Speculators believed may be taking advantage of easy financing
The jump in home prices lately has raised concern that speculators may be taking advantage of the easy home financing scheme.
Since the introduction of the scheme early last year, property sales have improved considerably while prices in some locations in the Klang Valley and Penang have edged up by between 10% and 20%.
Under the housing facility, buyers only need to fork out a small deposit of 5% or 10% of the property price and do not need to make any further payment until after their property has been delivered to them.
Developers are absorbing the stamp duty, legal fees and interest cost during the construction stage.
While some industry players agree that there is cause for concern, most feel the housing facility is still needed at least over the next 12 months until the market is back on a stronger footing.
Ireka Development Management Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Lim Ech Chan said easy-payment schemes had its pros and cons.
With the low entry cost, such schemes enabled those who have difficulties buying a house to put down the initial 5% or 10% downpayment and have their own roof over their heads two to three years later.
“When SP Setia first came out with the scheme, it helped the mass market a great deal,” Lim said.
He said the drawback was that since buyers did not have to pay anything for the next two to three years, they may sell their units when the project was completed.
“If the project is handed to them during a boom, they can sell it. But if the project is handed to them during a weak economic environment, they will have to pay for the mortgages.”
ECM Libra head of research Bernard Ching said the recent 25 basis point increase in overnight policy rate had prompted more buyers to buy and lock in at the current interest rates as they might expect the cost of fund to rise further.
“This is the best time to buy a property for own occupancy as entry cost is at an all time low. As seen in the high buying interest in the past six months, many buyers are buying to hedge against rising inflation down the road,” Ching told StarBiz.
According to Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector president James Wong, developers need to catch up with “lost time” when launches had to be deferred for more than a year as a result of the global financial crisis.
“Buyers were facing cashflow problems then and needed to watch their spending. Buying big-ticket items like a house is the last thing on their mind. There are merits in the scheme as it has lowered the entry cost and make house purchase more affordable for buyers.
“Such financing schemes require a lot of resources and only the big developers with strong financial resources can afford to adopt them. In a way, it is a variant of the build-then-sell concept,” Wong said.
He said there was still no risk of overheating in the market as the double-digit rise in property prices was registered only for very niche projects in very-sought-after locations where demand far surpassed supply.
“Property prices on the whole are still much lower compared with those in other countries. While there is still upside potential, prices will not spiral out of control,” Wong said.
Since buying interest recovered in the past few months, developers are no longer offering the housing facility across the board but only for selective projects.
“Besides, Bank Negara is very stringent and only eligible buyers who have the required minimum income level will be able to sign up for the housing packages,” Wong added.
On its downside, he said while the scheme might had drummed up sales, it could give the wrong indication of the real or effective demand for houses.
Admitting that there would always be speculators in the market, SP Setia Bhd president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin said as long as speculation was not rampant, it was actually good for the market as it demonstrated confidence and would improve market liquidity.
“The key is for banks to be vigilant in their credit assessment to determine the borrowers’ ability to service the loan. They should also be selective in terms of the projects and developers to whom they extend the scheme.”
Liew said the higher prices reflected insufficient supply to meet the strong demand for projects in good locations and there was ample room for further price appreciation for good landed residential property.
Since the scheme was launched early last year, SP Setia’s monthly sales averaged more than RM190mil between January and July 2009, which was a new sales benchmark for the company.
Mah Sing Group Bhd president Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said of the company’s RM727mil sales recorded last year, 51% of the buyers signed up for the easy financing facility. The sales was much higher than its target of RM453mil. - By ANGIE NG and THEAN LEE CHENG (The Star)