The root cause is the low interest rate. It gave the impression that the high property prices are still affordable. At an interest rate of 2% on a property of $500,000 payable over 30 years, the monthly installment looks affordable at $1,966 a month. If interest rate increases to 5%, which is a more realistic level, the monthly installment increases by 31% to $2,581. Many people cannot afford this type of increase on a tight budget. But, it will come. Low interest rate cannot continue forever.
Look at it from another angle. The property prices should have been 30% lower, to be realistic based on the affordability of the population. During a period of low interest rate, the property developers increase the price and their marketing approach was to convince the buyer that it is affordable. It took a while for the buyers to buy into this thinking. The foreign buyers enter into the picture and started to move the property market.
This is followed by the speculators who see the chance to make a big profit. They buy the properties at the prevailing prices and expect to make a big profit by flipping over the properties on resale. Their demand pushes up the price. More people jump into the fray. This is called the "greed" factor.
The next batch of buyers are from the genuine end users who buy the prices at inflated value because they were afraid that they would increase further and be out of their financial reach. They jumped in and accept the high prices. This is called the "fear" factor. This is how the low interest rate could increase the property prices by 30%.
The next level of increase comes from stretching the repayment period from the prudent level of 20 years to a more risky level of 30 years. It accounts for another 23% of increase. So, it is possible for the property prices to be 60% higher than the affordable level. The high property prices mean that most households are spending too much of their money on their homes, leaving less money for other types of spending and for their retirement.
Are high property prices sustainable? Just look at what happened to Japan 20 years ago. The crash of the property market put the economy in the doldrums for 20 years. Look at what is happening in America and UK today. They will suffer the same fate. Do you think that Singapore will be any diffferent?
Tan Kin Lian
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