have more to choose from,” he explained.

Potential tenants don’t even bother bargaining for a better price, said property agent Jansen Tan. “They will just call to enquire about the price. If they are not interested, they can easily find another unit somewhere else,” he said.

More than 16,000 private property units will be completed by this year. While the rental index crept up 0.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year, it was only marginally higher than the 0.7 per cent increase int he final quarter of 2012.

“It is stable now, but the downside is greater because there has been a record number of new apartments. The supply is greater than the rate of foreigner inflow,” said Chesterton Suntec International’s director of research and consultancy Colin Tan.

He added: “But the impact is felt progressively. For instance, the wait for a tenant might take four weeks instead of three weeks.”

Real estate agents said the take-up rate of rental units in town – districts 9, 10 and even 15 – is the worst hit. Rental in town for a 1,400 sq ft unit is at least $7,000 a month. But landlords are not budging. For now.

“Even suburban apartments have been hit,” said Mr Teo, who has a listing at One Leicester condominium at Potong Pasir. “I had an owner refusing to reduce rent for a studio unit from $3,100 to $2,900. The unit has been vacant for two months. Meanwhile, those owners with existing tenants are cutting their rental rates to keep them. There aren’t enough tenants.”

Chesterton’s Mr Tan pointed out that the new property tax rule next year may mean that landlords wouldn’t want their units to remain vacant for long.

From Jan 1 next year, they will have to pay the extra property tax as if they are not renting their units. The concession for vacant rental units has been abolished. And marginal property taxes for investment properties will be increased from the current 10 per cent to 12 per cent to 20 per cent.

“This means that they will have to find a tenant and may have to aggressively offer a lower price,” said Mr Tan.


2012 – 75 per cent of GDP

2000 – 38 per cent of GDP

Lsat year, property debt was 111 per cent of household income, according to a Standard Chartered report.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

2 Responses to Singapore property market: In 2006, 15 groups of people would view a condominium unit for rent. Now it’s 15 landlords looking for that one elusive tenant. And those who are less stubborn will even slash prices to secure a tenant

  1. Pingback: A wealth of opportunity – Hindu Business Line | Singapore Property Rental

  2. Pingback: From hippies to hipsters – World’s most dynamic city – | Singapore Property Rental

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: