2020 was an unprecedented year for many reasons; but one of the most significant came from the Circuit Breaker. During that time, Singaporeans were confined to their homes from April to late June. Even after that, it took a while before things started normalising in phases.
One of the lasting effects of this is the changed perspective on home ownership, and what we value in our residences. Indeed, we’re likely to feel the repercussions in the private property market, for many years to come. Here are some of the main ways things have changed; and it’s worth noting whether you’re a seller, buyer, or even a landlord.
One of the main differences between condos and HDB units is the sense of community. Most (but not all) condos tend to be more reserved in terms of resident participation – while there are flea markets, yoga classes, jogging groups, etc., condo residents mostly keep to themselves.
(Some may point out that this is even one of the advantages of living in condos or cluster housing; there’s a greater sense of privacy.)
During the Circuit Breaker however, many condos saw a greater communal shift. In condos like Costa Del Sol, for example, some home owners teamed up with their neighbouring unit. Only one person would go out to buy the food for both households at once; this minimised the logistical issues (you may remember how long the line was at many supermarkets, during the CB).
Some condos also saw more Whatsapp groups for item exchanges: as stores were closed and shipping was often delayed, many residents bought electronics and other appliances from each other, rather than shops. We have since seen many of these groups continue, even into phase three.
On the ground, many property managers have also noticed the residents’ children being more familiar with each other. This is likely because of study-from-home arrangements that carried on after the Circuit Breaker, which led to them seeing more of their neighbours than their regular school friends.
This has been an unexpected boon for condos, which have often been considered more isolated or cold with regard to community living (this is a common complaint of many who upgrade from HDB to condos, and discover that the sense of neighborliness is diminished).
This is relevant to those who rent out rooms, or rent out their units to multiple unrelated tenants (e.g. students).
Due to the CB, there has been a notable trend of tenants who now want to avoid room mates and tenants. This is probably because, during the CB period, they felt discomfort at being “kept in” with another room mate, or with being “trapped” 24/7 with the other tenants. This has led to fears of a repeat situation, in the event of a second wave of infections or future CBs.
As such, tenants who were previously fine with room mates are now more inclined toward single-bedders, or other properties that they can afford to fully rent out for themselves. This could provide a boost to compact units (510 square feet and below), or to dual-key units, in which one part of the unit is fully separated from the other.
It’s worth keeping in mind, if your investment strategy revolves around rental income.
There were no show flats open during Covid-19. And yet, property transactions still took place. This was thanks to home buyers turning toward virtual tours, rather than physical viewings. In fact, last year saw the first ever “virtual balloting”, with Forett @ Bukit Timah achieving 30 per cent of sales through digital balloting.
The CB, along with viewing restrictions afterward, have pushed the entire property market to adapt. Not only are buyers now comfortable with virtual tours, many real estate agencies have also set up the infrastructure needed for such services.
Going forward, this is likely to eliminate long queues under the sun, or having to jostle with big mobs of people at major launches (it’s too bad for those who used to sell queue spots though!)
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the demand for viewings for resale property. This is not likely to ever change, as buyers will need to ensure the property is well maintained (there is no defect-free period, unlike when you buy from a developer!)
If you want an expert eye to look over a resale property with you, do drop me a note – I have a background in construction and interiors, so I can help you spot the key maintenance issues you might face.
After the CB, one of the common sentiments is that good views are better treasured. When you need to spend almost three months at home, an unblocked view of the sea makes a big difference, compared to a view of the back of the next block!
There are some buyers who reason that they’ll “get tired of the view” eventually; or that they usually don’t look out the window. This may still be true. However, I think some home owners may now have changed their mind, after prolonged exposure to a dreary scene.
This has also led to…
Many buyers tend to assume that “higher is better”. This is for both the silence, and the better chances of an unblocked view. However, the CB has also increased appreciation for ground floor units.
While the view is seldom as good, ground floor units often tend to be larger. Some condos also allow for ground floor units to have patios, which extend close to landscaped areas. This provided a sense of the outdoors and “breathing room”, to families kept in during the CB. Some home owners have even mentioned that they began to appreciate the sounds of more life on the ground floor, as opposed to the empty silences from high floor living (which can turn from peaceful to a little depressing, if you’re staying there for months).
Perhaps one of the biggest boons to ground floor residents come from the ease of food delivery and groceries – they never had to wait for delivery people to go up and down the lifts, which were quite packed at lunch and dinner times.
WFH didn’t end with the CB. Many companies have now seen remote work, or WFH, as an ongoing and cost-saving possibility. Indeed, it’s often a win-win situation on both sides (the company doesn’t need to rent a bigger office, and employees save on transport and have more family time).
As WFH grows more popular, tenants and home owners alike will be less attached to the idea of having to live near the CBD, or being within one kilometre of their work place. Now I’m not saying everyone will stop caring about this; just that it may go from being a mandatory requirement, to being just a general preference.
This could see lower premiums or rental rates, for properties that are close to the traditional CBD.
More than anything, the CB and subsequent phases have proven the merits of integrated developments to many home owners. These are developments such as the upcoming Woodleigh Residences, or existing developments like DUO Residences.
There’s incredible convenience in having eateries, or sometimes even a supermarket, attached to your property. It lowers the cost of food and grocery when you don’t need delivery; and it reduces the amount of time you have to spend travelling (during which there’s greater risk of exposure).
As such, it’s unsurprising that we’re seeing more interest in such developments.
In 2021 and the coming years, we may see a host of “new norms” emerging in the Singapore property market; from the impact of WFH arrangements, to increased demand for greater square footage, and interest in dual-key layouts.
I’ll be examining each trend in detail as it emerges, so do follow me on Ron Chong Property.sg so I can keep you updated.