Saturday, June 27, 2009

BTO: First-half auction sales top $72m

Business Times - 27 Jun 2009

First-half auction sales top $72m

Small investors have been active at recent sessions, with savvy bidders also making counter offers


A STRONG showing at auctions this week raised the tally for properties sold under the hammer in the first half-year to $72.4 million - just 13 per cent shy of the $83.7 million for the whole of last year, based on figures compiled by Colliers International. The second quarter of 2009 saw a total $54.5 million of auction deals after a quiet Q1, with $17.9 million.

The momentum is expected to continue. Colliers' deputy managing director and auctioneer Grace Ng predicts that full-year 2009 auction sales could exceed $160 million - almost twice the figure in 2008.

Jones Lang LaSalle, which yesterday conducted its last scheduled auction for Q2, saw four properties change hands for a total of $11.3 million. One was a 7,232 square foot vacant freehold plot in Fernhill Road that was sold for $6.4 million, working out to $632 per square foot (psf) of potential gross floor area. The Singaporean buyer is expected to develop the residential site, which can be built up to five storeys, for his family's use, according to JLL's head of auctions, Mok Sze Sze.

Another big-ticket item sold was a 12th floor unit in Leonie Towers, a freehold condo that is more than 30 years old. The 2,906 sq ft maisonette sold for $3.45 million or $1,187 psf of strata area. 'The buyer is a company. We held two viewings for the property over the past week, and it attracted around 70-80 parties,' Ms Mok said. The sheriff's sale was held to recover a debt owed by the owner to two individuals. There is also an oustanding mortgage on the asset.

Residential properties accounted for almost half of the $72.4 million of auction sales in the first half, followed by industrial properties, with a 19 per cent share, Colliers' analysis shows.

It noted that activity in the auction market picked up dramatically from late March, when the stock market rallied. 'Based on historical observations, property auctions have always been an accurate barometer of market confidence, and are usually swift in reflecting any changes in market sentiments,' the firm said.

Colliers also noted that 77 per cent of the 440 properties put up for auction in the first half were offered by their owners, leaving only a 23 per cent share for mortgagee sales. 'Historically, from 1998 to 2006, the number of mortgagee properties always tended to be higher than the number of properties put up by owners. The trend started to reverse in 2007,' said Colliers' Ms Ng.

DTZ senior director and auctioneer Shaun Poh has noticed keen participation by property investors at his firm's recent auctions. 'Small investors are particularly aggressive in bidding for smallish apartments in the central area, for example, Icon, The Clift, even an old development like International Plaza,' he said. 'Generally, properties priced between $700,000 and $1.3 million tend to move very fast.'

Knight Frank executive director Mary Sai, another veteran auctioneer, said that attendances, as well as success rates, at auctions have gone up markedly since April.

'However, there is a sense of caution among bidders. They don't want to be overly financially stretched,' she said. 'A clever move by some bidders now is to make a counter offer to the auctioneer's opening price. So they start within their comfort zone. Eventually, however, the bidding competition will draw out the true price level, often surpassing the opening price.'

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