A top neighbourhood in the HDB resale market, Sengkang is a good indicator of the changing mood and aspirations of young Singaporeans.
By Khalil Adis
Having a newly carved GRC and heavy weight political office holders are generally the necessary ingredients to ensure a clean sweep during Singapore's General Election.
However, that does not appear to be the case in 2020.
As seen during the recently concluded election, even having the labour chief and a Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport could not save Sengkang GRC from its electoral defeat.
Helmed by Ng Chee Meng together with Dr. Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye, the election witnessed Sengkang GRC falling into the hands of the relatively young and inexperienced team from The Workers' Party.
Comprising He Ting Ru, Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua, The Workers' Party emerged victorious with a 52.13 per cent win against the PAP's 47.87 per cent.
The rejection of both the NTUC chief and transport minister speaks volume on how the electorate feels about employment and transportation issues.
In Sengkang GRC's case, they are both intertwined.
Last November, Dr. Lam announced in Parliament the banning e-scooters which saw the livelihoods of many food delivery drivers affected overnight.
The ban appeared to be the last straw that broke the camel's back.
Despite a closed-door session at Sengkang West constituency with Dr. Lam himself and a S$7 million assistance package, the session was reportedly a tense one.
Elsewhere in other constituencies, many PMD riders had also expressed their disappointment with their respective MPs.
Meanwhile, the younger team from The Workers’ Party was a breath of fresh air and appeared closer to the ground.
They were humble and earnest yet are backed with a strong track record in their respective fields.
Jamus Lim, in particular, won over many Singaporeans’ heart during his live televised debate.
Even the police report filed against Raeesah Khan could not sway voters' opinion.
So what gives?
As a district, Sengkang has a relatively young population.
According to data from SingStats, the total population of Sengkang was 244,600 in 2019.
Of this, 159,840 or 65.34 per cent were aged 45 and below.
If we were to break this down further, 213,380 or 87.23 per cent live in HDB flats.
Of this, the majority of them (99,640 or 46.69 per cent) live in four-room flats.
The young population is worried about bread-and-butter issues such as jobs and social mobility.
A segment of these HDB dwellers were food delivery drivers trying to supplement their incomes.
That is until the ban of e-scooters affected their livelihoods.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this has helped further exacerbate the unhappiness on the ground which has perhaps translated to protest votes on the ballot box.
The 'Jamus Lim' effect
Then, there is also the 'Jamus Lim' effect.
A newcomer to the political arena, he mesmerised Singaporeans by being able to hold his own when pitted against the more experienced and senior politician, Dr. Vivian Balakrishan.
His message of not wanting to give the PAP "a blank cheque", seemed to resonate with many Singaporeans.
He subsequently became a trending topic on social media - a medium that is highly popular among young voters .
This, plus the rejection of gutter politics, as seen in the Raeesah Khan case, suggests that young and educated voters appreciate a clean fight and want checks and balances.
It also suggests that they are looking beyond municipal issues such as social inequality.
Clearly, character assasination and dangling carrots no longer work.
Sengkang is the most popular estate for HDB resale flats
Politics aside, Sengkang is the most popular HDB estate where 1,795 resale flats changed hands in 2019, according to data from the HDB.
This was followed by Woodlands and Yishun at 1,794 and 1,791 transactions respectively.
According to HDB's first quarter of 2020 data, resale HDB flats in Sengkang were transacted at a median resale price of S$340,000, S$425,000, S$480,000 and S$565,000 for three-, four- and five-room flats respectively.
While there are other attractive mature estates with better amenities such as Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio, their resale value have nose-dived in recent years due to their diminishing number of leases left.
Meanwhile, the resale value of homes in newer estates like Sengkang appear to be better protected.
This has perhaps explained why Sengkang is a popular neighbourhood among young families.
The lure of living in Sengkang
One such person who is currently looking for a home here is property agent Ady Ahmari.
“The flats in Sengkang are younger but cheaper, especially in Anchorvale,” he said.
Another reason is their generous sizes which is something he can attest to.
The property agent sold a 1,130 sq ft four-room flat in the area two months ago for S$350,000.
“The units are very big and comparable to five-room Built-To-Order (BTO) flats which are around 1,184 sq ft,” he said.
Perhaps one surprising intangible reason that he is lured to looking for a home here is the parks.
“Sengkang has a big garden where my family can enjoy the outdoors,” he said.
Indeed, Sengkang Riverside Park is popular among residents here featuring a constructed wetland and is rich in biodiversity.
In fact, the Sengkang ActiveSG Gym which is located within Anchorvale Community Club is the only such gym of its kind in Singapore offering a scenic river view of the Sengkang Riverside Park.
Amenities aside, Ahmari said having an opposition party there has also influenced his decision.
“I need an alternative voice,” he said.
Swing towards opposition could be due to declining resale value of HDB homes
Homeownership and their property value are closely tied to voters sentiment.
Let's look into the case of Toa Payoh HDB estate which falls under the Bishan - Toa Payoh GRC.
In the 2015 General Election, the PAP scored a victory with 73.59 per cent of the vote share against the Singapore People's Party (SPP).
However, the recently concluded election saw a vote swing of 6.33 per cent towards the SPP at 32.74 per cent.
While the PAP won by 67.27 per cent, its support saw a decline of 6.33 per cent.
Likewise, in other mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC, the PAP witnessed a vote swing towards the opposition at 6.72 per cent and 14.58 per cent respectively.
The endorsement of Sengkang GRC of The Workers' Party is reflective of the changing mood and aspirations of young Singaporeans.
Yes, they want a strong and capable government.
