Singapore's properties grow despite foreign decline

In this picture taken on June 3, 2017, residential buildings stand in the Bedok area of Singapore, on Saturday. (Bloomberg/Sanjit Das)

After years of declines, Singapore’s home sales are on a roll, even as purchases by foreign buyers have remained muted.

Stringent stamp duties levied by the government have had the intended effect of damping speculative foreign demand, with foreign buyers accounting for just 6 percent of purchases in the first half, data from Cushman & Wakefield show. That compares with 9 percent as recently as 2013, when mortgage rules were tightened.

Developers sold 7,147 private homes in the first seven months of the year, 50 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. So who’s buying all these homes? It’s local Singaporeans.

Among foreign buyers, the biggest pullback was by Malaysian and Indonesian buyers, while Chinese demand held steady. Malaysian buyers among foreign purchasers dropped from 26 percent in 2013 to 21 percent in the first half of this year, while the Indonesian proportion slid to 6 percent from 17 percent in 2013. The Chinese share, the biggest of any group, has been at 29 percent or 30 percent since 2013.

Developers are citing signs of a recovery in the housing market. CapitaLand Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Lim Ming Yan said this month that the residential market may be “bottoming out,” while City Developments Ltd. Executive Chairman Kwek Leng Beng also saw signs of a pick-up.

Singapore’s property prices have dropped for 15 straight quarters, the longest slide since the data were first published in 1975, because of cooling measures rolled out since 2009. Home values are down 12 percent from a 2013 peak. – Bloomberg