In the world of investment opportunities, real estate often stands out as a cornerstone of wealth creation and preservation. With its tangible nature and potential for long-term growth, real estate has captivated the attention of investors for generations. But is it truly a solid investment?

Tangible Asset with Inherent Value: One of the primary reasons real estate is considered a solid investment is its tangibility. Unlike stocks or bonds, which represent ownership in a company or debt instrument, real estate consists of physical properties with intrinsic value. Land, buildings, and other real estate assets provide a sense of security, as they can be utilized, rented out, or sold for profit.

Historical Appreciation: Over the long term, real estate has demonstrated a consistent pattern of appreciation. While there may be fluctuations in the short term due to market conditions, economic factors, or location-specific trends, historical data indicates that real estate values tend to rise over time. This appreciation can result in substantial returns on investment, especially for patient investors who hold onto their properties for extended periods.

Diversification Benefits: Real estate offers diversification benefits to investment portfolios. Unlike stocks and bonds, which are subject to market volatility and economic cycles, real estate often exhibits low correlation with traditional asset classes. By including real estate in a diversified investment portfolio, investors can reduce overall risk and potentially enhance returns by spreading their investments across different asset types.

Income Generation Potential: One of the most attractive features of real estate investing is its ability to generate regular income. Rental properties, commercial buildings, and other real estate assets can provide steady cash flow in the form of rental payments. This income stream can serve as a source of passive income for investors, helping to offset expenses and provide financial stability.

Hedge Against Inflation: Real estate is often viewed as a hedge against inflation. As the cost of goods and services rises over time, so do property values and rental income. Unlike fixed-income investments like bonds, which may lose purchasing power in inflationary environments, real estate assets have the potential to maintain or increase their value, making them an attractive option for investors seeking protection against rising prices.

Navigating Choices in the Singaporean Context

As I stand at the crossroads of semi-retirement and financial independence, the question of whether real estate is a solid investment in the Singaporean context takes center stage. At 45, with no existing liabilities and a keen interest in embracing the principles of Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE), the decision to purchase a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat, a private property, or opt for neither requires careful consideration. Let’s explore this journey together, backed by the latest public data, information, and statistics available to guide us towards an informed decision.

1. Evaluating Real Estate as an Investment: Before delving into specific property options, let’s examine the broader landscape of real estate investment in Singapore. According to the latest data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) released on 26 January 2024, Singapore’s residential property market has shown resilience, with overall property prices experiencing steady growth over time. The URA’s website provides comprehensive reports and statistics on property price indices, transaction volumes, and rental data, offering valuable insights into market trends and dynamics.


Private residential market at a glance:

Prices and Rentals

Property Price Index of private residential properties

Rental Index of private residential properties

Number of private housing units launched and sold by developers (excluding ECs)

Number of resale and sub-sale transactions for private residential units (excluding ECs)

Total number of unsold private residential units and ECs in the pipeline

Pipeline supply of private residential units and ECs by expected year of completion

Stock and vacancy of private residential units (excluding ECs)

2. The Appeal of HDB Ownership: For individuals seeking affordability and stability in homeownership, an HDB flat remains a popular choice. Recent data from the Housing & Development Board (HDB) also released on 26 January 2024 reveals that HDB resale prices have remained relatively stable, with certain mature estates showing promising appreciation potential. The HDB website offers detailed information on HDB flat types, eligibility criteria, and resale price trends, empowering prospective buyers to make informed decisions.

YearQuarterIndex% Change from Previous Quarter
Resale Price Index (“RPI”) is calculated using resale transactions registered across towns, flat types, and models. The base period is the 1st quarter of 2009, i.e. RPI has a value of 100 in 1st quarter 2009. For example, if the index increases from 100 to 108 in 1 year, that means that on the whole, HDB resale flat prices increased by about 8% over that year.
4Q2023 RPI chart
4Q202331891,6332,9011,435386 6,547
Total for 202367296,64411,759  6,050 1,54726,735
Resale Application Registered – sorted by quarter and flat type.

* Includes Multi-Generation flats

3. Considering the Option of Neither: Amidst the pursuit of financial independence and flexibility, the decision to rent instead of purchasing a property warrants consideration. Recent market reports from leading real estate agencies such as CBRE Singapore highlights that as foreigner sales dwindled in 2022, impacted by lower participation from Chinese buyers on strict domestic lockdowns and travel restrictions. The anticipated return of Chinese buyers did not pan out in 2023 following the doubling of ABSD to 60% for foreigners under Apr 2023’s round of cooling measures. Foreigner demand is likely to remain muted in 2024, dampened by the hefty ABSD.

Additionally, Savills Singapore forecasts private residential rental prices to drop 5% year-on-year (YoY) in 2024. Leasing activity of private residential properties has been slowing down due to businesses, especially those in the tech and finance industries, restructuring to pare down their costs. In addition, higher mortgage rates and significantly higher property taxes for 2024 may hinder the downward adjustment to rentals, as landlords in general will attempt to pass these costs to the tenant. That may even lead some landlords to take the illogical route of leaving the units vacant for months rather than accept a lower offer. In view of the above, the flexibility of renting offers mobility and freedom from the financial commitments associated with property ownership.

4. Personal Reflections and Financial Goals: As I reflect on my own financial journey and aspirations for semi-retirement, I consider the importance of aligning property decisions with my desired lifestyle and long-term financial security. Utilizing tools such as mortgage calculators, affordability calculators, and retirement planning guides available on financial platforms, I evaluated various scenarios and determine the best course of action based on my financial goals and risk tolerance is likely that it is not a solid investment at this moment of writing this blog.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the decision of whether real estate is a solid investment in the Singaporean context is multifaceted and deeply personal. By leveraging the latest data, information, and statistics available from reputable sources, individuals can make informed decisions that align with their semi-retirement goals and aspirations for financial independence. Whether opting for an HDB flat, a private property, or choosing to rent, the journey towards semi-retirement is one of empowerment and possibility, guided by careful consideration, reflection, and informed guidance.

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