Singapore’s home sales jump 75% as online viewings take hold

SINGAPORE: Singapore home sales rebounded in May as more buyers got used to virtual real estate viewings with the city-state still under Covid-19 lockdown.

The number of new units sold jumped 75% to 486 last month, compared with just 277 in April, according to Urban Redevelopment Authority data released Monday. Still, sales for May were about 50% lower than a year earlier.

Following April’s dismal numbers, analysts had expected May’s transactions to plunge even lower as Singapore was still under a lockdown that’s halted viewings as people stay indoors.

“The daily bombardment of property webinars and agents sending out links of virtual tours could have reignited the interest of buyers who had visited sales galleries before the lockdown,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of research at Savills Plc.

“Given the movement restrictions, some might not have wanted to wait any longer to make a purchase and decided to do through the visuals provided,” he said.

In another sign Asia’s property markets are starting to recover from the economic shutdowns, home prices in China rose at the fastest pace in seven months in May, data released Monday showed.

The rebound was especially strong across the four biggest cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, which often precedes a wider recovery.

Existing home prices in the four megacities surged more than 1% for a second consecutive month, which hasn’t happened since the last market upswing in late 2016.

While Singapore has started to slowly ease the two-month lockdown, display units remain closed and viewings still aren’t allowed.

That has forced some developers to delay launching new projects. However, this could change by the end of the month as the city’s leaders plan to reopen the economy as community cases remain low.

Still, a proper recovery in sales can only be expected from July, analysts say.

Even as most economic activity could resume within weeks, limits may remain on the number of people allowed at public gatherings, such as showrooms.