Speculators may turn to commercial property

20130119-st-speculators-may-turn-to-commercial-property-pic BUYER interest in commercial property is growing in the wake of last week's cooling measures, which included curbs on red-hot industrial property.

Experts said commercial property, as yet untouched by any of the seven rounds of cooling measures, could become the new target segment of speculators.

All eyes are now on upcoming launches of office and retail space, which analysts said could be oversubscribed.

The industrial cooling measures consist of a seller's stamp duty, imposed for the first time on the sector.

It ranges from 5 to 15 per cent and applies to industrial property or land sold within three years of purchase.

This is meant to dampen speculative activity in the industrial segment, where prices have doubled over the past three years.

But analysts suggested this was like plugging a leak only to have another spring up.

"I'm worried about the impact on the commercial segment," said Mr Roy Chong, head of business space at PropNex.

He noted that when the Government capped industrial leases at 30 years in a bid to make them more affordable for genuine industrialists, prices of 60-year leasehold industrial properties shot up.

This time round, the seller's stamp duty for industrial property could drive speculative activity into other sectors, notably commercial and retail, analysts said.

"Investors would most likely turn to commercial, retail, and possibly shophouses, for which the authorities have not imposed any cooling measures," said Mr Tan Boon Leong, executive director of industrial services at Colliers International.

The heightened interest could result in sellers of commercial or retail space raising their asking prices by between 5 and 10 per cent, Mr Tan said.

SLP International research director Nicholas Mak told The Straits Times his agency had received more enquiries over the past week about resale commercial units, though there was no indication yet on whether that would translate into real demand.

Knight Frank senior manager Alice Tan noted that prices of strata offices are holding firm in spite of the softer rental market.

This can be seen in the healthy take-up rate of strata offices in launches such as PS100 in Tanjong Pagar, Paya Lebar Square and the upcoming SBF Center in Robinson Road, Ms Tan said.

Consultants said the level of buyer interest in the launch of SBF Center as well as that of upcoming Alexandra Central will be a good indicator of whether demand has shifted towards the commercial segment.

SBF Center, developed by Far East Organization, is next to Capital Tower and is expected to launch early next month.

Alexandra Central is a 99-year leasehold mixed development by Chip Eng Seng, located next to Ikea on Alexandra Road. It is expected to launch within the next few weeks.

Chip Eng Seng's property development and investment arm CEL Development paid $189 million for the 85,517 sq ft site in December 2011. This works out to $789 psf per plot ratio.

The strata shop units at Alexandra Central are likely to be $5,000 to $7,000 psf while strata office units at SBF Center are likely to go for $2,400 psf or above, according to The Edge magazine.

Overall, DWG senior manager Lee Sze Teck expects strata office space prices to climb as much as 10 per cent this year, though he said the prices of retail space could remain flat due to uncertain market conditions.

Source: Straits Times, 19 Jan 2013