How has the enbloc market in Singapore evolved so rapidly during the year?
The first successful enbloc only took place in May this year, when Lum Chang bought One Tree Hill Gardens and BBR bought Goh & Goh Building. Nothing much to shout about back then as the transactions were small in size and final prices came in lower than the asking prices of the enbloc sellers.
The Game Changers
What might have been the game changer were the next 2 enbloc transactions – Rio Casa and Eunosville. Why were these transactions significant? Firstly, these are 2 big transactions of S$500 mil and above and secondly, the sellers received much more than what they asked for. Hence, these transactions might have triggered the herd instinct of developers who were still sitting on the sideline, and the greed of private property owners who were hoping for a windfall.
The Perfect Storm
Here comes the perfect storm. Private property owners rushed to form collective sales committee and get the enbloc process going, and developers competing to grab whatever properties that are available for collective sales. Enbloc momentum seemed to pick up rapidly in September and October, with the conclusion of 9 enbloc cases during the 2 months.Hotspots for Enbloc: District 19 and 15
For the year to date, the enbloc craze has created a potential 2,721 millionaires (assuming that STB approves all the enbloc cases). Popular districts for enbloc are District 19 (particularly Hougang and Serangoon area) that has 5 successful cases of enbloc with 950 owners profiting from it. The other enbloc hotspot is District 15 (Amber, Meyer Area) that has seen 3 condos acquired via enbloc with 247 households making their money from it. Prime districts 9, 10 and 11 have not yet seen a spillover in the enbloc interest. There were only 3 enbloc cases in the prime districts and these are relatively small in size with value below S$100 mil.
Developers’ Insatiable Appetite for Land
Despite the pressure to sell all units within 5 years after acquiring a land to avoid paying the additional buyer stamp duty, developers have continued to exhibit good appetite for large development sites. Out of the 17 enbloc cases, 8 of them have land area that are more than 200,000 sq ft. Risk management seems to be secondary to the developers at this stage as the majority of the developers went in on their own without partners to acquire the sites and these aren’t small sum of money. Sim Lian Group went in alone to acquire Tampines Court at a whopping S$970 mil.
The last enbloc cycle in 2007 was quite a different case from today’s. Back then, developers tend to form consortium to jointly bid for large enbloc sites, such as Farrer Court (Capitaland, HPL, Morgan Stanley, Wachovia), Gillman Heights (Capitaland & HPL) and Minton Rise (Kheng Leong & Low Keng Huat). Such a trend has not yet happened during this round of enbloc cycle.
Freehold or Leasehold? It doesn’t matter
Out of the 17 developments sold enbloc to date, 10 are freehold sites and 7 are 99-year leaseholds. The acquired freehold sites tend to be smaller in size and located in either prime districts or exclusive areas. Developers also tend to exhibit good appetite for 99-year leasehold sites that are big in size. What is the attractiveness of large leasehold sites? Large sites would give developers a lot of room to create innovative real estate products. Nowadays, lifestyle is what consumers are looking for. Developers can create a lot of lifestyle facilities within a large plot of land that will make their product more interesting and marketing will be a lot more easier. Moreover, cost of a 99-year leasehold site is relatively lower than a similar freehold site and that reduces the capital burden on developers, or, for the same amount of money, developers can invest in a bigger leasehold land rather than a smaller freehold land in a similar location.
In our next enbloc posting, we will provide more review on the key players and transaction prices of the successful enbloc cases.