Putting our house in order


WITH the announcement of the new Housing and Local Government Minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin, there have been a lot of news and interviews on her proposals to put our housing industry in order.

Her new plans will help create a new housing environment in our country if well executed. I particularly like the minister’s assurance that there won’t be any political intervention in decision-making, especially in housing development matters.

The key objective of the ministry is to synchronise all affordable housing schemes under one roof with the establishment of the National Affordable Housing Council, which is expected to be announced in August.

The streamlining will involve four agencies, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Programme (PPA1M), Rumah Mampu Milik Wilayah Persekutuan (RumaWIP), and 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme (PR1MA).

With this prompt move, the housing ministry will have better control over the construction of affordable houses, and will attempt to resolve the mismatch between market supply and demand in certain housing segments.

Apart from the new supply, we should also look at our current housing supply. As at end-2017, we have 5.4 million houses, of which 21% or 1.15 million were low-cost houses and flats. This should be sufficient to accommodate the critical housing needs of our Rakyat if they were allocated to the right group of people.

In my last article, I mentioned that there were potential leakages in our previous distribution system that had caused the failure of qualified applicants to buy or rent a low-cost home.

In early June 2018, the new Housing Minister requested owners of People’s Housing Projects (PPR units) who were renting out their units to foreigners to evict their tenants within 90 days.

It is important for the authorities to carry out surveys on residents of low-cost housing after certain grace period to ensure the ownership and tenancy of government housing fall into the right hands.

By addressing the current leakages and with the identification of the right target audience, the issue can be quickly resolved.

Our new government plans to set up an online platform for application of affordable housing in the future. This would be an effective way to gather market demand based on the actual requirement and ensure greater transparency in the allocation process.

In addition, the government promises to build one million affordable homes within 10 years. It also suggests the housing price for the B40 group (with a median monthly household income of RM3,000) to be around RM60,000, and equipped with basic facilities such as a park and a community hall.

Based on the contributing factors of housing development which include land, the approval process and resources, only the government can build houses at the price of around RM60,000.

Only the government can gather land bank through compulsory land acquisition of agriculture land, then to convert the land for housing development, and increase housing projects with public funds.

As taxpayers, I believe we are more than happy to help elevate the living standards of the B40 group knowing very well that our money is well-spent in making a difference for the future of our nation.

I applaud the new government for taking the bold measures in putting things in order, and walking the talk by planning for more affordable housing.

Offering affordable housing and a comfortable living environment are essential criteria in building a sustainable future for our country. Whenever the government announces more constructive measures and makes things more transparent, the market environment becomes more optimistic. With this confidence, the Rakyat will be more than willing to do our part as taxpayers to achieve the common goals for the benefit of all.

Food for thought Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in  in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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Malaysian new hope for the housing industry with new government


MALAYSIANS have been in an uplifting mood, with the various measures announced by the new government since the new Cabinet was formed.

Out of my passion for the housing industry, I am paying special interest and attention to Pakatan Harapan’s proposals on housing matters. There are several initiatives which will give a new breath of life to the industry if they are implemented successfully.

In its manifesto, Pakatan Harapan promises to build one million affordable homes within two terms of their administration. This is a realistic and encouraging move to address the affordable housing issue in Malaysia.

As mentioned in my previous article, I often wondered why the previous government didn’t directly drive affordable housing. I was enlightened when a friend told me last year, “The reason is that there isn’t any ‘money’ involved in affordable housing”. Given the new government’s promise of a cleaner government, I believe this is the right time.

To build one million affordable houses within two terms means that the government needs to build an average of 100,000 homes every year. This exceeds our yearly residential housing production recorded for the past few years.

To make this a reality, the government needs to put in real money to make it happen. The previous government depended on the private sector to drive that number. However, as we have seen from successful public/affordable housing models from Hong Kong and Singapore, our government should be the main driving force in providing affordable homes.

The reasons for such success are obvious. Governments have control over land, approval rights, public funds and development expertise. Given enough political will, and backed by tax payers’ funds, we can achieve these targets.

According to the manifesto of the new government, the above mission will be carried out by a National Affordable Housing Council chaired by the Prime Minister. Setting up a central authority has been suggested by Bank Negara and also in this column before. A centralised system will ensure effective planning and allocation of affordable homes, just as is done by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in Singapore.

