Global Reset 2016~2017


In a world facing challenges and uncertainties, embrace opportunities for success through innovation.

“I went looking for my dreams outside of myself and discovered, it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it. –Anne Shirley”

THE world is currently at a paradox. Tensions and uncertainty for the future are rising in times of prevailing peace and prosperity. While changes are taking place at an incredibly fast speed, such changes are presenting unprecedented opportunities to those who are willing to innovate.

Recently, most global currencies had weakened against the US dollar (USD). This may give rise to some concern, but it is worth placing in proper perspective that most countries would trade with a few countries instead of just one. Furthermore, we are living in a world with low economic growth, increased mobility and rapid urbanisation.

In such a global landscape, it is important to embrace change and innovation in a courageous way to shape a better future. In L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley said, “I went looking for my dreams outside of myself and discovered, it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.”

Paradox, change and opportunity

In the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, World Economic Forum head of the centre for the global agenda and member of the managing board Richard Samans stated that at a time of rising income inequality, mounting social and political tensions and a general feeling of uncertainty about the future, growth remains persistently low.

Commodity prices have fallen, as has trade; external imbalances are increasing and government finances are stressed.

However, it also comes during one of the most prosperous and peaceful times in recorded history, with less disease, poverty and violence than ever before. Against this backdrop of seeming contradictions, the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings both unprecedented opportunity and an accelerated speed of change.

Creating the conditions necessary to reignite growth could not be more urgent. Incentivising innovation is especially important for finding new growth engines, but laying the foundations for long-term, sustainable growth requires working on all factors and institutions identified in the Global Competitiveness Index.

Leveraging the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require not only businesses willing and able to innovate, but also sound institutions, both public and private; basic infrastructure, health and education, macroeconomic stability and well-functioning labour, financial and human capital markets.

World Economic Forum editor Klaus Schwab stated in The Fourth Industrial Revolution that we are at the beginning of a global transformation that is characterised by the convergence of digital, physical and biological technologies in ways that are changing both the world around us and our very idea of what it means to be human. The changes are historic in terms of their size, speed and scope.

This transformation – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – is not defined by any particular set of emerging technologies themselves, but by the transition to new systems that are being built on the infrastructure of the digital revolution. As these individual technologies become ubiquitous, they will fundamentally alter the way we produce, consume, communicate, move, generate energy and interact with one another.

Given the new powers in genetic engineering and neurotechnology, they may directly impact who we are, and how we think and behave. The fundamental and global nature of this revolution also pose new threats related to the disruptions it may cause, affecting labour markets and the future of work, income inequality and geopolitical security, as well as social value systems and ethical frameworks.


A dollar story

When set in a global landscape where there is uncertainty for the future, when compared to other countries, Malaysia’s economy is performing quite well.

ForexTime vice president of market research Jameel Ahmad said, “When you combine what is happening on a global level, the Malaysian economy is in quite an envious position.”

For 2016, the USD has moved to levels not seen in over 12 years. The dollar index is trading above 100. This was previously seen as a psychological top for USD.

The Malaysian ringgit (MYR) is not alone in the devaluation of its currency. All of the emerging market currencies have been affected in recent weeks.

Similarly, the British £(GBP) has lost 30% this year, falling from US$1.50 to US$1.25 per GBP. The Euro (EUR) has fallen from US$1.15 to US$1.05 in three weeks.

The China Yuan Renmenbi (CNY) is hitting repeated historic lows against the USD. The CNY is only down around 5%.

Jameel believes that the outlook for the USD will be further strengthened. While the dollar was already expected to maintain demand due to the consistent nature of US economic data, the levels of fiscal stimulus that US Presidentelect Donald Trump is aiming to deliver to the US economy will encourage borrowing rates to go up.

This means that it is now more likely than ever that the Federal Reserve will need to accelerate its cycle of monetary policy normalisation (interest rate rises).

Most were expecting higher interest rates in 2017. Trump has also publicly encouraged stronger interest rates. However, when considered that Trump is also promising heavy levels of fiscal stimulus, there is a justified need for higher interest rates, otherwise inflation in the United States will be at risk of getting out of control.

The probability for further gains in the USD due to the availability of higher yields from increased interest rates will mean further pressure to the emerging market currencies.

With populism resulting in victories in both the United States’ presidential election and the EU referendum in the United Kingdom in 2016, attention should be given to the real political issues in Europe and the upcoming political elections in 2017, such as those in Germany and France.

Jameel said, “Until recently, political instability was only associated with developing economies. We are now experiencing a strong emergence across the developed markets. This might lure investors towards keeping their capital within the emerging markets longer. Only time will tell.”

In Malaysia’s case, the economy is still performing at robust levels, despite slowing headline growth. Growth rates in Malaysia are still seen as significantly stronger than those in the developed world.

There are going to be challenges from a stronger USD and other risks such as slowing trade, but the emerging markets are still recording stronger growth rates than the developed world.

Adapting to creative destruction

In a world where changes are taking place rapidly, the ability to adapt to changes plays an important role in encouraging innovation and growth. Global cities are achieving rapid growth by attracting the talented, high value workers that all companies, across industries, want to recruit.

In an era where 490 million people around the world reside in countries with negative interest rates, over 60% of the world’s citizens now own a smartphone and an estimated four billion people live in cities, which is an increase of 23% compared to 10 years ago, these three key trends are shaping our times.

Knight Frank head of commercial John Snow and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank president James D. Kuhn shared that the era of low to negative interest rates has reduced investors’ expectations on what constitutes an acceptable return. The financial roller coaster ride that led to this situation has made safe haven assets highly sought after.

A volatile economy has not stopped an avalanche of technological innovation. Smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi and 4G have revolutionised the spread of information, increased our ability to work on the move, and led to a flourishing of entrepreneurship.

Fast-growing cities are taking centre stage in the innovation economy and in most of the global cities, supply is not keeping pace with demand for both commercial and residential real estate.

Consequently, tech and creative firms are increasingly relying upon pre-let deals to accommodate growth, while their young workers struggle to find affordable homes.

As the urban economy becomes increasingly people-centric, regardless of a city being driven by finance, aerospace, commodities, defence or manufacturing, the most important asset is a large pool of educated and creative workers.

Consequently, real estate is increasingly a business that seeks to build an environment that attracts and retains such people.