However, they also want a government who listens to them and not one who bulldozes through policies.
Some of these policies include the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which they believe have contributed to social inequalities (CECA became a hot-button national topic last year when Erramalli Ramesh was caught on video verbally abusing a Singaporean security guard at a condominium).
They also want a government that does not resort to hitting below-the-belt when it comes to their political opponents.
While the PAP has retained power in many estates, the vote swing towards the opposition could also suggest that older voters want the diminishing value of their homes addressed.
As one elderly person that I spoke to puts it: “This is not what was promised by Lee Kuan Yew”.
9After a two month lockdown, Singapore is slowly easing its Circuit Breaker measure under Phase Two which began after June 18 at 2359 hours. Taken between 10.30am to 9pm on June 26, the Lion City is slowly buzzing back to life as it readies itself for its most challenging general election to be called on July 10. According to the Ministry of Health, the city-state recorded a total of 43,661 COVID-19 cases as of 28 June.
By Khalil Adis
As Malaysia eases its Movement Control Order (MCO), the Malaysian property market is set for a major reboot as COVID-19 will forever change the way the industry operates. Here are our top eight predictions.
By Khalil Adis
The Malaysian economy has bucked the trend growing by 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 from the 3.6 per cent growth in the previous quarter, data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) showed.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc in the job market with the unemployment rate increasing to 3.5 per cent compared to the 3.2 per cent recorded in the previous quarter.
"The increase in the unemployment rate was mainly attributed to the adverse impact of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on the labour market," said chief statistician Dato' Sri Dr. Mohd Uzir Mahidin
Meanwhile, employed persons in Malaysia increased to 1.6 per cent to 15.24 million persons in the first quarter of 2020.
The DOSM noted that the highest unemployment rate in Malaysia was in 1986 at 7.4 per cent.
Meanwhile, Bank Negara's Economic and Monetary Review 2019 stated that Malaysia's GDP growth is projected to be between -2.0 per cent to 0.5 per cent this year.
Noting that 2020 is "an exceptionally challenging year for the global economy", Bank Negara said global growth is expected to contract.
"While the Movement Control Order and measures to promote social distancing will dampen economic activity temporarily, they are necessary to contain the spread of the virus," Bank Negara said in a statement.
In terms of the construction sector, DOSM's data showed that it contracted 7.9 per cent from 1.0 per cent in the preceding quarter.
This is the lowest growth since the second quarter of 1999.
Moving forward, Dato' Sri Dr. Mohd Uzir Mahidin predicted that Malaysia is projected to record an unemployment rate of between 3.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent this year due to the impact from COVID-19
With the World Health Organization warning that COVID-19 "may never go away", a new normal in the property sector will emerge influencing how Malaysians will live, work and play.
Here are our top eight predictions arising from COVID-19:
#1: Property market will be extremely muted in 2020
The uncertainty arising from COVID-19 will have an impact on consumer spending.
Malaysia is expected to enter a recession this year resulting in job losses.
As such, consumers will prefer to hold on to cash amid the uncertainties ahead.
This will likely worsen the supply glut that Malaysia is already experiencing at the moment.
According to data from the National Property and Information Centre (NAPIC), as of 2019, Malaysia has an existing stock of 5,727,814 residential units.
In addition, it has an incoming supply and planned supply of 443,161 units and 441,309 units respectively bringing the total supply to a whopping 6,612,284 units.
Developers with unsold inventory, especially in the medium to high-end segment, will be faced with a double whammy.
They either have to drop prices to entice local buyers or continue to bleed as border controls imposed in the country means foreign investors are not allowed to enter Malaysia to view properties.
Either way, the prognosis does not look very good for the market.
Developers with strong branding, cash flow and who are offering affordable homes for locals will come out as winners amid this pandemic.
As we speak, some developers are currently rolling out Ramadan and Hari Raya packages with a low deposit of RM1,000 to continue enticing buyers.
However, whether or not buyers will be able to get a bank loan is another matter altogether.
#2: Office space demand will decrease
As businesses cut costs and working from home becomes the new norm, we can also expect a glut in office space supply to increase, particularly for Grade 'A' office.
According to data from NAPIC, as of 2019, Malaysia has an existing stock of 2, 549 office buildings with 22, 590, 473 sq m of space.
As more companies adopt the remote working model for good, existing office buildings will need to reconfigure their current space to factor in social distancing requirements.
Operators of coworking spaces and landlords will thus need to refurbish existing office spaces to continue attracting tenants.
New health requirements such as temperature takings and hand sanitisers may also translate to higher operating costs.
Meanwhile, developers with incoming and planned office supply in the pipeline will need to go back to the drawing board to redesign their office plans resulting in reduced floor density.
Data from NAPIC showed that Malaysia has an incoming and planned office supply of 51 buildings (2, 378, 131 sq m) and 15 buildings (398, 944) respectively as of 2019.
This sector will face downward pressure in their asking prices as more companies adopt a work from home policy.
Overall, the vacancy rate across Malaysia is expected to increase, further exacerbating the supply glut in the office market.
Developers who have already secured corporate tenants for upcoming office buildings in Kuala Lumpur such as Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) and Merdeka 118, before COVID-19 struck, are likely to emerge stronger from the crisis.
#3: Construction costs will increase due to late delivery of projects
The MCO restrictions have resulted in construction delays across all sectors of the property market.
During the MCO, construction sites were closed while materials which were sourced from overseas were impacted from the shut down of the global supply chain.
With the MCO now eased, construction has now restarted but with temperature screenings, staggered working hours and social distancing in place.
