Published 28 February 2011
By Jo-Ann Huang Limin
More mainland Chinese are buying private homes in Singapore, with a record number doing so in the last quarter of last year, according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). And with the Chinese government rolling out more drastic measures to cool its overheated market – such as higher down payment norms for second home purchases and a property tax in Shanghai and Chongqing – analysts say more Chinese will park their money in property here.
In the final quarter of last year, Chinese nationals accounted for a record 23 per cent of private residential purchases in the Republic by non-Singapore citizens, according to a quarterly report by real-estate consultant DTZ.
They overtook Indonesians to emerge as the second-largest group of foreign property buyers here after Malaysians, traditionally the dominant group among non-Singaporean buyers, DTZ noted in its study which is based on caveats lodged for new-home and secondary-market sales.
In 2007, the Chinese accounted for only 7 per cent of foreigners buying property here; for the fall-year 2010, their share was 19 per cent. Analysts say Chinese nationals are investing for the long term. “There’s a very large pool of Chinese buyers who need properties in Singapore for school, for coming here to work, for immigration purposes,” said Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive officer of International Property Advisor. “All these are a natural consequence of the efforts Singapore has put in to promote ourselves in China.”
Some experts are concerned about the impact on the market if foreign buyers make a quick exit. But others say the current level of foreign ownership is not alarming. “Singaporean buyers still make up about 70 per cent of buyers,” said Ms Chua Chor Hoon, head of Southeast Asia research at DTZ. “Even if the foreigners were to pull out, it’s not going to cause a big drop in prices if the Singapore economy is doing well and locals still continue to buy.” But the proportion of local homebuyers is falling. URA data shows they accounted for 72 per cent of all transactions last year, compared with 76 per cent in 2009.
Meanwhile, those who are upgrading from public housing are buying smaller private apartments.
In 2009, only 32 per cent of buyers with HDB addresses had bought apartments smaller than 1,000 sq ft; last year, the ratio climbed to 41 per cent. This is due to high prices. “Small units slightly under S$1 million are the only types most HDB upgraders can afford,” said Ms Chua.