A former condo unit owner took a hammer blow like no other in the first quarter when a bank auctioned off his high-end property at an estimated $6.6 million loss.

The 4,069 sq ft condominium apartment at [email protected] Sentosa Cove was transacted in June 2010 for around $12.8 million but repayment problems forced a mortgagee sale in February. A canny Singaporean buyer secured the posh unit for just $6.2 million, making it the standout deal in an auction market that was going at full tilt in the three months to March 31.

A record 177 properties were put up for auction in that period, a 25.5 percent increase from the same period last year. Seven were sold under the hammer for a total of $13.43 million, up 39.6 percent from the $9.62 million recorded in the same period last year.

Mortgagee auctions, which occur when owners default and banks put the property up for sale, totalled a record 83, including 48 homes and 16 industrial properties. This was an increase of 38.3 percent from the same period last year and the highest since 2011.

Mortgagee auctions have been on the rise. 63 units were put up for sale this way in the fourth quarter of last year, the second-highest quarterly number behind this year’s bumper crop. There were 62 such properties put up for sale in the second quarter of last year.

Significantly, there has been a spike in the number of industrial properties put up for auction, rising from 25 in the fourth quarter of last year to 51 in the first quarter of this year. However, there were few takers as only two were sold, with a total sales value of $1.15 million.

The rise was possibly due to firms moving to neighbouring countries to save on costs. Some mortgagee sales could also likely emanate from investors who entered the market during 2013 and 2014 when capital values of industrial space last peaked. As these investors are unable to find tenants, they have to foreclose.

In contrast to industrial real estate, the number of residential homes put up for auction in the first quarter was the lowest since the third quarter of 2014. While the residential sector accounted for 85 of the 177 units put on sale, this was a fall of 9.6 percent from the fourth quarter last year. Five units were sold for a total of $12.3 million, a decline of 60 percent from the fourth quarter last year.

Mortgagee sales are expected to rise by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent this year. However, there are more buyers hunting for good deals.

Adapted from: The Straits Times, 4 April 2017