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.

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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
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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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Penang property prices move sideways in Q1 2016


THE Penang housing market moved sideways on both the primary and secondary markets in the first quarter of the year, says Michael Geh (pictured), director at Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners.

“I noted active transactions on the secondary market with prices staying flat,” he says in presenting the 1Q2016 Penang Housing Property Monitor.

Banks, he adds, only provide loans of up to 70% to 80% of a property’s value and serious first-time homebuyers have to make up the difference in order to sign the sales and purchase agreement.

Michael Geh“A few primary market projects have obtained the Advertising Permit and Developer Licence (APDL) and moved into the stage of processing loans from commercial banks and signing the S&P.” These projects include I-Santorini, SummerSkye and ForestVille, all under Ideal Group.

Will the prices of Penang houses, considered expensive, drop because of the soft market conditions? Geh says prices have come down to more realistic levels, especially with the government pushing the developers to build properties priced from RM300,000 to RM400,000 in the last two years, specifically for owner-occupiers.

Some of these properties, in areas such as Sungai Ara, Patani Road and Relau, have been taken up and are currently under construction, he adds.

Elsewhere in the country, some developers are pushing sales by providing financial assistance to the purchasers. Will those in Penang follow suit?

Geh says such a practice is not widespread for now. “Besides Sunway Bhd and S P Setia Bhd, I don’t see any other developer providing financial packages at the moment. I believe there are plans for such assistance but so far, nothing has been announced.”

Image result for Penang Transport Master PlanHe believes a catalyst for the state’s housing market would be the much-talked-about RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP). The ambitious plan will not only benefit the people but also bring about a more equitable housing situation and help retain local talent.

The TMP, he feels, will lead to equitable home property prices as areas that are not in prime locations will become more accessible, boosting demand for homes and resulting in higher prices. Properties in prime areas, which normally fetch higher prices, should see some price correction as demand is more evenly distributed across the state.

Image result for Penang Transport Master Plan

Apart from that, Geh opines that the TMP will help retain talent, which will subsequently impact the property market as the pool of workers seek to rent or own residential properties.

Image result for Penang Transport Master Plan“Penang needs the TMP to grow in the next 10 years. We need to stem the migration of youths to the Klang Valley, Iskandar Malaysia and Singapore in search of better job opportunities. We need to create jobs and make conditions more liveable for our youth to prosper,” he says.
Penang LRT map route masterplan

At present, two light rail transit lines have been approved under the TMP — one from Prangin Canal to Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas and the other from Prangin Canal to Straits Quay.

 As for creating jobs, the state government is making a concerted effort

to develop new business sectors so that Penang can stay relevant to the
global economy.

“An industry that has been highlighted by the state is the knowledge economy, such as apps and animation,” Geh says. This has been identified as a key economic sector for the next decade.

There is a proposal for three reclaimed islands in the southern part of Penang island to locate businesses for this sector, he says, and for the islands to be connected by an LRT line that extends from Penang International Airport.

However, it has not been plain sailing for the TMP because one of its components — the Sky Cab or cable car system — has been rejected by the federal government. The 4.8km cable car system, according to the Penang government’s TMP website, was to have connected Butterworth on the mainland to Jelutong on the island. While this is a blow to the state government’s plans, Geh does not believe it will affect property prices.

“Cable car systems are generally more for tourists and not meant to move high volumes of people. I don’t think there will be a large negative impact on the property market. High-volume, high-frequency vessels that travel on water may be a better solution,” he says.

Another component of the TMP is an undersea tunnel linking the island with the mainland. However, further details are not forthcoming at present.

A development that will have an indirect impact on the Penang housing market is the much-debated Gurney Wharf. This 3km-long reclamation project lies just off the shores of popular tourist spot, Gurney Drive.

Geh believes this project has great potential to benefit the island. “I believe Gurney Wharf is an exciting development because it creates recreational activities for Gurney Drive. I think it is a boost to the area.”

Terraced houses

The prices of landed properties did not rise much compared with those of high rises, the data compiled for the monitor reveals. This is due to “stagnation” as there were very few transactions during the quarter under review, compared with the high-rise sector where there was much more activity, Geh explains.

Nevertheless, property values have increased compared with a year ago.

For 1-storey terraced houses, some areas surveyed showed activity year on year but little movement quarter on quarter.