Currently, we have different agencies looking at affordable housing, such as the various State Economic Development Corporations (SEDCs), Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB), Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) and 1 Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme (PR1MA).

Many of them are working in isolation from one another and some have strayed from their original purpose.

In Singapore, prior to the formation of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in 1960, less than 9% of Singaporeans stayed in government housing. Today, HDB has built more than a million flats and houses. About 82% of Singaporeans stay in HDB housing, according to HDB’s annual report. It is a great example for reference.

Based on the recently published statistics from the National Property Information Centre (Napic), the total residential homes in Malaysia as at the end of 2017 was 5.4 million. Low-cost houses and flats accounted for 21% or 1.15 million of the total.

Some may question whether the number of low-cost homes is sufficient. However, there may be some “leakages” or misallocation in the previous distribution system that caused qualified applicants to face difficulties when buying or renting a low-cost home.

Many years ago, The Star reported that thousands of government housing units in Kuala Lumpur were being sub-let to third parties at five times above the control rental price. It stated that the number of applicants for low-cost units in Kuala Lumpur had reached 26,000, and that many of them had been on the waiting list for more than a decade.

It was even rumoured that some low-cost housing units across Malaysia were sold to political nominees, instead of going towards the rakyat who really couldn’t afford housing. If this practice did actually happen, it is disgusting and should be reviewed.

It is timely for the new government to inspect whether our low-cost homes have fallen into the wrong hands. It is essential to repair the allocation system and stop any form of corruption while building more low cost and affordable homes.

The new government’s manifesto to coordinate a unified and open database on affordable housing, can be one of the solutions to the matter.

In addition, the idea of managing a rent-to-own scheme for lower income groups is a positive measure to encourage residents to take care of their houses, as they will eventually own them.

I am glad to see the manifesto of the new government addressing many areas of concern in building homes for the rakyat. We understand that it takes time to implement these new measures. The rakyat will need to be patient for these new measures to reap their full results. We hope that a fresh start in the right direction will finally shine some light at the end of the tunnel.

By Alan Tong – Food for thought

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
Related:

Planning for a home

 

Planning for a home

Related posts:

Leaving a legacy by buying a house first before a luxury car

Restructuring our household debt

If it’s too good to be true, something’s wrong 

Too good to be true? Think twice

A challenging year ahead

Restructuring our household debt


NEW Year always come with new resolutions. Finance is an important aspect of most people’s checklists when it comes to planning new goals.

While it is good to set new financial targets, it is also vital to re-look at our debt portfolio to ascertain if it is at a healthy state.

At a national level, our country also has its financial targets matched against its debt portfolio.

According to the latest Risk Developments and Assessment of Financial Stability 2016 Report by Bank Negara, the country’s household debt was at RM1.086 trillion or 88.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) as at end 2016.

Residential housing loan accounted for 50.3% (RM546.3bil) of total household debts, motor vehicles at 14.6%, personal financing at 14.9%, non-residential loan was 7.4%, securities at 5.7%, followed by credit cards at 3.5% and other items at 3.6%.

Evidently, residential housing loan is the highest among all types of household debt. However, a McKinsey Global Institute Report on “Debt and (Not Much) Deleveraging” in 2015 highlighted that in advanced countries, mortgage or housing loan comprises 74% of total household debt on average.

As a country that aspires to be a developed nation, a housing loan ratio of 50.3% to total household debt would be considered low, compared to 74% for the advanced countries. In other words, we are spending too much on items that depreciate in value immediately – such as car loans, credit card loans and personal loans – compared to assets that appreciate in value in the long run, such as houses.

Advanced economies, which are usually consumer nations, have only 26% debts on non-housing loan as compared to ours at 49.7%.

In order to adopt the household debt ratio of advanced economies, our housing loan of RM546.3bil should be at 74% of total household debt. This means that if we were to keep our housing loan of RM546.3bil constant, our total household debt should be reduced from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil. This would require other non-housing loans (car loans, credit card loans and personal loans etc) to reduce from 49.7% of total household debt to only 26%. To achieve this ratio, the non-housing loan debt must collapse from the current RM539.7bil to only RM192bil.

Reducing total household debt from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil would also have the added benefit of reducing our total household debt-to-GDP ratio from the high 88.4% to only 60%, making us one of the top countries globally for financial health.

