Bending the Rules

Creative Ways to Boost Sales

Bending the rules - Creative Way


The slow housing market, coupled with the looming spectre of the additional buyers stamp duty ABSD), has meant that many developers have been employing ever more creative methods to shift their empty units. Not all of these bend the rules, but some certainly do and occasionally go further and break them completely. The URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) is very much aware of the situation, and is keeping a close eye on developments, stepping in to put a stop to those practices that have – in its opinion, gone too far to entice new buyers to part with their cash. Here we look at some of the successful – and unsuccessful methods developers have tried.

  • In an attempt to offset the ABSD, some developers have introduced a rebate for buyers. One successful example of this has been at Ardmore three, where a 15% ABSD rebate, in addition to existing discounts of up to 15% has seen a sharp increase in uptake.


  • The deferred payment scheme is one of the most popular, and successful methods of attracting new buyers. This tackles the TDSR rules which state an individual cannot borrow (determined by total monthly debt repayments) more than 60% of their income. By paying a portion of the total purchase price now (up to 20%) the rest can be deferred by two or three years (when loan rules may have changed). This is a scheme that has been used to very good effect at OUE’s development Twin Peaks, where 140 units have been sold in the 2 months the scheme has been operating.


  • One method that had been adopted but has subsequently been banned by the URA is the one attempted by GEM Residences at its Toa Payoh development. Triple-key apartments were being offered with a separate kitchen in each individual unit – something that was not reflected in the original floor plans.


  • Another tactic attempted by GEM was the issuing of so called specimen cheques to potential buyers. These cheques – valued between S$7,500 and S$10,000 would then have been used to submit an expression of interest, but the URA ruled that this would circumvent the requirement for a minimum 5% payment. Despite this set back, more than 50% of the units were sold on its launch weekend, possibly as a result of them offering buyers a discount or rebate of the amount relating to the outlawed cheques.


  • TG Developments also came under the scrutiny of the URA recently, when a promotion at its River Valley development – Lloyd Sixtyfive – was scuppered. The scheme would have allowed interested buyers to pay 10% of the unit’s price plus a 2.5% deposit, and then live in the apartment for 2 years before deciding whether to proceed or not with the purchase. If at the end of that period they decided not to go ahead, they could leave, taking the security deposit with them. This however was deemed to contravene the Housing Development Rules which state that the validity of a standard option to purchase is three to five weeks from the option date.


There is no doubt that more and more ingenious methods will be explored by developers and agents alike to get buyers to take up their empty units. As long as they stick to the rules, this is something that can only be a good thing for buyers and sellers alike.





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