Wed, Oct 12, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Housing market still flat amid global uncertainty

UP OR DOWN?While the volume of property transactions seems to have bottomed out, analysts say they do not foresee a return to major growth as there are too few catalysts

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff Reporter

Housing transactions remained flat in Taipei City last month, staying near the trough they set during the global financial crisis in 2009, as the “luxury tax” and growing economic uncertainty continued to weigh on the market, analysts said yesterday.

The number of home transfers totaled 3,506 units last month, rising 0.49 percent from August at 3,489, but down 22.11 percent from the same period last year, according to data released by the city government yesterday.

The figures sent mixed a message — while the volume appeared to have bottomed out, the market is unlikely to stage a strong comeback in the foreseeable future because of a lack of catalysts, analysts said.

“Home sales dropped below the 4,000 level for the third month running, a phenomenon that was not observed even during the economic downturn in 2009,” said Stanley Su (蘇啟榮), head researcher at Sinyi Realty Inc (信義房屋), the nation’s only listed broker.

Although the luxury tax and economic uncertainty have depressed home sales since March, sellers remain stiff-necked, Su said, attributing their refusal to lower prices to excess liquidity and low borrowing costs.

Homes priced between NT$10 million (US$329,511) and NT$20 million became the most popular real-estate products after speculators fled the market, while long-term investors opted to stay on the sidelines until the global economy shows more stability, Su said.

That explained why Wenshan District (文山) was more resistant to a volume correction last month as house prices costs there were relatively affordable, Su said.

Evertrust Rehouse Co (永慶房屋), the nation’s largest real-estate broker by number of outlets, expects housing transactions to stay flat this quarter in the absence of major catalysts.

“It is already a comfort that transactions stopped falling last month despite continued financial market turmoil,” Evertrust researcher Andy Huang (黃舒衛) said by telephone.

That suggested the market is finding its footing, thanks to low interest rates that may stay the same for quite some time, providing support for housing prices, Huang said.

Home costs averaged NT$598,500 per ping (3.3m2) in Taipei City last month, almost unchanged from NT$509,000 per ping one month earlier, Huang said.

The central bank kept the discount rate intact at 1.875 percent last month, ending five straight quarters of rate hikes mainly to curb soaring housing prices, Huang said.

H&B Realty (住商不動產), another leading housing broker, expects first-time home buyers to support the market in the coming months on the back of preferential mortgage terms.

Capital is likely to take refuge in US dollars and cash until the government makes its housing policy stance known, H&B spokeswoman Jessica Hsu (徐佳馨) said.

Both ruling and opposition parties have plugged tax reforms to make buying a house more affordable if they win the presidential election in January.

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