Malaysia’s household debt at present ranked as one of the highest in Asia. Based on the same 2015 McKinsey Report, our household debt-to-income ratio was 146% in 2014 (the ratio of other developing countries was about 42%) compared to the average of 110% in advanced economies.

Adjusting the debt ratio by reducing car loans, personal loans and credit card loans will make our nation stay financially healthy.

Car values depreciate at about 10% to 20% per year based on insurance calculations, accounting standards and actual market prices. Assets financed by personal and credit card loans typically depreciate immediately and aggressively.

The easy access to credit cards and personal loan facilities tend to encourage people to spend excessively, especially when there is no maximum credit limit imposed on credit cards for those earning more than RM36,000 per year.

If we maximised the credit limit given without considering our financial ability, we will need a long time to repay due to the high interest rates, which ranged from 15% to 18% per annum.

Based on a report in The Star recently, Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

The top four reasons for bankruptcy were car loans (26.63%), personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%) and business loans (10.24%).

It is time for the Government to introduce more drastic cooling-off measures for non-housing loans in order to curb debt that is not backed by assets. This will protect the rakyat from further impoverishment that they are voicing and feeling today.

As we kick start the new year, it is good to relook into our debt portfolio. When we are able to identify where we make up most of our debts, and start to reallocate our financial resources more effectively, we will be heading towards a sound and healthier financial status as a nation.

By Alan Tong – Food for thought

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please e-mail feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
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Moving forward with affordable housing


One way to solve housing shortage problem is to build more houses.

“If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such
as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very
important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing
for their people.”

THE issue of affordable housing has been a hot potato for many countries, especially for a nation with a growing population and urbanisation like ours.

In my previous article, I mentioned that there was a growing shortage of affordable housing in our country according to Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim. The shortage is expected to reach one million units by 2020.

According to Bank of England governor Mark Carney, one of the most effective ways to address the issue is to build more houses. There are good examples in countries like United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore, which have 2.4, 2.6 and 3.35 persons per household respectively.

In comparison, the average persons per household in our country is 4.06 person, a ratio which Australia had already achieved in 1933! To improve the current ratio, we need to put more effort into building houses to bring prices down.

If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing for their people.

For example in Singapore, their Housing and Development Board (HDB) has built over one million flats and houses since 1960, to house 90% of Singaporeans in their properties. In Hong Kong, the government provides affordable housing for lower-income residents, with nearly half of the population residing in some form of public housing nowadays. The rents and prices of public housing are subsidised by the government and are significantly lower than for private housing.

To be on par with Australia (2.6 persons per household), our country needs a total of 8.6 million homes to house our urban population of 22.4 million people. In other words, we need an additional 3.3 million houses on top of our existing 5.3 million residential houses.

However, with our current total national housing production of about 80,000 units a year, it will take us more than 40 years to build 3.3 million houses! With household formation growing at a faster rate than housing production, we will still be faced with a housing shortage 40 years from now.

Therefore, even if the private sector dedicated all its current output to build affordable housing, it will still be a long journey ahead to produce sufficient houses for the nation. It is of course impossible for the private sector to do so as it will be running at a loss due to rising costs of land and construction.

In view of the above, the government has to shoulder the responsibility of building more houses for the rakyat due to the availability of resources owned by the government. Land, for example, is the most crucial element in housing development. As a lot of land resources are owned by government, they must offer these lands to relevant agencies or authorities to develop affordable housing.

I recall when I was one of the founding directors of the Selangor State Development Corp in 1970s, its main objectives was to build public housing for the rakyat.

However, today the corporation has also ventured into high end developments in order to subsidise its affordable housing initiatives. This will somehow distract them from focusing on the affordable housing sector.

Although government has rolled out various initiatives in encouraging affordable houses, it is also important for the authorities to constantly review the original objectives of the relevant housing agencies, such as the various State Economic Development Corporations, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, and 1 Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme, to ensure they have ample resources especially land and funding to continue their mission in building affordable housing.

A successful housing policy and easy access to affordable housing have a huge impact on the rakyat. It is hoped that our government escalates its effort in building affordable housing, which will enhance the happiness and well-being of the people, and the advancement of our nation.


Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
By Alan Tong

Too good to be true? Think twice


 

HAVE you ever grabbed an offer without any hesitation, simply because the price is too cheap to resist?

Many of us have this experience especially during sales or promotional campaigns. We tend to spend more at the end or buy things which we are uncertain of their quality when the deal seems too good to say no.

It may be harmless if the amount involved is insignificant. However, when we apply the same approach to big ticket items, it can cause vast implications.

Recently, I heard a case which reinforces this belief.

A friend shared that a property project which was selling for RM300,000 a few years ago is now stuck. Although the whole project was sold out, the developer has problem delivering the units on time.

The developer is calling all purchasers to renegotiate the liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD), a compensation for late delivery.

One of the homeowners said he is owed RM50,000 of LAD, which means the project is 1½ years late. When we chatted, we found that he purchased the unit solely due to its cheap pricing without doing much research in the first place.

The incident is a real-life example of paying too low for an item which can leave us as losers, especially when it involves huge sum of investment, such as property.

To many, buying a house maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a decision made can make or break the happiness of a family.

A good decision ensures a roof over the head and a great living environment, while an imprudent move may incur long-term financial woes if the house is left uncompleted.

Nowadays, it is common to see people do research when they plan to buy a phone, household item, or other smaller ticket items.

Looking at the amount involved and implication of buying a house, we should apply the same discretion if not more.

It is always important for house buyers to study the background of a developer and project, consult experienced homeowners regarding the good and bad of a project before committing.

I have seen many people buy a house merely based on price consideration.

In fact, there are more to be deliberated when we commit for a roof over our heads. The location, project type, reputation of a developer, the workmanship, the future maintenance of the property etc, are all important factors for a good decision as they would affect the future value of a project.

Beware when a discount or a rebate sounds too good to be true, it may be just too good to be true and never materialised. If the collection or revenue of a housing project is not sufficient to fund the building cost, the developer may not be able to complete the project or deliver the house as per promised terms. At the end of the day, the “price” paid by homeowners would be far more expensive.

In general, the same principle applies elsewhere. It is a known fact that when we pay a premium for a quality product from a reliable producer, we have a peace of mind that the product could last longer and end up saving us money. Some lucky ones will end up gaining much more.

For instance, when we purchase a car, we should consider its resale value as some cars hold up well, while others collapse after a short period. Other determining factors include the specifications of the car, the after sales service, and the availability of spare parts.

Quality products always come with a higher price tag due to the research, effort, materials and services involved.

In addition to buying a house or big ticket items, other incidents that can tantamount to losing huge sums are like money games, get-rich-quick scheme, or the purchase of stolen cars or houses with caveats.

When an offer or a rebate sounds dodgy, the “good deal” can be a scam.

Years of experience tells me that when what is too good to be true, we should think twice. I always remind myself with a quote from John Ruskin (1819-1900) who was an art critic, an artist, an architect and a philosopher. “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

“The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Food for thought by Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

Related posts:

If it’s too good to be true, something’s wrong
Cars are more expensive than houses? A house can buy how many cars?
Our cars are costing us our homes!
Leaving a legacy by buying a house first before a luxury car … 
Malaysian income: bread and butter, affordability of owing a house
A challenging year ahead 
Can Malaysia’s household debt at 87.9% in 2014 be reduced to 54% ?
Rising tides of currencies globally cause inflation, money worthless! 
Bankers and lawyers should know better
8 million more houses needed in Malaysia 
Is having a car still a symbol of freedom? 
Malaysia needs to produce more houses to achieve 20/20 by 2020 

Leaving a legacy by buying a house first before a luxury car …


 

DURING big festive celebrations such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and the recently celebrated Chinese New Year, it is common to see families with a few generations gathered together.

Our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties would talk about the legacies left by our ancestors, and the stories often attract a lot of attention whether from the young or old.

Perhaps, the topic of leaving a legacy is something worth sharing as we embark on a brand new year.

For years, I have been touched by the catchy tagline of a renowned Swiss watch advertisement, “You never actually own a (the watch brand), you merely look after it for the next generation”.

While most of us can relate to the thought, not all of us can indulge in such luxurious watches or be interested in buying one. However, at some point in time, we may be looking at buying a property to pass down to our younger generations.

