Strong gains in the Singapore stock market in the first half of this year have generated a resurgence of confidence in the property market. Prices for private homes are now about 10 to 20 per cent higher than at the beginning of the first quarter of the year, with prices for some developments rising as much as 30 per cent. The number of sales has also risen dramatically, with developers reporting a total 7,374 units sold in the first half of the year, representing a 68 per cent increase on the total number of units sold last year. 'The recent purchase appetite in the market is likely the result of pent-up and latent demand from those who have missed the opportunity to buy a property when markets soared and peaked in 2007,' says Jacqueline Wong, head of residential at Jones Lang Lasalle, Singapore. The return of interest, she explains, is coming from buyers who are looking for value buys and properties in the mass market (non-prime areas, 99 year leasehold) and mid-tier market up to S$1,900 (HK$10,573) per sqft. One of the most popular condominium developments on the market at the moment is City Development's Hundred Trees. At the end of last month 160 units were sold at a weekend preview, with average prices of S$910 per sqft. Reacting to concerns that the rise in property prices and sales numbers may lead to a bubble if it is not matched by the economy strengthening as a whole, the government introduced new measures last month aimed at stabilising the rise, ensuring that buyers would be able to purchase only what they could genuinely afford, and reducing short-term speculative buying. These measures included scrapping the popular Interest Absorption Scheme (IAS), which enables buyers to have the interest on their home loans paid by the developer until after new developments have been completed, and abolishing interest only housing loans. 'The measures, which are really aimed at first time entry level buyers, will slow down the market,' says Amous Lee, director of international investment at Knight Frank. 'They will not have a major effect on the high end.' For the higher end of the market, Lee explains, the measures may not have much of an impact as cash rich buyers would not have used the schemes anyway. However, the fact that the government has intervened sent out a positive message to potential investors. 'It gives a good image of Singapore,' Lee says. 'I have been hearing from some investors that they are happy to see the government is acting to reduce the possibility of a bubble.' Wong explains that the luxury residential market (S$2,500 to S$3,000 per sqft) is stable and showing little activity. 'We believe established developers are holding back the launch of these developments, pending further recovery of the global economy.' The majority of developers in the high end of the market have the financial strength to hold their projects until market sentiment improves to a level where prices are within their expectations. Those buyers that have bought high-end properties recently have purchased mainly in the prime Districts 9, 10 and 11, 'targeting the Orchard and Ardmore vicinities', Wong says, adding that new projects such as Ardmore II, Orchard Residences and Scotts Square are among the most popular purchases. Scotts Square is a freehold development from Wheelock Properties, in District 9. Due for completion late next year the 338 units of 893 sqft to 1,249 sqft are selling for upwards of S$3,500 per sqft. According to Knight Frank, about 21 per cent of purchases this year in Districts 9, 10 and 11, were sold to foreign buyers. This figure represents the first rise in foreign investors looking to Singapore after four quarters of decline. In the second quarter of this year, the number of overseas buyers of properties valued at more than S$1 million was three times the number of the preceding quarter. Hong Kong investors are not a major market for Singapore at the moment, with about only 0.7 per cent of foreign buyers coming from Hong Kong. Most foreign buyers came from Malaysia or Indonesia, with the mainland accounting for about 16 per cent. Lee points out that good rental returns on Singapore properties are encouraging further foreign investment, with prime district rents of S$3.3 to S$5.2 per sqft. Looking to the final quarter of the year and into next year, CB Richard Ellis predicts that the property market is likely to moderate due to the government measures, with fewer larger scale launches. 'If you are looking for a mid- to long-term investment the outlook is good, but don't look for the short term' Lee says. 'If you are looking at three to five years then it's looking pretty good.' He says that the most important factor is, of course, location, with Districts 9, 10 and 11 being the best areas for investment. Wong suggests that as long as investors are comfortable that the prices they are offered are right, then now could be a good time to invest in Singapore.