I have cautioned people that we are likely to see a decline in prices of residential properties in the next few years. Unless we are sure that we are looking at an undervalued property, we should think again about passing that cheque to the agent. After all, it is a big financial commitment.
The government continues to make more land available for new residential developments. Already, there is a rising vacancy rate in non-landed private residential properties. This would likely worsen as more developments are completed in the next two years. We could have the perfect cocktail for a deep correction in the market if interest rates should head north come 2015.
We retain our negative view on the Singapore residential sector as we continue to see a rising threat of vacancy with an acceleration in physical completions in 2013-15.
Vacancy rates for non-landed private units had increased from 5.9% to 6.1% qoq in 3Q12 as take-up continued to lag physical completions. URA estimates that completions will rise from 16.1k units in 2013 to 23.1k units in 2015, 2-3x more than the historical average occupancy rate of 8k units per year.
We forecast that physical residential prices will fall by 5% by end-FY13, with vacancy rates for private units up from 6.1% currently to 7.2%. (CIMB, 11 Dec 12)
With industrial properties, the government has also made more land available in order to keep the cost of doing business down in Singapore. With investors channelling their funds into commercial and industrial properties due to cooling measures imposed on residential properties, prices of commercial and industrial spaces have sky rocketed.
In all areas, how much of the demand is, therefore, user demand? How much of the demand is from property investors and speculators? The end result is the same. Prices are pushed up which leads to more building. We don't need a degree in Economics to know that oversupply will bring down prices. People who bought at high prices should have deep pockets to avoid foreclosure.
So, how will my investments in industrial S-REITs be affected? They will not escape unscathed, for sure. This is where the quality of the management will be called into question. Quality of management?
For example, Saizen REIT has been able to maintain occupancy of 90% or so for their properties in Japan despite the difficult conditions and much lower occupancy levels of competing properties. I believe in their management's quality.
So, if the management is up to scratch, we could see above average occupancy levels even as more supply comes on stream. However, in a situation where there are many alternative offerings, to retain tenants, rental rates would probably come under pressure.
Although we could continue to see some yield compression in 2013 as money seeks out higher returns in industrial S-REITs, I would be surprised to see unit prices rising by more than 10 or 15% next year. If people ask me if this is still a good time to invest in industrial S-REITs, I would say it is still good if we are investing for income but, perhaps, not so good if we are looking for capital appreciation.
My two largest investments in industrial S-REITs are:
1. AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT
2. Sabana REIT
Of the two, I am more impressed with the former's management quality. AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT's management have renewed many tenancies ahead of time while Sabana REIT which has almost 48% of its tenancies expiring next year is slow to show results.
So, do we press the panic button? I think not. Sabana REIT would probably be able to renew most, if not all, of its expiring tenancies as the full impact of the new supply coming on stream would not be felt in the very short term. Nonetheless, the impression I get of a management that seem to be dragging their feet nags at me.
I have stayed positive on S-REITs for quite a while now. It is now prudent to turn more cautious on S-REITs although it is too early to turn negative.
(DBS Group Research, 6 Dec 12)
1. AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT: 2Q 2013.
2. Sabana REIT: 3Q 2012 DPU 2.34c.
3. Staying positive on S-REITs.
4. AK71's simple strategy.
5. REITs: When to buy?