Tight Rental Market Fuels Rental Scams, Singapore Among Top Cities for Ultra-prime Residential Sales, and More

Tight Rental Market Fuels Rental Scams, Singapore Among Top Cities for Ultra-prime Residential Sales, and More
Tight Rental Market Fuels Rental Scams, Singapore Among Top Cities for Ultra-prime Residential Sales, and More

28 March to 3 April 2023

Almost all 320,000 HDB flats that were built up to 1986 have been upgraded under the Home Improvement Programme (HIP). Meanwhile, demand for assisted co-living arrangements in public housing flats is rising among seniors as they look to age in place.


1. Almost all eligible HDB flats were upgraded under the HIP

HDB resalet flats

Almost all of the 320,000 HDB flats that were built up to 1986 have been upgraded under the HIP.

HDB revealed that upgrading works have been completed for around 95% of the flats, and 4% are undergoing works, reported CNA.

The other 1% is yet to be polled. This comes as upgrade works can only be done once at least 75% of the eligible households within a block have consented to it.

HDB also shared that around 283,900 flats were installed with elderly-friendly fittings under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme – either with the HIP or direct application for those who live in blocks that do not qualify for HIP.

Notably, the EASE programme will be expanded from 4 April 2023 to include features such as wheelchair lifts and customised ramps.

As of 31 March 2022, the government has spent around $3.69 billion on HIP and $110 million on EASE.

HDB added that upgrade works had also been completed for 1,200 flats built between 1987 and 1997, “while another 55,000 units are in various stages of upgrading”.

Related article: Guide to HDB HIP (Home Improvement Programme): Free Upgrades and Repairs, Optional Costs, and More Tips (2023)


2. Demand for assisted co-living arrangements in public housing flats on the rise

two active senior asian couples looking at tablet computer, happy and laughing

Demand for assisted co-living arrangements in public housing flats is on the rise among seniors, as they look to “age in place”, reported CNA.

These arrangements provide elderly tenants with company and care.

Red Crowns Senior Living, one of the providers, rents properties on the open market and then sublets them to seniors as an alternative to nursing homes. It has rented three condominiums and 30 flats for seniors.

“We have a reporting system whereby the caregivers have to update us on the meals and the activities that are being done every day. And we have care coordinators to go around the different homes to visit them and to ensure the well-being of the residents,” said Red Crowns Senior Living Care Manager Phern Tan.

However, limited flat supply as well as rising rental and utility costs are making it hard for such operators to scale up.

An expert believes demand for such living arrangements will increase, but calls for regulation once there are more players.

Related article: Retirement in Singapore and Property: Where and How Do Singaporeans Want to Spend Their Golden Years?


3. 99-to-1 property deals to avoid Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) too risky

Developers ABSD Additional Buyers Stamp Duty Queen's Peak condo

Avoiding the ABSD on second and subsequent property acquisitions by exploiting a 99-to-1 loophole can be extremely risky and costly.

This comes as the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has launched an audit to identify those who have used such schemes, reported The Straits Times.

National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Associate Professor Stephen Phua noted that Iras can look at all transactions since the ABSD was introduced in 2011 considering that there is no time bar for such audits.

If caught, buyers could be penalised with a 50% surcharge on top of the ABSD due, or even a 400% penalty.

If buyers are already in the midst of such a transaction, they should consider backing out of the deal, which is better than proceeding with a sham arrangement that could lead to significant penalties.

If they have already completed such an arrangement, they should consider voluntarily approaching Iras to discuss the matter.

“In most cases involving related buyers, the best possible outcome for such infringement is paying the deficient ABSD with a 50 per cent surcharge, unless you have a sound commercial basis or convincing reasons for executing the belated step down in such a short period,” said Professor Phua.


4. Seven out of 10 companies are ready to move expat staff out of Singapore

cbd singapore skyline river

A survey by the European Chamber of Commerce, Singapore (EuroCham) showed that half of expatriates in Singapore have been affected by the rising rental rates, while around seven out of 10 businesses are prepared to relocate out of the city-state if there is no relief from operating costs.

The report warned that the situation is “not sustainable”, and that Singapore may lose its attractiveness to foreign firms if the government does not intervene.

“This is the first time in the past 10 years where companies have expressed a readiness to leave Singapore should rental prices increase,” EuroCham President Federico Donato told TODAY.

The survey found that 62% of employees received less than $1,500 per month or nothing at all from their firms to offset the rental hikes.

Moreover, 97% of the firms polled indicated that their employees were experiencing anxiety and psychological distress due to skyrocketing housing rents.

Aside from rental costs, companies here in Singapore also face other challenges such as rising travel and shipping costs.

“EuroCham and the other chambers and member companies hope that the Government can intervene in the housing market to drive down the prices of rent, or implement a price ceiling,” said Donato.


5. Bin Tong Park detached house on sale for $22.88 million

A detached house at 39 Bin Tong Park in District 10 has been put up for sale for $22.88 million, revealed Huttons Asia.

The freehold property, which was built in 2018, occupies a 9,170 sq ft site and has a total built-up area of around 8,200 sq ft.

Huttons Asia’s Senior Division Director Aric Lim describes the property – which is located within the Bin Tong Park Good Class Bungalow area (GCBA) – as the perfect family home, with its “open-concept living hall and dining area that provide ample space for hosting friends and family”.

