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Economy

Singapore private home prices down for 15th straight quarter, pace of fall slows

SINGAPORE (Nikkei Markets) -- Private home prices in Singapore fell for the 15th straight quarter in the three months to June, but the decline was the slowest since the start of the downturn, strengthening views that the market may have found a bottom.

Flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority on Monday showed private residential prices in Singapore dipped 0.3% on quarter during the April-June period, following a 0.4% contraction in the first three months of the year.

The fall was due chiefly to weakness in the high-end of the residential market, with prices of apartments in the core central region declining 0.9% during the second quarter compared with a drop of 0.4% in the previous three months.

URA's latest property price data comes amid signs that Singapore's real estate market is beginning to recover after an extended downturn following government measures to cool property prices. Developers have bid aggressively for new sites and transactions have risen since the start of the year to levels last seen during the previous property boom.

The increased activity has already prompted a response by authorities, with URA announcing last Thursday the government would release more land to developers during the second half of 2017.

The sites available for sale could be used to build up to 8,125 private residential units, which is the largest potential supply since the first half of 2015.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore warned on the same day that property cooling measures remain necessary and that investors must set "realistic expectations" regarding future price increases, an indication that the authorities may step in to prevent a sharp rebound in the housing market.

"These indicators lend support to the view that the residential market has been approaching, or has reached the trough, in terms of prices," said Desmond Sim, head of CBRE Research for Singapore and South East Asia.

PropNex Realty, Singapore's biggest firm of real estate agents, said it expects home prices to start increasing by next year in view of the latest figures.

Hari Krishnan, chief executive officer at PropertyGuru Group, which operates Singapore's largest platform for property listings, added that falling prices in the core central region have generated increased interest in the luxury segment of the residential market.

"These districts remain the most searched areas by consumers on our platforms in the second quarter of this year, unchanged from Q1 2017," he said.

According to URA data, prices in the city fringe rose 0.5% in the latest quarter, after registering an increase of 0.3% in the previous quarter, while prices outside the central region, or suburbs, decreased by 0.4%, after rising 0.1% in the preceding period.

Prices of landed residential properties such as bungalows fell by 0.4%, compared to the 1.8% decrease in the previous quarter, URA said.

Looking ahead, DBS Vickers, the stockbroking arm of Singapore's largest lender, said that while the government would step in to prevent a potential overheating of the property market, the higher sales volumes would help drive profits for developers such as City Developments.

A more aggressive land sale program provides opportunities for Singapore companies to build their land bank, while the lofty bids for plots in recent months would hold up prices for residential units over the next two to three years, it added.

URA's flash estimates are compiled based on transaction prices stated in contracts submitted for stamp duty payment and data on units sold by developers until mid-June. The statistics will be updated towards the end of the month when URA releases detailed real-estate statistics for the second quarter of 2017.

About 80% of people in Singapore live in government-built apartments, leaving private developers to cater to the rest.

--Kevin Lim

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