Gear up for a bumpy ride next year in Malaysia’s property market as the number of unsold units continues to rise. Despite the challenges, there are some opportunities for investors and rent-seekers.
By Khalil Adis
According to the Valuation and Property Services Department’s (JPPH) latest figures, the number of unsold completed residential units rose from 20,304 units to 30,115 units year-on-year as at 30 September 2018.
This represents an increase of 48.35 per cent.
Meanwhile, the total value was RM19.54 billion, representing a 56.44 per cent rise from RM12.49 billion a year ago.
However, if JPPH were to also include serviced apartments and small offices home offices (SoHos), this would bring their overhang value to 40,916 units valued at RM27.38 billion.
According to JPPH, Johor has the largest number of unsold completed serviced apartments and SoHo units at 7,714.
JPPH notes that it rose a whopping 191 per cent from the 2,647 units recorded a year ago.
The overhang in serviced apartments is valued at RM6.16 billion compared with its residential overhang of RM4.44 billion.
This means the total overall value of its unsold serviced apartments is 1.5 times that of residential housing.
In summary, Johor has the highest number of completed unsold units in Malaysia at 6,053.
This is a 55 per cent increase from the 3.901 units a year ago.
With an overhang in supply spanning from Johor to Selangor, here are some of the likely property trends to emerge next year.
#1: Renter’s market
The new supply of the completed units plus the those from existing units will lead to a downward pressure in the rental market causing rentals to fall.
This is because rent-seekers will be spoilt for choice while landlords will be fighting for tenants.
This will make it ideal for rent-seekers as landlords will most likely be open for price negotiations.
Meanwhile, it is bad news for landlords should they be able to find a tenant or not.
In the former, the rental will most likely not be able to cover the mortgage resulting in negative cash flow.
In the latter, landlords will have to cover the mortgage themselves.
Those who cannot will have no choice but the let go of their units.
#2: Buyer’s market
The property market will also favour buyers as sellers will be desperate to offload their properties, especially those who have multiple units.
Therefore, buyers will be in a more stronger position to bargain in a market flooded with so many units.
#4: Buy properties in the secondary market
If you urgently need a roof over your head, then the secondary market is the way to go as you are buying a completed property.
Sellers are also more willing to negotiate on the terms of payment and will likely cut a flexible payment deal via their agents if you do not have a sufficient deposit in hand.
In addition, the supply overhang also mean that properties in the secondary market are priced 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than new launches.
However, do bear in mind that you need to pay a 10 per cent deposit.
#5: Overhang in supply means good deals in the auction market
Unfortunately, there will also be distressed properties which will be auctioned off in court.
If you are looking for a below market value (BMV) property, then this will present a very good opportunity for you.
When buying a BMV, you will need to attend an auction in court and prepare a bank draft in advance to show of interest.
This will cost you around 10 per cent of the reserve price.
For example, if the property is being auctioned off at RM50,000, you will need to prepare RM5,000 in bank draft.
If you have successfully bid for the property, you will need to settle the balance of the payment within 120 days.
However, there are a lot of hidden costs, for example, legal, quit rent (cukai pintu), unpaid utilities and maintenance fees, assessments and so on.
Perhaps, the biggest risk is this - while the property is legally yours, you may find it hard to evict the tenants or owners.
You may have to apply for a court order, through a lawyer, to evict the occupants.
This process can take you up to four weeks and costs you between RM1,500 to RM2,000. Even so, there are no guarantees they can be evicted as Malaysian laws favour occupiers.
When buying a BMV property, it is best to find out if the property is occupied by tenants or owners.
#6: It also means good deals from the primary market
Developers have to move their unsold inventory as each unit means added cost for them.
As such, developers will be coming up with creative schemes like zero downpayment and such to lure buyers.
Speak to a good developer and check if they have a good master plan to ensure your property values are protected.
Remember the 5Cs I always talk about?
Check against them before you commit to buying a property,
#7: More restrictions on Airbnb accommodations
Making money from your short stay travellers may prove to be even harder even if the government legalises Airbnb.
