NTU, NUS Students Continue to Sublet Hostel Rooms on Social Media, Heightened Interest for JB Properties, and More

18 Dec 2023

12 to 18 December 2023

Buyers of Singapore’s first assisted living flats in Bukit Batok will have to wait longer for their homes after the project’s main contractor has been terminated by HDB due to unsatisfactory site progress. Meanwhile, new private home sales surged in November 2023, with developers selling 784 units, up 286% from the 203 units shifted in October 2023.


1. Assisted living flats in Bukit Batok delayed after HDB fires contractor

Buyers of Singapore’s first assisted living flats in Bukit Batok will have to wait longer for their homes after the project’s main contractor has been terminated by HDB due to unsatisfactory site progress, reported CNA.

Known as Community Care Apartments, the flats in Harmony Village @ Bukit Batok will be delayed by around three to four months to September or October 2024.

HDB terminated JSN Construction Group, the project’s main contractor, on 9 January 2023 and appointed QingJian International (South Pacific) Group Development Co as the new contractor on 14 February 2023, leading to a delay of almost two months.

Despite efforts to speed up the process with the deployment of more machinery, additional subcontractors, and continuing quieter construction works after office hours and on weekends, challenges persisted.

“For example, as the work site is situated close to existing residential areas, the allowable working hours for noisy construction works (drilling and jackhammering) are limited, and some of these works will require more time,” explained HDB.

It noted that buyers of such flats have been informed of the delay on 8 November 2023.


2. New private home sales soared 286% in November 2023

New private home sales surged in November 2023, with developers selling 784 units, up 286% from the 203 units shifted in October 2023, reported CNA citing Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) data.

On an annual basis, the figure was also 202% higher than the 260 units transacted in November 2022.

“November’s sales tally is the highest in four months since 1,413 new units (excluding executive condominiums) were sold in July,” said PropNex Realty.

Analysts attributed the hike in sales mainly to the launch of three major private home projects – Hillock Green, J’den, and Watten House.

November saw the launch of 970 private home units, way higher compared to October’s 54 units.

Accounting for 97% of the units launched, the three major projects also accounted for around 73% (570 units) of the total units sold in November 2023.

Looking ahead, PropNex expects December 2023’s new home sales to be lower than November’s volume, with sales for the full year 2023 coming in at about 6,500 to 7,000 units – the slowest annual developer sales since 2008 when only 4,264 units were sold.


3. Woodlands and Bishan projects most popular among first-timers in the December 2023 BTO sales exercise

Projects in Woodlands and Bishan emerged as the most popular among flat applicants during the December 2023 BTO sales exercise, reported CNA.

More than seven applicants were vying for each 5-room BTO flat at Urban Rise @ Woodlands.

Analysts attributed the high application rates for the Woodlands projects to their proximity to transport nodes and other amenities.

Aside from the projects in Woodlands and Bishan, demand for the other projects was muted. The 6,057 flats offered in the December 2023 BTO sales exercise attracted a total of 13,411 applicants, which works out to an application rate of 2.2.

HDB noted that 3-room or bigger flats registered a median first-timer application rate of 0.8 in December, which was significantly lower than the 2 to 6.8 median application rates seen during the pandemic.

The projects under the Prime Location Housing (PLH) model saw tepid interest for the 3-room flats, while 4-room flats received more demand, with application rates of 1.35 for those in Queenstown and 1.44 for Bukit Merah units.

In contrast, the project in Bishan received substantial interest due to its short waiting time of less than three years and central location.

Related article: HDB BTO Dec 2023 Woodlands Review: Two Sites Next to Woodlands MRT Station


4. Grocery trucks and vending machines to serve Tengah residents as part of interim measures

Residents in Tengah can now buy food and daily necessities at a mobile grocery truck as well as vending machines set up by the HDB within the estate as part of interim measures to improve convenience while facilities are being built, reported CNA.

Amenities such as food courts, shops, and a supermarket in Singapore’s newest town are expected to be ready by H2 2024.

Open from 3pm to 8pm, the mobile grocery truck offers staples and essential items such as rice, bread, fresh produce, milk, instant and canned foods, toiletries, and household goods.

It is situated at the Plantation Acres neighbourhood on Wednesdays and Fridays and at Plantation Grange on Thursdays.

Meanwhile, several vending machines at Block 111A in Plantation Acres sell beverages, cut fruit and snacks as well as halal food items such as nasi rending and nasi lemak.

Residents welcomed the interim measures, with some hoping that the grocery truck could have more variety and longer operating hours.

“We thank residents for their understanding and patience, as we continue rolling out amenities and infrastructure in and around Tengah to better serve their needs,” said HDB.

Related article: Jurong Lake District, Tengah: 4 Most Exciting Features Coming to the West Side of Singapore By 2033


5. Singapore closing in on Hong Kong in property deals

Singapore is catching up with Hong Kong on real estate deals, registering 96 entity-level property transactions across sectors such as residential, office, and hotels so far this year, while Hong Kong had 107, reported Bloomberg.

MSCI Real Estate Assets data showed that property deals in Hong Kong declined by 62% from 2021, while Singapore managed to sustain activity despite high borrowing costs.

The transactions mirror the trend which saw Singapore attract wealth and talent, resulting in robust demand for offices, rising home prices and surging rents. In contrast, Hong Kong has been plagued by a prolonged property slump, particularly in the office sector, due to pandemic restrictions, China’s economic challenges, and geopolitical tensions.

