Asian Business First Podcast – On Board the En-Bloc Bandwagon (23 Mar 2018)
With a quarter of a million Singapore dollars lying around, you could place a down-payment for a condo/apartment. The En-Bloc fever (it means: all together or all at the same time) has been gaining momentum. Property developers want to buy up the land, demolish the building, and build a new development and hope to earn more by charging high prices per square foot (psf).
The Pearl Bank apartment has managed to go En-Bloc finally. The sale of the Pacific Mansion condominium is the biggest En-Bloc in the last decade, almost close to a billion dollars. Pacific Mansions is located in the CCR, and it is on a freehold land. In an En-Bloc, you get paid to vacate your property, which sounds attractive. However, with the money, you will have to find another place to live and chances are, other houses will be expensive too. In the past year, there has been a resurgence in property market, led by the wave of En-Bloc.
The new Additional Buyers Stamp Duties (ABSD) [increase from 7% to 12% if Singaporeans buy a second property] has hit the investors in the Core Central Region (CCR) region, especially when foreigners refuse to buy and pay the stamp duty. The market used to be suppressed artificially because of the cooling measures. HK has implemented up to 30% of taxes for foreigners to buy their properties, and this is substantially more than the ABSD on foreigners of 20% in Singapore. However, Singapore is still considered cheaper as compared to other big cities in the world, like New York, London. Singapore’s economy is doing relatively okay for now. Buyers have the fear of missing out, as they feel the prices will continue to rise and want to get a property now. For property, it is cyclical in nature, and happens that prices are over-heated now.
Should buyers target projects that have potential for En-Bloc? Can you tell which properties are targets for En-Bloc? It is important to identify the projects are early. If the projects are already slated for En-Bloc, you won’t be able to make a lot because existing owners will want to sell it to you at a premium, and the En-Bloc potential has been factored in the price. Try to avoid buying a property with the simple mindset of hoping for an En-Bloc, as that should be seen as a bonus only, and there are many other factors that make a property desirable (near schools, near MRT, near parents etc).
For location, it matters a lot, as those properties near MRT stations tend to fetch more. For properties near MRT, chances are that the location premium is already factored in. Investors should try to predict future MRT locations, and then you may get to make more money.
En-Bloc helps with the rejuvenation of buildings in Singapore. The winners from En-Bloc will also spend more, and this leads to a re-circulation of capital back to the economy. However, for first-timers, they will be pissed as property prices are likely to rise during En-Bloc fever. There is too much exuberance in the market at the moment. Developers also need to continue to buy land, with is their core business, and cannot stop doing that easily. If there are not enough government land sales, then developers will look to the private market and En-Bloc. The most recent cooling measures have killed off speculations. Those who can still enter the market are those who have the holding power and are cash-rich. The amount of leverage has been reduced and this is actually good for the economy, to avoid buyers getting into financial trouble and encouraging prudence in general. For this reason, it makes sense to keep the cooling measures in place.