This is because we are seeing trends of management committees barring Airbnb-type of accommodation due to security and safety issues.
So before you decide to list your untenanted unit on Airbnb, it is best to check with your management committee if this is allowed.
However, if you happen to own a serviced apartment, this will not be an issue as it falls under a commercial title.
#8: Transit-oriented developments (TODs) along SSP Line
The Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya Line (SSP Line) is one of the few major infrastructure projects that will be continued under the newly elected government.
In fact, the project is currently under construction and is fast taking shape.
Some developers have already acquired land banks along this line to build TODs.
Areas to watch out for include Kwasa Damansara, Kwasa Sentral, Sungai Besi, Bandar Malaysia and Cyberjaya City Centre
JB is taking the word ‘hipster' up a few notches and giving Kampong Glam a serious run for its money.
By Khalil Adis
When the Singapore authorities announced in October that Blu Jaz Cafe's entertainment licence is cancelled, it marked another dent for the entertainment industry in the hip Kampong Glam enclave.
Home to Zam Zam Restaurant, the historic Sultan mosque, bars and restaurants, Kampong Glam is a popular hangout destination among locals and tourists alike.
However, since the banning of shisha in July 2016, the area has lost its lustre as many businesses were affected.
One in particular, called Cafe Le Caire, was a popular watering hole but is now no longer in operation.
What still remains are the textile and carpet shops.
With one less entertainment outlet in Singapore, JB's heritage area is fast coming up as a viable alternative.
Once associated with sleaze, Jalan Dhoby is now home to a number of hip establishments which are popular among the young and the young-at-heart.
In addition, the shophouses are decorated with funky street art almost reminiscent of Georgetown's.
With two weeks shy of 2019, here are our top picks to explore within JB's heritage area.
#1: Restoran Hua Mui
No.131, Jalan Trus, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Restoran Hua Mui serves a good mix of Western and local dishes and is popular among Johoreans and Singaporeans.
Unfortunately, it gets especially busy during lunchtime and that is when service standards drop.
I would recommend coming here to have your breakfast instead before exploring the rest of the heritage area.
The chicken and eggs sandwiches come highly recommended with a dollop of Lingham's Chilli Sauce.
#2: Explore the pre-war shophouses at Jalan Trus
Located at the intersection of Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Trus, the shophouses were built during the 1800s but has now been given a new lease of life thanks to the creative facade treatment.
There is also a shop here that sells vintage clothing and apparels.
Whichever you decide to check out, the shophouses here will certainly appeal to photography buffs and those looking to update your #ootd Instagram shots.
Who knows? You might just find an outfit at the boutique here!
#3: Hiap Joo Bakery
13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, 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 the morning.
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.
#4: IT Roo Cafe
17, Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
For lunch, just 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.
Be sure to arrive early as it can be difficult to get a seat during the lunch hour.
#5: Chaiwala & Co. Container Cafe
Lot 2180 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru Johor, Malaysia
Owned by a former sailor, Chaiwala gets its namesake from a disused shipping container which has become its signature look.
In fact, it has spawned a number of copycats within its immediate vicinity making it a draw among photographers and hipsters alike.
Some of its signature drinks include Thai milk tea and Vietnamese coffee served hot or chilled.
You can even customise your drinks with a base comprising either tea, milk tea, coffee, fresh milk or smoothie with a range of flavours.
The only drawback is there is no wifi here so it is best to stick to taking your Instagram shots.
#6: Cafe Al-Fayeed
Off Jalan Pahang, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Fancy a serving of shisha?
Well, look no further than Cafe Al-Fayeed 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 at just RM11!
Cafe Al-Fayeed 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.
Ok, we don't really have a specific address here but it will be hard to give this wellness establishment a miss as it is housed within a red-hot container along Jalan Dhoby.
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.
#8: 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.
As the air and sea territorial dispute enters a second week, it could negatively impact investor sentiment in the already lukewarm property market in Iskandar Malaysia.
By Khalil Adis
The simmering tension brewing in the Straits of Johor between Singapore and Malaysia has now entered its second week.
In fact, it is like watching history repeating itself.