Benjamin Chow, Head of Asia Real Assets Research at MSCI, said a lot more Hong Kong assets were traded at losses this year, while a majority of Singaporean assets continue to register strong capital growth.

Notable deals include the distressed sale of Hong Kong’s Goldin Financial Global Center, which was sold at a significant discount versus the divestment of Changi City Point in Singapore, which saw an 11% premium to acquisition price and a 4.3% yield.


6. NTU and NUS students continue to sublet hostel rooms

The appearance of advertisements for university campus accommodation on social media platforms and online marketplaces like WeChat and Carousell has once again placed the practice of subletting rooms back into the limelight, reported The Straits Times.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) hostel rooms were offered for long- and short-term rentals at a price almost double what the university charges.

The practice continues even as the universities have warned of serious consequences, including bans from on-campus housing or termination of scholarships.

Students said the practice persists due to the limited availability of rooms and a desire to experience life within halls of residence.

Other reasons cited by former students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) include wanting to stay on campus without being obliged to participate in hall activities. They explained that sublets usually occur among friends or acquaintances rather than with strangers.

Meanwhile, university officials warned students against subletting, noting that the disciplinary action applies to those who sublet as well as to those who stay in hostels without authorisation.

Aside from regular patrols and checks, NTU also stressed the need for students to report such activities, while encouraging residents who no longer require on-campus housing to withdraw to accommodate eligible students.


7. Heightened interest for JB properties amid visible progress at RTS Link

While Johor Bahru’s Princess Cove condominium sold 30% of its nearly 3,800 units in 2018, the sales momentum lost traction when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, reported The Straits Times.

However, a surge in interest was observed in 2023, particularly from April to September 2023, when transactions grew five times over the same period in 2022, said Xu Jie, Deputy General Manager at R&F.

He attributed the heightened interest to the visible progress of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link.

The 4km rail shuttle service, expected to be ready by end-2026, can accommodate 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction between Singapore’s Woodlands North MRT station and Johor Bahru’s Bukit Chagar.

Xu revealed that Singaporeans account for about 40% of Princess Cove buyers, with the next biggest groups of buyers coming from Malaysia, China and Taiwan.

Other projects near the RTS station such as MBW City as well as SKS Group’s TriTower and Twin Tower also registered increased interest and sales.


8. Fallen windows from buildings up in 2023, BCA urges homeowners to check and maintain windows

The number of fallen windows from buildings has increased to 35 cases in the first 11 months of 2023, up from 33 cases in 2022, reported TODAY.

Of the total cases this year, 19 cases involved casement windows, 15 were sliding windows and one involved louvre windows, said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and HDB in a joint release.

They noted that no injuries were reported during these incidents.

Investigations by BCA showed that fallen casement windows were mainly caused by the weakening and corrosion of aluminium rivets, while the fallen sliding windows were due to the lack of proper angle strips and safety stoppers.

BCA urged owners and occupiers to check and maintain their windows at least once every six months.

Owners who fail to replace aluminium rivets in their casement windows with stainless steel rivets, as mandated by BCA since 2004, could face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to six months.

Meanwhile, owners of windows that fall from height due to lack of maintenance could be fined by up to $10,000 or be imprisoned for up to a year, or both.


9. Drop in EP holders impacts demand for private homes in 2H 2023

Huttons noted that the decline in the growth of employment pass (EP) holders within the city-state have led to slower demand for private homes in the second half of 2023, reported Singapore Business Review.

The number of EP holders in Singapore has grown only by 10,000 as of June 2023.

“With tepid growth for the rest of 2023, it is highly unlikely that the increase in the number of EP holders in 2023 will come close to 2022’s 25,600,” said Huttons.

Aside from the sluggish growth in EP holders, the lower tenant demand for private homes was also attributed to last year’s significant increase in rents at nearly 30%.

The hike displaced some tenants, with some EP holders turning to more affordable accommodations such as HDB flats and co-living spaces.

“Some EP holders who have the luxury of working anywhere have chosen to be digital nomads, moving to places such as Johor Bahru, Batam or even Bali,” said Huttons.


10. At least $1.8 million was lost in a rental scam involving fake property agents

Singapore police said at least 287 individuals have fallen victim to rental scams that involved fake property agents from July to November 2023, resulting in total losses of at least $1.8 million, reported CNA.

The scam sees fake property agents pressuring victims into making payments to view or rent properties.

Victims usually responded to sponsored rental listings on online platforms such as Carousell and Facebook and interacted with the scammers via WhatsApp.

Pretending to be registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), the scammers would convince the victims by sending photos of their business cards, and CEA registration numbers as well as virtual tours or pictures of the rental property.

The scammers would then tell victims of the high demand for the property, pressuring the victims to make deposits to secure the rent.

In some cases, the agents’ “personal assistants” would facilitate the property viewing, only to disappear once rental payment has been made via bank transfers or PayNow.

This scam variant has seen at least 77 victims between July and November 2023, resulting in $473,000 in total losses.

With this, the police warned against relying solely on Facebook or Carousell listings and urged the public to cross-check the advertised phone number on the CEA public register to verify the agent’s legitimacy.


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Marcus Lee, Content Executive at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this story, email: marcuslee@propertyguru.com.sg.


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