With construction now delayed by two to three months and with new safety requirements, we can expect construction costs to increase.
This will likely be passed on to consumers.
Whether or not such new projects can attract buyers with a higher per sq ft price remains to be seen due to the uncertainty in the economy and the job market.
Buyers with cash in hand may instead look to the secondary market where prices are more realistic.
#4: Tourism, food & beverage, transportation, travel, retail and hotel industries will be adversely affected
The MCO has seen a knock-off effect on the tourism, food & beverage, travel, retail and hotel sectors due to international and local travel restrictions.
According to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), approximately 15 per cent of hotels in the country may have to shut down their operations.
Data from NAPIC showed that as of 2019, Malaysia has an existing stock of 3,404 hotels with 266, 972 rooms.
Several of these hotels, located in tourism hot spots such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Melaka, have now ceased operations or are in the process of being auctioned off.
With a planned and incoming supply of 114 hotels with 24,161 rooms and 74 hotels with 14,810 rooms respectively, we can expect demand for the hotel sector to remain muted.
As it is, hotel operators are already facing stiff competition face from owners of Airbnb units.
So, until a vaccine is found, the hotel and Airbnb sectors will continue to bleed.
For hotels that are in the planned and incoming supply, they are faced with a dire situation to continue operations but where demand from tourists are far and few between.
It remains to be seen whether the construction of such hotels will continue or if they will be cancelled altogether.
Either way, they will be likely operating in the red.
The only exception is hotels which have been gazetted as quarantine areas.
For Airbnb owners, you might want to convert your units to long-term leases or student accommodations in the time being.
#5: Retail sector will see many businesses cease operations
While shopping centres can now operate, the damage is already done.
The MCO that kicked in on March 18 means that businesses are greatly impacted as malls are forced to closed.
Combined with running overheads such as cleaning costs, rent, wages, refurbishing damaged goods and other operating costs, shop owners are under great financial stress to either continue operation or wind down their business for good.
Either way, human traffic will not return to normal due to social distancing requirements.
As such, we can expect small to medium retail outlets and F&B outlets, particularly those leasing spaces at high-end malls to shutter.
Instead, they will switch to online shopping.
#6: Digital-related, food, healthcare, pharmaceutical and wellness sectors will thrive
Digital-related sectors such as online shopping, delivery, technology and website hosting will thrive amid the pandemic as working from home now becomes the new norm.
Developers and agents will need to adapt to changing market situation via contactless procedures such as conducting online viewings and meetings to close sales.
For instance, online property portals such as iProperty.com are coming up with innovative ways to help their clients sell property online.
In a post-pandemic world, Zoom meetings have now become ubiquitous.
This is also an ideal time for individuals to start a side hustle such as small home-based business selling cookies online to supplement their income
COVID-19 also means increased demand for food, healthcare, pharmaceutical and wellness industries.
On March 27 2020, the Malaysian government announced a second stimulus package to combat COVID-19.
For instance, an extra RM500 million has been allocated to purchase medical equipments, such as ventilators, personal protective, lab and ICU equipments.
Meanwhile, another RM1 billion is allocated for the purchase of medical equipment and expertise from private healthcare services.
#7: Tenants from healthcare industry will drive the rental market
With RM1.5 billion in total allocated to support the healthcare sector, this presents good news for investors who are holding on to vacant Airbnb units or landlords who are located close to such industries to seek out such tenants.
Having said that, the rental market in Malaysia is very soft at the moment so the rental income may or may not cover your mortgage.
As data from NAPIC showed earlier, Malaysia has an existing stock of 5,727,814 residential units as of 2019.
This will increase in 2020 arising from the supply from incoming and planned units.
While some investors may have to top up cash, having a negative cash flow is better than leaving your units untenanted.
Investors should seize this opportunity.
#8: 2020 is about business consolidation
As long as there is no vaccine found, business activities will never return to normal.
Forget about whatever business plans that you have planned in 2019.
Instead, brace yourself for a long, cold, winter ahead.
Consolidation will be the new normal for this year as many developers and industry players will focus on conserving cash.
Leveraging on digital technology will be the new norm.
We can expect pay cuts, hiring freezes and retrenchments as businesses cut losses on non-revenue generating departments.
We have already seen certain developers doing this and establishing working from home permanently.
This is the time to learn a new skill, read books and focus on self-development to continue staying relevant in your respective fields.
As morbid as it may seem, estate planning is crucial and timely especially since we are in the middle of a pandemic.
By Khalil Adis
Death is a taboo topic that no one likes to talk about.
However, it is important to discuss it with our family members as we never know what might happen to us, especially since we are faced with rising COVID-19 cases worldwide.
Even if we eventually emerge victorious against this disease, at least we have made the necessary preparations should something untoward happen to us.
Also, it prevents any family disputes on how your assets will be given away upon your death.
Before going in-depth with this article, I wish to state that different laws apply to Muslims and non-Muslims.
For today’s article, I will concentrate solely on Muslims.
I recently spoke to a lawyer and an HDB officer.
These are my findings that I would like to share with readers.
For Muslims in Singapore, you are permitted to make a will under Section 111 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) to dispose of your assets upon death.
However, your will (or wasiat) must comply with the conditions of, and is subject to the restrictions imposed by the school of Muslim law professed by you.
Section 112 of the AMLA states that the distribution of a Muslim’s estate must be according to the Muslim law.
Under this section, the assets of a deceased Muslim who was domiciled in Singapore at the time of their death shall be distributed in accordance with the principles of Muslim law and Malay custom (where applicable).
In this case, the distribution of assets will be distributed through the principles of Faraid.