Knight Frank chief economist and editor of global cities James Roberts said, “We are moving into an era where creative people are a highly prized commodity. Cities will thrive or sink on their ability to attract this key demographic.

“A characteristic of the global economy in the last decade has been the phenomenon of stagnation and indeed decline, occurring alongside innovation and success. If you were invested in the right places and technologies, the last decade has been a great time to make money; yet at the same time, some people have lost fortunes.

“The locations that have performed best in this unpredictable environment have generally hosted the creative and technology industries that lead the digital revolution, and disrupt established markets.” The rise of aeroplanes, automobiles and petroleum created economic booms in the cities that led the tech revolution of the 1920s and 30s. Yet elsewhere, recession descended on locations with the industries that lost market share to those new technologies like ship building, train manufacturing and coal mining.

In a world where abundant economic opportunities in one region live alongside stagnation elsewhere, it is not easy to reconcile the fact that countries that were booming just a few years ago on rising commodity prices are now adapting to slower growth.

Just as surprising are Western cities that are now thriving as innovation centres, when they were dismissed as busted flushes in 2009 due to their high exposure to financial centres.

Roberts said, “This is creative destruction at work in the modern context. The important lesson for today’s property investor or occupier of business space, is to ensure you are on-the ground where the ‘creation’ is occurring and have limited exposure to the ‘destruction’. This is not easy, as the pace of technological change is accelerating at a speed where the old finds itself overtaken by the new.

“However, real estate in the global cities arguably offers a hedged bet against this uncertainty due to the nature of the modern urban economy, where those facing destruction, quickly reposition towards the next wave of creation.”

The industries that drive the modern global city are not dependent upon machinery or commodities but people, who deliver economic flexibility.

A locomotive plant cannot easily retool to make electric cars, raising a shortcoming of the single industry factory town. Similarly, an oil field in Venezuela has limited value for any other commercial activity.

However, a modern office building in a global city like Paris can quickly move from accommodating bankers in rows of desks to techies in flexible work space. Therefore, there is adaptability in the people in a service economy city which is matched by the city’s real estate.

In the people-driven global cities, a new industry can redeploy the ‘infantry’ from a fading industry via recruitment. Similarly, the professional and business service companies that served the banks, now serve a new clientele of digital firms.

In contrast, manufacturing or commodity-driven economies face greater barriers when reinventing themselves.

Today, landlords across the world struggle with how to judge the covenants of firms who have not been in existence long enough to have three years of accounts, but are clearly the future.

Consequently, both landlord and tenant need to approach real estate deals with flexibility. Landlords will need to give ground on lease term and financial track record, and occupiers must compensate the landlord for the increased risk via a higher rent.

Another big challenge for the Western global cities will be competition from emerging market cities that succeed in repositioning themselves away from manufacturing, and towards creative services. The process has started, with Shanghai now seeing a rapid expansion of its tech and creative industries.

The big Western centres still lead in services, but the challenge from emerging markets cities did not end with the commodities rout. They are just experiencing creative destruction and will emerge stronger to present a new challenge to the West.

From Mak Kum Shi The Star/ANN
 

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Money lost under the shadow banking: loan sharks Ah Long


 

IN my previous article, I shared the impact of high credit card interest rate that many have overlooked and hence, overspent. Interestingly, there are loans outside the confines of financial institutions that affect the mass. These loans are largely unregulated and therefore, more painful in terms of financial burden and emotional stress when the loan and interest cannot be repaid on time.

Every now and then, I will receive text messages from unknown contacts offering loans at “attractive” rates. A check with my close associates indicates that I am not alone in receiving such messages. These messages and those stickers offering loans on the streets share the same traits, i.e. easy loan with no pre-qualification required. Example – “Borrow RM1,000, and return RM200 monthly for six months”.

At first glance, it seems like the interest rate for the loan is 20%. However, as the repayment period is only six months, it is actually 40% per annum! This rate is 11 times higher compared with the average fixed deposit rate of 3.5% per annum in the market.

These loans are offered mostly by unlicensed moneylenders, otherwise commonly known as “loan sharks”. According to a news article published in The Star recently, the interest they charged are mostly counted based on monthly or even daily rest basis.

It is learnt from the article that people usually borrow between RM1,000 and RM10,000 at an interest rate of 0.5% to 1% per day. This works up to about 15% to 30% monthly. When the loan is defaulted, another 5% is added as a late repayment penalty.

It therefore becomes evident that the borrowers of such loans face immense problem repaying their loans. They will generally end up borrowing from other moneylender to cover their existing loan which will lead them to more debts. Imagine the emotional stress from harassment when they are unable to serve the interest.

Sadly, this loan with its easy application process and low requirement attracts people who are financially desperate, regardless of professional or income group.

Bank Negara has announced that Malaysia’s household debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio has increased from 86.8% to 89.1% as of 2015. We have one of the highest household debts in the region without including the unregulated loans from these “moneylenders”. I wonder how this “shadow banking” or “off balance sheet transaction” impact our people and economy.

To protect the rakyat, the government should look at strengthening the enforcement of eliminating illegal money lending.

As the saying goes “where there is demand, there is supply”. Hence the key is to first understand why people resort to borrowing from these “moneylenders”. It is important to strengthen financial education and awareness of public through various channels.

People, especially children, should be taught to borrow for the right things from young, and understand the difference between good debt and bad debt. More importantly, people should learn to ask themselves if there is a real need to borrow. Borrowing money to buy assets that depreciate over a short period of time, such as cars and luxury items is deemed as “bad debt”. This is in stark contrast to “good debt”, such as buying a home or asset that has the possibility of appreciating in the long term, and at the same time, paying a much lower interest rate compared with bad debts.

For people with a genuine need for financing, there are many other options such as borrowing from the banks and legal money lenders, or even to the explore “fintech”, a financial technology which offers more efficient and cheaper financial services through the use of technology. Again, it is important to ensure these channels are legal and well regulated.

Borrowing from unregulated moneylenders is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It is important to have wise financial planning in the first place and always seek advice before doing anything financially. One may get advice from government agencies, such as Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit, when faced with financial challenges.


By Datuk Alan Tong, who 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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Homestays, a booming business: Homes vs hotels, a study of the industry


Homestays, a booming business

HOMESTAYS, once popular in rural areas, have now become big businesses in towns and cities nationwide.

Thousands of homeowners have discovered how to make money with their properties and avoid paying taxes.

