Bad weather sees mixed month for house brokers

CLOUDY OUTLOOK::Last month’s flat home deal figures darkened the sector’s forecast for this year, with a lot of buyers likely to stay on the sidelines in the coming weeks

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jan 01, 2014 - Page 13

Major housing brokers yesterday reported mixed transactions for last month, as relocation and asset allocation demand remained healthy, although cold, wet weather sidelined some prospective buyers.

The trend has cast a shadow over the housing market for this year, as sellers and buyers are assimilating the upcoming tapering of the US’ quantitative easing, as well as local and global economic outlooks.

Sinyi Realty Inc (信義房屋), the nation’s only listed broker, recorded flat home deals last month compared with November, missing an earlier forecast of monthly gains driven by the traditional high season.

“Home trading stayed flat in December from November, as low temperatures dampened buying interest,” Sinyi researcher Tseng Chin-der (曾進德) said.

However, real demand averted a decline to prop up housing prices, the analyst said.

Housing prices increased 12 percent year-on-year to NT$686,000 (US$22,843) per ping (3.3m2) in Taipei last year, gained 14 percent in New Taipei City (新北市) and picked up more than 20 percent in central and southern Taiwan, Tseng said, attributing the price gap to relative affordability.

Evertrust Rehouse Co (永慶房屋), the nation’s largest real-estate agency by number of offices, reported softer sales last month, when transactions dropped by double digits in major municipalities.

Home deals retreated by 20 percent in the capital city, declined 15 percent in Greater Taichung and fell 12 percent in Greater Kaohsiung, Evertrust spokesman Andy Huang (黃舒衛) said.

Apart from the disagreeable weather, market expectations of interest rate hikes next year resulting from the US’ tapering announcement also sidelined some potential buyers, Huang said.

The central bank on Thursday last week retained its policy interest rates unchanged for the 10th consecutive quarter, amid the nation’s weak economic growth and muted price pressure.

Even so, relocation needs drove more than 30 percent of transactions in Taipei last month, followed by asset allocation moves and first-time ownership, Evertrust found.

First-time buyers accounted for a bigger share of trading in central and southern Taiwan because housing prices are lower in those areas, Huang said.

H&B Realty Co (住商不動產), the nation’s largest broker by number of franchises, reported a 5.6 percent decline in trading last month from November that it attributed to a widening gap in home prices between sellers and buyers.

Concerns over revitalized government efforts to fight tax evasion linked to property gains also weighed on the market, H&B head researcher Jessica Hsu (徐佳馨) said.

Hsu expects there will be a lot of room for price concession this year, since supply is building up.

Taiwan Realty Co (台灣房屋), another major broker, saw transactions grow 7.16 percent across the country, thanks to unflagging housing demand in Taoyuan, which is to be upgraded to a special municipality in December, company researcher Sarah Liu (劉怡蓉) said.

Liu expects transactions to slow next month, as many buyers postpone purchasing decisions until after the Lunar New Year holiday.