On the island, properties in Jelutong showed the highest price growth, rising 5.88% to RM900,000 from a year ago, followed by houses in Tanjung Bungah (up 5.26% to RM800,000). Houses in Sungai Dua, Sungai Ara and Bandar Bayan Baru saw slight price increases of 2.56%, 2.04% and 1.96% respectively while those in Green Lane and on the mainland saw no changes.

For 2-storey terraced houses, there was no activity q-o-q but prices rose y-o-y in some of the areas surveyed.

The prices of houses in Pulau Tikus rose 6.67% to RM1.6 million, followed by those in Sungai Ara (5.26% to RM1 million) and Sungai Nibong (4.55% to RM1.15 million). Prices remained unchanged in Green Lane and the mainland.

Semi-detached and detached houses

The 2-storey semidees in some areas saw more activity in 1Q2016 than in the previous quarter and last year. Prices in Sungai Dua and Minden Heights rose 6.67% to RM1.6 million q-o-q, followed by those in Sungai Nibong (up 5.71% to RM1.85 million) and Island Park (up 2.27% to RM2.25 million). Prices in Sungai Ara remained unchanged.

There was no q-o-q increase for 2-storey detached houses but 50% of the units surveyed in the monitor saw y-o-y activity.

Island Glades bungalows saw a 3.57% increase to RM2.9 million y-o-y , the prices of Green Lane houses rose 2.86% to RM3.6 million and Pulai Tikus houses were up 2% to RM5.1 million. House prices in Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Minden Heights remained unchanged.

Flats and condominiums

Three-bedroom flats in Green Lane and Bandar Baru Air Itam showed price increases q-o-q as well as y-o-y .

In Green Lane, prices rose 5.26% to RM400,000 q-o-q and 17.65% y-o-y. Units in Bandar Baru Air Itam rose 4.35% to RM240,000 q-o-q and 20% y-o-y.

Compared with a year ago, the prices of flats in Paya Terubong were up 12.5% to RM180,000, followed by Sungai Dua and Lip Sin Garden (6.06% to RM350,000) and Relau (3.45% to RM300,000).

Among the 3-bedroom condos, the biggest gainers were properties in Pulau Tikus, which rose 4.62% q-o-q and 9.68% y-o-y to RM680,000.

In Island Park and Island Glades, prices rose 4.17% q-o-q and 6.38% y-o-y to RM500,000 while condos in Batu Ferringhi rose 2.22% to RM460,000 q-o-q and y-o-y.

Batu Uban condos rose 5% to RM420,000 from the previous year but there was no activity q-o-q. The prices of Tanjung Bungah units remained unchanged.

The Edge Property

Soaring house prices worry Penangites below 30

GEORGE TOWN (June 21): Despite the affordable housing programme by the state government, Penangites, especially those below the age of 30, are worried that they are unable to own a house in the future.

This is because housing prices in Penang island have risen by about 50% for the last five years and even for houses that was built under the affordable housing project.

A Bernama survey showed that several affordable housing projects that were completed less than 10 years ago in Bandar Baru Air Itam was originally priced at about RM175,000 but currently being resold at RM300,000 and above.

State Housing, Local and Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo, said the state government had no power to control the price of houses being sold by house owners.

At present the state government had set a moratorium of five years for affordable housing and 10 years for low cost housing before it could be sold in the open market.

“There’s nothing that can be done by the state government to control the price but, what we can do is to provide more affordable housing so that the people can buy at a lower price,” he said.

Muhamad Amir Amin, 26, who worked as a graphic designer, said he earned about RM2,300 per month and could not even able to buy a low cost house with that wage.

“A low cost house costs RM42,000, which I cannot even afford to buy and from my observation, there is no low cost housing in Penang any more.

“All are either low medium cost or affordable housing which cost RM75,000 and above,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Social Science senior academician, Zainab Wahidin said that building more houses to tackle the increase of property price was not a solution given that Penang’s land was limited, especially on the island.

“If the state keeps building houses as an effort to provide affordable housing there will be more empty houses than those being occupied.

“There must be a regulation to control the housing price as a house is a basic necessity. Everybody needs a house to live in,” she added.

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Building more homes, the only long term-way to bring house prices down


Building more homes may be one of the most practical ways to bring prices down

 

WHILE flipping through a business magazine, I saw an interesting chart illustrating the average household size of various countries including Malaysia.

