PROPERTY agents do not like it that show galleries will remain closed until further notice, but are taking it on the chin.

Developers and agents are thus continuing with the virtual way of marketing and closing property sales during the first phase of the reopening of Singapore’s economy.

An advisory from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has informed developers that show galleries will have to stay closed come June 2, when the economy starts its phased reopening.

Under the first of three phases of this “safe reopening” from June 2, economic activities that do not pose a high risk of Covid-19 transmission may resume. Economic, social and entertainment activities that carry higher risk will stay closed, and everyone will continue to leave home only for essential activities.

“Hence, all show galleries set up by developers to market and sell their properties shall remain closed until further notice,” said the advisory.

Agent still cannot meet clients face to face, though they may do so where the clients’ physical presence is legally required to complete a transaction – but this meeting must be held in the office of the real estate company.

This restriction means resale transactions are also out, since agents cannot meet clients to view the property.

Emily Eng, executive director in charge of residential projects at OrangeTee & Tie, said, however, that developers and agents are adapting well to the new norms of marketing real estate, especially for the primary market. She noted that even before Covid-19 hit, many developers had created virtual tours for their show flats, but these were mainly used to present the properties to overseas buyers who cannot visit in person.

“These virtual tours now come in very handy,” she said.

Developers sold 277 new private homes in April, a dive of 58 per cent from 660 in March. PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor has said he is confident that 200 units can be sold this month, as long as they are priced right.

Some agents note that many buyers of the past six weeks would having actually seen the project before the show rooms closed on April 7, but they had not committed to buying then, said Eugene Lim, key executive officer at ERA Realty Network.

He is concerned that virtual marketing of properties will not take off in a big way, given that most buyers still want to see a show flat.

That said, ERA has had one customer who bought a unit without having viewed the show flat. A Singaporean working in the US, this customer had been looking to buy a unit for investment, and settled on one in Jadescape, a top-selling condominium project in Shunfu. The documents were couriered, and the transaction was completed.

Ms Eng said sales are being made even with developers’ offices in lockdown.

In any case, the signing of the sale and purchase agreement is carried out in lawyers’ offices, not developers’, so there is “no reason” to visit developers’ offices for now, she said.

Legal services in general are not considered essential services, but certain services such as conveyancing are considered essential services, and so remain available.

Lee Sze Teck, Huttons Asia’s director for research, said plans for upcoming property launches will probably be on hold for the moment, while the industry seeks exemption from the government to reopen the show galleries.

Some upcoming launches include Hyll on Holland, Cairnhill 16, Forett @ Bukit Timah, Penrose, The Landmark, Verdale, The Linq @ Beauty World, Noma, Clavon and Rymden 77.

A Hong Leong Group spokesman said: “We expect to launch Penrose condo in the latter half of this year, when the Covid-19 situation improves.

“But we will continue to keep a pulse on the situation and adjust our plans accordingly.”

Penrose is a joint venture project between Hong Leong Holdings and City Developments Limited.

Hong Leong Group has stepped up its digital marketing efforts with a virtual viewing platform and has conducted online sales presentations to potential buyers and investors.

The spokesman said these efforts have produced “encouraging” results, with the number of Zoom meetings between agents and potential buyers having risen.

“For those who are ready to make their purchases, we assist them with the sales process remotely, which includes the option of offering courier services for ease of document signing,” he said.

City Developments has also stepped up its digital marketing efforts since the circuit-breaker measures kicked in on April 7. Six sales galleries were shut that day, the company said in a Q1 2020 operational update on May 12.

Since then, its digital efforts have entailed running virtual tours, producing digital collaterals and making online sales presentations to potential homebuyers, it said. It has also provided remote assistance with the sales process, and achieved over 30 per cent more online traffic for its launched projects last month.

Sales were registered in April for Amber Park, Boulevard 88, Coco Palms, Piermont Grand, Sengkang Grand Residences, South Beach Residences, The Jovell and The Tapestry, the update said.

A Frasers Property spokesman said: “With the circuit-breaker measures being lifted in phases, we welcome the announcement that our home buyers can now resume the additional option of meeting salespersons at the offices of our appointed real estate agencies for the completion of legal transactions.

“We will continue with our sales and marketing activities for both Rivière and Seaside Residences via 360 (degree) virtual viewings and appointments.”


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