They have joined global home-sharing marketplaces, and just like how Uber has made life for government-regulated taxi drivers difficult, the home-sharing phenomenon is shaving off hotel revenues.

By paying a mere 3% service fee per booking, homeowners – also called hosts – can connect with over 60 million travellers worldwide through online giants like American company Airbnb and Singapore-based HomeAway.

Airbnb’s website has a tool to help homeowners gauge their expected weekly income and according to this, the country’s chart-toppers are those in Langkawi who can make RM2,801 a week, followed by those around Malacca’s Jonker Walk (RM2,495 a week).

Close behind are Penang home-shares in Tanjung Tokong (RM2,494) and Pulau Tikus (RM2,449). In Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur, they can expect to earn RM1,676 weekly, while those near Taman Pelangi in Johor Baru can expect RM2,287 a week.

The above estimated earnings are for apartments or houses catering to groups of five travellers.

There are homeshares even in the hinterlands. They can make an average of RM923 a week in Kota Baru, Kelantan. In Kangar, Perlis, homeshares can expect to collect RM1,619 a week.

Unlike hotel occupancies, the government has no knowledge nor way of tracking these check-ins.

All the payments are transacted via the home-sharing portals’ overseas payment gateways and the earnings are transferred to homeowners through international money wires, PayPal or direct deposits.

Their guests are also “exempted” from the RM2 per room per night heritage tax fee in Malacca and Penang’s local government fee of RM3 per room per night for four-star and five-star hotels, and RM2 per room per night for three stars and below.

“They don’t have to pay corporate or income taxes. They don’t need to collect GST or report their occupancy rates.

“They don’t need to install fire doors or water sprinkler systems. If this goes on, budget hotels can just take down their signboards and become home-share operators,” said Malaysia Budget Hotels Association president P.K. Leong.

He said his association had raised the issue of home-sharing with the government several times and urged them to regulate this business but no action had been taken.

“We estimate about 15% of our business is being siphoned into the home-sharing market. And it’s not really sharing,” he said.

“People are buying residential properties specifically to start short-term rental businesses. We believe this is growing at an alarming rate but we don’t have any way to track them.”

In 2014, Airbnb was reported to have over 800,000 listings worldwide. Now, the company declares on its website that it has over two million.

Five-star resorts contacted, however, do not feel threatened by the home-sharing operators.

Managers in two five-star hotels, who declined to be named, said these setups target budget travellers who come to Penang on business or already know what to do when they come to Penang.

“Our hotel offers a level of service not found in home-shares. It’s a different market,” said one manager. – By Arnold Loh The Star

Homes versus hotels

 

Home-sharing services like Airbnb are becoming a hit among Malaysians. But hotels are urging the Government to regulate such services, claiming that rental of private apartments and studio units is illegal. Noting such calls, the Government is currently discussing how to address the matter.

LIVING rooms instead of hotel lobbies. Apartment units instead of hotel suites. This is the trend today.

More Malaysian holiday-makers are choosing to rent private properties as accommodation on their trips, instead of booking hotel rooms.

They do this using home-sharing services like Airbnb and Singapore-based HomeAway, which offer travellers the option to stay in a local host’s property.
Ranging from single rooms to entire apartment units, guests can book their accommodation from hosts, who list their property on such websites to be leased out for a fee.

Sometimes, the fees are even lower than the room rates offered by hotels.

This is one of the factors that drive the popularity of such services, with the San Francisco-based Airbnb having over two million property listings for rent from local hosts in about 191 countries around the world.

In Malaysia, home-sharing services are also gaining traction among travellers and homeowners, who want to earn some income from offering short-term rentals.

However, the hotel industry in the country is claiming that such services are eating into their business, with some estimating about 5% to 15% of their business being diverted.

Hoteliers are also saying that consumers are not fully protected under such arrangements.

Likening home-sharing services like Airbnb to Uber in the taxi business, hoteliers claim that the hosts are not subjected to the same regulations imposed on hotels and do not need to pay taxes or collect the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

As the industry calls on the Government to regulate such services, the Tourism and Culture Ministry says discussions are ongoing to address the matter while the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry is open to feedback on the issue.

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Sam Cheah sees the growing popularity of such home-sharing platforms like Airbnb as a threat to the hotel industry.

“It isn’t a level playing ground because the hosts who are offering their properties for rent are not subjected to the same requirements, including safety standards,” he says.

Cheah points out that the hosts can afford to offer lower rates because their operating costs to run their businesses are smaller.

“They pay domestic usage for quit rent and utility bills. They are not required to adhere to safety requirements such as installing proper fire protection,” he adds.

Cheah explains that hotels also have public liability insurance and protect consumers in the event of negligence or fire.

“We are obligated to protect our customers. But there is no such policy for home-sharing hosts,” he says, urging consumers to be aware of such risks.

Cheah also points out that it is illegal for homeowners to operate a business for tourists and travellers when the property is meant for domestic dwelling.

“It is unfair for residents who are neighbours of such hosts as they will have strangers walking in and out of the premises,” he says.

These tourists will also be using the swimming pool, gym and other facilities meant for residents.

However, Cheah says the association, which consists of 881 member hotels, cannot discount or prevent such a business model from being practised.

“But the Government should regulate such businesses to protect tourists and make it an even playing field for hotel operators,” he says.

If left unchecked and unregulated, Cheah foresees the Government will have a problem dealing with the projected 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020.

“If we do not regulate Airbnb and other home-sharing services, we wouldn’t be able to monitor the industry. We wouldn’t know if we have an oversupply or over-development and businesses may lose out.

“It is just like Uber and GrabCar in the taxi industry. You cannot stop them but you have to regulate them. Then it makes sense,” he says.

Echoing Cheah’s call to the Government to impose regulations, Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners secretary Anthony Wong calls such home-sharing services illegal as hosts are not licensed to provide lodging and insurance for guests.

“It is amounting to making private arrangements and guests who are hurt during their stay are unable to claim insurance for any mishaps.

“As legal entities, hotels have permits to comply with. Our operating costs are expensive and we pay taxes,” says Wong, adding that hotel rates are also competitively priced.

He claims that the emergence of such services and illegal homestays have caused hoteliers to lose about 5% in revenue.

Acknowledging the concerns by hotels, Tourism and Culture Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Ong Hong Peng says the ministry has received complaints from the industry on the emergence of home-sharing platforms.

