Martin Lee @ Sg
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Is Property in Singapore Affordable?

There has been a recent spate of news and articles to the Straits Times forum regarding the current state of property prices in Singapore. While the government has acknowledged that private property prices are starting to show signs of a bubble by a series of changes announced last week, they have maintained that public housing remains affordable by and large to the general population.

The criteria that they used as affordability is that a household should not spend more than 30% of their income on their property.

I would actually argue that housing has actually become less affordable (even if the above definition is met) compared to 30 years ago. While housing prices has increased more than 5-10 fold over the last 30 years, that certainly cannot be said of our income levels.

If the public housing today is affordable, then they would be super affordable 30 years ago. 🙂

Furthermore, the current cash over valuation (COV) demanded by sellers of the HDB resale market is at astronomical levels, thus making them unaffordable to  those without a sum of cash on hand.  Not forgetting the fact that the base valuation is already quite high to begin with. This has impeded the family starting plans of some people.

So much so that an online petition has been started by a group of Singaporeans to petition the government to make public housing more affordable. So far, it has been signed by over 800 people with fairly strong comments.

When I see prices of resale units going at an average of $400-500k (for units that were purchased for a way lesser amount a few years ago), I wonder what the future has in store for all of us.

After all, these units were bought for a 99-year leasehold and prices simply cannot go up indefinitely as the number of years on the lease gets shorter and shorter.

And if you really spend 30% of your income paying for your home for 30 years, you will most definitely retire with insufficient savings in your CPF account. And when that time comes, you will have to downgrade to a smaller property in order to monetize the cash from your property. But what about those who are already staying in a small property to begin with?

The purchase of a property is one of the biggest expenditure you will ever make in your life. So, please do your sums and research carefully before you commit to any purchase.

A useful website for those who are buying or selling private properties would be this newly setup Singapore real estate portal. The interface isn’t too good but it does provide useful historical prices of transactions and other information that would be essential to a property buyer or seller.

Leave a Comment:

Abashen says 11 years ago

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust can destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matt 6:19-20

Huge Debt says 11 years ago

I’m glad you agree. My wife and me reached there when we turn 40 although we came from poor family. We prepared for the rainy days instead of the now popular “Spend Future’s Money” mentality. We choose and plan carefully instead of follow the crowd.

Huge Debt says 11 years ago

In 1996, I had an Indonesian chinese women who bought all the penthouse for a new launch at S$15M per unit. She forked out about $200M in cash, but that’s peanuts compared to the $ Billions tha she had. Today she is still licking her wounds. Anyone wants to join her?

Property investment is not for the average. Be careful. As an ex-agent I had seen many cases where the men or women on the street jumped in, thinking they striked gold. Many are still nursing their wounds today.

In S’pore today, many people do not realized their limits and how often things can go wrong. What’s wrong with staying in HDB, there are many benefits actually. I’m not sure what’s the mentality and rush to buy a condo, face value or prestige or ego?? I had seen many young couples with income less than half of ours, coming to show flat and buy up condos with the maximum loan available, without giving it a thought about affordability. Agents just need to stroke their ego a bit, and the deal will be done on the spot. It’s an easy job because people don’t want to lose face. And that’s why many people are becoming property agents these days. The banks love to give you the maximum loan stretch to the maximum period. My personal guideline is take only a maximum loan of 50% of the valuation, the lesser the better. And a maximum of 10 years only. In fact, Tan Kin Lian advocates a maximum of 5 years of each family’s household income, as a prudent way to protect yourself when things go wrong. So for a couple earning $100K per year, the maximum is a $500K house. That’s very good advise.

There is an artcile in today ST Forum by Ms Mable Tan, it’s a good one to read. Her message is clear. There are many choices in life, but people tend to choose the worst one and often, the most risky one. Then they blame the government for not helping them. I’m not sure how MBT is going to satisfy them? At the end of the end, “LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS; CLEAR YOUR DEBT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE”. Using tomorrow’s money is a risk to avoid. Zero debt means very little or no financial worries in the event of retrenchment or recession, which will save many families and marriages. Family happimess is worth more than condos, cars, and material possessions. Save and invest wisely for your retirement is also very important. It’s better to be cash rich than asset rich. The lesson of the sub-prime crisis in the US is too distant for many to understand, I hope it don’t happen in S’pore. Some of my american colleagues were hit when there’s no more buyers for their 2nd or 3rd houses. But we are too small and vulnerable to have one.

Where is the demand to buy so many investment properties (about 30% for each project) coming from is a big subject with some uncertainties in the future. One can choose to believe what property agents, consultants and big developers said about the gloriest future because of IR and PRs, etc. And somehow our media is always interviewing them. And based on what they said, draw more people into the game. Do we expect to hear honest views from those with vested interest? If property investment is such a good investment, our MM being a man of great wisdom and many of our ministers would have bought many investment properties recently ?

It’s fine if you do not agree with what I wrote. I have no vested interest (except a few shares in a bank) but just want to offer some advise. I had seen distress that I was affected emotionally in the last boom & burst and people coming to me to help sell their $1M condo when market was only willing to pay about $650K. I hope enough is enough….

    alice says 11 years ago

    well said!
    financial freedom is what i chasing for 🙂

gerimegaly says 11 years ago

Actually, the current COV is much lesser than the market run up in 2007. At one point, a 5rm flat near Tanjong Rhu was transacted at $150K above value!! That was really crazy!

Jasmin says 11 years ago

I can’t afford a private property.
But many do as they are rushing to get into a Preview by handling in a blank cheque to the property agents.

James Tan says 11 years ago

This subject on speculation is always interesting and it is equally interesting to observe the human behaviour. Welcome to the new world on speculation!

Whilst the government is taking stock of the situation and implementing measures to curb speculation, there are reports already showing that the “fever” is still there and the measures would not help. One possible reason is that, there are more speculators with really deep pockets. I’m sure the government need not “protect” this group… These people don’t mind paying more for a hold on a property now. The ability to hold on to the property changes the whole equation and why was this so? There has been quite a number of en-bloc with many people enjoying a windfall… So? Make money work harder for you!

The government just needs to make sure the deterent is high enough for the “just-make-it” speculator as these would be the ones who complain or ask for aid at Meet the People Sessions when things go awry… These people may or may not be aware of the situation they are putting themselves and their families into… Chances are, these are the people with “shallow” or “no” pockets but think this is a surer way of being a millionaire than striking Toto…

Anyway, comparing speculation here to the Middle East, what is happening here pales to that region… When I attend some property fair in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, people are asking “How much for this block?” and “How much for these floors?”… Again, it is the deepest pocket that “wins” and can tide over whatever crunch… You clear it, you are a millionaire… You don’t, you are broke…

For those who dare, good luck and hope for the best… Otherwise, be like the majority of us, earn a living and work your way up… The slow, steady and hard way… 🙂

Intheknow says 11 years ago

u know how much government makes from stamp duty or not?

not in their interest to force market to adjust housing prices downwards.

government has to support HDB prices as well since that’s the basis on which private housing prices are built on.

by pricing HDB much lower than current prices, they will indirectly cause private housing prices to crash.

and what about those people (aka suckers) who bought the DBSS hdb flats at condo prices? they will jump off their units.

    lioninvestor says 11 years ago

    Hi IntheKnow,

    I think the government makes even more from the HDB than from stamp duty with their pricing based on market prices rather than cost.

    Having started on this path, there is no easy way out. Drastic changes in policies would be hard to implement. Pricing new HDB much lower than current prices would open another can of worms.

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