Singapore overtakes HK as 2nd-most pricey Asian city

Singapore overtakes HK as 2nd-most pricey Asian city

Living the high life in Singapore will need pretty deep pockets, according to the latest wealth report by private Swiss bank Julius Baer.

"Singapore has overtaken Hong Kong as the second most expensive city in Asia as the latter remains out of favour with Chinese tourists," said the report which was released yesterday. Hong Kong was in third position.

Shanghai remains the most expensive city - the same as last year - despite its relatively cheaper BMW price. Especially pricey there are hospital stays, watches, botox, cigars and high-end skin cream.

The findings are part of Julius Baer's lifestyle index, which reveals the costs of luxury living by looking at 20 goods and services across 11 cities in Asia. Data was collected from June last year to June this year.

On the other hand, when it comes to high-end homes, Singapore has become markedly more affordable, with prices slumping 26.4 per cent compared with last year, in local currency terms.

In Mumbai, prices fell 21.9 per cent, and in Tokyo, prices dropped 11.9 per cent. Julius Baer compared homes in prime locations of about 4,000 sq ft in area.

The private bank said Singapore property prices remained soft, as previously imposed stamp duties and property loan restrictions deterred non-resident investors and dampened speculative activity.

"However, we are starting to see signs of a bottoming of activity, particularly in the prime districts where sales volumes have increased sharply in the first half of 2016 due to the various incentives and discounts offered by developers."

Julius Baer believes that over the medium term, Singapore's reputation for quality health care services, and as a liveable and business city, will continue to attract foreign homebuyers.

It also noted that the gradual easing of prices in the property markets is a prudent measure that has "likely forestalled a more aggressive economic adjustment".

Golf club memberships here could be considered "cheap" relative to the region, with prices dipping 4.2 per cent, after buyers stopped trading in memberships, on the back of government announcements that it was taking back the land from three clubs and that two others would not have their leases renewed.

The bank also added a high-end skin cream to the lifestyle index this year. It added that Asia makes up 36 per cent of the global beauty market, and is expected to grow 4.5 per cent every year until 2019, far faster than the global market.

With the certificate of entitlement (COE) system in Singapore, it is no surprise that a brand new BMW 7 Series sedan here costs the most among the 11 cities surveyed.

A new BMW 7 Series sedan costs about US$430,000 (S$589,000) here, owing to import duties and regulatory taxes.

In Shanghai, "a distant second", the same car is about US$300,000. It also expects the assets of high net worth individuals - people with net investable wealth of US$1 million or more, excluding property used as their main residence - across the region, to grow to US$14.5 trillion by 2020.

Julius Baer Group chief executive Boris Collardi said: "This year's lifestyle index demonstrates that there remains enormous demand for luxury goods and services in Asia, but it equally signals that asset price fluctuations can be a potential drag on spending."

Asia's most expensive cities 2016: Julius Baer wealth report

This article was first published on October 5, 2016.
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