Whenever the topic of leaving a legacy is brought up, I would recall the lesson that I learnt from my late father. My father embarked on a long journey from China to Malaysia at the age of 16. With years of hard work and frugality at his peak, he managed to own a bus company, the Kuala Selangor Omnibus Co.

Other than his bus transport business, he only invested in his children’s education and real estate. He financed seven of his eight sons to have an overseas university education, and when he passed away, he also left four small plots of land in Klang and a company which had 34 buses.

As I look back now, what my late father invested in unintentionally was very beneficial to me when I came back from my studies as an architect. With the land he handed down and the knowledge he equipped me with, I intuitionally got myself involved in small real estate development, and later founded my property development company, Sunrise, in 1968.

Many people have thought of leaving a legacy. The crucial questions often asked are, when should we start planning for it, and how should we go about it?

For financial planning and investment, I always believe that the earlier we start, the better off we are. The same goes to leaving a legacy.

If you plan to buy a property, it is advisable to start earlier as it is more affordable to buy it now as compared to 10 or 20 years down the line especially with rising costs and inflation in mind. You can start with what you can afford first and focus on long-term investment.

It is proven that property prices appreciate over a period of time, especially when we plan to hand over assets to the next generation that easily involves a 20- to 30-year timeline.

As a developing nation which enjoys high growth rate, Malaysia’s property values will also appreciate in tandem with the economic growth in the long run.

Nowadays, we often hear youngsters comment on the challenges of owning a house due to the rising cost of living. I believe that besides starting with what you can afford, it is also important to plan your financial position wisely and to differentiate between investment and spending.

Investing in properties, commodities, shares, etc. is also a form of savings which can help to grow your wealth and to leave a legacy. On the other hand, money spent on luxury items may depreciate over time from the day you buy them. If we can prioritise investment over expenditure, it is easier and faster to achieve our financial goals.

So, if you haven’t already started to plan, do consider leaving a legacy by buying a house first before a luxury car, branded bags or expensive gadgets, as the latter are considered ‘luxury’, not necessity.

Even if you may not have a spouse or children at this point in time, it’s better to start now than later, as our financial commitments tend to grow bigger as we progress into the next stages of our lives.

Most of us hope our lives matter in some way that can make an impact on our loved ones. The idea of leaving a legacy can take many forms, such as equipping the younger generations with knowledge and values, or leaving them fond memories.

Those are all important to work on and they leave a footprint to those lives you touch. If you are also planning to hand over physical gifts, always remember to start earlier with what you can afford, and focus on long term investment.

By Food for Thought Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

Related posts:

If it’s too good to be true, something’s wrong 

Cars are more expensive than houses? A house can buy how many cars? 

Bankers and lawyers should know better 

8 million more houses needed in Malaysia 

Can Malaysia’s household debt at 87.9% in 2014 be reduced to 54% ? 

Our cars are costing us our homes! 

A challenging year ahead

Rising tides of currencies globally cause inflation, money worthless!

Is having a car still a symbol of freedom?

Malaysian income: bread and butter, affordability of owing a house

Young adults in developed countries rent, we buy houses for good


While young adults all over the world are renting homes, successful Malaysians and Singaporeans prefer to own homes instead of cars, as soon as they get their first pay cheque.Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malaysians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable. “Like everything else, it’s cyclical. “The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public transportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – The Star/Asia News Network

Demand from first-time buyers still strong despite affordability challenge

PETALING JAYA: Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malay­sians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable.

“Like everything else, it’s cyclical.

“The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public tran­sportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – By Christina Chin The Star

A pricey priority

 

Wary of big, life-changing purchases, the ‘Strawberry Generation’ – those ‘easily bruised’, coddled young people in their 30s – prefers to rent, global reports say. Malaysians, however, are bucking the trend despite steep property prices. Mainly thanks to supportive parents, it seems.

BEST friends Leh Mon Soo, 38, and Brandy Yu, 39, are finally buying their first home.

After months of serious scouting, the two managers found units that matched their budget and needs, coincidentally, in the same condominium in Petaling Jaya. Leh is getting a three-bedroom unit while Yu is happy with a 48sqm studio apartment.

Yu feels that the RM365,000 she’s paying is affordable as she can still save about RM1,700 monthly after paying the loan instalment.

