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Singapore property market braces for surging Chinese demand

A view of condominiums near Orchard Road from an apartment in the market at the Reignwood Hamilton Scotts luxury apartment building on Scotts Road in Singapore.

By Sing Yee Ong

(Bloomberg) — Singapore’s property market is bracing for surging demand from Chinese buyers as the world’s second-largest economy reopens.

Real estate agencies in the city-state have seen more inquiries from mainland Chinese, with industry watcher OrangeTee & Tie noting a 10% to 15% increase in January since Beijing announced it was ending three years of global isolation. The border reopening has also seen a spike in queries about immigration to Singapore.

“I’m definitely seeing an uptick in interest among Chinese friends interested in moving to Singapore since the border opened,” said Lily Li, who bought a 640 square feet (60 square meter) apartment at the end of last year for S$1.3 million (US$989,000) including taxes. “I’m getting a ton of calls asking me about our experience, and people seeking advice on how to rent and buy property.”

Chinese have been the largest foreign buyer group in Singapore since 2016 and made up 6.9% of foreign purchases of private apartments last year, the highest proportion since before the pandemic, according to OrangeTee & Tie data. Christine Sun, the agency’s senior vice president of research and analytics, potentially sees a more than 10% increase in the number of homes purchased by Chinese this year, in tandem with rising supply.

Still, such demand is unlikely to fuel price rises in the city-state as the number of Chinese buyers is still small compared with locals. Home prices grew at the slowest pace in more than two years in the last quarter of 2022, taking the annual gain to 8.6%.

China’s reopening is also stoking greater migration interest, with the city-state among top destinations that wealthy Chinese are considering. Investment migration consultant Henley & Partners saw migration inquiries from Chinese nationals in China and Hong Kong jump 600% following the reopening announcement, compared with three weeks prior. Queries about Singapore residency were the fourth highest in 2022, after Portugal and Greece residency and Grenada citizenship, according to the firm.

Singapore’s “safety and security, stable political environment, pro-business policies and good infrastructure” are attractive to global investors, said Ismail Gafoor, chief executive of Singapore-based agency PropNex. Chinese led foreign inquiries in both the commercial and residential markets, with many prospective buyers being “high net worth or ultra-high net worth individuals,” he added.

ERA Research and Consultancy sees more Chinese migrating to the city-state to work, live and invest — undeterred by the additional 30% tax foreign buyers have to pay on property — due to the “allure of Singapore being a safe haven, as well as their preference for real estate as a store of wealth.”

Singapore’s relative high prices are causing some prospective Chinese buyers to pause and reflect, however.

“For one house in Singapore, I can buy two houses elsewhere and still have leftover cash,” said Jeremy Zhang, 57, who owns an electronics business in Shenzhen and is on the hunt for a private apartment in a prime district near a train station. “So of course it is not a decision I will rush into without thinking through properly.”

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