Faraid generally applies to your assets which have not been given away under your will to your heirs or beneficiaries.
However, Faraid does not apply to the following excluded assets:
Property held under a joint tenancy
Under a joint tenancy, the right of survivorship means the surviving joint-owner gets 100 per cent ownership of the property.
For instance, if you own the property with your husband or wife, your husband or wife gets 100 per cent of the property depending on who is the surviving party.
Let’s say, you pass on, then your share cannot be distributed to your heirs or beneficiaries under Faraid.
This is the position that is taken by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) and by the civil law courts in Singapore under the 2019 ruling.
You can read more about it here
Nominated Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies
If you have made a nomination for your CPF monies to your wife, then the monies must be distributed to her only.
Nominated life insurance policy benefits/payouts
Likewise, if you have nominated your wife to receive your insurance policy benefits/payouts upon your death, then only she is entitled to receive the policy benefits/payouts.
You heirs or beneficiaries do not get anything.
Harta sepencarian or assets jointly acquired by a deceased Muslim
Harta sepencarian has its origins in Malay customs.
Section 112 (3) states that a Muslim who dies intestate (without a will), the court may make an order for the division of the harta sepencarian or jointly acquired property in such proportions as to how the court may deem fit.
Again, your heirs or beneficiaries are not eligible for this.
Assets given away under a will
Assets that are given away under your will must be given away to the beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Your heirs and other beneficiaries are not eligible if they are not named in the will.
What if I am a Muslim and I die without a will?
In this scenario, Section 112 (1) states that your estate and effects shall be distributed according to the Muslim law as modified, where applicable, by Malay custom.
Also section Section 112 (2) states that this section shall apply in cases where a person dies partly intestate (partly without a will) as well as in cases where he dies wholly intestate (without any will).
This means the principles of Faraid will apply to all your assets except for a property that is held under joint tenancy.
For example, your CPF monies and life insurance policy benefits/payouts will be distributed under the principles of Faraid to your heirs and beneficiaries.
What if am a Muslim and my property is held under tenancy-in-common?
Under tenancy-in-common, both parties hold a percentage of shares in the property (for example, 50 per cent - 50 per cent).
Upon your death, your share will be distributed according to your will.
If you do not have a will, then the principles of Faraid apply.
This means your share will be distributed according to Islamic laws to your heirs or beneficiaries.
What if I am a single Muslim and I am the sole owner of my property?
This will apply for those of you who had bought a flat under the Singles Scheme.
If you did not make a will, then Section 112 of the AMLA applies.
This means that the distribution of your estate must be made according to Muslim law through the principles of Faraid.
If you had made a will, then there will be an executor of your estate and your property may be inherited by your beneficiary.
For the avoidance of doubts, you should speak with a private solicitor.
What if I have an outstanding loan?
HDB flat owners are protected under the Home Protection Scheme (HPS) which is administered by the CPF Board.
Under this scheme, you and your family are protected from losing your HDB flat in the event of death, terminal illness or total permanent disability before your mortgage is paid up.
You can read more about it here.
However, this only applies if you are paying your mortgage via your CPF savings.
If you are paying cash to service your mortgage, the HPS is optional.
According to the CPF Board, in this scenario, you are "strongly encouraged to apply for an HPS cover if you are an owner of the flat and if you do not have adequate financial protection for your share of outstanding housing loan".
Your eligibility for HPS coverage is subject to approval and you being in good health.
If you are the sole owner or if you did not make a will and if your property is to be sold on the market, the proceeds will be used to clear the remaining loan balance before your beneficiary receives the cash proceeds from the sales.
If you are the sole owner, paying by cash and if you had made a will, then your beneficiary or beneficiaries will then need to service your remaining loan.
Again, please speak to a private solicitor for the execution of your estate.
With the virus now declared a global pandemic, it is as though we are forced us to slow down and reflect on what really matters.
By Khalil Adis
I woke up today feeling like the universe had pressed a reset button forcing the entire world to slow down.
This came amid the rising number of COVID-19 infections outside Singapore.
It all started from a nightmare I had over the weekend where I had dodged several black coloured snakes.
I think they were meant to symbolise the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, next door, I could hear my mother coughing loudly the entire night.
I wondered if she had caught the virus and if so, will she survive?
I had read that the elderly are particularly susceptible to the virus and the fatality rate is high.
I also wondered if I had enough resources as a caregiver should she fall ill.
It’s funny how it is usually the unmarried child who ends up taking care of their parents while their married siblings are noticeably absent.
Then, it got me thinking if I had saved enough for my retirement and what will happen to me upon death.
In introspective mode
As morbid as it may seem, COVID-19 had forced me into a period of introspection.
I found myself asking questions I never did.
For a while, I was going through life on an autopilot mode, especially in this age of social media where everything seemed so fast-paced.
As a result, I would often write articles in listicle format as readers nowadays want bite-sized news as opposed to analytical pieces.
It’s a recurring problem fellow journalists had also complained about as they are increasingly being replaced by content marketers for ‘click-bait contents’.
It felt as though we were not making an emotional connection with our readers.
Yet, amid COVID-19, here I am writing on my blog as to how I would usually write in my journal entries.
A global pandemic
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Everything now appears to have ground to a screeching halt with the restricted movement order that kicked in on Wednesday in Malaysia and containment efforts within Singapore.
The Singapore government on Sunday announced a new 14-day stay-home notice that will take effect from 11.59 pm on March 16 for all travellers with a recent travel history to ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland or the United Kingdom.
This comes as Singapore and Malaysia are reporting a daily spike in new infections.
