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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Developers must know what buyers want when they return

WITH competition in the property industry set to intensify again once the economy and demand for property starts to recover in the next few months, developers need to get their act together and look for more ingenuous ways to serve buyers better.

Instead of just going ahead to unload their products in the market, they should do some serious “soul searching” and find out what exactly property buyers are looking for and what they can do to meet those needs.

After a pretty dull market for almost a year since the impact of the global financial crisis hit the country’s shores, injuring the confidence level, there have been very few project launches as developers “rolled up their sleeves” and deferred many of their projects to minimise their financial exposure.

Developers should be commended for this decisive move that prevented a flood in property products at a time when demand has simply evaporated. This has contributed towards stabilising property prices compared with the “free fall” experienced in many markets.

The deferment of projects resulted in a 72% plunge in total new housing launches in the third quarter last year to 4,966 units from 17,975 units in the first quarter of 2008. This has helped address the demand-supply imbalance over time and stabilised prices.

While the mass market is holding out quite well with positive response to the various housing packages from developers, the take-up for high-end property products such as bungalows and luxury condominiums is still soft. By deferring their projects, developers are also able to conserve their cashflow and keep themselves afloat during the unprecedented economic crunch that started in the United States early last year.

With some positive signs that are being widely read as early signals that the global economy may be bottoming out and will be bouncing back soon, industry players must be waiting eagerly to get back into the business of launching and building projects.

The recovery in the local stock market will generate some positive wealth effect. Confidence among the people is also expected to surge again as the effects of the Government’s stimulus packages start to kick in.

Having waited out so patiently for the market to stabilise before they move back with more confidence, developers should make good use of the current lull period to undertake an indepth study and research of the market as much have changed since the crisis.

For the good of property buyers and the developers themselves, industry players have to get to the bottom of things on what really matters for buyers these days and in the coming days, and have in place the right products.

Retraining and upgrading the skills and competency of the staff to think out of the box and come out with product plans that are in sync with the market needs and better still products with the “Wow” effect to safeguard buyers, in terms of their welfare and investment returns, will be a good start.

Whether they are the big-time developers with strong financial backing or the smaller developers undertaking small-scale projects, developers should harness their strength and find every possible ways and means to further add value to buyers.

With newspapers swarming with news on fatal snatch thefts, bold daylight burglaries, car-jacking and other crimes, it is important that developers, town planners and the authorities, including local councils and the police, work closely to ensure our neighbourhoods, streets and homes will be safe and secure again.

There is much to be done to spruce up the living environment and make our residential and working places sanctuaries for personal comfort, safety, growth and development.

The concept of Safe Cities should not be just a marketing tool employed to promote projects but should actually be havens for wholesome family living.

● Deputy news editor Angie Ng believes that by planning holistically and making safety a key focus in all their projects, property industry players can be the first line of defence to weed out crime in neighbourhoods.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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