Broadly, an asset is defined as an item or property of value that is expected to provide a future benefit. An asset bubble is formed when the price of an asset increases well beyond its intrinsic value that the asset is unable to sustain. Meaning that owners of that asset get much below the return on investment (ROI) than the money invested.
An Asset bubble burst results in a massive drop in the value of the asset, wiping out the investments of individuals in those assets. Generally, an asset bubble burst like the ‘subprime mortgage crisis in the United States’ causes wiping out of the wealth of a large number of individuals, debt crisis, massive unemployment, and negative growth of the economy.
But are we in a property bubble and is it ready to bubble? Lets look into the crystal ball and see if we can find the answers.
Singapore Property Analysis for Bubble Burst
We analyze how Singapore’s Private Property may or may not be in a bubble ready to burst.
The first graph exhibits the price trend over the last 5 years, whereas the second graph exhibits the price trend over the past 25 Years.
Since 2017, Singapore’s Private Property has not witnessed a major spike in price. According to Urban Development Authority, in 2018, the prices increased by 7.9%, in 2019 by 2.7%, in 2020 by 2.2%, and by 4% in the first half of 2021. Hence, the trend exhibits a steady growth instead of spikes, which can be witnessed over the period of 25 years in Singapore.
The last time Singapore’s property market witnessed a downward trend was in 2013, and (as exhibited in the second graph) it was a period of slow deflation over 4 years (till 2017) instead of a rapid decline. Therefore, the trends do not forecast the making of an asset bubble.
Nature of Property Prices
As the price of any commodity in the global market, the price of private property in Singapore is also cyclical in nature. Looking at the second graph again, the prices are gradually increasing in a cyclical nature. It is important to note that we are slightly higher than the all-time high in 2013.
Also, in case the prices of the properties fall in the future, this would not necessarily indicate a bubble burst but just the prices following a cyclical trend.
Remember when we said the asset becomes a bubble when it does not give the ROI to its owners. Rental income on landed properties is an essential source of ROI on the properties. The graph below shows that since 2020, the rents have been starting to grow, although at a slow pace. Hence, the ROI on landed properties may be able to sustain the price increase.
The graph above exhibits that Singapore is experiencing one of the lowest interest rates in history. The interest rate clocked at 0.44% for the second quarter of 2021.
The outlook for the future interest rate remains lower on account of the existence of the Covid-19 pandemic. While the pandemic hampers growth in the economy through a lockdown and other measures, governments around the world reduce interest rates to alleviate the effect of the pandemic. With the existence of Covid, particularly the delta variant, the interest rate is expected to remain lower.
A lower interest rate means mortgages are easily available, and hence, the demand remains strong.
There is a very meager inventory of houses available in Singapore currently. As per the Urban Development Authority (URA), there are 47,097 sites of private property that are under construction or planned till 2025. This figure and the graph signal an alarming shortage of houses in Singapore in the foreseeable future.
Moreover, the covid-19 also badly impacts the construction industry of the country. The construction costs are rising on account of the increased medical benefits of the workers, worker absenteeism, and strict rules of social distancing at the construction sites, etc. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the supply of houses will remain sluggish and thus supporting higher prices.
Quality of Living Space
The Covid-19 pandemic has fueled the trend of the shift to better households due to the stay-at-home restrictions. Many residents prefer larger homes for work from home offices and staying at home for activities like exercising.
According to the 2020 census, the average family size in Singapore has fallen to 3.2 people in 2020 from 3.5 people in 2010. At the same time, agreeing to the Populace Census 2020, more Singaporeans are choosing to live in private properties. In 2020, 16.0% of inhabitants lived in condominiums and other lofts, compared to as it were 11.5% of individuals in 2010. Another factor that leads to increased demand for housing.
Market Outlook after the Pandemic
According to Oxford University, Singapore has an unprecedented 78.6% of the population fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The statistics and rising vaccination rates across the globe beg the question; what will the property outlook be after the covid-19 pandemic is considerably subdued?
Without covid-19 restrictions, developers can accelerate the housing projects and invest in new ones as it would drastically reduce their costs associated with construction. Moreover, the end of the pandemic will signal a positive economic outlook for the country, and hence the developers will be encouraged to add more projects to their portfolio this increasing the supply side.
The global trend to shift to better homes fueled by stay-at-home policies may also reverse when the need for large houses reduces and residents may prefer moving to smaller houses in order to reduce their monthly financial outflows.
The government of Singapore have in the past implemented some ‘cooling down’ measures to reduce the demand for new houses. These include additional buyers’ stamp duty (additional charge for buyers of multiple homes), and Sellers Stamp Duty (regulating holding period), etc. Some financing regulations were also implemented over the past decade, like Loan to Value Ratio, Total debt servicing ratio, and mortgage servicing ratio.
These measure led to a significant cooling in demand as it strictly hampers trading through measures like minimum occupation period (MOP) and restricts ownership of multiple properties.
It is crucial to note that these factors can lead to easing an asset bubble (in case we are in one), or it may also cause a drastic reduction in prices.
But as a ‘possible’ event of this sorts, it is almost pre-empt. We can only react accordingly should it happen again but until then, we have what we already Now know.
No one can know for sure if Singapore’s property is in an Asset Bubble. It is crucial to keep a keen eye on the fundamentals and forecast of the factors discussed in the article. However, in our opinion, most of the factors support a price increase in the foreseeable future.