Friday, July 10, 2009

KL, Penang Markets Looking Good

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

Many property consultants believe branded developments or designer buildings are what discerning investors increasingly desire

ALWAYS a favourite, landed real estate is receiving more interest in the current property lull. According to property agents, there has been a slight pick-up in the past two months, mainly in primary sales and landed properties located in popular suburbs. Zerin Properties' chief executive Previn Singhe described April and May as 'surprising months with very strong interest in landed properties', centred mainly in the Klang Valley as prospective purchasers act on the premise that prices are unlikely to slip because of the limited supply.

Idyllic: Nusajaya's jewel is Puteri Harbour with its integrated waterfront and marina development

In some places, demand continues to outstrip supply, he said, citing Bangsar, Bukit Damansara, Damansara Heights, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Seputeh, Taman Desa and Jalan Ipoh where prices - which had held steady - have started to inch up as investors turn to property as a hedge against inflation.

'If you want to buy for owner occupation, any time is a good time. If it's for investment, you need to be looking now,' advised CH Williams Talhar & Wong managing director Goh Tian Sui.

Mr Singhe lists those on the property hunt: the first timers attracted by low interest rates; investors in the 30-55 age group who are acquiring for their children; professional investors looking at Kuala Lumpur landed real estate for capital appreciation or condominiums for rental yields; and non-resident Malaysians.

There are also foreigners who have started to look at condos in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Mont Kiara areas since the price of some units have dropped by 20 per cent. Location-wise, Penang is another hot-spot, popular with Penangites and other northerners, as well as KL-ites looking to retire there.

Across the South China Sea, Kota Kinabalu real estate has received a boost from the oil and gas boom, as well as tourism which has led to numerous Koreans and Europeans succumbing to its charms, Mr Singhe said.

In the south of the peninsula, Johor's Iskandar Malaysia remains a major point of interest. Central to Iskandar is the Nusajaya area with its strategic location across the Straits of Johor. Nusajaya's jewel is the 687-acre Puteri Harbour with its planned integrated waterfront and marina development.

The precinct is to be gradually developed and because of its geography, has attracted the attention of a number of foreign builders which are keen to be involved. One of them is Limitless Holdings, a unit of Dubai World, which plans to jointly develop luxury residences with Nusajaya's master developer, UEM Land.

Another planned joint venture between UEM Land and the Middle East's Damac Properties was scrapped recently after Damac - which was to buy 43.5 acres in the enclave for nearly RM400 million (S$164.9 million) - did not fulfil conditions for the sale to proceed.

Still, most believe Puteri Harbour's location, quality of build, management, and security will prove a big attraction to investors - especially foreign ones - just as they have in places slightly further afield such as Leisure Farm, Horizon Hills and Ledang East in Nusajaya.

Mr Singhe is of the view that the better quality products in Iskandar have allowed Johoreans to 'upgrade'. Indeed, many property consultants believe branded developments or designer buildings are what discerning investors increasingly desire and could make a difference in a project's 'sell-ability'.

KGV-Lambert (M) executive director Samuel Tan agrees that the higher-end developments in Iskandar have drawn the most interest in Johor. The rest of the market has been softer.

'People think that Nusajaya is Iskandar Malaysia,' he observed wryly, pointing out that it is only a fraction of the special economic zone which is three times the size of Singapore. He highlighted new developments in brownfield areas as well as mature ones in the Tebrau Corridor, Skudai and Pasir Gudang which have been under-promoted but which might be worth a second look. 'There are more opportunities in the secondary market because the primary market development costs have gone up.'

For those considering the lower- to mid-range of the market, bad debts have created a 'sub-market' of auctioned properties in Johor, he revealed, with auctions held weekly. Each auction offers 20-50 properties and they go for about 30 per cent less than their market value.

Despite the global financial crisis, Iskandar investors remain committed, the biggest to date being Middle Eastern firms which plan to develop the area called Medini, located near the Second Link.

Still, property developers caution that the pace of construction could be slowed. On the bright side, the state government has already moved into the new administrative buildings in Kota Iskandar, and overall infrastructure works are continuing.

Mr Singhe believes the 2003-04 pattern of funds sniffing for deals which resulted in a property boom in 2006-07 is being repeated now based on the number of funds that are making inquiries. Accordingly, he expects a property upswing to materialise in 2011-12.

The Quill Group of Companies, which designs and constructs purpose-built offices, confirms growing interest in Malaysia. Its property director, Ng Chee Kheong, said that multinationals were showing keen interest in the area of shared services, particularly in the Klang Valley and Penang.

Of late, Malaysia has started to speed up its liberalisation of many sectors of the economy to attract more investments. Should it succeed, the expatriate market ought to increase which would in turn stimulate demand for rented properties and help arrest some of the decline in yields.

Because of the downturn, a number of developments had been put on hold, including one by Singapore's Kwek Leng Beng who was to have launched a 42-storey luxury condominium last year in the Kuala Lumpur golden triangle.

A prospective buyer expressed disappointment at the delay as he had been looking forward to purchasing a unit in the Carlos Ott-designed building which is to be constructed next to the tycoon's Millennium Hotel.

Kuala Lumpur high-end condo prices have dipped to an average of RM1,000 per sq ft although the more prestigious ones still command a premium. Because of the weak ringgit, prices remain very affordable, especially for foreigners.

Ferrari team's ex-boss Jean Todt, who is engaged to well-known actress Michelle Yeoh, recently revealed he had acquired a unit in OneKL, which sits opposite the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

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