At one glance, our number of 4.4 people per household is among the highest in the world, even in the Asia Pacific region with many developing countries.

We are far behind compared to developed nations such as United Kingdom and Australia, which have 2.3 and 2.6 people per household respectively. Our number is also higher than two nations with high population in our region, China and Indonesia, which recorded 3 and 3.9 people for their average household size respectively.

What do these numbers tell us? Other than giving us information on our demographic structure, it also offers an important insight which could address the issue of home prices in our country.

The Governor of the Bank of England (BoE) Mark Carney once said, the only long-term way to effectively bring home prices down is to build more homes. This may be one of the most practical ways for us to address the issue too.

According to National Property Information Centre(NAPIC), we had 4.9 million homes in the fourth quarter of 2015. As NAPIC does not track rural homes, we assume that only urbanites were taken into account in the survey. This accounts for about 70% of our 31 million population or 21.7 million people. Therefore, on average, there is about4.4 people per household in the urban areas of our country.

The above figure is a poorer ratio than Australia in 1927. If we are to match the same ratio as Australia today, we need 8.3 million houses instead of 4.9 million houses. It means we need additional 3.4 million houses to meet the standard in Australia.

With our current rate of housing production, which is about 70,000 new units launched a year according to NAPIC, we need 48 years to build 3.4 million homes, and it would still be a long distance for us to catch up with UK and Australia, given the rapid growth of population and urbanisation in our country.

Our Statistics Department estimates that our population will reach 38.5 million by year 2040. If we maintain the ratio of 70% urban population by then, we would need another 5.5 million houses to reach the ratio of 2.6 people per household in 2040. This literally means we need to build 230,000 houses per year for the coming 24 years!

Basic economic principle says, when demand is higher than supply, prices will go up. And when supply exceeds demand, prices will go down. Equilibrium is met when demand equals supply.

This is well reflected in the world oil market. From 2010 until early 2014, oil prices had been fairly stable at around US$110 per barrel. However, since mid-2014, prices have dropped by more than half due to a surge in production and a drop in demand in many countries.

United States production has nearly doubled over the last few years. Saudi, Nigerian and Algerian oil that once was sold in the United States have to compete for Asian markets, and the producers are forced to drop prices. Canadian and Iraqi oil production and exports are rising every year. Russians also manage to keep pumping at record levels. All these contribute to the oil prices which are hovering around $50 per barrel today.

It works the same in the real estate market. Imagine if we are having 8.3 million houses today instead of 4.9 million, our house prices would be much more affordable due to sufficient supply.

The key factor here is, we need more houses, especially affordable homes. The relevant authorities need to streamline the delivery system to encourage the number of homes built every year. Government and various local authorities should also pool resources together in filling the gap by speeding up approval process, and building more affordable homes.

Rick Jacobus, an expert in affordable homeownership in United States shares his view in his article “Why we must build?”– the answer for hot-market metro areas is simply to build. Build more. Build now. Build anywhere. Even when we build high-end housing for the rich it adds to the overall supply and pushes rents down.

I particularly like a quote in his article, “We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis but we won’t get out without building.”

It is an interesting point for us to ponder when it comes to the challenge of housing the nation in our country, especially the need for affordable homes.

 By A;an 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, email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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Lessons from Penang affordable housing


AS we all know, affordable housing is the saving grace for the middle to low income group in our common dream to pursue the “roof over our heads”.

Most often, aspiring homebuyers are sandwiched between increasing property price and developers’ tendency to build high-end apartments especially in greater KL for the last decade.

The introduction of PR1MA and other affordable housing agencies by the federal government is aimed at addressing this gap and to promote better home ownership as part of the prime minister’s national transformation programme. Nonetheless, not many realised that affordable housing is also a state initiative whereby state governments are free to introduce affordable housing schemes given that land and development are within the exclusive power of the state under the Federal Constitution. For instance, Penang is fully behind the notion of affordable housing by placing their top priority on increasing homeownership ratio within the state.

Checking online, there are currently 29 affordable housing projects in Penang with 12 being developed by the state government and the other 17 by the private sector. Penang is delivering a commendable amount of affordable housing by trading plot ratio of built-up area in exchange for more units to be built.

The state government is constantly reviewing and updating the criteria for the purchase of affordable housing in Penang. A person who already owns a property can still purchase affordable housing in Penang provided the person can satisfy the conditions imposed.

For example, the house to be purchased must be of higher value than the one already owned.