“This issue has been acknowledged and discussed extensively by the Special Task Force on Service Delivery and its working group.

“This working group is represented by government agencies such as the ministry, Malaysia Productivity Corporation, the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry and the police,” he tells Sunday Star.

Dr Ong adds that the question of regulating home-sharing platforms and conducting enforcement on homeowners under such services comes under the purview of local councils.

In the meantime, the ministry has its Malaysian Homestay Programme, which offers a unique experience to tourists.

“The programme enables tourists to stay and interact with local families who act as hosts.

“Under this programme, families and their houses register with the ministry after completing the homestay training module and following the guidelines,” he explains.

But Dr Ong points out that this is different from merely offering accommodation as it is a community-based tourism programme which offers tourists a lifestyle experience of rural villages.

In 2015, Malaysia attracted 25.7 million tourist arrivals, a decline of 6.3% compared to 27.4 million tourist arrivals in 2014.

For the first quarter of 2016, Malaysia registered an increase of 2.8% in tourist arrivals, which Dr Ong perceives as a positive outlook.

“A strong growth in arrivals is expected for the remainder of this year,” he says.

Former Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who was just replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, says it is still too early to decide whether to regulate homeowners involved in home-sharing services.

“This will require extensive discussion. The ministry welcomes feedback from stakeholders on this matter, including hoteliers, and will be more than happy to listen to their concerns,” he says.

The issue of regulating or even banning Airbnb and other home-sharing marketplaces is of growing concern.

Recently, it was reported that New York State in the United States may make it illegal to advertise apartments on Airbnb if a Bill is made into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Meanwhile, the German capital of Berlin has stopped tourists from renting entire apartment units using Airbnb and other similar websites. The move bans homeowners from leasing their property to tourists without a city permit.

Japan released national guidelines for home-sharing services, making properties only available for rent if guests stay for a week or longer.

Other places are more receptive towards home-sharing platforms, including London, which amended housing legislation that makes it legal for locals to rent out their homes through websites like Airbnb. –  By Yuen Meikeng The Star

Airbnb: Malaysia is a really ‘exciting growth market’ 

AS more Malaysians open their homes to tourists, Airbnb describes Malaysia as an “exciting growth market”.

Nevertheless, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company also encourages hosts to familiarise themselves with regulations in their area.

“These can differ from council to council and even street to street, all over the world,” Airbnb tells Sunday Star in an email.

Despite the growth of Airbnb across Malaysia, the company says the traditional hotel sector continues to do well too, with growth in occupancy and room rates.

“We’re proud of the economic benefits Airbnb provides to families, communities and local businesses that otherwise wouldn’t benefit from the tourist dollar,” it says.

Overwhelmingly, Airbnb says its hosts are renting out their homes occasionally, earning a little extra to help supplement their income.

“The vast majority of our hosts across Malaysia are everyday people renting their spare room or home occasionally, not commercial operators,” it adds.

Airbnb also says it has a good working relationship with the Malaysian Government and have partnered with it in the past.

In December last year, it was reported that a pilot project was being conducted in Malacca involving 130 homestays in 11 villages to help them market their business using online listings.

The programme was a collaboration between the Multimedia Development Corporation, the International Trade and Industry Ministry, the Tourism and Culture Ministry and Airbnb.

Airbnb says over 80 million guests have had a safe, positive experience using the platform.

“We help promote positive experiences through a global trust and safety team available 24/7, authentic reviews, verified profile information, and the $1 Million Host Guarantee,” it says.

A check on its website showed that the Host Guarantee will reimburse eligible hosts for damages up to A$1mil (RM3.06mil).

“The Host Guarantee should not be considered a replacement or stand-in for homeowners or renters insurance,” read the website.

Airbnb also has a refund policy for guests if the host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing, the listing booked is misrepresented or isn’t generally clean or unsafe, among others.

“Airbnb’s community operates on the principles of trust and respect. Our host and guest review systems demonstrate our commitment to responsible behaviour,” it says.

Meanwhile, some local Airbnb hosts in Malaysia have mixed views about the idea of having the Government regulate their business.

A full-time Airbnb host in Malacca, known only as Chen, says she welcomes such a move as long as it is done fairly and does not overly restrict the business.

“It can be beneficial for both the hosts and guests.

“If we are given licences by the Government, we can even put up signages to advertise our business. And for guests, they would have more protection,” says the 30-year-old lass who rents out one apartment and two townhouses.

Chen, a former marketing manager, quit her job two years ago to become a full-time Airbnb host, calling it her “interest and passion”.

She denies having any opposition from her neighbours in renting out her properties to tourists.

“I informed my neighbours before doing this. While they were initially doubtful, they are now happy I have guests,” Chen adds.

And in the event the Government decides to ban such services, Chen says hosts like herself will transform and adapt to the situation.

“This is the global trend and many are using this business model now. It is important to stay competitive and adapt to the times,” she says.

Another full-time host, Ridzuan Effendy, 29, hopes the Government does not impose regulations on Airbnb.

“Home-sharing services aren’t the same as hotels. Many tourists use Airbnb because the prices are cheaper compared to hotels.

“It is a case of having a willing buyer and seller. It shouldn’t be illegal,” says the former engineer, who lists his properties in Kuala Lumpur.

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Home-shares annoy neighbours 

BE nice. Buy fruits for your guests or colouring books for their kids and potentially make RM8,000 or more each month renting your apartment or house to short-stay tourists.

Unofficial hotel: At one time, nine of the 28 units of one of the blocks in Halaman Pulau Tikus were available for short-term rentals by medical tourists.>>>

The key performance indicators for home-share operators are the guest reviews on their listings in global marketplaces like Airbnb and HomeAway.

“My guests and I review each other. It’s like Uber (global ride hailing app). You will know your guests’ reputation and your guests will also know yours.

“If anything bad happens, the guests or I can report it to Airbnb and we can be banned,” said an operator in Penang who only wants to be known as Sue, a housewife.

She rents out a house in Batu Ferringhi (RM320 a night) and a condominium unit in Pulau Tikus (RM400 a night) as a host on Airbnb and said her properties were now rated four-and-a-half stars.

The location may seem to be a secondary consideration, with one three-bedroom low-medium cost apartment in Air Itam having a five-star rating on Airbnb.