“I’m only paying RM400 more a month than what I’ve been forking out for rent. And unlike the rental, this unit will be mine one day,” she says.

Leh ended up forking out a whopping RM690,000 even though she dreads the long-term commitment. While “not a bargain, and at the upper limit of what I can afford”, she says that it’s still a pretty good price, as other, smaller, units were going for higher prices.

“I was only willing to pay RM500,000 initially. Then I saw a two-bedroom in the same condominium going for RM680,000. So I bit the bullet and got this. Property prices won’t be dropping any time soon and our ringgit’s shrinking. It’s now or never. I’ll have to cough up even more later if I don’t get a place now,” she says pragmatically.

The soon-to-be neighbours think property is still in demand, even among Gen Y-ers, aka Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s, typically perceived as brought up and very familiar with digital and electronic technology).

But they’re more privileged because their parents have either already invested in property for them or are helping them buy it, Leh offers. Renting is not for the long-term, she says firmly, and even the younger ones know that.

The Malaysian mindset, Yu quips, is that everyone must own at least one property.

Gym owner Chip Ang, 26, agrees. He got the keys to his new 78sqm unit in Shah Alam last week.

Although it was his parents who suggested he get the RM168,000 place under the Selangor Government’s affordable housing scheme, Ang says property ownership is always a hot topic between him and his friends. Young professionals want to own property. The issue is affordability, he thinks.

“Many are unrealistic. They want their ideal home in the ideal place. Of course that’s unaffordable. Most affordable homes are in up and coming townships, not prime locations.”

The experience of getting his own place was a “blur” because it happened so fast, he says, though he does recall that, “because it’s affordable housing, I had to fulfil a number of requirements including proving that I’m a bachelor”. While the RM700 monthly mortgage payment is doable, he’s still nervous about being “tied down”.

Writer Teddy Gomez, 29, doesn’t think people have given up on owning property but sees a new trend emerging.

“Buying property is still big here but I see more renters because it’s cheaper and more flexible,” says Gomez, who got “a little help” from his dad buying a 83sqm apartment in Kuala Lumpur last year. Although the cosy RM400,000 unit is “not really affordable”, he says it’s time to leave the nest.

Like Gomez, a blogger who only wants to be known as Robyn, 24, thinks it’s nice to have your own space. She’s moving into an apartment in Petaling Jaya soon. The fresh graduate admits being lucky because her dad’s the owner. She’s getting the three-room unit for less than RM140,000 although it’s valued at over RM750,000.

“For the next three years, I’ll pay the RM3,800 monthly loan instalments. Now, I’m only contributing RM2,000 because I just started working. Dad’s helping until I can afford to take on the full amount myself.”

She knows she’s better off than most her age and is thankful for her family’s support – many of her friends are also looking for properties to buy but are resigned to living outside the city in places like Bangi and Kajang in Selangor. Still, with a RM200,000 budget, they’re willing to travel and own property rather than pay rent indefinitely.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says it’s unfair to tell consumers to live on the outskirts of city centres because public transportation is still a problem in the Klang Valley. Unless the homes are accessible, living far away from the workplace isn’t practical.

National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong sees a very strong demand for affordable properties in Malaysia because of our young population and urban migration.

For instance, the Government’s First House Deposit Financing (MyDeposit) scheme that was launched on April 6 received more than 6,000 online registrations within a week, a sure sign that Malaysians are still keen on owning property.

Fomca’s Selvaraj says property is a priority for most Malaysians because it’s a sound investment. They just can’t afford it in most urban areas.

“If you’re living on bread and water after paying your loan, then the house is unaffordable. For most young families, RM300,000-plus is affordable but it’s RM600,000 homes that are being built.”

Property is the best hedge against inflation so demand will always be strong, says HBA’s Chang. But there’s a “serious mismatch” between what’s classified as affordable by developers and the rakyat’s definition. To developers, an affordable property for first-time buyers is RM500,000. For upgraders, it’s up to RM1mil. Definitions on the ground are much lower. First-time buyers deem RM150,000 to RM300,000 affordable while those looking to upgrade can only pay between RM300,000 and RM600,000.

But if you can afford it – with family help, perhaps – M. Rajendran, 53, says invest early. The air traffic controller got his double-storey home in Kajang 21, Selangor, years ago for RM146,000. It’s worth at least RM600,000 now.