In addition, for those who are not born in Penang, under the talented and skilled category, they may also purchase affordable housing in Penang provided they undertake to reside there for a minimum of five years. In short, affordable has become a driver for talent retention. This ultimately helps to upgrade living standard in Penang.

On the flip side, Penang has uncovered a problem. Those who are entitled to affordable housing may not qualify for financing, especially those from the lower income group as they are considered as high risk by banks.

Job and income security at this level are extremely vulnerable given the high cost of living that in effect reduces disposal income. Bank and financial institution are after all profit-making entities. Loan disbursements below a certain threshold amount does not always generate their desire margin. Many expiring home owners are left helpless.

While nothing is perfect, one can only achieve success through lessons learned along the way and from history. The federal government is aware of the high loan rejection rate. It has, therefore, provided a 10% loan guarantee and First House Deposit Financing to help purchasers with their downpayments. The “Rent to Own” scheme was also introduced to circumvent the stricter loan financing situation.

Penang has introduced a similar Rent to Own scheme. Under this scheme, the state government provides 30% of the home price so that the house buyer can seek a 70% loan margin.

PR1MA, on the other hand, is facing difficulties finding suitable land as land is state matter. There is also a tendency for the state government to allocate land for this purpose in areas they want to urbanise, but which are often far from amenities and transportation links.

We all know that to develop affordable housing is not the best commercial decision to make because profit margins are definitely lower. As such, we cannot expect private sector developers to always bear the cost.

Penang, on the other hand, is able to overcome this problem by reducing the development charges via an increase in plot ratio. This then attracts private sector developers to come in.

A recent survey conducted by PR1MA shows that buyers prefer to purchase residential projects close to schools, clinics and shops. They also prefer access to transportation. Penang is closer to achieving its objective in the affordable housing arena because it “focuses on the homeowners”.

Under the recently announced Penang Transport Master Plan, the state government is mulling over RM8bil worth of projects that will enhance connectivity.

The development of an underground tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam, Gurney Drive to Jelutong Expressway and an alternative road connecting Gurney Drive right up to Batu Feringhi will really improve connectivity.

Penang is ambitious in executing its affordable housing plans. It is also spot-on when it comes to addressing the different issues connected with this subject.

The banking sector must buy into it. Banking and financial institutions are governed by the fiscal policy of the federal government. Maybe some mandatory quota or corporate social responsibility initiatives can be imposed on banks to provide loans to deserving house buyers. So it is timely that Bank Negara has called for a comprehensive and carefully designed National Planning Policy to support the Government’s aim in delivering more social housing in its recently released annual report.

By Chris Tan

Chris Tan is the founder and managing partner of Chur Associates.

 

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The allure of Penang heritage properties


Prized property: The Chimes Heritage building at Jalan Bawasah, Penang. The value of heritage properties has increased by 37 to 157 per sq ft since 2008 due to the investments made by Penangites staying overseas and by Singaporeans.

 

Value of such assets has jumped by as much as 157% psf

THE heritage property segment is still attracting strong interest from investors despite the softening of the overall property market in Penang.

The value of heritage properties has increased by about 37% to 157% per sq ft (psf) since 2008 due to investments made by Penangites staying overseas and by Singaporeans.

Depending on the location, size, and condition of the heritage properties, the present pricing on a psf basis ranges from RM550 per sq ft (psf) to RM1,800 psf, compared to between RM400 psf and RM700 psf in 2008.

According to the National Property Information Centre (Napic), a locally registered company, World Class Land Sdn Bhd, snapped up over 60 pre-war houses in George Town’s heritage areas for about RM122mil.

Raine & Horne Malaysia senior partner Michael Geh says the properties were sold between late 2013 and August 2015.

“The most expensive pre-war property, with a 1,363q ft land area and located in Chulia Street, was sold for over RM2,000 psf,” he says.

It is learnt that about RM30mil would be spent for restoring the properties, as the cost of restoration is about RM500,000 per unit.

The company also acquired a 30,000 sq ft of land in Magazine Road for about RM36.9mil. “This was the highest transaction for a vacant land in 2015, as the sale was transacted at RM1,250 psf,” Geh adds.

Geh says locals tend not to pay attention to the capital appreciation of heritage properties, although the value had risen substantially since 2008.

“They should invest because the supply of heritage properties is limited.