“It may look like a low-cost apartment from the outside and parking is limited. But it is lovely inside. Love the design and everything,” wrote a reviewer.

From the photos on this listing, the owner had decorated the place with a profusion of wallpaper and the furnishings and paintings within can rival a plush hotel room. There is bed space for up to eight guests and it is only RM150 a night.

But the surge of home-share operators may have inconvenienced neighbours.

Halaman Pulau Tikus management corporation chairman Khoo Boo Eng said his block in Lengkok Berjaya had become the haunt of medical tourists looking for a place to stay while seeking treatment here since several years ago.

He said he had seen medical tourists arrive who were truly sick.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to stay in our residential area. Some of my neighbours are worried that if they had contagious diseases, we would all be at risk,” he said.

He said at one time, nine out of 28 apartments in his block were rented out this way and many unit owners complained about the constant flow of strangers.

“Ours is a small, exclusive residence. We had to install extra security cameras and have a security guard 24 hours a day for our residents’ safety.

“They are making commercial use of their residential properties. We are planning to take them to court and seek injunctions to stop them from renting to short-stay guests,” he said.

Earlier in the week, officials from four departments of the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) carried out a spot check and four unit owners in Birch Regency Condominium in Datuk Keramat were fined RM250 each for operating a business without licence.

They knocked on the doors of 15 units believed to be available for rent on a short-term basis and found four being occupied – two units by Singaporeans, one by Australians and another by Canadians.

Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik, who was present, said the officers spoke to the foreigners who confirmed they were here on holiday.

However, owners argued that there were no laws prohibiting them from renting out their units for any length of time.

One hurdle they had to go through is the complaints from other condo owners.

“We get many complaints from our fellow residents about these short-stay guests. We’re just doing our duty to maintain the peace in our condominium,” said a condominium committee member.

When contacted, Penang Island City Council Building Department director Yew Tung Seang said there could be a legal loophole that would make it hard for authorities to stop residential property owners from offering short-term rentals.

“Property owners have the right to earn rent and there is a grey area over short-term and long-term rentals.

“But when apartments or houses become like hotels, their operations can become a nuisance for neighbours.

“The council is planning a machinery to control this sort of activity,” he added.

In January, Johor Tourism, Trade and Consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong was reported as saying that homestay operators at housing estates in the urban areas in the state would no longer be allowed to use the word “homestay” to promote their accommodation.

He said there were plans to regulate and standardise the homestay segment in Johor.

He said many home owners in the urban areas had converted their properties into homestay facilities to cater to customers looking for a short stay.

In the United States’ New York State, legislators tabled a bill last month to ban the advertising of short-term home rentals of less than 30 days, with fines of up to US$7,500 (RM30,000).

“Every day I hear from New Yorkers who are sick and tired of living in buildings that have been turned into illegal hotels through Airbnb because so many units are rented out to tourists, not permanent residents,” Manhattan assembly-woman Linda Rosenthal was reported as saying last month.

It was reported that New York City has over 40,000 home-share listings and each earns an average of US$5,700 (RM23,300) a month.

Study the homestay industry

 

I REFER to the reports “Home versus hotels” and “Travellers drawn to cheap prices” ( Sunday Star, July 3) and “Govern home-share under new laws” (see above).

It is well known that homestay is popular not only in Malaysia but also all over the world now. I have used both types of lodgings and find pros and cons in both.

Homestays are likened to the Airbnb concept which was launched in 2008 and has experienced rapid growth since then. Statistics show that at the end of 2015, Airbnb hosted eight million guests, chalked up three million nights of cumulative booking, were used by 50,000 renters per night and has a market capitalisation of US$2.5bil. This demonstrates the effectiveness and popularity of the concept used by Airbnb.

However, in the US where this concept began, there is concern among the traditional hospitality industry that it is a threat to their business. There is pressure on the government to either put a stop to Airbnb activities or regulate them. According to a report commissioned by hotel associations in the US, some of the financial effects of Airbnb (focused in New York city but gives a strong indication of what may be happening in other parts of the world too) are:

i) Airbnb is growing because it is less labour intensive and requires lower level of service;

ii) There is no marginal cost for such services as new rooms can be added incrementally (or removed) and overheads are negligible compared to hotels;

iii) Hotels were losing revenue due to loss of room nights. This also had an ancillary effect on other services offered by the hotels such as F&B outlets and business centres; and

iv) Hotels in areas where Airbnb is established have responded to increased competition by reducing their prices.

I also looked up issues of competition in this market which may be a cause for concern. If we look at the homestay concept, what it offers is the opportunity for consumers on the supply side to supplement their income by providing a service via a peer-to-peer platform. It also offers travellers a chance to live like the locals and take part in cultural exchanges.

It is also basically a connection where supply meets demand and other needs such as budget constraints, personalised service, easy accessibility and homely atmosphere and all are rolled into one. Airbnb portrays itself as “a platform that allows the little guy to build up a complimentary industry, one that increases the size of the hospitality pie rather than take a slice from existing business.”

Applying this concept in Malaysia, it is a wonderful way to not only expand our hospitality industry especially in areas where hotel rooms are limited or extremely expensive but also allow locals to interact (people from the peninsula going to Sabah and Sarawak and vice versa, for example) or foreigners a chance to live like the locals.

This would in turn generate a multiplier effect on the local economy as other services such as restaurants, laundry, cleaning or transport would be required to support the homestay service. Besides all these, it would put money in the pockets of local residents and also support small businesses outside the hotel districts.

Will the homestay industry be a threat to the hotels? From a competition point of view, there may be some concerns (especially to budget hotels) but these could easily be overcome with careful formulation of policies and guidelines.

As consumer demand has shifted, the markets are or may be different, and it is ultimately up to the consumer to choose where he wants to stay.

Hotels are mainly located in the city or town centres and offer better services, amenities and standards. On the other hand, homestays and Airbnb serve up lodging options that cater to a more local and less touristy experience. Hotels and Airbnb/ homestays operate differently so there is room for both to coexist as long as they are after different customers.

Having said that, regulators and policy makers in Malaysia need to carefully study the implications of introducing regulations to homestay or Airbnb users from the supply side. Many countries have taken steps to address the issues emerging from the rapid rise of Airbnb and homestays. It would be useful for the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) to commission a study on the effects of such concepts on the hospitality industry in Malaysia. This will then give the policy makers some empirical studies to formulate the required guidelines or regulations.