“If I hadn’t bought it then, I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford it now with the financial commitments I have. And at my age, no bank is going to give me a loan. Buy when you’re young because it’s cheaper and you can settle your loan faster.”

However, he warns that current economic challenges could result in a rise in the number of abandoned projects, so those looking at new properties should be cautious and do their homework.

“Scout around. Choose locations with infrastructure and amenities so that the potential for property prices to appreciate is higher.” – By Christina Chin The Star

Don’t bank on the banks

 Chang Kim LoongRELAXING lending conditions won’t help more people buy their own homes. It will only worsen the situation as developers increase prices further to match the lending surge, predicts Chang Kim Loong, honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA).

Datuk Paul Selvaraj also doesn’t think it’s a good idea. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association secretary-general says home ownership is a right, and it’s the Government’s responsibility to make it a reality. The Government, he stresses, must either build more affordable housing or force developers to cater to the neglected market. It’s wrong to force banks to take bigger lending risks by calling on them to relax lending conditions, he feels.

“Banks will only lend money if they can get it back. It’s unfair to expect them to do otherwise. Also, if the borrowers cannot pay, they themselves will end up with a big headache.”

Banks are rightly stringent as times are uncertain, says Wong Kok Soo, an adviser to the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia and consultant to the HBA.

Lenient policies encourage purchases that are beyond one’s means and are not a good idea; instead, the margin of financing should be increased or the loan tenure extended, for first home buyers. For existing loans, there should be some flexibility in extending tenures and adjusting debt servicing ratio, he feels.

Last year, housing in Kelantan, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor, as well as Kuala Lumpur, were listed as severely unaffordable by market experts. Nationwide, only Malacca made the affordable category with housing in the other states deemed either seriously or moderately unaffordable.

Bank Negara’s “Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2015” showed an increasing supply of homes above RM500,000 while those priced below RM250,000 accounted for less than 30% of the total launches in the first nine months of last year.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique has since called on developers to build more houses priced at RM300,000 for Malaysians.

The next generation won’t be able to own property without financial help from their parents unless concrete measures are taken to increase the supply of properties costing between RM150,000 and RM300,000 and to stem the steep rise in existing property prices due to excessive speculation, says HBA’s Chang.

A Khazanah Research Institute report reveals that Malaysia’s housing market is considered to be “seriously unaffordable”, with a median house price of more than four times the median annual household income. This problem, Chang notes, surfaced a little under a decade ago but if prices continue to soar, the situation could worsen.

Not that there aren’t affordable schemes and funding plans in place to help – in the last 50 years, scores have been introduced but information on them is scarce, he observes. Details of projects by developers, state agencies and federal bodies must be available in a public database, he suggests. And a single umbrella body under the Federal Government must coordinate the distribution and availability of such units.

Chang stresses also that there’s no place for racial profiling when it comes to housing. Whoever deserves a house must get a house, he insists.

There’s never a wrong time to buy property but one must balance the risk of buying with renting, he advices. Owning a house is riskier as buyers take on enormous debts, sign multi-year loan agreements and become responsible for homeowner costs, he cautions.

“Flip through the newspapers – you’ll see many proclamations of sales of units for public auction that are below RM50,000. Some even dip below RM10,000. On bank websites, you’ll find property foreclosure cases.”

A list of properties put up for auction by CIMB bank showed 35 units in Selangor at reserved prices of less than RM42,000 – that’s the price of a new low-cost unit, notes Chang.

Low-cost units auctioned off for half of the purchase price is an alarming trend, he says. Unfortunately, there aren’t any official statistics on how many low income earners have lost their homes or are struggling with their monthly loan commitment. Where do these homeowners and their families end up living, Chang wonders.

Foreclosures can devastate a family’s economic and social standing, possibly leaving them poorer than before they bought the property. Financiers, local authorities and communities benefit from homeowners being better informed of their rights and responsibilities as borrowers. Ensuring that lower income households have sufficient personal financial management skills and support is crucial.

It’s not enough just to provide homes for the low- and medium-income group. Chang recommends that a homeownership education programme be set up to raise financial literacy and prepare households for the responsibilities of owning a home.

