Sales of new private homes appeared to have ended last year with a whimper, with December's number half that of November.
But there was some reason to cheer as the full-year tally of 7,529 was 2.9 per cent up on 2014's figures.
The relatively buoyant sales, which came despite developers launching fewer units last year compared with 2014, point to a possible return of buyer interest.
December's numbers are very telling. Developers sold 384 new private homes last month - down from 759 in November, which was boosted by the launch of The Poiz Residences that month. Yet, this was much higher than the meagre 230 sales in December 2014.
"Both (Decembers) are similar in that they had no new launches, but the difference of 67 per cent is unmistakable - people are coming back into the market," said Mr Alan Cheong, Savills Singapore's research head. One source of demand could be from people who have been sitting on the sidelines for the past two years, but found prices have not fallen by much and are losing patience, he said.
Last year's new sales tally was resilient even as developers launched 7,063 homes, 8.2 per cent fewer than in 2014, noted Ms Christine Li, Cushman & Wakefield's director of research.
"This seems to suggest that demand has stabilised and normalised from the 10,000 to 12,000 units a year two years back to the current 7,000 units a year."
While last year's sales were still a far cry from 2013, when 14,948 new homes changed hands, there still appears to be underlying demand for homes. This could also be from buyers who are reinvesting capital gains from previous purchases, or even buyers preferring to invest here rather than overseas, said Ms Li.
The value of overseas property purchases by Singaporeans fell from $1.1 billion in the first half of 2014 to $400 million in the first half of last year.
The volatile stock market may also have encouraged investors to buy real estate, she added.
Some developers have trimmed prices, contributing to the uptake. For example, units at The Trilinq were sold at $1,545 per sq ft (psf) when launched in the first quarter of 2013 but it moved 20 units at a median price of $1,329 psf in the fourth quarter of last year.
Experts said that while cooling measures, rising interest rates and a continued reduction in new sites sold will keep a lid on new home sales for this year, the extent of the economic slowdown will be the determining factor.
"A moderate slowdown may not affect demand significantly and it is possible for 2016 new sales to improve to 7,500 to 8,500 units, with lower prices drawing more buyers into the market," said Mr Ong Teck Hui, JLL national research director.
"On the other hand, a more severe economic slowdown would spark caution among buyers, reduce demand and lead to lower market activity than in 2015."
This article was first published on January 16, 2016.
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