Competition is always threatened when there is a threat to the sharing economy (as in Uber versus the traditional taxi service). The sharing economy is where industry can collaboratively make use of under-utilised inventory via fee-based sharing. The market is always uncertain and nervous when a new marketplace is created, which in turn increases the difficulty of defining the market in competition law. The way businesses are being done and change in consumers’ tastes all merit a thorough study before any action is taken to manage a growing industry.

Two factors have arguable given rise to the rapid growth of peer-to-peer platforms – technology innovations and supply side flexibility. A win-win situation is always possible. If competition is distorted, as in when people buy into residential property to turn it into a business venture, that is when the authorities could step in.

By SHILA DORAI RAJ Founding and former CEO Malaysia Competition Commission

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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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Promoting women entrepreneurs; mind your finances


Do we need specific initiatives to help female entrepreneurs? Some say no, because men and women face similar obstacles in business. However, there can be no denying that women face challenges not experienced by their male counterparts.

LAST May, the SME Association of Malaysia organised a talk on women entrepreneurship at its regular SME Club get-together. We were worried that the topic would not be interesting, but to our surprise, the event was well received.

About a hundred people participated in the talk.

When we told the SMEs that we were going to have a talk on women entrepreneurship, some of them asked: Why talk about women entrepreneurship? Does it matter? Why bother?

After all, business is a men’s world. The place for women is at home.

Others said there was no need to differentiate women entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs in general, as many of the barriers faced by female-owned SMEs were similar to those faced by male-owned SMEs.

To this, I would say: Yes and no.

While male and female entrepreneurs may face similar constraints in general, women face specific barriers and challenges not experienced by their counterparts.

While women make up about 50% of Malaysia’s population, less than 20% of the SMEs are owned by women. Even though the number for women entrepreneurs is small, it’s nonetheless encouraging as it shows that women no longer buy the stereotype of business being a male domain.

There are several key reasons for women to get into business. Running your own business provides flexibility in managing career and domestic responsibilities.

Also, it gives some degree of personal freedom to women who are dissatisfied with “fixed” employment. Job flexibility, like work hours, office location, environment, and the people they work with, is appealing to many women.

Other reasons for women to start a business include income security and career satisfaction. Some women become entrepreneurs due to some personal circumstances, like being laid off, divorce, or the retirement of their spouse. They start a business to improve or maintain their social or economic status.

Some women who do not have any previous work skills or experience start a business in order to prove that they can be productive and useful.

The majority of women-owned businesses are smaller outifts than those owned by men, and they are mostly concentrated in the service sector (about 90%). Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with few employees and limited capital for expansion.

Access to financing is one of the biggest challenges. They are less aware of the options relating to loan and grant opportunities. In addition, women usually lack the collateral required compared to men, stemming in part from restrictions on asset ownership.

Women entrepreneurs are also less likely than their male counterparts to have a history of interaction with formal financial systems, lowering their credit-worthiness and potentially raising interest rates on loans assumed.

They also encounter obstacles in accessing opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills that underpin successful entrepreneurship. This may be due to impediments in access to education, training and job experience. These are usually compounded by the demands of domestic responsibilities.

Time constraints further limit women entrepreneurs’ formal networking, which, in turn reduce access to skill and capacity-development opportunities. Formal networks, such as business associations, provide a wealth of information on business opportunities, access to government officials, grants and support programmes, as well as credit credentials and access to loan packages, to name a few.

Good networks provide good access to information and resources. First-hand information allows entrepreneurs to move one step ahead and grab the opportunities. A good pool of resources would help entrepreneurs to survive in bad times and to expand more effectively.

The Government needs to take a proactive role in promoting women entrepreneurs. We need to put in place gender-responsive policies and capacity-building initiatives to address the structural, institutional and socio-cultural inequalities.

It would perhaps be best to start by enhancing their access to finance, which is essential in building a good business foundation.

By Datuk Michael Kang who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

Mind your finances

Up to 36 of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the ACCA. —123rf.com

IN GENERAL, more than 50% of startups fail within five years, and up to 36% of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) entitled “Financial management and business success – a guide for entrepreneurs”.

The report says many entrepreneurs are not equipped to make informed and effective decisions about their financial resources.

“Having the right financial capabilities remains vital throughout the life of a business, whether you are just starting out, have an established business or are looking towards a final exit from a firm,” explains Rosana Mirkovic, ACCA’s head of SME policy.

“Businesses are changing and innovating more rapidly than ever, and the financial management needs of organisations must continue to evolve alongside their developments. Recognising the right financial management capabilities is therefore imperative to their success,” she explains.

Mirkovic adds that understanding financial information is vital for offsetting the risk of business failures as it reveals the early warning signs of impending problems.

The report by ACCA addresses the financial literacy skills gap, potentially serving as a guide to those starting their own businesses and are new to financial management.

Business planning plays a critical role at every stage of the business, says the report.

“Preparing a business plan pushes you to identify and assess the opportunities and threats facing your business. It helps ensure that you have an in-depth understanding of your market, the competition and the broader business environment,” it elaborates.

Effective planning takes into account long-term goals, objectives, strategy, tactics and financial review.

ACCA also advises startups to seek good financial advice and involve their accountants or individuals with financial expertise at the planning stage to take full advantage of their expertise in areas such as business planning, raising business finance, tax planning and setting up financial management systems.

Significant financial expertise may be needed to understand and evaluate the different financial options entrepreneurs may have. This includes knowing the company’s financial strength, financing cost, financial flexibility, business control, financial risk, personal finances and business strategy.

“Good financial control offers far more than just keeping track of purchases and sales. Rather than approach financial control as a chore to be left to the bookkeeper, your aim should be to see how the right capabilities can improve your business,” the report advises.

ACCA notes that business owners should gradually develop the capabilities of their in-house financial team.

“Choosing the right solution for your particular business takes careful planning. Your overall investment in financial capabilities — whether you are paying for additional employees, higher salaries for more skilled employees, training costs, use of external providers or upgraded systems — must be affordable and offer value for money,” it adds.

But financial management is at its most powerful when used to drive improvements in business.

Moreover, for many entrepreneurs, it could also lead to a successful business exit. Preparation for a successful exit typically begins far in advance of its final date.

Effective exit planning needs to start early and take into account a whole range of issues like timing, succession, management systems and tax efficiency.

