The Executive Condominium (EC) market has seen demand cooled; demand was red hot in 2012 – 2013, 14 out of 16 ECs launched were at least 33 percent sold within the first month of their launches. In a bid to cool the EC market, the government implemented measures such as a 30 percent Mortgage Service Ratio (MSR) and a resale levy for 2nd time buyers. Measures had successfully clamped down on executive condo buying demand; in 2014 – 2015, only 1 out of the 11 projects attained a minimum of 33 percent sold out status within the first month of its launch.
EC prices ‘catch up’ with condo prices after MOP
As executive condos are pretty much condominiums with added restrictions, there is an imbedded capital appreciation mechanism as sale restrictions are lifted. After the 5 year and 10 year mark, the price of an executive condo tends to ‘catch up’ with a private condominium. Based on an analysis on a basket of comparable ECs and condos, the average price gap between new condominiums and ECs is found to start at around 20 percent (or more). This means a typically new EC is sold at a 20 percent discount to a comparable new private condominium.
The large price gap at launch price can be largely attributed to the sale restrictions imposed on ECs and the difference in land and construction costs. Unlike private condos, executive condos still fall under the purview of the government and developers have to be conservative in their pricing. Upon fulfillment of MOP and at privatisation, the discount narrows to 9 percent and 5 percent respectively.
At the end of the MOP, ECs can be sold in the open market to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs). As most executive condos are located in Outside of Central Region (OCR) where demand is largely driven by Singaporeans and PRs, much of the capital appreciation is achieved immediately after MOP is completed. Upon privatization, ECs can now be sold to foreigners, increasing the potential demand pool. However, as the increase in demand is not substantial, the price gap only narrows marginally.
Performance of privatised EC projects
There is a capital appreciation mechanism embedded into ECs, as shown by the narrowing of price gap over time. How have some of the older EC projects performed, in terms of capital gain?
As of the date of this writing, there are 21 executive condos in Singapore that are over 10 years old and have been privatised. By matching caveats, we analysed their percentage profits, at the completion of their 5 year MOP and at privatization which is 10 years after completion. The results show that not all ECs are ‘sure win’ investments at MOP.
Out of 21 projects, 13 projects made a loss after MOP completion, and the remaining 8 projects managed gains of over 20 percent. Market timing was the main differentiating factor between the ‘losers’ and ‘winners’. The 13 projects that sold at a loss at MOP, were launched during 1996 to 1999, just before the Asian Financial Crisis, when property prices were at their peaks. Projects which were launched during 2001 to 2005 – a period of sluggish growth, managed to achieve returns of at least 25 percent at MOP.
These projects benefited from the subsequent upturn of the Singapore property market. At privatisation, all the EC projects were profitable. Notably, three particular developments stand out – Bishan Loft, Nuovo and The Dew. The 3 projects managed to achieve better returns compared to their peers. This was due to their locational attributes and surrounding available supply. The projects were favoured by supply and demand dynamics, which resulted in a steeper capital appreciation. On the other hand, the bottom 3 only managed out gains of less than 10 percent at privatisation. These projects have greatly underperformed the market, considering the long investment timespan. The 3 projects were Windermere, Chestervale and Pinevale. The 3 projects were launched at ‘peakish’ prices, which made it difficult to achieve substantial profits in subsequent years.
In summary, ECs are poised to be a good long term investment, given their subsidies and lower prices compared to private condos. Based on historical data, first-hand owners of currently privatised ECs are sitting on considerable gains. However, not all executive condos are equal; depending on the location, available surrounding supply and price, the rate of capital appreciation can differ drastically between projects.
Article and research by OrangeTee.