More buyers looking for bigger homes amid pandemic

Cheryl ChiewMay 3, 2021

View of HDB flats in Toa Payoh

The sales for new homes above 1,200 sq ft increased 72%, from 362 units in Q4 2020 to 623 units in Q1 2021.

More home buyers are looking to acquire bigger spaces as the COVID-19 pandemic has made work from home the norm, reported Channel News Asia (CNA).

Ryan Tan, Senior Associate District Director at OrangeTee, revealed that around eight in 10 of his clients now are looking for larger flats, up from six in 10 before the pandemic.

Aside from HDB owners looking to upgrade, some of his clients have sold off their condominiums to acquire larger public flats.

Data from analysts show that bigger HDB resale flats have lately become more popular.

This is based on data comparisons from pre-pandemic 2019 and after the circuit breaker period – from Q3 2020 to Q1 2021.

One- to three-room units are considered smaller ones, while four-room and above are considered bigger units.

Across these periods, average quarterly sales increased some 18% for smaller HDB resale flats, but jumped 34% for bigger ones, said Nicholas Mak, Head of Research and Consultancy at ERA Realty.

The biggest increase in sales was posted for five-room and executive flats, with average quarterly sales rising by about 40%.

For the Build-to-Order (BTO) market, sales are dependent on the released supply of homes, said Christine Sun, OrangeTee & Tie’s Senior Vice-President of Research and Analytics.

“Currently, the bulk of supply remains to be four-room flats and there is no noticeable major increase in larger flats like five-room room and executive flats released in recent launches,” she said as quoted by CNA.

The trend was also evident in the new private apartment segment.

Wong Xian Yang, Head of Research at Cushman & Wakefield Singapore, said the median size of purchased units rose to 743 sq ft from 710 sq ft, or an increase of around 4.5% year-on-year.

“While this is not a major factor now, buyers, especially owner-occupiers are seeing a stronger need and are willing to spend a bit more for having an allocated work space, like a study room, at home as they anticipate higher levels of remote work,” he said as quoted by CNA.

This is the case within the city fringe and suburban regions, where buyers tend to be upgraders or first-time owners who intend to live in the unit, said Wong.

Units in the core central region, however, bucked the trend as they continue to decline.

Wong noted that this could be because a bigger proportion of buyers in the city centre are investors, and affordability is more of a constraint.

The hike in demand for homes above 1,200 sq ft was seen in more recent times – from Q1 2021 to the preceding quarter, said Sun.

She revealed that sales for new homes above 1,200 sq ft increased 72% to 623 units in Q1 2021 from 362 units in Q4 2020. This includes non-landed, landed property and executive condominiums.

She explained that the price resilience of properties in the city-state may have also “driven some to purchase bigger units now for fear that the price increase may put such units out of reach in future”.

The rising interest for bigger homes, however, has not been seen in the private non-landed resale market, said Wong.

“Given their already larger unit sizes which allows easy accommodation of a study area, the Singapore resale market activity remains characterised by affordability constraints which have driven demand for shrinking unit sizes,” he said.

Mak believes the potential of an en bloc cycle may be leading owners to hold on to their homes, which tend to be larger and older. 

This could result in fewer resale transactions for such units this year, he said.

Meanwhile, Mak noted that the hunger for landed homes has grown, as seen in the 6.7% increase in prices for the segment in Q1 2021.

He shared that an average of 385 new and resale landed homes were transacted every quarter in 2019.

This figure has ranged between 650 and 869 units each quarter since the circuit breaker was lifted.

“Since the start of the pandemic and WFH culture, many people would prefer more spacious homes but not everyone can afford to buy larger real estate…Those who have the financial capabilities to do so had fuelled the increase in the transactions of landed housing,” said Mak as quoted by CNA.

“Furthermore, the rising prices of condominiums had also made landed housing appeared to be value for money, resulting in higher demand for the latter.”

Moving forward, the trend may signal a need for developers to explore new ideas for their future developments.

Sun said developers might want to reconfigure their unit mix to offer a greater number of bigger units or have facilities or fittings that support the WFH culture.

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Cheryl Chiew, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact her about this story, email: cheryl@propertyguru.com.sg 

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