Questions Real Estate Professionals Get Asked All The Time
1. How's the market?
Whenever someone asks us this, we try to break it down into the various sub-segments of the market: the premium/high-end, the middle end, and the mass market. All these will perform very differently; the whole market will never be up or down at the same time.
2. Is now a good time to buy?
If one were to objectively read into the real estate market and its various sub-segments, not all segments are down at the same time. For example, the luxury end of the market saw many prime homes change hands over the past three quarters, and while prices for the middle-upper tiers may have come off a little for the past several quarters, the corresponding volume of sales resulting had increased disproportionately more. These, in our view, are among several indicators suggesting a market perception of price rationalisation and sensibility.
Most share this view, though some remain skeptical that the market has not bottomed-out yet. They feel that there are many macro-economic factors that have not completely unfolded, e.g. The Trump Effect, Brexit, tensions in the South China Sea etc. While these viewpoints hold truth, the reality in these fluid times are that new factors/challenges will present themselves. Seasoned real estate watchers will know not to get sucked into “Analysis-Paralysis”.
3. When are the property cooling measures (ABSD, TDSR) going to be lifted?
For all the measures that were laid out, one needs to read into the underlying intent. When the 15% Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) was introduced, it wasn’t meant to keep foreign buyers from buying into Singapore, but to ensure that those who were investing genuinely saw value. The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) was meant to discourage average Singaporeans from getting ahead of themselves. For ABSD, we suspect that the authorities will ease it, but not lift it entirely. And they will possibly ease it in tandem with a Seller’s Stamp Duty loaded specifically for foreign buyers.
Alternatively, they might ease the measures on certain property types. They have eased certain requirements pertaining to the TDSR, allowing the property to be used as equity. If the property is deemed as equity, the banks can loan you money for it. That made it easier for Singaporeans to finance their properties, but it didn’t make it easier for them to go out and buy another three or four properties.
4. Where are the other sectors to look at? Should I be also considering commercial and/or foreign properties?
We tend to pry a little deeper into the underlying intent of the property purchase. And we also look into the client’s portfolio holistically. Sometimes the intent is not as obvious, such as the purchase being part of estate planning (for their children) or a calculated investment with a very clear exit horizon. All these concerns are taken onboard collectively and we advise them based on what we deem best.
Sometimes, we point them to other classes of real restate including commercial, industrial or overseas properties. Other times, this may mean advising them NOT to acquire the property altogether. The honesty is often well-received. That’s how we keep my clients, whom often become friends.
5. How do I avoid paying so much taxes? (usually asked by foreigners and PRs)
We tell them that they can’t. Again, we look at the client’s portfolio. If his/her intent is to mitigate risk by moving money out of his/her home country, then the total investment need not be consolidated in one or two properties. He/she could park the money on the Singapore Stock Exchange, say, with a REIT – an indirect investment in real estate without the commitment of a physical asset.
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