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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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Penang’s lively market


Many estate agents and developers generating interests in primary and secondary markets

WHILE the property market in Malaysia may be subdued, Penang is still generating interests among buyers and potential investors.

Raine & Horne Malaysia senior partner Michael Geh says: “Although sentiment is generally cautious, both interest and transactions within the Penang property market is ‘still active’.”

“In the primary market, there are still a lot of estate agents and developers generating interests,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Geh says this is especially the case for affordable homes.

“For middle and upper-end properties, there are still a few projects that are generating interests from genuine buyers,” he says.

“The market is still active. There is activity but transactions have slowed down.”

In terms of the secondary market, Geh says properties in “good locations” are still popular.

“Within the secondary market, there are a lot of enquiries for properties in good locations. In the not-so-good locations, there’s stagnation in both price and activity.”

Geh says demand for landed properties in Penang is still strong.

“For the high-rise properties or those that are highly speculated on, there has been stagnation.”

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents Penang branch state chairman Mark Saw says the property market has been slowing over the past two years due to the cooling measures brought about by the Government.

“Until year-end, things should be slow – assuming that the global economy does not tank. But the market is still active in certain areas.”

He says landed residential properties and the hospitality segment in Penang are “still doing fine”.

“Hotel operators are still looking at Penang as a potential location to set up operations,” Saw says, adding that it is “business as usual” for players within the industrial sector.

“Within the industrial sector, there has been no real slowdown. I mean, we’ve not seen any factory closures.”

For residential properties in Penang, Saw says there had been a “swing towards affordable housing” in the past couple of years.

“In the top end of the market, developers have been more cautious as loans have not been as forthcoming. However, those developers with good stock are still able to continue launching new products.”

Looking ahead, Geh feels the market will “swing” in the final quarter of the year.

“The third quarter tends to be a little bit quiet. It’s in the fourth quarter that I think things will swing, and I believe it can go either way.

“This will depend on various factors, such as sentiment, or if Bank Negara comes out with an announcement that could affect the local property sector. But I think it will swing for the better.”

Saw meanwhile believes that the rental market will remain competitive for the rest of 2016.

“For those speculators and investors who purchased their properties some five years ago, looking to flip (for profit), those properties are coming into the market now and they might have problems selling, especially those having difficulties in servicing their loans.

“So instead, they will try to rent it out. But with a lot of these stocks coming in, it will be more of a tenant’s market than a landlord’s one.”

Penang in 2015

According to the National Property Information Centre, residential property transactions recorded a marked decline in market activity in 2015 by 16.9%.

The state saw a substantial decline in new launches by 47.5% or 2,348 units.

According to Rahim & Co in its Property Market Review 2015/2016, completion of Penang’s second bridge (Sultan Abdul Halim Muad-zam Shah Bridge) in 2013 has spurred growth in Batu Maung, Sg Ara, Teluk Kumbar and Batu Kawan areas.

“A new project to be launched in 2016 is the RM10bil Eco Marina project in Batu Kawan. Eco Marina, by Eco World Development Group Bhd, will include high-rise and landed properties on a 299.64 acres with a golf course adding prestige to the area.

“The development will be gated and guarded. Other projects by the same developer are Eco Terraces in Air Itam, Penang island and Eco Meadows, Bukit Tambun near Juru/Batu Kawan area.”

Other upcoming projects it cited are the Straits Garden Condominium, Platinum III (from RM428,000), D’Zone Condominium and three-storey detached houses in Baymont Residences (RM3.18mil) in Teluk Kumbar.

“There are also The Tamarind@Seri Tanjung Pinang, Raintree Park 2 comprise of two-storey terraced, two-storey semi-detached houses and Avenue Garden, a 17-storey serviced apartment by Tambun Indah and several others.

“An international school has recently been completed at Simpang Ampat within Pearl City development by Tambun Indah Land Bhd.”

According to CH Williams Talhar & Wong (WTW) in its Property Market Report 2016, 287 units of landed properties came into the market in 2015 in Penang Island alone.

<< Saw: ‘Hotel operators are still looking to set up operations in Penang.
It said prices of newly-launched houses continued to increase, reaching a new benchmark in their respective locations.

WTW added that terraced and semi-detached houses in established neighbourhoods such as Seri Tanjung Pinang in Tanjung Tokong and Island Park & Island Glades in Greenlane, still command strong demand in the secondary market despite the increasing prices.

“Transacted prices of 2½-storey terraced houses and three-storey semi-detached houses in Seri Tanjung Pinang have surpassed RM2mil and RM3mil per unit, respectively.

“However, the hike in prices is expected to taper off in the near future with more new houses entering into the market.”

On the mainland, WTW said demand of landed residential developments remained strong in 2015 underpinned by the improved infrastructure.

“A number of major property players venturing into Seberang Perai for the first time has excited the local market with new housing products. For instance, Ecoworld, positioned as a pioneer in sustainable and green developments launched its maiden residential project known as EcoMeadows in Bukit Tambun.

“With its lush green landscape, gated and guarded concept as well as proximity to the expressway, a typical terraced unit was priced at RM700,000 per unit, a new price benchmark to the market.”

As for high-rise residential properties, WTW said a number of projects were completed in first half of 2015. These included The Address at Bukit Jambul (124 units), Vertiq at Gelugor (318 units), Sierra Residences at Sungai Ara (300 units), Gardens Ville at Sungai Ara (476 units) and The Latitude at Tanjung Bungah (218 units).

Luxurious condos

“A newly completed luxury condominium development located at Batu Ferringhi, known as By The Sea, was developed by Selangor Dredging Bhd.

“It comprises 138 units with floor areas ranging from 1,037 sq ft to 3,012 sq ft.

For new projects launched in 2015, one luxury condominium project that was launched was Shorefront Residence by YTL Land.

“Situated along Lebuh Farquhar which is within the city of George Town, the luxurious condominiums offered 115 units with floor areas ranging from 1,400 sq ft to 3,400 sq ft.”

It said average transacted prices of condominiums in the sub-sale market increased marginally in 2015.

“Moving into 2016, the market is likely to experience slower growth with transaction activities expected to slow down.

“With more affordable flats and apartments being launched and under construction, a spike in the existing supply of high-rise residential units is expected within the next three to five years.”

WTW notes that high-rise residential developments make a strong inroad in Seberang Prai over recent years, with the majority being in the town area especially Butterworth in Seberang Prai Utara.

