Waiting game for property buyers

Challenging year ahead seen for secondary residential properties

It will continue to be challenging in 2009 for the secondary residential property market as buyers continue to adopt a wait-and-see stance on property purchases due to the global economic slowdown, property experts said.

The degree of softening in property sales would depend on the severity of the economic downturn next year, they said.

Regroup Associates Sdn Bhd executive director Paul Khong acknowledged that the secondary residential property market has been quite slow as potential buyers have been holding off decisions on house purchases.

“This has significantly impacted the property market especially in the current quarter,” he told StarBiz.

“The quiet period is expected to continue through to the first quarter of 2009 after all the holidays are over.”

S.K. Brothers Realty (M) Sdn Bhd general manager Chan Ai Cheng said buyer sentiment had taken a beating due to the current economic uncertainties.

“It’s a waiting game for buyers. There are even ‘aborted’ cases where buyers have placed an earnest deposit to purchase a property and subsequently pulled out from the transaction, in the hope that prices will come down further or in search of fire-sales while others are uncertain of their job stability and postponing the purchase commitment,” she said.

Nevertheless, Hartamas Real Estate Sdn Bhd managing director Eric Lim is anticipating stable to moderate growth due to bargain hunting in certain segments of the secondary property market, especially landed residential property.

“(However) the market for properties that are purchased for investment and speculation will be slower,” he acknowledged.

The agency experienced a 20% to 30% drop in sales in the second half of the year versus the corresponding period of 2007.

“This is quite substantial for us. Sentiment is still not good,” Lim noted.

CH Williams Talhar & Wong Sdn Bhd managing director Goh Tian Sui concurred.

“The last two to three months have been quite bad – enquiries and sales activities have dropped. Owners are more open to negotiations in pricing,” he said.

The prices of certain secondary residential properties could also face more pressure next year due to a lack of demand and an increase in supply of completed projects.

Citing an example, Regroup’s Khong said the situation for high-end condominiums in the KLCC and Mont Kiara areas were getting critical and there would be more pressure on rental and capital values as many of the projects in the vicinity would be completed within the next one or two years.

“Supply will be mounting on a monthly basis as demand continues to be low and this will eventually translate into lower capital values and rental.

“An easy 15% to 20% shed in values are envisaged for this sector generally,” Khong said.

The asking prices for middle-class residential properties in general, for example, terrace houses in good locations such as Sri Hartamas, Bandar Utama and even Taman Tun Dr Ismail, had already been adjusted 5% to 10% lower to reflect current market conditions, Khong said.

Khong & Jaafar Sdn Bhd managing director Elvin Fernandez noted that prices of high density condominiums with a low occupancy rate in not-so-choice locations were about 10% lower now compared with a year ago.

“Although prices have softened, it is still difficult to sell such properties,” he said. - By Elaine Ang and Rachael Kam (The Star)

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