Meanwhile, for the first time in Singapore’s history, Friday’s prayers were cancelled islandwide amid new clusters of infections that were linked to the Sri Petaling mosque outbreak last week.
It will continue to be closed till March 26.
It’s a strange feeling passing by mosques that remained closed.
All these new measures will definitely have an impact on the economy and especially for small businesses.
In the property market, events are now either being postponed or cancelled.
My developer clients are now working from home.
This will not bode well for Singapore and Malaysia as both countries are facing a supply glut in residential properties.
It is as though the entire world is forced to slow down and connect with each other on a humane level.
My friends and relatives had previously admonished me for writing about what I go through saying it may not be good for business.
Somehow, during a time of crisis, sharing about our personal struggles seemed relevant as they make us more relatable as a human being.
Do I worry about business amid COVID-19? Yes, of course.
On a side note, as much as I would like to launch my book, this is very much dependent on getting sponsors on board.
With the lull property market and developers cutting back on their marketing budget, it does appear challenging.
It also does not help that Malaysian developers generally prefer to meet in person and do not respond well over e-mail.
However, I now see it as a blessing amid what the world is going through at the moment - it is not a good time.
Nevertheless, I do hope the book will see the light of day as it contains nuggets of useful information on the various train lines in Malaysia since I started researching about them in 2008.
I wished a similar property guide book was written in Singapore when the city-state started building its MRT system in the 1980s.
In the meantime, let us stay healthy, remain calm and vigilant during this difficult period.
Retailers in the hip Jalan Dhoby enclave in Johor Bahru say a sense of normalcy is slowly returning as locals are getting used to COVID-19.
By Khalil Adis
It used to take me almost an hour plus to take bus 160 from Jurong East to Johor Bahru.
However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, crossing the causeway is now a breeze due to the lull traffic.
One destination of choice that is incredibly popular among Singaporeans is at the hip Jalan Dhoby enclave.
Reminiscent of Georgetown in Penang, Jalan Dhoby is home to famous eateries making it a favourite haunt among tourists and photographers.
“Come, come! Feel free to take photos. You can even take photos inside,” said the friendly auntie at Hiap Joo Bakery while taking my orders.
Known for their flavourful banana cake and buns that are slow-cooked over wood in a traditional kiln, she admits that business has been gravely affected since the first coronavirus case was reported in Johor Bahru in January.
“Yes, of course. We used to have a lot of Singaporean customers but they are all scared to come to JB now,” she said matter-of-factly while wrapping up two packets of freshly baked banana cakes.
Despite the absence of Singaporeans, the bakery still remains popular among Johoreans as all their buns were already sold out by 2 pm.
Over at Siva Hairdressing Salon, located nearby at Jalan Pahang, its owner shared a slightly different take.
“Last two weeks was dead. Now, we are slowly seeing Singaporeans and tourists returning here,” said Mr Siva.
A glance outside his shop confirmed this, although their numbers are still significantly lower than before.
Meanwhile, next door, his daughter, who has just opened a chocolate shop called Act Spot, remained optimistic.
“We have many chocolates to choose from which are produced and sourced locally. Hopefully, more Singaporeans will come here once the situation has improved,” said Ms Jaya.
The lunchtime crowd at IT Roo Cafe located just opposite her shop is also slowly returning to normal albeit comprising mostly of regular local customers.
The good news is getting a seat here is no longer a problem.
In the past, you will have to wait till after 2 pm or sit alfresco style under the hot sun.
Just opposite IT Roo Cafe is Salahuddin Bakery which sells buns, curry puffs and other confectionaries which are cooked in a kiln, just like at Hiap Joo Bakery.
When asked if business has improved, the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous said that while it is not as good as before, customers are slowly returning.
“People are slowly coming back. Like it, or not, life will have to go on,” he said.
Over at Santai2, a massage parlour that specialises in traditional Malay massage, the shopkeeper said business is not as robust as before.
“At first, human traffic was greatly affected by the road works which has now completed. After that, we were affected by the coronavirus outbreak. We used to see a lot of Singaporean customers,” she said.
As I made my way to Al-Fayeed Cafe for dinner, business appeared busy as usual.
Known for its mix of Western and local dishes as well as delectable shisha offerings, Al-Fayeed Cafe continues to attract a strong Johorean crowd, albeit slightly younger.
“People here are a bit more laid back although they are aware of the coronavirus outbreak,” said a server.
Judging from my recent day trip to Johor Bahru, it is clear that the unwavering spirit among Johoreans is alive and well as they remain steadfast in the face of COVID-19.
If you want to avoid the crowd, this is now the best time to explore Johor Bahru.
Just make sure you take the necessary precautions such as washing your hands frequently and wearing a face mask if you are unwell.
Here are some of the places to explore:
#1: Hiap Joo Bakery
13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Hiap Joo Bakery is one of JB's best-kept secrets that it reportedly counts the Sultan of Johor as one of its fans.
Renowned for their coconut buns and freshly made banana cakes, many locals make a beeline for them.
In fact, their coconut and kaya buns are so popular that they usually run out by noon.
What makes Hiap Joo Bakery authentic is its old-school method of cake-baking which it inherited from its former British owner.
All the cakes and buns are baked in a classic wooden kiln which leaves them with a unique charcoal aftertaste.
If you still can't get enough of its freshly made cakes and buns, fret not!
You can buy its very own kaya spread to savour it from the comfort of your home.
#2: IT Roo Cafe
17, Jalan Dhoby, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
For lunch, head to IT Roo Cafe located just around the corner.