“Existing condominiums developments that are actively transacted in the secondary market in the past five years included Habour Place and Casia Condominiums.

“Bukit Mertajam is emerging as the next hotspot for high-rise residential developments with a majority of projects in the pipeline and due for completion.”

Condominiums developments remained as the main development trend in Seberang Prai, says WTW, with a number of serviced residences and Soho (small office home office) projects being proposed that are pending approval.

“Prices of a typical condominiums unit have increased around 9% since 2014 to RM370 per sq ft on average.

“The coming few years will see the mushrooming of skycrapers in Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam as several property players plan to develop integrated developments comprising condominiums, serviced residences or Soho together with shopoffices and hotel in these locations given their robust and established business sentiment.” – By Eugene Mahalinggam The Star

It says take-up rates of newly-launched projects are likely to taper off as the rental market in Seberang Prai is less demanding in comparison with the island.

KL firms bullish on Penang sales

 

Goh: ‘The City Residence and City Mall is expected to contribute RM40mil while The Wave will contribute RM90mil GDV.

Kuala Lumpur-based property development companies in Penang are expecting sales contributions from the state to increase significantly for their upcoming financial year amid a tough property market environment.

Eco World Development Group Bhd, Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O), IJM Land Bhd and Mah Sing Group Bhd are some of the Kuala Lumpur-based property companies expecting strong contributions from the state.

Mah Sing, for example, is projecting for Penang to contribute 9% of its revenue for the fiscal year ending Dec 31, 2016 compared to 1% for the previous financial year.

Says group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum: “With no project launches in 2015, our properties in Penang contributed 1% or RM26mil to our total sales of RM2.3bil last year, leveraging on the take-up for projects launched before 2015.

“The group has set a target of RM2.3bil for 2016 for all our properties (throughout the country) and Penang is expected to contribute 9% of the revenue for the (current financial) year.

“With the value of the ringgit at an attractive level, we foresee strong buyer interest, particularly from foreigners, who represent 30% of our purchasers in Penang, as well as locals,” says Leong, who is also the CEO of the group.

Ferringhi Residence in Batu Ferringhi and Southbay Plaza in Batu Maung, both on the island, performed well in 2015, says Leong, with take-up rates of 92% and 96%.

Mah Sing plans to launch Ferringhi Residence 2, a high-end condominium project in Batu Ferringhi, in the second half of 2016, while the Southbay Plaza, a mixed-development project, will be completed this year.

Toh: ‘The group is targeting RM240mil sales this year in Penang.>>

Eco World expects its projects in Penang to generate about RM600mil this financial year ending Oct 31, 2016, compared to RM200mil in the previous year.

Its general manager Khoo Teck Chong says the targeted revenue for the 2016 financial year is RM4bil, compared to RM3bil in 2015.

“The contribution in Penang would come from Eco Terraces in Paya Terubong, which is 40% sold, Eco Bloom, scheduled to be launched in June, and the first phase of Eco Marina, scheduled for launching in October 2016.

“The Eco Terraces and Eco Bloom are priced respectively at over RM850,000 and below RM400,000, which are still considered as affordable by the locals, given the strategic locations of the projects,” he says.

IJM Land is expecting its projects in Penang to generate RM240mil to the revenue for the current financial year ending March 2017, compared to RM168mil in the last financial year.

Its senior general manager Datuk Toh Chin Leong says the projects planned for launch this year are The Trehaus (with a gross development value or GDV of RM64.7mil) in Bukit Jambul, The Senjayu (RM69mil GDV) in Jawi, South Seberang Prai, and The Waterside Residence (RM260mil GDV) for the second phase of The Light Waterfront.

“These projects should help the group realise the targeted RM240mil sales,” Toh says.

E&O also expects the contribution from Penang to improve significantly this year compared to a year ago.

Its marketing and sales general manager (Penang) Christina Lau says that given the strong sales of the last financial year in excess of RM1bil, the group believes that there will be sustained interest in its Penang projects comprising existing launches such as 18 East at Andaman, The Tamarind, and its landed super-luxe terraces Amaris and Andorra, which collectively tally an estimated GDV of RM1bil.

“The sale of these properties coupled with upcoming launches on the remaining plots within Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 1 (STP1) will keep us busy, as STP1 approaches its maturity, evolving since the maiden launch of the Ariza courtyard terrace homes in 2005. “Now in its eleventh year, STP1 has developed into one of Penang’s most preferred addresses with a vibrant community of more than 20 nationalities,” she adds.

Ivory Properties Group Bhd is carrying out RM1.8bil worth of projects on the island this year.

These are the first phase of Penang WorldCity called Tropicana Bay Residences with a GDV of RM933mil, The Wave with a GDV of RM494mil, and The City Residence and City Mall with a GDV of RM313mil.

Group chief operating officer Goh Chin Heng says The City Residence and City Mall and The Wave will be the main contributors to the group’s current fiscal year revenue ending next March 31.

“The City Residence and City Mall is expected to contribute RM40mil, while The Wave, RM90mil.

“Both projects have done very well and should enable the group to achieve better results for the current fiscal year.

“There are only a handful of units left for both projects,” he adds.

Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd plans to undertake RM2.723bil worth of condominium projects on the island this year.

Of the amount, the group has already launched the RM378mil Summerskye Residences in Bayan Lepas in January 2016.

The upcoming projects, comprising 3,648 units to be launched between May and November 2016, are strategically located in Bayan Lepas in the south-west district, which is close to the Penang International Airport and the first and second bridges.

The projects are Forest Ville (RM495mil GDV) in May, Bukit Ayun Development (RM1bil GDV) in August, Queens Residences (RM550mil GDV) and Amarene (RM300mil GDV) in August.

Besides the Queens Residences and Bukit Ayun Development projects, which will be priced between RM600,000 and RM900,000, the rest of the schemes are priced between RM450,000 and RM600,000.

“Some of these projects are among those that will be injected into Ideal United Bintang Bhd (IdealUBB) this year,” says Ideal Property executive chairman Datuk Alex Ooi. Ideal Property is the parent company of IdealUBB.

Ooi said that while most developers were holding back launches, the group has decided to go ahead with a variety of property products priced between the RM450,000 and RM900,000 range.

According to Ooi, properties within such a price range are still the most marketable, especially if the location is very strategic. – By David Tan The Star

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