He pointed out that the dining area overlooks a 22m pool, perfect for poolside parties and gatherings.

It is also near various schools including Hwa Chong International School, Nanyang Primary School, and St Margaret’s Secondary School, while the Orchard Road shopping district is just a short drive away.


6. Tenants weigh in on the benefits of the Joint Singles Scheme Operation Run Pilot (JSS-OR) scheme


The JSS-OR, a housing scheme for lower-income singles, has come under the spotlight recently, amid reports of squabbling flatmates and a criminal case involving co-tenants.

But while tenants acknowledge the challenges of having to live with a stranger, they said the scheme offers a “good opportunity” for low-income singles to have a proper shelter and focus on improving their finances.

One of the tenants, Tan Feng Ann, said the best part of the scheme is having an on-site operator that can immediately extend assistance in case of fights and disagreements.

The majority of the tenants interviewed by TODAY said they can co-exist with their flatmates even as they don’t see eye to eye always, noting that arguments and disagreement are part of living with strangers.

They pointed out that having a shared understanding and consideration for one another is crucial.

One of the tenants said he would still choose the scheme over the new HDB scheme where tenants get to have their bedroom.

“Why live alone? If you faint, nobody will know. When there are two of you, you can take care of and look out for each other,” he said.

Related article: HDB Single Scheme and Joint Singles Scheme: Guide to Buying HDB Flat As a Single in Singapore


7. Tight rental market fuels rental scams

news scam thestar

The hot rental market in Singapore saw scammers taking advantage of desperate people seeking a place to rent, reported The Straits Times.

Police revealed that at least 305 people have been scammed by bogus property agents since January, with victims losing over $1.7 million.

The scammers convinced their victims to pay a certain amount of money to secure a rental property even before viewing it, saying a throng of people are also interested in the unit.

“He said if I could transfer the money – $900 deposit and $900 as the first month’s rent – and sign the tenancy agreement, then the unit was secured and we could arrange for a viewing,” shared Joelle Wang, who saw the listing on Carousell.

Police said they have arrested 13 people for their alleged involvement in 480 rental scams, while a 48 year-old woman was convicted in October 2022.

Despite the police’s efforts, some have become wary of the rental market and decided to rent elsewhere.

Joel, who lost $2,800 to scammers, now rents a studio apartment in Johor Bahru. “Renting in JB is the only reasonable option, despite having to travel back and forth for the majority of a week,” said the law student.


8. 950,000 HDB households to receive the first tranche of GST Voucher rebates in April 2023

About 950,000 Singaporeans living in HDB flats will receive their first quarterly tranche of Goods and Services Tax (GST) Voucher U-Save and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates in April.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said eligible households will get double their regular U-Save rebates in the financial year 2023.

This amounts to around eight to 10 months’ worth of utility bills for average households living in 1- and 2-room HDB flats.

For those staying in 3- and 4-room HDB flats, this is equivalent to about four to six months’ worth of utility bills.

The rebate for S&CC, on the other hand, ranges from 1.5 months to 3.5 months.

MOF noted that households whose members own more than one property are not eligible for U-Save.


9. Singapore is among the top cities for ultra-prime residential sales

condominiums in sentosa cove

Singapore was listed among the top 10 cities for ultra-prime residential transactions, reported Singapore Business Review citing Knight Frank.

Ultra-prime residential properties are worth at least US$25 million (S$33 million).

Knight Frank’s The Wealth Report showed that Singapore had 18 ultra-prime residential transactions.

It followed London and New York, which registered 43 ultra-prime sales each, Los Angeles (39 ultra-prime sales), Hong Kong (28 ultra-prime sales), and Miami (23 ultra-prime sales).

Also included in the list are Palm Beach & Broward, which registered 18 ultra-prime sales, Geneva, with 16 such sales, Sydney (7), and Paris (6).

“2023 is turning into a pivotal year for real estate in the region. It is time to look beyond a year of ‘Permacrisis’ where wealth creation takes a turn this year,” said Christine Li, Knight Frank’s Head of Research for Asia Pacific.

She expects 45% of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in Asia Pacific to see increased wealth in 2023 compared to 25% last year.

“This optimism and confidence are driven by asset repricing, perceived value opportunities and an expected economic rebound in the Asia-Pacific region,” she added.


10. Golden Mile Tower to make second en bloc attempt at a lower price

Golden Mile Complex crop

Golden Mile Tower is set to be relaunched for en bloc sale on 7 April 2023, with the reserve price reduced to $600 million or $1,550 per sq ft per plot ratio (PSF ppr), reported The Business Times.

This comes after its first collective sale attempt at $650 million closed without a deal on 9 January 2023.

Located at 6001 Beach Road in District 7, the 99-year leasehold commercial development has a plot area of 8,727 sq m and a gross floor area of 38,953.72 sq m.

It features 408 strata lots, of which 251 are retail units and 152 are office units. There is also a car park and a cinema.

If the reserve price is met, owners of the retail units will receive $400,000 to $16 million each, depending on their units’ size.

Office unit owners will get between $587,000 and $13.5 million.

The second collective sale tender for Golden Mile Tower closes on 8 May 2023.


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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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