Touting itself as having "the best chicken chop in town", you can choose to have it either grilled or fried with a choice of mushroom or black pepper sauce.
The dish comes complete with a serving of coleslaw and fries.
Aside from its signature dish, IT Roo Cafe also serves up popular local dishes like fried rice and noodles.
#3: Act Spot
6A Jalan Pahang, 80000, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Act Spot is a local chocolatier that sells an assortment of flavoured chocolates such as hazelnut, cappuccino and tiramisu.
Produced and sourced locally, the chocolates are touted as a healthy alternative as they are less sweet, non oily and with zero trans fat.
The chocolates come in an attractive packaging and are priced from RM10 onwards.
#4: Salahuddin Bakery
26, Jalan Dhoby, 80000, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Salahuddin Bakery is one of the oldest bakeries in Johor Bahru that has been around since 1937.
They specialise in triangular-shaped curry puffs that are filled generously with beef and potato fillings as well as coconut and red bean buns.
Aside from its signature curry puffs, the bakery also sells an assortment of confectionaries.
What makes Salahudin Bakery a draw is its old school method of baking inside a kiln which you cannot find elsewhere (except at Hiap Joo Bakery).
Prices start from RM1.70.
#5: Al-Fayeed Cafe
Off Jalan Pahang, 80000, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Fancy a serving of shisha?
Well, look no further than Al-Fayeed Cafe which is also located within walking distance.
Prepared by tattoed servers with technicoloured dyed hair, there are many flavours to choose from with an option to have it served with ice.
Al-Fayeed Cafe also serves up popular side dishes such as fries to go along with your shisha.
For those who prefer a heartier portion, the cafe also offers a wide selection of Western and local dishes at very reasonable prices.
Music can get a tad bit loud with popular hip-hop tunes and EDM club bangers blaring from the speakers.
#6: Pasar Karat
Jalan Segget, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Stock up on those pomades in various fragrances or shop for handphone covers at this night market located just a stone throw's away from the heritage area.
Pasar Karat which means rusty market comes alive from 7 pm onwards and attracts a strong Johorean crowd.
Selling just about anything from exotic pets to Malay kuehs, the night market gets especially busy during Ramadan as many would throng the market as they gear up for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Offering foot massage and traditional Malay urut, Santai2 is a welcome respite after all those walking.
Foot massage starts from around RM45 while a full body traditional Malay urut is priced from RM65.
Both male and female therapists are available.
Singapore's retail and tourism industries appear to be reeling from the impact of COVID-19. Taken between 12 noon to 3 pm on 26 February 2020, human traffic at Orchard Road, Chinatown, Waterway Point, Tanjong Pagar, Raffles Place and Dhoby Ghaut has decreased significantly.
By Khalil Adis
When China sneezes, the entire world catches the flu.
In this case, COVID-19 is already affecting the global economy resulting in supply crunch, travel bans, pay freeze and global retrenchments.
Just recently, HSBC axed 35,000 staff as part of its global restructuring exercise on 18 February.
Singapore, in particular, is vulnerable due to its open economy and small domestic market.
Already reeling from the impact of the ongoing US-China trade war, the government has announced several measures under Budget 2020 to save jobs and to pass on rental rebates and waivers to affected tenants.
Meanwhile, Temasek Holdings, CapitaLand and SMRT announced pay freeze and wage cuts while Singapore Airlines is freezing hiring.
While the Singapore government has done a good job in containing the outbreak (62 recovered cases, 31 still in hospital), we are possibly faced with a global pandemic.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 26 February, the number of new cases reported outside of China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time.
For example, new cases are now emerging in Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, Greece, Georgia and Norway while South Korea and Italy are scrambling to contain the spread.
In South Korea alone, the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC) said it reported an additional 334 new cases as of 27 February, bringing the total tally to 1,595.
WHO added that COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected at least 80,000 in 34 countries with the vast majority of cases in China.
Should the situation gets even worse, there is a possibility of a deep and long recession ahead.
Here are photos that were taken yesterday across Singapore amid the outbreak.
Totalling S$106 billion, this year’s budget is aimed at helping businesses, Singaporeans and workers stay afloat in the face of an outbreak while navigating a weakening economy, technological disruptions and an ageing population.
By Khalil Adis
Walk around Singapore and you will notice that malls have now become eerily quiet while coughs and sneezing in public have become socially taboo.
Just take a ride on the MRT and observe the look of disdain whenever someone were to accidentally do so.
Welcome to the Lion City in 2020 where face masks and sanitisers have become the latest fashion accessories.
Already impacted by the ongoing trade war, Singapore is now faced with another invisible threat in the form of a coronavirus which now has a name - COVID-19.
Fresh from the Lunar New Year celebrations, businesses will usually see an increase in consumer spendings during this period.
However, this year is different with a notable dour mood.
Everyone is wary and jobs are now uncertain as the tourism, aviation, hotel, F&B and MICE industries take a hit.
Thus, it is no surprise that this year’s budget was a marked increase from Budget 2019’s S$78.2 billion to cope with the extraordinary circumstances.
Against a backdrop of a possible election this year, Budget 2020 tackles bread and butter issues head-on.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Budget 2020 and its impact on the property market.
#1: S$800 million budget to fight the virus
Singapore is a global city and an important trading and aviation hub.
Home to Changi Airport, it is, therefore, susceptible to any major shocks in the region and COVID-19 is no exception.
As such, the entire world is watching closely how Singapore is handling the outbreak and this will have an impact on investors’ confidence.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far praised Singapore’s response in containing the coronavirus situation.
