Declining commercial property investment volumes in Singapore, luxury residential properties still in demand and the embrace of remote working post-coronavirus. Colliers' thought-leaders weigh in on this week's property news highlights.
Singapore dropped out of the top 10 cities in commercial property investment volumes in the first quarter, with transactions plunging 78% year-on-year to US$432 million, according to Real Capital Analytics' (RCA) Asia-Pacific (APAC) Capital Trends report.
The steep drop was partly due to a high base as 2019 was a record year. The number of deals also fell significantly to just 13 deals for the quarter, representing a 32% decline from the previous year. Like the rest of the region, the volume of deals above US$250 million fell the sharpest, with only Hong Kong faring worse than Singapore, RCA noted in a press statement on Thursday.
David Green-Morgan, RCA's managing director of analytics for APAC, said: "Singapore saw high investment volumes in 2019 and despite the slowdown this quarter, it remains a global destination. It will see a further dip, but once yields cross a certain threshold, deal volumes should come back."
Jerome Wright, Senior Director of Capital Markets:
The decline in investment sales year-on-year (YOY) is expected, against the backdrop of the stellar commercial sales performance in 2019. The market is moving slow due to market uncertainty and inability to carry out physical inspections during this circuit breaker period.
However, we anticipate investment sales to pick up and are seeing positive signs from recent transactions such as AXA tower and the logistics facility in Jurong. Optimism is returning and with the strong fundamentals of the Singapore market, we expect the market to pick up in the next quarter.
Despite a plunge in sales of new homes in April, the very rich had no problem forking out for their favourite asset amid the circuit breaker.
There were five homes sold last month costing more than S$5 million each, the highest was a S$13.8 million unit at 15 Holland Hill.
Steven Tan, Senior Director of Capital Markets:
With every crisis come opportunities. There are many cash rich investors who are waiting for the right time to enter into the market. The recent sales could be a sign indicating investors’ perception that the market has reached the bottom, as the daily new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have shrunk.
As we are getting ready to enter Phase 1 with the safe re-opening of some activities, we will slowly see things getting back to normal. The government has been very proactive in the way it is handling the pandemic, and this will help keep the level of market confidence high.
Tricia Song, Director and Head of Research in Singapore:
We expect May’s sales to be lower than April, due to a full month of the circuit breaker measures. However, given that the community COVID-19 cases have improved to low single-digit recently, we see some light at end of the tunnel. Read our analysis of the URA home sales for April here.
An explosion in remote working owing to the coronavirus pandemic could see companies slash office space, saving them money but not necessarily improving productivity among staff, according to experts.
Businesses allowing staff to work from home on a permanent basis, even as lockdowns ease worldwide, calls into question the future of skyscrapers used by multinationals, which are seen as symbols of modern capitalism.
Major financial districts, such as London's Canary Wharf and La Defense in Paris, remain extremely quiet, even as governments lift restrictions on social distancing and travel by public transport.
Rick Thomas, Executive Director and Head of Occupier Services in Singapore:
There will certainly be a shift of mindset on the future of work post-coronavirus, and many key themes will emerge.
As occupiers look to rationalise their real estate space requirements in the short-term, they will look at adapting their real estate strategy to be aligned to their business model. They will be seeking cost efficiencies directed to the health and well-being of employees, by having better space utilisation.
Adoption and acceleration of remote working is here to stay, driven by easily accessible technology and collaboration tools.
Robust remote working policies will be implemented into organisations but finding the balance between company culture, collaboration and high productivity, will be key. The massive work-from-home shift presents the first real opportunity to measure productivity from remote working on a meaningful scale.
How this will impact occupiers' willingness to implement full-scale remote working in the future is very topical, however, we expect occupiers to consider Flex and Core™ strategies or split office locations, and incorporate sustainability and wellness measures.
Reassessment on the future of work and how the office is utilised will continue to evolve. Aspects of remote working will be incorporated into many occupiers' organisational strategy, but finding the "sweet spot" will require several iterations due to the changing dynamics on how staff wish to work.