Singapore, Hong Kong look to cool not kill property markets

Singapore, Hong Kong look to cool not kill property markets

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG - Singapore and Hong Kong now have identical 15 per cent levies to slow the foreign money that has added fuel to their overheated property markets - measures that will help first-time buyers but throw the spotlight on investors' next targets.

The curbs on residential real estate purchases could shift demand to retail and industrial spaces, diverting billions of dollars to those sectors as well as to housing markets in the United States, Canada, Australia and Malaysia.

Even if the pace of buying slows, analysts said, the appetite for homes in Hong Kong and Singapore is so strong that prices are expected to stay firm or ease only marginally.

"Singapore is like the London of Asia. Many people are not here to flip their properties or sell out in two to three years," said Knight Frank's head of consultancy and research Png Poh Soon. "There are lots of non-monetary reasons for buying Singapore and also Hong Kong property."

The two Asian cities are fierce rivals as financial and wealth centres but share the issues of strong demand, limited space and low mortgage rates that have driven housing prices beyond the reach of many locals.

Shallow capital markets, a cultural tendency towards property as an investment and concerns among mainland Chinese buyers about their home market have also played their parts.

After targeting speculators with previous steps, Singapore moved last week to discourage investors by slapping a stamp duty on locals buying a second home, an attempt to keep prices affordable for most first-time buyers.

In Singapore and Hong Kong, which brought in similar measures in October, both governments want to cool but not collapse the market and avoid driving investment elsewhere.

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