As Singapore's property market continues to reach new heights, investors are eyeing Malaysia as a potential alternative. But is it the answer to Singapore's escalating property prices? Let us find out.
By Khalil Adis
Singapore's property market has been making waves, with both the HDB and private property sectors hitting record highs in their price indexes.
This surge in prices has prompted investors and homebuyers to search for alternatives and Malaysia has emerged as a popular choice.
However, before you pack your bags and head south, let us dive into whether Malaysia truly offers a viable solution to Singapore's escalating property prices.
The latest data from the Housing & Development Board (HDB) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) paints an intriguing picture.
The HDB Resale Price Index (RPI) and Private Property Index (PPI) for the first quarter of 2023 reached unprecedented levels of 173.6 points and 194.8 points, respectively.
These figures indicate a strong demand for properties in Singapore, driving prices to new heights.
Analysts say they are witnessing resale transactions decreasing from April to March 2023, which could explain the marginal increase in the RPI.
“In April 2023, HDB resale volumes decreased month-on-month by 4.3 per cent, following a 23.7 per cent surge in transaction activities in March,” said Luqman Hakim, chief data & analytics officer at 99.co..
But it is not just rising property prices that pose a concern.
Rental rates have also skyrocketed, leaving tenants grappling with the search for affordable accommodations.
Take, for instance, Marwani (not her real name), a landlord in Jurong West, who witnessed the rental price of her 4-room flat soar from $1,750 per month in 2021 to a staggering $3,500 per month in 2023—an almost 200 per cent increase!
“I am lucky that my tenants have continued to stay on despite the steep increase in rental,” said Marwani.
Her agent was the one who negotiated the lease renewal.
The private property rental market also experienced a steep climb, with a 7.2 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2023.
These exorbitant prices and soaring rentals have left many individuals, like Edward (not his real name), a tenant in Singapore, seriously considering buying a resale HDB flat as a more financially viable option.
“I signed a 2-year lease which had averted a rental hike. However, I am pretty sure it will go up next year,” said Edward who lives close to the city centre.
Edward believes that owning property might be more cost-effective in the long run, particularly with the prospect of rising rents.
“It makes more financial sense to buy now rather than rent as I foresee it will be cheaper to pay my monthly mortgage should my rent increase,” he said.
Analysts have also observed this growing trend, noting that tenants are increasingly turning to purchasing resale flats amidst high rental prices.
“Resale prices increased by 1.1 per cent compared to March 2023, with 5-room flats rising the most at 1.9 per cent. It is possible that with rent prices remaining high, many tenants are opting to buy resale flats instead. Subsequently, with the revised ABSD rates from 27 April 2023 onwards, there is expectant pressure on rental demand (and prices), prompting spillover demand from tenants as they reinvest and buy HDB resale flats,” said Hakim.
With the demand for properties in Singapore remained robust, the government has stepped in to cool the market.
The recent increase in Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD), which affects second-timer Singaporeans and first-time foreign property owners, aims to rein in property speculation.
Push factor to Malaysia?
With 2-room HDB flats now hovering around the $300,000 mark and million dollar HDB flats becoming this norm, could this push potential biuyers to Malaysia?
Yusoff (not his real name) is among one of the few Singaporeans who is packing his bags after recently selling his 2-room HDB flat in Woodlands for slightly above $300,000.
“My wife recently passed away while my relatives are all in Malaysia. It makes sense for me to retire there,” said Yusoff.
Indeed, the first quarter data of 2023 from HDB showed that such flats were transacted at a median price of $330,000, $325,000 and $315,000 in Punggol, Sembawang and Yishun respectively.
That is almost enough to buy a private property in Malaysia where the minimum purchase price in most states is at RM1 million, including in Johor.
However, not everyone is in the same predicament as Yusoff.
Edward, for instance, is staying put.
Despite these cooling measures, the idea of buying properties across the causeway in Malaysia may not be as enticing as it seems.
“There are many push factors such as the lack of liberal values in a predominantly Muslim country. Also, Malaysia appears to be unstable both politically and economically,” said Edward.
While the affordability factor in Malaysia's property market may initially catch the eye of potential buyers, it is worth noting that property overhang for residential properties continues to be a serious issue.
Johor, for instance, continues to be the leading state for residential overhang at 5,348 units, the third quarter of 2023 data from the National Property and Information Centre (NAPIC) showed.
This would put pressure on the secondary market causing investors to suffer a loss as in the case of Country Garden Danga Bay.
Additionally, concerns surrounding political and economic stability in Malaysia may deter investors who prioritise stability and predictability in their investments.
Ultimately, while the ABSD increase may lead some investors to explore opportunities outside of Singapore, it seems that the challenges and limitations associated with investing in Malaysia may outweigh the potential benefits.
As always, conducting thorough research and seeking expert advice before making any investment decisions is crucial.
So, is Malaysia truly the solution to escaping Singapore's soaring property prices?
The answer may not be as straightforward as it seems.
While Malaysia offers some advantages in terms of affordability, potential buyers need to carefully consider factors such as political stability and the severe oversupply issue which may impact their investment.
While recent official visits from both Singapore’s and Malaysia’s foreign ministers will see both sides committed to completing the Johor Bahru–Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS Link) and improve connectivity, more needs to be done to resolve its chronic property overhang.
An independent analysis from yours truly