August 30, 2010

Singapore increased down payments for second mortgages and imposed a stamp duty on property held for less than three years to curb speculation after home prices surged 38 percent in the second quarter.

Buyers who hold more than one mortgage can only borrow up to 70 percent of a property’s value, versus 80 percent previously, and must pay 10 percent in cash, up from 5 percent, the government said in a statement today. A seller’s stamp duty will apply to all residential units and land sold within three years of purchase, from one year. The changes take effect today.

Previous Measures

The government in February said it will levy a seller’s stamp duty on all residential properties and land that are sold within one year from the date of purchase. The city-state then also lowered the loan-to-value limit to 80 percent from 90 percent for all housing loans provided by financial institutions regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The island nation’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday said previous measures failed to keep prices in check.

“We twice attempted to cool the property market, once last year and once in February this year, but the prices are still rising,” Lee said in a televised speech. “Our purpose is to make sure in the long term, Singaporeans can own their homes and afford it and it will be a gradually appreciating asset which will grow as Singapore grows.”

Singapore’s property market would form a bubble if the current momentum continued, Mah Bow Tan, Minister of National Development, said today after the measures.

Prices Surge

“The property market is currently very buoyant,” the government said in the latest statement. “The government’s objective is to ensure a stable and sustainable property market where prices move in line with economic fundamentals.”

Singapore private residential prices rose 38 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The island led 36 markets around the world in property- value changes last quarter, gaining 34 percent from a year earlier, according to the Global Property Guide in its survey of house prices.

Price levels have exceeded the historical peak in the second quarter of 1996, the government said today.

The government expects gross domestic product to grow 13 percent to 15 percent this year after the nation in 2009 exited its worst recession since independence 45 years ago.

‘Severe Implications’

“Should economic growth falter and the market corrects, property buyers could face capital losses, with implications on their own finances and the economy as a whole,” the government said. “Moreover, the current low global interest rate environment will not continue indefinitely, and higher interest rates could have severe implications for buyers who have overextended themselves.”