With 81 confirmed cases so far, the government has set aside S$800 million for the Ministry of Health and other ministries to protect Singaporeans from the risk of a further spread of the COVID-19 virus.
This budget will have far-reaching implications as it will help to bolster business confidence, protect jobs, minimise economic disruptions while keeping Singaporeans healthy.
#2: Support for hotel, retail, food services, tourism and air transport sectors to minimise business disruptions
These industries will receive help in the form of the enhancement to Adapt and Grow Initiative to help in job redeployments, property tax rebate for qualifying commercial properties, a new Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP) for tourism sector enterprises, aviation sector measures, 50 per cent port dues concession and rental waivers for commercial tenants in government-owned / managed facilities.
More details can be found here.
Collectively, these measures will minimise business disruptions while mitigating retrenchments.
#3: S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package will help keep businesses afloat
Aimed at helping workers and enterprises weather near-term economic uncertainties, the Stabilisation and Support Package will cushion the impact of COVID-19 and the global headwinds.
For this, the government will introduce a Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) to provide wage support to enterprises that retain local workers.
Employers will receive an 8 per cent cash grant on the gross monthly wages of each local employee for the months of October 2019 to December 2019, subject to a monthly wage cap of S$3,600 per employee.
This applies to Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents only.
The government will also enhance the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS) to help enterprises with the cost of wage increases.
The monthly wage ceiling for the WCS will be raised from S$4,000 to S$5,000.
These measures are especially beneficial for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) who are facing cash flow problems.
#4: Stabilisation and Support Package and Care and Support Package will help local workers stay employed while defraying living costs
For the average person on the street, the Stabilisation and Support Package means that local workers will remain gainfully employed.
This means their life will go on as usual such as having the ability to continue paying for their HDB or private property mortgages with minimal disruption.
In addition, the Care and Support Package will help to offset their day-to-day living expenses via cash payout of S$300, S$200 or S$100 (depending on their income), Workfare Special Payment with a minimum payment of S$100 for the work year of 2019, a S$100 grocery vouchers for each year, in 2020 and 2021 (subject to eligibility conditions), Additional GST Voucher – U-Save and Service and Conservancy Charges Rebate.
To be eligible for the grocery vouchers, only Singaporeans aged 21 years and above, who live in 1-room and 2-room HDB flats and do not own more than one property, are eligible.
More details can be found here
#5: Budget could mitigate rising home defaults
Homeowners defaulting on their mortgages have been on the rise since 2015 amid rising interest rates and job uncertainty.
According to data from the Credit Bureau Singapore, there were 65 such cases in 2015 which have since increased steadily to 105, 112 and 156 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Meanwhile, from January to July 2019, the number stands at 79.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of cases for 2020 could be further mitigated with this budget.
In closing, Budget 2020 is generous and extraordinary to help Singaporeans, businesses and local workers during these extraordinary circumstances.
Strong correlation seen between transacted property price and remaining lease.
By Khalil Adis
Since the Lee Kuan Yew era, Singaporeans have been ingrained with the idea that our HDB flat is an asset.
While you can make a profit from your HDB flat, this depends on the lease that is remaining on your property.
Based on our research and analysis, we found that HDB flats in older estates with a remaining lease of fewer than 60 years saw their property values diminish.
Meanwhile, those that have around 80 years of lease left were able to fetch far higher prices.
This is according to data captured on HDB’s website.
On the other end of the spectrum, HDB flats that are located in newer estates did not see that much price variation.
In conducting this study, we had looked into HDB transactions for 4-room flats that were recorded as of 21 January 2020 and then compared it with the remaining lease.
The estates chosen included the mature estates of Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio as well as the non-mature HDB estates of Punggol and Jurong West.
Here are some quick snapshots based on our findings.
#1: Toa Payoh: Older HDB flats changed hands at lower prices
When it comes to buying an HDB flat, most Singaporeans will prefer to buy in a mature estate such as in Toa Payoh or Ang Mo Kio.
However, if you have a flat with a remaining lease of fewer than 54 years this may have an impact on your resale value.
According to data captured on HDB’s website, there were 14 transactions for 4-room HDB flats in Toa Payoh during this period.
The data showed a strong correlation between the price versus the remaining lease.
For instance, older HDB flats (4) with 54 years or less of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$334,500.
Meanwhile, newer HDB flats (4) with 76 to 81 years of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$641,062.
This represents a price difference of 91.6 per cent.
#2: Ang Mo Kio: Newer HDB flats fetched higher selling prices
Ang Mo Kio is also another favourite estate among buyers explaining why Built-To-Order (BTO) launches have always been oversubscribed.
Like Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio also witnessed a strong correlation between price versus the remaining lease.
According to data captured on HDB’s website, there were 24 transactions for 4-room HDB flats in the estate during this period.
Newer HDB flats (5) with 80 to 91 years of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$622,960.
On the other hand, older HDB flats (14) with 59 years or less of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$390,071.
This represents a price difference of 59.7 per cent.
#2: Punggol: A non-mature estate where capital values experience fewer fluctuations
Punggol is a non-mature estate with a relatively young population.
While it may seem far-flung, Punggol is among the top ten estates in Singapore where HDB resale homes have changed hands.
According to data captured on HDB’s website, there were 36 transactions for 4-room HDB flats in the estate during this period.
The remaining lease in Punggol ranges from 82 to 95 years.
As such, there is not much price variation as seen in the case of Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio.
For example, HDB flats (7) with between 82 to 89 years of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$334,500.
Meanwhile, newer HDB flats (29) with 90 years or more of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$477,002.
This represents a price difference of 42.6 per cent.
