Soaring mortgage rates not deterring wealthy Chinese from investing in residential property market

Property prices in Singapore have climbed to record levels despite soaring mortgage rates and government curbs on purchases as the ultra-rich move their families and assets to the city-state seen as a haven with a stable currency and political stability.

Buyers from mainland China purchased 42% of private condos sold to overseas buyers in Singapore in the first eight months of 2022, according to a report published in October by property consultant OrangeTee & Tie.

Soaring mortgage rates have not deterred Chinese buyers from investing in prime areas

soaring mortgage rates

They also constitute the biggest group of investors buying luxury properties in prime districts this year, scooping up almost 20% of apartments with price tags exceeding S$5 million ($3. 5 million) each, it added.

“With a strengthening Singapore dollar amid growing economic uncertainties, properties here will continue to be regarded as safe-haven assets,” OrangeTee & Tie said in the report.

With more global investors setting up shop in the city-state, net capital inflows jumped 16% to a record S$448 billion last year, it added.

Considering the increasing global interest rates, the rising borrowing costs for home loans is inevitable. Paul Ho, Chief Officer at iCompareLoan, said: “investors should bear in mind the soaring mortgage rates when making purchase decisions.”

Home loan rates in Singapore have been on a steady uptrend since the fourth quarter of last year when three-year fixed rates were at 1.15 per cent. Home loan rates in Singapore have now gone past 3.5 per cent to a new high.

SORA will rise in tandem with the internationally rising borrowing costs

Our domestic benchmark interest rate – the Singapore Overnight Rate Average (SORA) – is set to hike up in tandem with US rates. But for now, mortgage interest rates are still competitively hovering around 3 – 3.8 per cent, but they will continue to go on the up and up throughout 2022.

Mr Ho said, “how the FED interest rate hike works is by making loans more expensive and technically, should lead to reduced spending.”

“The move will put pressure on Singapore’s financial institutions to raise interest rates as well,” he added.

As most home loan rates are now pegged to SORA, you will not see interest rates prematurely rising too out of step with the US Fed Funds Rate. This is because although SORA is a “backward”-looking interest rate mechanism which reacts to interest rate movements in Singapore, changes to the US Fed Funds Rate has global repercussions, so SORA is expected to react accordingly.

The biggest interest rate hike in the US will definitely dent some of the enthusiasm in the buoyant property market, and could pose a big problem for homeowners who are still servicing their mortgage loans. This is because banks and financial institutions calculate lending rates by adding a margin (which covers their costs and their profit) to a published financial index, like SORA.

If you are worried about the soaring mortgage rates and want to refinance your mortgage loan, you must be wondering about how SORA works.

SORA basically uses a volume-weighted approach where the average rate of all actual transactions traded and booked in the unsecured overnight interbank SGD cash market in Singapore between 8 am and 6:15 pm. The phrase “volume-weighted” simply means that the calculations consider the actual amount being lent.

Which means that a 3M compounded SORA rate is based on a compounding period of 3 months of the historical SORA rate which is published daily on the MAS website and a 1M compounded SORA rate is based on a compounding period of 1 month of the historical SORA rate which is published daily on the MAS website.

Mr Ho said, “All these terms, 3M, 1M, fixed rate, floating rate, etc can be confusing to some home owners who want to refinance. And also there may only be a short window of opportunity open if you want to refinance your mortgage loan.”

He added, “So, anyone who is worried about the soaring mortgage rates and yet wants the best home loan should speak to mortgage consultants. They can get the best rates for home owners who want to refinance their home loans by comparing across 16 banks and financial institutions. Mortgage consultants have the latest home loan info to guide home owners to make the right decision and best of all, their services are free.”

Savvy home loan borrowers will know how to navigate away from rising borrowing costs

What does this news mean for homeowners in Singapore? Well, it marks a closing window of time to refinance our properties and get the most savings out of our monthly repayments.

During a low-interest rate climate, savvy borrowers may prefer to capitalise on low interest payments by taking a market-pegged interest rate variable package. But when these borrowers are (like now) hit by the biggest interest rate hike, they may try to change the loan to a fixed rate package for some years so as to be able to lock in lower rates and better manage their cash flow.

Fixed rate packages are usually more expensive, but provide the most stability as rates are kept fixed for up to the first 3 to 5 years of the loan tenure. There is no perpetual fixed rate being offered by banks in Singapore at the current moment. This is where a refinancing guide can be useful to home owners to read-up on remortgage and be knowledgeable about the entire process.

Positive side of interest rate environment

Today, consumers have a wide range of home loan packages to choose from compared to several years ago, and this is a huge advantage to home buyers and investors.

Home loans could also be tied up with other programmes which rewards customers with a higher interest rate on their deposits if they transact more with the bank, such as getting a home loan and crediting their salary with the same bank.

Typically, with mortgage loans you are offered attractive rates for the first three years when you refinance – following which the interest rates are adjusted upwards. This usually coincides with the end of the lock in period, offering borrowers a good opportunity to relook their loans.

Those who already have a home loan with a lender you are comfortable with and are sure of enough protection from soaring mortgage rates, should consider repricing, especially as we are at the juncture of the ever rising borrowing costs.

Repricing refers to switching to a new home loan package within the same bank while refinancing refers to closing your current home loan account and setting up a new home loan account with another bank.

A repricing typically occurs when new incremental loan facilities and/or refinancing facilities are introduced into the same documentation as an existing loan. The proceeds from the new incremental loan facility will have a lower margin and will be used to repay the existing loan.

While repricing lets you replace your existing loan with a new loan with the same lender that potentially has a new interest rate or revised repayment timeline, refinancing might be a good option if interest rates have dropped or are lower than your current rate, or if you need to extend your repayment term.

When considering refinancing versus repricing, remember that securing a lower interest rate will reduce your cost of borrowing so you’ll pay less on your home loan, overall.

Written by Ravi Chandran

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