News Roundup (February 2018)

Our top Singapore property stories.

Budget 2018: Govt raises buyer’s stamp duty for residential properties priced above $1 million 

Effective from 20 February, the top marginal Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) rate for residential properties priced above $1 million has been raised to 4.0 percent from 3.0 percent previously, revealed Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his recent Budget 2018 speech.  

“The new top marginal rates of 4.0 percent will apply to the portion of residential property value which is in excess of $1 million,” said Mr Heng.  

“With 80 percent of private property transactions below $1.5 million, those that buy within the $1 million to $1.5 million bracket are paying $5,000 more in taxes,” said Eugene Lim, key executive officer at ERA Realty, adding that it’s a very marginal sum for the majority of buyers. 

“As the majority are not paying significantly more tax, we do not expect the current buying momentum in the private property market to be adversely affected,” he noted. 

Since 1996, BSD rates for residential properties have ranged between 1.0 and 3.0 percent. 

The BSD rates for non-residential properties will remain unchanged at 1.0 to 3.0 percent, noted Mr Heng. 

“Moving forward, we will continue to study options to ensure that our tax system remains progressive,” he added. 

Budget 2018: Govt enhances proximity housing grant for resale flat buyers 

In his recent Budget 2018 speech, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced several new enhancements to the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) to help Singaporeans looking to live with or near their loved ones. 

Families buying a HDB resale flat to live with their parents or married children will now enjoy an enhanced PHG of $30,000. A PHG of $20,000 will continue to be offered to those buying a resale flat to live near their parents or children. 

At the same time, eligible singles who buy a resale flat to live with their parents will now receive a PHG of $15,000. Those who buy a unit to live near their parents will receive a PHG of $10,000. 

The government will also revise the criteria for the PHG to within 4km, up from 2km previously. 

Interestingly, in PropertyGuru’s recent Consumer Sentiment Survey, 80 percent of Singaporean respondents did not think that elderly-friendly homes matter to them, a two percent increase from the first half of 2017.  

 “With the Singapore government providing even more financial support to both families and singles who want to live with their aged parents, we believe that demand for elderly-friendly homes will increase,” said Hari V Krishnan, CEO of PropertyGuru Group. 

 “Furthermore, with some of the most searched districts on PropertyGuru being mature estates such as Marine Parade and Serangoon, increasing the distance from 2km to 4km for the PHG will provide young couples and singles with more housing options if their families live in these older areas with generally higher prices.”

Govt to unveil pilot areas of underground masterplan in 2019 

In a bid to provide a comprehensive look of what lies beneath, the government will unveil pilot areas of an underground masterplan in the works to map out the city-state’s underground spaces and their potential uses next year, reported the Straits Times recently. 

Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) chief planner Hwang Yu-Ning revealed that pilot areas of the underground masterplan will be released as part of the next masterplan guiding the city-state’s development in the medium term. 

She noted that URA is working at having a more complete 3D map of the subterranean spaces and infrastructure. 

This comes as the government must “take stock and have a good database of information” of what is underground “so we have a good basis plan”, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. 

The idea of a plan for Singapore’s underground development was first raised in a blog post by then National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in 2013. 

Details of what lies underground are currently known to each relevant authority only – the power grids to the Energy Market Authority and the water pipes to PUB. 

As such, a developer trying to build underground has a tough time figuring out whether there is scope to do anything as the information is spread out, noted Sing Tien Foo, director of the Institute of Real Estate Studies. 

And while the URA aims to provide a complete map of the underground space, not everyone will be given free access to said information due to security concerns. 

“If we share too much, we are concerned about the security threat of having unsavoury people use this information,” said Hwang. 

“We are still thinking how precise and how much information we want to make available to the public.”

Pearlbank Apartments crop

Pearlbank Apartments sold to CapitaLand for $728m 

Pearlbank Apartments, a 37-storey development in Outram, has been sold via private treaty to CapitaLand for $728 million, following the close of its collective sale tender on 19 December 2017, revealed marketing agent Colliers International. 

The sale price works out to a land cost of around $1,515 psf per plot ratio (psf ppr), after factoring in an upgrading premium of around $201 million for the lease top-up. No development charge is payable.  

Featuring a total of 288 units (280 apartments and eight commercial units), the building has a leasehold tenure of 99 years with effect from June 1970. 

Colliers revealed that apartment owners stand to gain between $1.8 million to $4.9 million from the successful sale of the development, while owners of commercial units could receive between $1.2 million to $6.9 million. 

“While residents of Pearlbank Apartments had previously explored the idea to conserve Pearlbank Apartments due to its history and design, recent sentiment has strongly shifted to redevelopment,” said Alex Poh, chairman of Pearlbank Apartments collective sale committee. 

“A deeper analysis of the building structure and the required enhancement work show that conservation would be a costly undertaking and a huge burden for the owners. It is not a viable nor favourable option for the residents,” he noted. 

CapitaLand intends to redevelop the site into a high-rise residential development comprising around 800 units, subject to certain conditions.


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