Alex Zou joined about 100 Singaporeans who packed shoulder-to-shoulder into an auction at the Amara Hotel on a Friday afternoon looking for a cheap home to buy.
The bargain hunters who stuffed themselves into the 50-seat conference room are another sign of the decline of Singapore’s housing market. After five years of price gains, values are falling and defaults are rising following government measures to curb lending and a decline in the number of foreign buyers. Banks auctioned 118 repossessed homes last year, about 10 times the number in 2013, said Mok Sze Sze, head of Singapore auctions at broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.
As the auctioneer at the hotel bellowed apartment prices and scanned the room for bidders, Zou held back in anticipation of better deals later this year. “I have been coming to these auctions hoping to find a bargain,” Zou, 50, said. “Hopefully prices will fall more.” During the housing boom in Singapore, prices soared 40 percent to a record in 2013, spurred by low interest rates and demand from foreign buyers. As prices peaked, the government capped borrowers’ total debt repayments at 60 percent of their income, making it harder for Singaporeans to refinance loans, and placed additional taxes on home purchases by foreigners and levies on property sales.