Property price transparency: Will govt tackle caveats data next?

Property price transparency: Will govt tackle caveats data next?

SINGAPORE - Despite the recent amendments to the Housing Developers (Control and Licensing) Act, units sold by developers in projects which have been delicensed will continue to escape the radar of monthly sales information submissions to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Developers who have obtained a Certificate of Statutory Completion for a private residential project and individual titles for all units in the development may apply to the Controller of Housing (COH) to have the project delicensed. This enables the developer to take out the remaining monies in the project account and close it.

Even prior to the changes to the Act which took effect on April 8, developers were spared having to make monthly submissions to URA on the sales status for such delicensed projects.

As for projects which are still covered by a Housing Developers' Licence, developers have had to submit to COH each month information such as the number of units sold in the project and their prices, based on information in the options granted.

The shortcoming of price data gathered through this exercise is that typically it would not factor in incentives not received by the buyers at the point they were granted the option to purchase a property from a developer. These could include reimbursement of stamp duty and furnishing vouchers. Such incentives are typically given by the developer later, after the point where the buyer would lodge a caveat to protect his interest in the property. (Caveats are usually lodged by buyers after the option to purchase is exercised or a sales and purchase agreement is signed.)

In such cases, price information on private homes bought from developers - whether gathered from URA's monthly survey of developers or based on information in caveats - may be inflated. When such data is fed into URA's private home price indices, this could mean that the indices may not be an accurate depiction of property price trends.

Timely information

The amended Act empowers COH to require licensed developers to disclose to it all discounts, rebates and other benefits including reimbursement of any stamp duty or tax given to home buyers. And the frequency of submissions as well as publication of such information will soon be made weekly, instead of monthly. The goal is to provide timely information to the market.

However, as a developer of a delicensed project does not come under the ambit of the Act for that particular project, market watchers point out that developers of delicensed projects continue to be spared from making such disclosures to URA. Hence they continue to have an avenue to dish out incentives to buyers away from public glare. This may be particularly relevant for high-end projects, where sales have been relatively slow.

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