In the near term, Kenanga Research believes that it will be a renter’s market and property sales will remain muted. It however believes that there will be improvements in sales in the second half of the year. PETALING JAYA: The local property sector should start to see a mild rebound in the second half of 2021, on the back of fewer Covid-19 cases, the availability of the vaccine and steady pick-up in economic activity. According to Kenanga Research, the property market is expected to generate slow sales in the first half of this year, which would then get better as the Covid-19 situation improves. “Given the uncertainty of a full recovery or any form of return to normalcy to pre-Covid-19 levels, we believe it is tough to gauge when the sector will make a comeback. On one part, the easing of local lock-down restrictions is a positive sign, as it will push economic recovery to the right track. “But we still do caution about a worsening Covid-19 situation that may cause further setbacks to an already protracted economic recovery. “Once economic activities restart, we believe it will take a few months before the property market builds up a momentum as buyers will need time to gain confidence, ” the research house said in its latest report. Kenanga Research added that the rebound in 2021 is due to the low base effect from last year. “At this juncture, we expect to see year-on-year improvements of between 3% and 80% that would be apparent in the second half of 2021, given the expectation of a vaccine sometime this year, but we remain cautious given the fluidity of the situation. “Furthermore, we believe that developers will push for higher volume of transactions over higher value transactions, in order to achieve stronger year-on-year sales.” Kenanga Research said lower interest rates and incentives may do little for property sales. “During the global financial crisis when the overnight policy rate was reduced drastically from 3.5% to 2%, property sales did not pick up immediately in those years. Instead, the weak economic backdrop greatly overshadowed the perks of the lower financing rate then. “Synonymous with the previous crisis, developers under our coverage have lowered their number of launches and sales targets in mid-2020. It appears that most developers are erring on the side of caution when it comes to new launches or targets, despite easing monetary and expansionary fiscal policies.” The research house added that affordability will remain a major concern. “Household debt to gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 87.5% in the second quarter of 2020, higher than its previous peak of 86.9% in 2015, due to a sharp contraction in GDP of 17% year-on-year. The government had extended the Home Ownership Campaign period and stamp duty exemptions at Budget 2021. “However, we believe these measures, although positive, may not suffice to spur strong property demand as challenges posed by the pandemic outweigh the need to own a property, causing genuine buyers to adopt a wait-and-see approach.” In the near term, Kenanga Research believes that it will be a renter’s market and property sales will remain muted. It however believes that there will be improvements in sales in the second half of the year. “As such we believe property developers’ margins may see some slight compressions in the near term, particularly during the first half of 2021, which we have already accounted for in our estimates. “But we will continue to monitor this situation should it drag beyond the first half of this year.”
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