HOUSING Board resale prices are at record highs.
I wonder if this is good news, and also about the possible social repercussions.
Though it will benefit upgraders who want to sell their flats in the open market, newlywed couples will continue to face financial barriers when looking for resale flats in popular areas.
They get a raw deal. Many have taken out six-figure mortgage loans with banks to purchase resale flats.
They then have to work very hard to pay off their mortgages.
Some even put off having children for the first few years of married life so that they can focus on their careers.
It is no wonder that Singapore's birth rate has been falling.
Even with the $30,000 grant for first-time flat buyers, there are newlyweds who find resale flats expensive, considering that a four-room HDB flat in a good location can cost up to $400,000.
With some sellers demanding high cash-over-valuation amounts, many have been deterred from buying resale flats in popular areas.
Most, however, still shy away from cheaper flats in less-central locations as they are less accessible by public transport.
Newlyweds need a home to call their own, especially if they plan to have kids.
I have friends who, after marriage, could not afford their own place and had to live with their parents for many years.
The recent influx of permanent- resident professionals has caused resale prices to escalate.
Many started out in rented accommodation but decided to buy homes after realising that, at 2 to 3 per cent, the interest rate for mortgage loans here is rather low.
In land-scarce Singapore, they can also make some profits if they sell their property in future.
When I bought my new HDB executive flat in 1992, it cost only $145,000.
Five years later, someone told me that I could sell it for $600,000. My eyes nearly popped out at the news.
Subsequently, my neighbours and I sold our homes.
One even received an offer of $680,000.
However, when Singapore entered a recession in 1997, the market dived.
Sale prices of around $450,000 for similar flats were quoted.
Though the property market is sentiment-driven, I hope that the Government can put in place a system whereby runaway property prices can be checked. Moreover, salaries have not increased much in the past five years.
Some people I know have to put aside at least 30 per cent of their salary for mortgages (excluding the use of money from their Central Provident Fund accounts).
This means they have little left to save.
Should one half of a working couple lose his or her job, it adds to the family's financial stress and also results in the breakdown of some relationships.
Hence, high housing prices are not necessarily good for the country in the long run.
Mr Gilbert Goh Keow Wah
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