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Singapore new-home sales dive 65pc last month

Plunge blamed on market-cooling measures and Lunar New Year holidays that kept buyers away

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 5:22am

New private home sales in Singapore plunged 65 per cent last month from a month before as market cooling measures and the Lunar New Year holidays kept buyers away, official data showed Friday.

Only 708 private homes were sold last month, down from 2,016 units in January, according to data from the city-state's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

"In line with expectations, private residential market activity was subdued last month, following the market cooling measures ... and the Lunar New Year festive period," said Chia Siew Chuin, director of research and advisory at Colliers International.

"Developers held back on project launches, while homebuyers stayed on the sidelines to assess the impact of the measures and reassessed their options."

Ong Teck Hui, national director for research and consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle, said the measures imposed in January to avert a bubble "made it more difficult for developers to assess the market in order to set prices and gauge demand". But he said the February home sales numbers were "likely to be one-off and not indicative of a particular trend".

In the latest move to tamp down the red-hot property market, Singpore's government in January made it costlier for foreigners to buy property by raising stamp duties, and sharply increased minimum cash down payments for individuals applying for loans for second or subsequent homes to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

The latest measures were imposed after property prices continued to rise despite an economic slowdown that saw the city-state narrowly avoiding a technical recession last year.

The trade-reliant economy grew just 1.3 per cent last year, down from 5.2 per cent in 2011, with this year's expansion forecast at 1.0 to 3.0 per cent.

Earlier measures by the government to tame the property market included a move by the central bank in October to impose a maximum tenure of 35 years for new housing loans.

Analysts said market players would continue to closely watch property sales this month for trends.

"Now that the dust is more or less settled, developers have started project launches in March," Chia of Colliers said.

"Hence, March and the coming months will be the real litmus test for market demand and the effectiveness of the cooling measures."