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2023 Property Market: Top 5 news that rocked the Singapore market

What a year! 2023 took us on a rollercoaster ride in Singapore's real estate market, with several surprising regulations and significant shifts that will affect our housing market for years to come. At ThreeStoreys, we've compiled our top 5 news topics that we think created the most stir this year.

#1: First time HDB buyers rejoice with higher grants

Admist the rising housing prices, the government announced higher grants for first-time buyers of resale HDB flats. This little bonus brings about a much needed support and encourages homeownership, especially for younger couples who have the greatest need.

How it could affect you:

Great news if you're a first-timer who have not taken HDB's subsidy! You’ll now have higher government subsidy to offset your housing purchase! More money for reno then?

#2: Foreigners getting the cold shoulder with 2023’s Cooling Measures

The most shocking 2023 news award goes to... the doubling of Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) for foreigners - from 30% to 60%! This drastic measure announced on 27 April 2023, and kicked in immediately a day after, was on top of other milder ABSD increments for Singaporeans and PRs on their 2nd and 3rd properties, and for properties bought on trust.

How it could affect you:

If you currently own or are looking to purchase a property that was typically more popular amongst foreigners, the demand/prices might remain more stagnant for now. If you're a foreigner... you might have to revise your plans a little. And if you're looking to own your 2nd or 3rd property, you might need to prepare extra ka-ching.

#3: Aligning BCA, URA, SCDF, and SLA with the harmonization of GFA (yes, what an alphabet soup)

All these acronyms confusing you?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Before this regulation, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) adopted different ways of calculating Gross Floor Area (GFA). Not many people knew that, but it affected how developers were charged and can charge (buyers).

While this harmonization was first announced in 2022, it fully kicked in after June 2023. We won’t go into the specifics (you can read it here), but the TLDR is that the total area that developers can sell is now smaller. The further implication is that developers will likely lower their land bid price as a result of their lower profit margin - something that we're already seeing in the recent government land sales (GLS).

How it could affect you:

If you’re evaluating new launches based on their land bid or estimated break even prices, be sure to factor a profit buffer for purchase before and after this new regulation. Developers now need a higher selling price to earn the same margin. We might also see smaller air-con ledges - but ?

#4: The rise and fall of the predictably unpredictable interest rates 

One thing for sure - we started the year with rising interest rates on our minds, and are ending with it still on our minds.

Throughout the year, it seemed like a determined rock climber continuously on the ascend - until it seems like we reached the peak. Whilst the Feds have yet to make a decisive announcement at the point of writing, we started to see a glimmer of hope towards the tail end of the year as interest rates slowly began to creep down.

The common consensus is that interest rates can’t stay high for long - but the speed of interest rate cuts will definitely be something to watch next year.

How it could affect you:

If you’re looking for stable mortgage rates, fixed packages can now seem more attractive at the end of 2023. However if you, like many others, are predicting a fast decline in interest rate cuts, you might choose to hedge your bets on a floating rate.

Choosing between peaceful and predictable or high-risk high-reward is going to be an individualized decision to see what fits your the most.

#5: Rewriting the rules of HDB BTO: Plus, Prime, Standard.

From the 2H2024 onwards, say goodbye to the outdated "mature" and "non-mature", and hello to "Plus" and "Prime" flats!

Think of Prime as your most centrally located flats, and Plus as those around amenities like transport hub, whilst everything else becomes Standard. Prime and Plus housing comes with greater restrictions such as MOP duration, profit clawback, and even restrictions on the buyers income!

How it could affect you:

Only new BTO projects are affected, so those of you currently staying in a location that will be  classified as Plus/Prime - lucky you! You won’t be affected by the restrictions, so your flat will have a differentiation point. Those of you who are planning to BTO from H2 2024 onwards should be aware of the new restrictions that come in place!


And thats a wrap for 2023! As we head into 2024, we’ll certainly keep an eye out on how our local initiatives and the feds’ actions will affect our housing prices. 

Did we miss out any other news that is on your Top 5 list? Share with us below!


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