“Manuals, advice or information given via telephone, workshops or counselling to help households maintain their homes and manage their finances must be given before first-time buyers sign the sale and purchase agreement. Public housing schemes are only successful if buyers can hold on to their property.”

Specifically, Chang says education should cover:

> Pre-purchase period – understanding the various types of available housing, the process of buying a house, loan process, and financial preparation needed; and evaluating household needs.

> Post-purchase period – budgeting monthly expenses; making payments promptly; avoiding loan defaults; living within a community; social responsibility; property taxes, assessments, insurance, service charges and sinking fund; home maintenance; and handling problems with the property.

Educate yourself and learn from the mistakes of others to avoid being disappointed or, worse, becoming “house poor” (when most of your income goes towards home ownership), Chang advises. Aspiring buyers must get something that’s within their budget. It could be an older or smaller unit but start small and slowly increase your property portfolio, he says.

“Don’t let friends or family influence you into getting something that’s above your budget, as home ownership is a long term investment. You must be able to service the loan while maintaining an acceptable standard of living.”

The majority may prefer to rent while waiting for the market to soften but it’s better to have your own shelter, says HBA consultant Wong.

The average Malaysian, he insists, can still own property. Consider buying at auctions. Research is a must, though, as inspections aren’t allowed at auctions. It’s an “as is, where is” bid, he stresses. Find out about the surrounding units and the neighbourhood, he suggests.

Better to own but…

PROPERTY investment helps maintain our socioeconomic well-being and must be encouraged, says Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar, president of the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda).

Property – a wealth-creation instrument without the volatility of stock markets – has consistently out-performed traditional investment options like bonds, he points out.

But to invest, one must study the property and its market potential. With the right location and strategy, property can be a very profitable investment. The value will appreciate over time, he says.

To many, the most important aspect of owning property is to secure a home. In current conditions, most developers are coming up with attractive packages to close the deal, so it’s a good time to buy. Securing a bank loan now, though, is one of the biggest barriers, he says.

Rehda’s recommendations to the Government and Bank Negara are:

> Encourage innovative home financing packages like the developers interest bearing scheme (better known as DIBS).

> Allow flexible or accelerated tiered payments (longer loan tenure so you pay less now but more later when your salary has increased).

> Relax loan approval criteria with higher financing margins (up to 100%).

Also, banks, he says, shouldn’t just focus on a loan applicant’s current net income; future prospects of higher salaries and other incomes and bonuses must be taken into account.

He dismisses talk that the average Malaysian has been priced out of owning his or her first home.

There’s still a range of prices and options in both the primary and secondary property markets, he says.

With new launches, developers usually offer special incentives, rebates or discounts that will help buyers reduce their initial payment. In the secondary market, however, what you see is what you get. Depending on what you’re looking for, factors like location, surroundings, facilities, transportation and infrastructure will help you decide.

“Property prices in city centres are high because of land value but there are many cheaper options in less-urbanised areas. There are many affordable houses, including those by PR1MA (the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme). The average Malaysian can definitely afford these.

“With an improving transportation system and connectivity, these places are now easily accessible from city centres.”

We are paid enough

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

WAGES are rising in tandem with the country’s consumer price index (CPI), which is a broad measure of inflation and our productivity.

Both criteria are used to determine wages here, says Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation.

While Malaysians lament how their salaries aren’t enough to cope with soaring costs of products and services, their grouses aren’t reflected in the low CPI numbers, he says.

“Measured against the CPI, our average salary growth isn’t lagging. In the region, our salaries are second only to Singapore. Of course, you must consider the currency exchange. Singaporeans earn an average of S$3,000 (RM9,000) while Malaysians take home RM2,800 monthly.

“But bear in mind that the productivity of Singaporeans is 3.8 times higher than ours. Their per unit cost of production per employee is lower than us. In the United States, the productivity level is seven times higher than ours. So when you say we aren’t earning enough, you have to consider our productivity level too,” he states, pointing to how in some of our neighbouring countries, the average salary is less than US$100 (RM400).

However, he acknowledges that houses are beyond the reach of most – and fresh graduates in particular – and adds that even when both husband and wife work, they still may not have enough for the down payment and are forced to rent.

It’s tough, he admits, even for those who have already been working for a decade, to own a house now without financial support from parents.

Related: Renting is OK too

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