Friday, December 16, 2011

ABSD Property Curbs

What is the intention of the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) curbs ?
First, let's look at the policy measures introduced since 2010 to see the Big Picture:

Summary of policy measures in 2010 and 2011
Feb-10 ----- Introducing Sellers' Stamp Duty (SSD) on all residential properties and residential land that are bought after today and sold within 1 year from the date of purchase. Lowering LTV limit to 80% for all housing loans provided by financial institutions and regulated by the MAS

Aug-10 -----  Increased holding period for imposition of SSD from the current 1 year to 3 years. Increased minimum cash payment from 5% to 10% of valuation limit. Decreased LTV limit for housing loans granted by financial institutions from 80% to 70%

Jan-11 ----- Increased SSD period from 3 year to 4 years. Increase SSD to 16% within the first year, 12% within second year, 8% within  third year and 4% within fourth year. Lowered LTV from 70% to 60% for individual buyers and 50% for non individual buyers

Dec-11 ----- Foreigners and non individual buyers to pay additional buyers stamp duty (ABSD) of 10%. PRs owning one and buying second and subsequent property will pay ABSD of 3%. Singapore citizens owning two and buying third and subsequent property to pay 3% ABSD.
These are mainly demand-side measures---- calculated to discourage or defer real demand.
Remember that the govt also have supply-side measures----- land releases to ensure that developers can tender for plots to meet the supply spikes.
Ostensibly, the Dec 11 measures are anti-speculative since the ABSD targets additional purchase of properties beyond the 1st and it follows an incremental layering approach by the policymakers to prevent a bubble from forming in the property sector.

The only difference is that this time it discriminates  between SG citizens, PRs and foreigners with graduated deterrence's (ABSD).

Foreigner demand as a percentage of total transactions has risen from 13% last  year to 17% for 10M11. Recent data showed that foreigner buying activity had become increasingly broad based, moving into the mass and mid-end market segments, compared to the more high-end focus previously.
One way to look at the ABSD measures is to look at it as one of incremental policy layering ----- speculative  hot money from foreigners (corporate and individual) and  PRs being targeted was a logical policy outcome. Low interest costs, the high SGD and the desirability of SG as an attractive destination for HNWIs will facilitate hot money inflows which will gravitate towards properties; given the markets abhorrence for derivatives and hedge funds.

But, if the demand is genuine, that is if SG is so desirable to the HNWIs, would the measures be effective? IMHO, Yes, as it will skew foreigner demand towards the higher end sector ---- those who can afford high ABSD will be able to afford high end properties!! So the policy discourage speculation at the mid end and mass market sectors and is pro-SG citizens ( an important consideration during elections).
Foreigners from the United States, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland are exempt due to certain clauses in their free-trade deals with Singapore. However, buyers from these countries, excluding permanent residents, comprised only 1.7 per cent of all foreigner purchases of non-landed homes this year---- meaning that those most affected will be the Chinese, Indonesian and Indians.

What will the foreigners do, if they have to reside here for investment and biz reasons and cannot buy?
The answer is simple----- they will gravitate towards rental of properties!!

The other big question is one of timing----- why now?
Given the Eurozone uncertainties and the glacial pace of growth in the US, there is likely to be a period of  monetary easing (QE to be exact) and low interest rates in the West. Hot Money will flow to  Asia  eg HK, China, SG etc.....
So while the aneamic economic growth in Europe and the US slow global growth in trade terms, it will cause hot money to seek growth in faster growing Asia which has huge potential for economic growth due to domestic consumption arising from the surging population growth.
Hence, the direction of  hot money flows is not difficult to fathom----it will gravitate to where there is less controls.
SG due to its open and market friendly policies is a hot favorite.
The policymakers do not have a choice in coming up with the latest ABSD measures, if they want to slow down the rate of property price increases; given the drastic measures in HK and China.

Developers are of course "peeved" about the timing and the anti-speculative measures and are lobbying for their removal--- that is the raison detre for REDAS and it is no surprise that they do so.
Developers have come up with new tactics to keep sales going.
Latest BT update on Monday 12/12/2011, by Uma Shankari, says...

Other developers said it was 'business as usual' at their showflats, but admitted that sales were slower compared to a week ago.

For the most part, buyers are now waiting for prices to fall. Property agents noted that there was a 'steady flow' of potential buyers at showflats - but most left without buying anything.

This is even as many developers - including Far East Organization, Wing Tai Holdings and City Developments - are offering packages to offset the stiff new measures.

Far East is offering a 5 per cent relief package to affected buyers at all of its already-launched projects.

It will reimburse buyers 3 per cent of the unit price to offset the new stamp duty, and buyers will also get furniture vouchers worth 2 per cent of the flat price.

Wing Tai and City Developments are also offering relief packages at selected projects, BT understands.

But will property prices collapse 30%, as some analysts say?
That is NOT the intention of the policymakers; whom will adjust and recalibrate policies if the prices drop excessively.
IMHO, the policymakers seek a gradual incremental rate of property price rise------ not a collapse !!

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