“There only some 3,853 units of such properties in George Town’s heritage core and buffer areas, according to George Town World Heritage Inc.

“Because the supply is limited, it is safe to invest, as the value would tend to rise than fall.

“I urged Penangites to acquire heritage properties for own use and enjoy the capital appreciation that would occur incrementally,” he says.

Because of the strong appreciation in the value of pre-war houses, the rental yield of such properties has remained unattractive.

In 2008, the rental of heritage properties, depending on the location, size, and condition of the heritage properties, ranged between RM1,000 and RM3,000, compared to the rental today which is between RM3,000 and RM8,000.

“Calculated on a yearly basis, the rental yield is not attractive.

“Today the yield is about 4.8%, compared to about 4.5% in 2008

“This shows that the value has appreciated faster than the rentals, as there is very little demand to rent properties in the state,” he says.

According to Geh, local investors should pay attention in particular to the heritage properties in the Prangin Market or Sia Boey area, as it has been earmarked for the location of the central LRT station on the island, which would boost the value of the properties in the area.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM, Northern Chapter) chairman Datuk Lawrence Lim says the cost of restoring heritage properties has increased by about 40% since 2008.

“Today the cost to restore such houses ranged between RM150,000 and RM500,000 per unit.

“A simple restoration for a heritage property with a 2,000 sq ft built-up area can cost about RM150,000.

“It cost just RM50,000 to restore the roof of a heritage house,” he says.

Despite the increased in the cost of restoration, there are local investors who are still investing in heritage properties.

Lim, who is also East Design managing director, says the company was now undertaking restoration projects for heritage houses in Hong Kong Street and Magazine Road.

“We will be restoring the Koon Kee office building at Hong Kong Street, the manufacturer of Penang’s famous white coffee.

“The other project involves the restoration of 10 pre-war units in Magazine Road for commercial usage,” Lim says.

Datuk Ooi Sian Hian, who is also Ghee Hiang group executive chairman, says he will be restoring the heritage property of his family’s maternal grandparents at 123 Macalister Road.

The property, measuring 3,600 sq ft in built-up area, sitting on a 30,000 sq ft site, was built in the 19th century, and came under the ownership of Ooi’s maternal grandparents in the 1950s.

“We are getting local architects and architectural students through the assistance of PAM to come up with a suitable design concept to restore the property.

“It will be up to the architectural fraternity to decide on the appropriate design concept for the property.

“Whether it will be restored for commercial or residential usage will depend on their design.

“We plan to kick off the project in two year’s time,” Ooi says.

Ooi’s family has 10 properties at Prangin Lane, nine of which he will restore at a later date for commercial re-use.

“The properties have been passed down from the maternal grandparents.

“We want to wait and see what the market for restored heritage properties is like first, as there are already in the market many such restored heritage projects.

“We also want to wait for the state government’s Sia Boey project to be completed first, as the site has been earmarked for a LRT project hub,” he adds.

Ooi says he is submitting a plan to restore the tenth heritage terraced property located in Prangin Lane, which has a built-up area of 1,620q ft.

“We are naming it Jumpa@41PranginLane, which will be restored as a event centre for pop-up markets, seminars, stage plays, and culinary events,” he says.

Under Ghee Hiang, the group is now restoring its heritage property at 61 Beach Street, which has over 3,000q ft in built-up area.

“It is the Ghee Hiang Group’s Concept Lifestyle In-Store, which will be designed to accommodate a living heritage museum showcasing the history of the group’s history and tau sar pneah products and a lifestyle themed cafe,” he says.

Khoo Kongsi trustee Datuk Khoo Kay Hock says the clan association has restored 16 pre-war properties and had leased them to a hotel operator.

“The properties are undergoing interior refurbishment now, and scheduled for opening in the second half of 2016.

“About RM4mil was invested to restore the properties, which were completely restored two years,” he says.

According to George Town World Heritage Inc general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee, there are 3771 heritage properties in George Town belonging to category II.

“Category II properties are those residences and business premises that have existed for generations.

“They were built to support the traditional beliefs of the inhabitants and users.

“In the George Town’s World Heritage Site (WHS), there are 82 buildings, gateways, cemeteries, and sites categorised as Category 1.

“Category 1 buildings and monuments are important because they reflect the authenticity of the cultural landscape and therefore the outstanding universal values of the world heritage site (WHS),” she adds.

By David Tan The Star

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