This suggests that newer estates like Punggol may be ideal if you want to protect the capital values of your property.
#3: Jurong West: A semi-mature estate with a price gap similar to Punggol
Jurong West is a semi-mature area and as such the remaining lease here is between 63 and 94 years.
According to data captured on HDB’s website, there were 41 transactions for 4-room HDB flats in the estate during this period.
Similar to Punggol, there is not much price variation as seen in the case of Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio.
For example, HDB flats (11) with less than 70 years of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$328,090.
Meanwhile, newer HDB flats (8) with 93 years or more of the remaining lease were transacted at an average price of S$467,875.
This represents a price difference of 42.6 per cent.
#4: Price gap is widest in Toa Payoh
Toa Payoh makes an interesting case study.
We decided to zoom into this estate as property agents have long complained that they have had a hard time selling older HDB flats in the area.
Our analysis seems to concur with our findings on the ground when speaking to agents as they appear to diminish in value nearing the end of the lease.
In the case of Toa Payoh, the price gap is a whopping 91.6 per cent compared to Ang Mo Kio, Punggol and Jurong West at 59.7 per cent and 42.6 per cent respectively.
#5: Widening price gap between HDB and private property market
According to the third quarter of 2019 data from the HDB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Resale Price Index (RPI) and the Private Property Index (PPI) are at 130.9 and 152,8 percentage points respectively.
This means a price gap of 21.9 percentage points.
The widening price gap is bad news for HDB upgraders thinking of buying a condominium.
As such, this may not be an opportune time for you to do so.
Should Singapore enter into a recession this year, we are likely to see the PPI drop further narrowing the price gap between the HDB and private property markets.
Good things come to those who wait so wait out.
#6: Sengkang is the most popular estate for resale HDB flats in 2019
Rounding of the top 10 HDB estates, Sengkang is the most popular with 1,795 resale transactions recorded in 2019, followed by Woodlands (1,794), Yishun (1,791), Jurong West (1,705), Bedok (1,513), Tampines (1,413), Bukit Batok (1,241), Punggol (1,160), Ang Mo Kio (1,034), Hougang (968) and Bukit Merah (937).
#7: Summary: Capital values appear to be better protected in non-mature estates
While HDB is an asset, older HDB flats in mature estates will likely see their value decline as the data showed.
As such, prospective homebuyers might want to think twice before purchasing such flats.
On the other hand, the data suggests that the capital values of your HDB flat are better protected in non-mature estates like Punggol and Jurong West.
As such, you may want to consider selling your property after five years once you have fulfilled your MOP and then upgrade to private property or downsize according to your lifestyle needs.
Having said that, I would like to stress that your HDB flats are for long-term occupation and not for you to make a quick profit.
In closing, housing is a delicate issue.
The government will need to address their diminishing value sensitively especially to the older generation who are currently living in mature estates.
From map reading to identifying growth areas, this easy-to-understand session aims to assist first-time homebuyers looking for homes along the different train lines in KL/Greater KL.
By Khalil Adis
If you had enjoyed reading 'Property Buying for Gen Y', then you are in for a special treat.
For my upcoming talk on January 11 at Havoc Hartanah 10, I will be including new materials that will cover newly completed as well as upcoming train lines in greater detail.
Take this as 'Property Buying for Gen Y' part two - this time with more emphasis on one of the 5Cs I had mentioned in my book which is to check for transport masterplan.
Here are five things you can expect during my lesson:
#1: A combination of 'Property Buying for Gen Y' and 'Connectivity & Your Property'
I had spent an enormous amount of time to write, conduct research and take photos for my upcoming book.
For this lesson, I will place more emphasis on transportation, specifically the Sungai Buloh - Kajang Line (SBK Line), Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (SSP Line), Ampang LRT Extension Line, Kelana Jaya LRT Extension Line and LRT Bandar Utama-Klang Line (Klang Valley LRT Line 3).
We will then dive deep into each line before identifying the growth areas.
#2: Learn how to read transportation masterplan
This is part of the diving deep process that you will undergo.
This is where you will learn some of the key facts and figures of each line.
Understanding transportation masterplan is part of the process in one of the 5Cs in my book - check for budget allocation from the government.
We will then analyse how such budget allocation will have an impact on property prices along the lines.
#3: Find the sweet spot in terms of distance to train stations
While you may want to buy close to train stations, you also want to be careful not to buy to close, especially for elevated train stations.
Also, there are certain requirements that developers will have to adhere to qualify for transit-oriented development (TOD).
Learn what the sweet spots are and how they may impact on your resale and rental value.
#4: Not all growth areas are created equally
During the lesson, we will identify growth areas along the lines.
However, not all areas are suitable for you as some are located in mature areas.
For example, while Tun Razak Exchange MRT station will serve the upcoming Tun Razak Exchange, the properties around the area will not be affordable for first-time homebuyers.
On the other hand, such an area will be suitable for investors looking to buy their second home or for rental income.
These are some of the due diligence points we will cover.
#5: Identify areas where you can find affordable properties
The key to finding affordable properties along the lines mentioned is to identify areas where there are new or upcoming train stations and where the government has announced plans to create upcoming economic zones.
Such areas will have to be away from the city centre but close enough to train stations and dedicated hubs mentioned so you can experience price appreciation over the long-term.
Learn where they are along the lines mentioned.
Don’t forget to bring your notebook along and ask questions after the lesson.
Details of my talk below:
Topic: Connecting the dots and finding the hot spots
Date: 11 January 2020
Venue: Wisma Sejarah, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
See you there!
An independent analysis from yours truly