Growing up during the Lee Kuan Yew era, I recall how both countries would often trade barbs over water to territorial issues.
The relationship between both countries is best described as testy then.
However, much like brothers and sisters, we would soon kiss and make up.
Post the Lee Kuan Yew-Mahathir era, bilateral ties between both countries warmed up significantly under the leadership of Lee Hsien Loong and Mahathir's successors, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak.
While the later remains highly unpopular among Malaysians, several win-win deals were concluded between both countries which arose from the land swap deal.
They included the joint development of DUO in Bugis and Marina One by M + S Pte Ltd (Malaysia and Singapore, in case you don't know)
Over in Iskandar Malaysia, Singapore agreed to develop two wellness centre called Afiniti Medini and Avira.
Subsequently, CapitaLand invested in A2 Danga Island.
Until today, the project has yet to be launched.
With bilateral relations going from cold to warm and back again to cold, we analyse how this will impact the property market across the causeway.
#1: Investors will likely adopt a ‘wait-and-see' approach to Iskandar Malaysia
This is almost similar to the pre-Iskandar Malaysia era under Abdullah Badawi's leadership when the special economic zone was first announced.
I recall covering a few stories on Iskandar Malaysia then where I had interviewed several Singaporeans.
During that time, many had expressed scepticism on Iskandar Malaysia and avoided buying a property at Horizon Hills.
Back then, it was then launched within the minimum investment threshold of RM250,000.
However, that changed once the land swap deal was concluded in 2010.
As our bilateral ties improved, so did investors' confidence.
As a result, properties in Iskandar Puteri and Medini began selling like hot cakes.
Meanwhile, units at Horizon Hills was transacted at almost three times the launch price as developments at Legoland Theme Park, EduCity and Puter Harbour were gathering pace.
With both countries now embroiled in a maritime dispute, investors are most likely to adopt a similar approach until the issue is resolved
#2: Market sentiment in Iskandar Malaysia the most affected
July's property cooling measures have made it even more difficult for Singaporeans to buy a private property in the Lion City as the loan-to-value (LTV) limit has been reduced from 80 per cent to 75 per cent if the loan tenure does not exceed 30 years for the first property.
Logically, this makes Iskandar Malaysia much more attractive due to its close proximity to Singapore as we share many similar customs, culture and speak similar languages.
However, the property market is very much sentiment driven as described above.
With Iskandar Malaysia being the closest to Singapore, this will be the property market that will be the most affected.
#3: Developers will face an uphill task in marketing their units
The property market in Iskandar Malaysia is already facing a challenging time due to the oversupply in the residential sector.
According to the first quarter of 2018 data from the National Property and Information Centre (NAPIC), Johor has the second highest number of existing stock of residential units at 795,363 in Malaysia.
The current political climate will no doubt be a double whammy for developers who are already struggling to move unsold units in their inventory.
With the High Speed Rail project now postponed, only the brand name of the developer will be able to win investors' confidence.
As such, developers who have a good reputation among Singaporeans and local buyers will stand to win.
Word-of-mouth marketing will be the way forward.
#4: Possible spillover impact in tourism and retail sectors
The allure of Malaysia is the affordable holiday destination, the many scenic nature and food trails it offers, its close proximity to Singapore and the strength of the Singapore dollar.
Thus, December is typically a busy month at the checkpoints as many Singaporeans go for a short break to Johor and beyond.
As the tension escalates, Singaporeans are likely to stay away this holiday season unless absolutely necessary.
In such a scenario, the tourism and retail sectors in popular malls in Johor Bahru like City Square and KSL will be affected.
In addition, many reservist units and national servicemen are being recalled for mobilisation exercises.
Many will have no choice but to stay in Singapore.
#5: Malaysians will also be affected
The current situation affects not just Singaporeans but also Malaysians living in Johor.
In fact, many brave the causeway in the wee hours every morning just to feed their family back home.
As we speak, Johoreans have expressed their concerns that their livelihood in Singapore may be impacted and hope the issue can be resolved amicably.
An independent analysis from yours truly