Property news: Always question what you’re told

property news
Reading Time: 9 minutes

PropertySoul, a prominent Singapore property blogger and educator, has provided some interesting insights about how to read property news headlines in her latest column.

Her words are informative and provide some useful tips

With her permission we are publishing her column about property news headlines because we fell the concept is just as important for Thailand property buyers and investors.

She wrote:

Have you read this week’s Singapore property news headlines about sales at the JadeScape development on its first weekend launch?

It is interesting to see a unanimous celebratory mood in the headlines, and content across similar articles in The Straits Times, Business Times, The New Paper, PropertyGuru, iProperty, EdgeProp and Yahoo! News.

Strong sales, encouraging results, market confidence and new benchmark are positive words shared by the journalists and real estate agencies.

It is not surprising to see all the print media under Singapore Press Holdings coming up with indistinguishable news stories for convenience. But online media also reached a consensus to show the developer that the advertising dollars spent with them over the past few weeks was worth it.

What a peculiar media scene in Singapore.

The hard truth shows a different picture.

The truth is that Qingjian Realty only sold 330 units from a total of 1,206 units in the new project.

Isn’t it confusing for readers with the overly-upbeat tone in property news headlines and articles, and which are contradictory to the disappointing results?

Strong first weekend sales?

Is 27 percent (330 out of 1,206 units) sold on the first launch weekend considered strong sales?

What about new Singapore projects launched in the past few months that were easily between 70 percent and 80 percent sold during the first weekend?

What about Hundred Palms Residences, The HIlford, Alexandra Central and J Gateway that were all fully sold on the first day?

Wow, they must be overachievers.

Wait. Have they lowered the standard from 100 percent to 30 percent? If so then JadeScape’s result of 27 percent sold should be quite encouraging, right?

Where have all the cheques gone?

An EdgeProp property news article mentioned that: “over the past two weeks, more than 800 cheques were received as expressions of interest, which means a conversion rate of 41.5 percent.”

What a novel and interesting concept of balloting. In fact, JadeScape has given a completely new meaning to the word “balloting”.

Balloting happens in Singapore because there is overwhelming demand for limited supply so we draw lots to ensure everybody has an equal chance of getting a unit.

Take the example of J Gateway. On 28 June 2013, eager buyers submitted a total of 1,400 blank cheques to their property agents for the balloting of 738 units.

But last weekend a total of 800 cheques were collected to ballot for 1,206 units, from which 330 units were sold.

Why did we still have to ballot if there are only 800 buyers of 1,206 units?

Why was the “conversion rate” not 100 percent, but 41.5 percent? Does this mean 58.5 percent of buyers decided to back out after passing their cheque to the property agents?

Why we need so many to sell?

Another innovative way of marketing JadeScape was the opening of the project to marketing by five property agencies. In Singapore this is an unusual practice since most new launch projects are either marketed by an exclusive property agency or, at most, two to three. This is to protect the interest (and commission) of property agents.

By opening the project to the five largest agencies, it can’t help giving the market the impression that the developer is desperate to reach the limited pool of property buyers in the current market.

Similarly, the property agents of the five agencies are exposed to the highest level of competition because almost any property agent can bring their customer to the sales gallery.

Do agents have to be so desperate if they really believe in the strong buyer confidence and market resilience claimed by their companies’ spokespersons?

How many are actual buyers?

Two weeks ago another article from EdgeProp said JadeScape drew a crowd of 9,000 people to its sales gallery on the preview weekend earlier this month.

Why did the project only manage to sell 330 units of the 9,000 who turned up at the preview? Were there 8,670 property agents visiting the show flat the other day?

I don’t know whether Qingjian Realty is a good developer or not but it is definitely a generous one to spend S$ 6 million (THB 142 million on Singapore’s biggest two-storey show flat.

Rather than treating readers like fools, is it a problem for the media and industry stakeholders to tell the truth and admit that sales has slowed after the introduction of the recent cooling measures?

It is far more convincing to explain there are far less property investors and speculators in the market now. But, these days, buyers are all genuine home seekers who have a real need and the financial means to own a reasonably-priced condo unit in a good neighbourhood.

Afterall, what is the point of the REDAS (Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore) President telling the public that the Singapore property market is facing many challenges, hoping that the government can take it easy on cooling measures; when the media keep faking successes with new launch results and property data interpretations on the other side?

How to read property news from the media

When we put our savings into a home or an investment, be it local or overseas, we expect prices to go up and for the investment to be worth more in the future.

Why is the outcome often the opposite?

It is because too many home buyers and property investors took the misleading property news and advice from their property agents, or so-called industry experts, made a bad decision and got burned.

What people fail to realise is these industry stakeholders have vested interests. They are paid to say what they say.

They don’t stand behind their words, and we can’t hold them responsible for anything.

These people only care about their business, their sales, their job, their pay and their commission. They don’t care whether we lose money.

If the industry stakeholders don’t care about our well-being, why do we care what they say?

I am a fan of Japanese blogger and writer Chikirin who has more than 70 million followers in Japan.

In a new book “Don’t use your brain the wrong way again: Japanese famous blogger Chikirin’s 11 principles of thinking”, Chikirin shares how we can avoid being misled by the wrong parties.

“Think about the issue first before reading the comments from the so-called experts in the media, or listening to other peoples’ opinions.”

For example, there was an article in Monday’s Singapore Straits Times headlined “JadeScape sees strong sales on launch weekend”. Before reading the content ask yourself the following questions:

1) What do I expect the sales of JadeScape on the first weekend?
2) What are the logical consequences of the new cooling measures in the new sales market?
3) Why the property news headline say the opposite of the article? Do I agree with it?
4) What kind of comments do I expect from the “experts”? Do I agree with them? In which ways are they vested in this matter?

If you think before you read any property news articles you can train yourself to think independently and practice using your individual judgement.

Above all, you can avoid believing in fake news, biased comments or illogical conclusions, and repeating them like parrots to others.

Andrew Batt
The author of this article is Andrew Batt, the founder and editor of Andrew has been writing about property and real estate issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia for more than 10 years. He has worked for PropertyGuru Group, DDproperty, Dot Property Group, Hipflat and AsiaRents. He has also produced content for leading Thailand property developers and real estate agencies.

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