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Tuesday September 27, 2011

Rehda finds hope in housing market outlook despite negatives

By FINTAN NG
fintan@thestar.com.my


KUALA LUMPUR: The Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association Malaysia (Rehda) is “cautiously optimistic” of the housing market outlook in the first half of next year despite a marked increase in building material and labour costs as well as a slowdown in economic activity.

A Rehda survey found that 41% of the developers who responded were optimistic of the first six months of 2012 compared with the second half of this year, where 48% said they were optimistic.

Most respondents in the survey said prices would likely rise by up to 20% in the second half of this year, with 47% of respondents planning to increase selling prices by at least 15%. The survey showed that launches in the period were equally split between strata-titled and landed properties.

Speakers at the Rehda update on the property market for the first half of the year said a number of factors, including government policies and the overall volatility of global capital markets, made developers cautious of the outlook.

Yam: ‘We appeal to the Government not to tinker too much with regulations concerning the industry as this will cause more uncertainty.’

The briefing also included the participation of RAM Holdings Bhd group chief economist Yeah Kim Leng, who gave an overall view of the global and local economies.

Rehda president Datuk Seri Michael Yam said the industry was concerned about how the local economy would be affected by external forces including the pressure on the sovereign debt ratings of Malaysia's developed market trading partners.

He said there were also concerns about the proposal to assess housing loans based on net income rather than gross income.

“We appeal to the Government not to tinker too much with regulations concerning the industry as this will cause more uncertainty,” Yam said.

Rehda KL chairman N.K. Tong said the more cautious outlook could be due to the timing as developers could not tell that far ahead how the property market would be performing.

“There's more uncertainty, so the respondents are not as optimistic compared with the second half of 2011, with the percentage of those who responded they were neutral on the outlook for the first half of 2012 rising to 39%,” he said.

Yam said that based on the survey findings, property launches of the second half of the year so far remained “business as usual” compared with the first half of the year where launches continued to be healthy with encouraging demand.

“Property prices have been rising partly due to the roll-out of Economic Transformation Programme projects,” he said, adding that the costs of building materials and labour continued to be major challenges for the industry.

Yam said although the 70% loan-to-value ratio for a third residential property purchase had had minimal impact, it was now taking from nine to 12 months to sell up to 70% of launched properties compared with before the imposition of the ruling.

Meanwhile, Yeah said that despite the evidence of weaker forward economic indicators, the economy was facing a slowdown and not a recession.

“However, this is on a baseline assumption that there will be no synchronised slowdown in the developed economies. If only one or two regions face a slowdown then the local economy will be able to sustain growth at the lower end of the Government's 5%-6% target,” he said.

Yeah said there would likely be more volatile fluctuations in the commodities and capital markets. “It will be prudent to factor into corporate planning that growth in the developed economies will be slow in the next three to five years while Asian economies will still be growing although growth have been revised downwards,” he added.

Yeah said that while banks had not tightened sufficiently in lending, there were expectations that they would be more selective going forward. “A few indicators suggest that we're still relatively resilient in terms of consumption with non-residential loans still very strong,” he said.

Yeah said rising household debt levels remained a concern as it could expose households to further shocks and systemic problems.

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