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Will Singapore Property Investments Soar or Fall in the Year of the Tiger?

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According to Chinese astrology, 2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger — a creature that signifies great ambitions, exuberates confidence and independence.

The probability of whether the tiger year brings luck to investors depends on the various factors that are currently in play. With Omicron surfacing and fresh new property cooling measures in place, will this still be an auspicious year? 

Whether you believe in Chinese astrology and the Zodiac system or not, in the essence of fun and insightful exploration, we examined the previous Tiger years (2010, 1998) to understand how the economy and the housing market performed.  

Perhaps there could be a trend that we can learn and look out from?

1998: Tail-end of the Asian Financial Crisis

Source: Ohmyhome Research, HDB, URA, Singstats, MOM, MTI 

The Singapore economy was met with heavy turbulence during the period between 1997 to 1998 due to the Asian financial crisis. 

The economy slipped into recession, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declining to -2.2% and the unemployment rate reaching a high point of 2.5%. This was due to growth slowing down across many industries. Meanwhile, tourist visitor arrivals fell sharply due to economic slowdown as well. 

Private and public housing prices are tracked by their respective price indices. Both the HDB resale prices and the private property prices were at an all-time low in 1998. It was a gloomy period for the property market as a whole. 

2010: Singapore as the fastest growing Asian economy

However, in a contrasting manner – Singapore was the fastest-growing Asian economy in 2010. As the Singapore economy expanded exponentially to a GDP growth of 14.5% in 2010 following the global financial crisis, growing from a mere 0.1% growth rate in 2009. 

The economy was largely driven by the manufacturing sector in 2010. This was primarily due to a surge in electronics and biomedical manufacturing output as well.  

Tourism-related service sectors were boosted strongly by higher visitor arrivals in 2010, due to the opening of the Integrated Resorts. 

With robust economic performance, the labour market recovered strongly in 2010 from the 2009 recession. The unemployment rate remained low, declining from 3.0% in 2009 to 2.2% in 2010. 

Zodiac and superstitions aside, let’s take a look at what we know so far for 2022: 

The Current Factors That Are in Play

1. The Omicron situation 

Source: Freepik

The number of omicron cases have been rising in January. If the omicron variant worsens it could potentially force temporary retightening of restrictions, which will restrain Singapore’s economic growth this year.  

However, Singapore hopes to tide through the Omicron wave with the current safe management measures that are in place. The Singapore’s Multi-Ministry Taskforce has been closely monitoring the threat of the omicron variant. 

The preparedness of Singapore to tackle the omicron variant is on track, as nearly half of the population has been immunized with booster coverage.

2. The property cooling measures

Source: Ohmyhome Research, IRAS, MND

Due to the rising prices and volume of transactions, the government introduced the latest round of property cooling measures in December 2021

The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rate was raised and the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) threshold was tightened. However, measures for first-time buyers remain unchanged.

The main purpose of these measures was to instill financial prudence in buyers and sellers, to ensure continued housing affordability. In the long run, it is of utmost importance that the housing needs and aspirations of Singaporeans remain as a top priority.

3. The potential GST hike

Source: Unsplash

With the economy recovering and moving towards pre-pandemic levels, there have been a lot of speculations that in 2022, during the Singapore Budget statement on Feb 18, the announcement of raising the goods and services tax (GST) will be announced. 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously stated that the GST rate is expected to be raised from 7% to 9% by 2025. 

Whether the GST hike takes place this year, is still uncertain and remains to be seen. 

So what will be the impact on Singapore’s economy and the housing market in 2022? 

1. Positive economic growth expected this year

Source: Pixabay

With Singapore’s high vaccination rate and consistent roll-out of booster shots, it will facilitate the gradual easing of border restrictions. This in turn, will provide support to the recovery of consumer-facing sectors and reduce labour shortages in sectors that are heavily reliant on foregin workers.

Hence, economists have projected a positive outlook for the year, with the GDP growth in 2022 expected to be at a decent range of 3% to 5%. 

With resident employment rates above pre-pandemic levels, it is anticipated that the Singapore economy is on the road to economic recovery this year. 

It was also noted that Passenger traffic at Changi Airport increased to 15% of pre-pandemic levels last december. The government is confident of the long-term feasibility of air travel as well.

2. Demand to be nudged by owner-occupiers in the private property sector

Source: Roxy Pacific 

Buyers and investors who might be adopting a “wait and see” approach are likely to be on the sidelines monitoring the market and comprehending the impact of the property cooling measures in the coming months. While, the demand in the property market will be presumably nudged by home buyers who are primarily purchasing for their own occupation. As these owner-occupiers are undeterred by the cooling measures. 

As we look forward to 2022, we can expect demand for the new sales segment to be subdued in the first half of the year, as developers might reconsider their launch dates and readjust their pricing. 

Developers of previously launched projects might be contemplating dangling more incentives and discounts to garner interest as well. 

Source: Ohmyhome Research, URA Developer Sales 

With a dwindling inventory of unsold units, a lower number of new launches and in view of the cooling measures – developers are likely to space out their launches and intermittently release units over next several months.

3. HDB resale market performance likely to be resilient 

Source: Unsplash

Despite a potential dip in resale transactions, we can still expect the HDB resale demand to remain healthy in 2022. This is due to the resiliency of the HDB resale market. 

As HDB resale flat buyers are primarily first-time home buyers who are undeterred by the property cooling measures.  Hence, demand for public housing is unlikely to decline at an extreme level.

Although there has been a ramp up in supply of BTO flats, these are still new flats that will require time to be built. Uncertainties in construction and delays in the completion of BTOs will shift buyer’s attention towards the resale market. 

The demand drivers for the HDB resale market in 2022 will continue to be couples and families who require fulfilling their immediate housing needs

Source: Ohmyhome Research, data.gov.sg | MOP = Minimum Occupation Period 

An exceptionally higher number of HDB flats will reach MOP in 2022 – an estimated total of 31,325 flats.  This is a 22.7% rise as compared to the 25,530 flats that reached MOP in 2021. 

We can expect demand for HDB resale flats to continue to be resilient in 2022 and it might be supply-led as more than 31,000 HDB flats will become eligible for resale. Towns such as Bukit Batok, Punggol, Sembawang, Woodlands and Bukit Merah may possibly see more resale activities in 2022 – as more flats in these areas reach their MOP. 

In conclusion, the full impact of the property cooling measures may not be immediate as it is likely that we will see the fallout in the coming months. Although we might see a subdued property market in the first half of the year, as the market adjusts to the new measures, it is highly unlikely that there will be an exponential fall of the housing market.  The resilient nature of the public housing segment and the demand from owner-occupiers in the private property segment will fuel demand in the housing market.

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Header Image: Pixabay

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