Analysis $3.1 Million Profit In 3 Years? Here’s How Condo Sub-Sales Have Been Performing
- Ryan J
- February 11, 2022
- 7 min read
With the introduction of Sellers Stamp Duty (SSD) years ago, the idea of rapid house-flipping has more or less petered out. But “rare” doesn’t mean “never” – and in the currently thriving property market, some sub-sales have managed to net a nice profit. Here’s a look at how condo sub-sales have fared, amid steadily rising prices:
Table Of Contents
What’s a condo sub-sale transaction?
A sub-sale refers to a unit that is bought from a developer, and then sold to another buyer before completion. For example, if you buy a new launch condo that will TOP in four years, but you sell the unit in the third year, this would be classified as a sub-sale.
An important consideration for sub-sales is the Sellers Stamp Duty (SSD). The SSD is paid from the sale proceeds, whenever a private property (new or resale) is sold within the first three years of initial purchase.
The SSD is currently 12 per cent for the first year, eight per cent for the second year, and four per cent for the third year.
There’s a common misconception that all sub-sales are out of desperation; such as buyers suddenly losing their income. While these cases do occur, it’s not true that sub-sales are all desperate fire sales; many are quite deliberate and can be profitable (see below). If anything, the demand for ready-to-move-in units has been strong, so much so that units close to TOP will naturally see buyers willing to pay higher prices.
Subsale units from 2017 onwards
Notable details of sub-sales to date
- Boulevard 88 saw the best gains for a subsale unit
- Biggest quantum gains from District 9, biggest percentage gains from District 19, 28
- Gains generally beat losses
- Most subsales involved smaller units
- Sub-sales in 2021 has been the highest since 2014
1. Boulevard 88 saw the best quantum gains for a sub-sale unit
A 2,777 sq. ft. unit at Boulevard 88 topped the charts for a sub-sale.
|Project||Price||Sale Date||District||Gain||Date||Annualised Return|
|Boulevard 88||$12.5m||12 Jan 22||10||$3.12m||6/6/19||11.48%|
|Martin Modern||$4.9m||11 Nov 21||9||$1.15m||21/7/17||6.29%|
|Martin Modern||$4.23m||11 Aug 21||9||$1.07m||21/7/17||7.33%|
|Martin Modern||$3.98m||24 May 21||9||$789,440||23/7/17||5.85%|
|Martin Modern||$3.66m||18 May 21||9||$764,016||30/7/17||6.26%|
|Grandeur Park Residences||$2.768m||16 Jul 21||16||$755,000||3/5/17||7.76%|
|Martin Modern||$3.7m||16 Dec 21||9||$753,433||21/7/17||5.23%|
|Martin Modern||$3.85m||19 Jan 22||9||$698,328||21/7/17||4.48%|
|Martin Modern||$2.9m||24 Sep 21||9||$651,920||23/7/17||6.20%|
|Martin Modern||$4.15m||22 Apr 21||9||$642,237||28/9/17||4.76%|
The unit was bought at around $9.38 million in June 2019. In January this year, it was resold at $12.5 million, making for a stunning gain of around $3.12 million (an annualised return of about 11.48 per cent). Although it must be said, this sub-sale was sold just below the 3-year mark and would have incurred an SSD of 4 per cent. Still, a very decent return indeed.
This sub-sale was, however, an outlier – much like Boulevard 88 itself. This is a small (154 units) luxury condo, located 10 minutes away from the Orchard MRT station (it’s the condo next to the Four Seasons Hotel). Its main claim to fame is its design that looks like a mini Marina Bay Sands (it is designed by the same architect, Moshe Safdie). With a rooftop infinity pool and Singapore’s first EDITION hotel attached to it, it’s undeniably one for the UHNWI crowd.
Given the buyer demographic for these properties, they probably didn’t quibble over the price. We’d guess there’s a strong attraction in that Boulevard 88 will TOP soon in 2023, making it a very short wait for a new Orchard Road condo.
2. Where are the biggest quantum and percentage gains?
As you might expect, overall the top gain in terms of quantum was mainly recorded in the premium districts. Of the top 10 quantum gains, 9 out of 10 were from Districts 9 and 10 (District 9 taking up 8 of those), with District 16 making a surprising entry in 6th place. This was a unit at Grandeur Park Residences, that was bought at just over $2 million in May 2017, and resold in July 2021 at $2.7 million for a gain of $755,000.
Just as predictably, percentage gains were primarily from Districts 19 and 28 in the North East Region of Singapore. The top 9 was between Watertown condo and High Park Residences, with a percentage gain ranging from 37 to 40 per cent for the top 10 transactions.
3. Gains generally beat losses
We can see how strong the property market has been, in that – even with sub-sale units that may have incurred added stamp duties – gains were much higher than losses.
In every district except 2 (Chinatown, Raffles Place) and 10 (Bukit Timah, Holland V), gains were higher than losses.
In District 28 (Seletar, Yio Chu Kang), the unusually high gains were due to High Park Residences, a condo completed in 2019. This is a mega-development (1,390 units), with some units being as small as 398 sq. ft. The very low quantum (in some cases below $560,000) was a huge draw.
Quite notably, High Park Residences saw 32 sub-sale transactions just before completion in 2019; these could be a combination of investors seeking rental gains, hence they bought closer to completion (investors who focus on rental don’t like to buy too early, as there’s nothing to rent out until completion). Or families that have a tighter timeline to move into a home.
District 15 also saw notable sub-sale gains, at Seaside Residences. This 840 unit condo was completed just last year. As with High Park Residences, sub-sales were mostly smaller units; we do see the appeal of a prestigious District 15 address, where 506 sq. ft. units can still go for under $940,000.
4. Most sub-sales involved smaller units
The majority of sub-sale units seem to be in the 500+ to 700+ sq. ft. range, so most of them are one to two-bedder units. Subsale units exceeding 1,000+ sq. ft. are generally uncommon.
This may be because buyers of smaller units are often investors rather than pure home buyers. As such, they’re also the group that’s more willing to sell as soon as they can recognise a profit. Homebuyers, who tend to purchase larger three and four-bedders, usually mean to move in as owner-occupiers.
5. Sub-sales in 2021 has been the highest since 2014
With a total of 530 sub-sale transactions in 2021, it represents the highest number of sub-sale transactions since 2014’s tally of 561 units. This was also about half of the previous peak of sub-sale transactions in 2013 of 1,105 transactions.
Despite the relaxation of the Seller’s Stamp Duty from 4 years to 3 years and below, as well as the removal of the highest tier of 16 per cent SSD payable, the number of transactions has actually dropped steadily every year till last years boom. That said, it’s probably more due to the fact that there were fewer new launches for sale since 2017 was the start of the last en bloc cycle.
Sub-sales could maintain their momentum, given the current property boom
Sub-sales tend to rise in number and profitability, during market peaks; this happens to be the case in 2021.
In fact, we suspect that one contributor to new cooling measures was the gradually rising pace of sub-sales; the government is quick to intervene before house-flipping takes off, as we saw in ’08 that it leads to inflated home prices.
In 2022, there’s also an added incentive for sub-sales: Covid-19 has resulted in significant construction delays. Homebuyers, who need to move in urgently, are inclined to purchase units that are near the point of completion.
This usually means buying around the third year, at which point the owner can raise the sale price to cover the four per cent SSD. Also, if the original owner happened to buy very early, the discounts may more than make up for the stamp duties they pay.
(For more on “early bird” property discounts, check out our article on how these work).
The increased ABSD from December’s new cooling measures could slow sub-sales; but the strong underlying demand makes it unlikely we’ll see a sharp dip anytime soon.