How are rising real estate prices impacting the lives of Singaporeans and long-term residents? How have their dreams for the future been affected, what have they had to sacrifice, and how have they adjusted their lifestyles and living arrangements as a result?
The last couple of years have not been good for Singapore homebuyers and renters. A combination of factors – rising interest rates, construction delays and a housing shortage – has seen HDB apartments selling for as much as $1 million, and rental hikes of at least 20 per cent.
The latest government cooling measures, announced in September 2022, were designed to rein in skyrocketing property prices. The measures – which entailed a higher medium-term interest rate floor for bank and HDB housing loan eligibility, a reduction of Loan-to-Value limit for HDB housing loans from 85 to 80 per cent, and a 15-month wait for private property owners under 55 years old who want to purchase non-subsidised HDB resale flats – don’t seem to have helped much, with the property market expected to continue its bullish run in 2023, despite the gloomy global economic outlook.
This is 33-year-old Karen’s (not her real name) story, who has put off starting a family because of the rising prices:
“In 2019, my husband and I discussed getting married in 2022. We were both living in Woodlands with our respective families at the time, about five minutes from each other, so we thought it made sense to continue living there. We decided to buy a resale flat in Woodlands in 2021, and expected to have it move-in ready by the time we got married.
Our plan was to get a five-room flat. We spent ages talking about what it would look like, choosing colours and layouts, and so on. It was exciting to think that we would finally have our own place.
Getting a BTO (built-to-order) flat was out of the question, because the next BTO project in Woodlands wouldn’t be ready for another six years, which was too long for us to wait. Plus, we knew that BTO flats were substantially smaller than resale ones, and we really wanted a large-enough home so that we could host visitors and have enough rooms for our kids, once we were ready to have them.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, property prices went up exponentially, but we didn’t expect them to stay that way for long. How wrong we were. Prices continued to soar – right around the time we started house hunting too. We thought the prices and Cash Over Valuation were ridiculous. Before the pandemic, my friend bought a five-room HDB flat in Woodlands for $420,000. During the pandemic, her neighbour’s flat was listed for $570,000. And it just got worse from there, with 1,200 sq ft (111 sqm) flats in the area going for between $600,000 and $800,000 over the next several months.
My husband and I are heartbroken because we’ve had to put so many dreams on hold.
These weren’t even jumbo flats. Those were selling for over a million dollars! As we were first-time home buyers, the cooling measures announced last September – which we thought would benefit us – didn’t change anything.
Despite the crazy prices, my husband and I continued our search, genuinely believing that we’d soon find a property that suited our needs and budget.
However, we got tired of house-hunting about three months post-wedding, so we stopped looking altogether and decided to focus on our lives together, and our work and family commitments.
We are still applying for Sale of Balance (SBF) flats and hope that we will get lucky. So far, though, we’ve been rejected five times, which has been incredibly disappointing.
My husband and I are currently staying with my parents. I don’t know if property prices will return to what they were pre-pandemic, but while we’re staying with family and waiting for our flat, at least we have a chance to save money.
While we like living with my parents and they love having us around, my husband and I are heartbroken because we’ve had to put so many dreams on hold. We could be building our home, having dinner parties for friends, and starting a family right now. The whole house-hunting journey has also been physically and emotionally draining.
We didn’t think that getting a place would take this long. We’re still hopeful that our luck will change, but if the situation doesn’t improve for us soon, we may be forced to look for a place elsewhere on the island. And if we’re still house-hunting in two years, we may have to get a smaller flat – one that fits our budget.”
Read about how rising real estate prices have affected Nicole’s plans of staying in Singapore.
Text: Sasha Gonzales/HerWorld