The game-changing project has been hit with a series of delays since the newly minted Pakatan Harapan government took power last May. With the property market in Iskandar Malaysia already in doldrums, we analyse the possible impact this may have on real estate on both sides of the causeway.
By Khalil Adis
When Pakatan Harapan took power in a landslide victory at the Malaysian general election last May, the ruling coalition government went to work by immediately addressing one of its election manifestos - reviewing major infrastructure projects which involve a foreign country.
Singapore was no exception.
Iskandar Malaysia, which was already feeling the heat from the sluggish property market, saw the High Speed Rail project at first being cancelled and then postponed.
Meanwhile, the controversial Forest City project bordering Singapore was initially announced as off-limits to foreigners but was subsequently changed to build affordable homes for locals.
The former is an important impetus that many developers had banked on to move their inventory amid a severe housing glut the state is facing.
According to recent data provided by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH), Johor recorded the highest number of residential overhang at 13,767 units followed by Selangor and Kuala Lumpur at 7,233 and 5,114 units respectively.
The mismatch in the supply for homes versus what Johoreans can actually afford plus their inability to get financing have further exacerbated the property market situation in Iskandar Malaysia.
The only saving grace is the cross-border rail link service linking Woodlands and Johor Bahru.
Although not cancelled, the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project is "not progressing well” as Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan puts it.
Just last week, Acting Transport Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan gave an update in Parliament that “further delays” are likely as Malaysia had missed the deadline in confirming its partner three times - first until September 2018, then until December.
However, on December 28, Malaysia had asked to be given until February 28 this year to do so.
It had missed this deadline as well.
As a result, this will delay the opening of the link which was initially scheduled to be ready by December 31, 2024.
Some developers, particularly in the JB Sentral area, had banked on the RTS Link, to move their unsold units.
With the project now in limbo, here are the possible impacts on the property market both in Singapore and Johor:
#1: Possible higher development cost around Woodlands North station
In May 2012, it was announced that AECOM Technology has been awarded a US$42m contract for the design and engineering study of the RTS Link by Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA).
Under the deal, the company will provide an architectural and engineering consultancy study for the proposed RTS Link.
Construction is well underway for the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line (TEL) with a plot of land allocated for the link at Woodlands North station.
The station is slated to be opened in December this year.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) master plan for Woodlands North Coast shows a mixed-use precinct for office and business parks along signature green boulevards within the station’s immediate vicinity.
The delay could mean higher development cost for the terminus due to opportunity costs and inflation.
#2: Higher fares
The higher development cost arising from the construction delay could also mean higher fares for the RTS Link which may be passed on to consumers.
However, whether or not this happens, commuters will likely switch to taking the RTS Link across the causeway as it will mean greater convenience as opposed to driving in or taking the bus.
For example, commuters need to clear customs and immigration only once when they depart from either Singapore or Malaysia.
Using one’s own vehicle or taking the bus will require a two times clearance with the possibility of being stuck in traffic.
#3: Potential capital appreciation for existing housing developments near Bukit Chagar RTS station affected
The Bukit Chagar RTS station will be located at the open car park next to the Sultan Iskandar Building complex.
Surrounding the station are landed terrace homes and condominium towers TriTower Residence and Bukit Chagar Apartments.
According to data from Brickz, from May 2017 to Jan 2018, the average per sq ft pricing for the landed homes in the area was RM354 per sq ft.
Meanwhile, the average per sq ft transacted pricing for Bukit Chagar Apartments from Mar 2017 to Dec 2017 was RM395 per sq ft.
There is no data for TriTower Residence built by SKS Group, formerly known as Maha Builders Group or MB Group.
With the delay, the potential capital appreciation arising from the spillover impact from the RTS Link will take a longer period beyond 2024.
Despite this, market talk is SKS Group has plans to build a covered link to the Bukit Chagar RTS station.
If this is true, investors of TriTower Residence will stand to benefit the most.
#4: Developments around JB Sentral affected
The delay will also impact surrounding developments in JB Sentral as it will mean longer gestation period for the commercial, property and tourism sectors.
The game-changing project could provide a much-needed boost to complement Johor Bahru’s ambitious RM1.8 billion rejuvenation programme that was unveiled by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2010.
This is because it will bring an inflow of investments from Singapore that will benefit the sectors mentioned.
Although the Sungai Segget rehabilitation is now completed, the project proved to be quite a letdown.
The project was spearheaded by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) with a reportedly whopping RM20 million consultation fee.
The entire cost is an estimated RM57 million.
The project was supposed to provide a booster to the nearby malls such as Johor Bahru City Square and KOMTAR JBCC as well as shophouses.
It was also supposed to be a tourist attraction much like Clarke Quay as it was modelled after South Korea’s Cheonggyecheon river restoration project in South Korea.
This explains why developers like UMLand had acquired land banks near to Jalan Wong Ah Fook for the opening of Suasana Iskandar Malaysia.
Given the high cost, naturally, the expectation among stakeholders was high.
However, some developers, shop owners and retailers were reportedly not very happy about the way the river cleaning project had turned out.
While the river no longer emits an odour, littering is still common.
The only saving grace for the river is a miserable small fish pond with a fountain in the middle of it.
Surely the river rejuvenation project can do much better.
#5: Ibrahim International District as the potential jewel of Johor
Delays and disappointments aside, there is a gateway district coming up in Johor Bahru that will mirror the one at Woodlands North station.
Called Ibrahim International District, the project is named after the Sultan of Johor.
Under his auspices and blessings, His Majesty has set the target of making Johor Baru the second biggest city in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur.
As such, we can be sure the project will receive the state’s 110 per cent commitment to make it shine as the jewel of Johor.
With a gross development value of RM3 billion, Ibrahim International District is an ambitious mixed-use development that will comprise six towers -– a hotel, a hotel with residences, an office, medical suites high-rise and two serviced apartment towers and a mall with an estimated gross floor area of 80,000 sq ft.
The district is currently under construction.
There are plans to build a linkway from Persada Johor to Coronation Square at Ibrahim International District.
However, there is no word yet if the district will be connected to the future Bukit Chagar RTS station.
If it does, it will enhance property values in the area, albeit beyond 2024.
#6: One Bukit Senyum as the current property booster
Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel as the only property booster around JB Sentral is the One Bukit Senyum project by Singapore Exchange-listed Astaka Holdings Limited.
Home to the tallest residential towers in Southeast Asia, Astaka, One Bukit Senyum will be Johor Bahru’s new central business district when fully completed in 2021.
One Bukit Senyum will be developed in two phases.
The first comprises The Astaka, with a total of 438 units.
The development, which is Johor’s most luxurious condominium development by far, was completed late last year.
Phase two will comprise Johor Bahru City Council’s new headquarters, a 450-room five-star hotel, 1012 residences, 254-key serviced apartments, a 1.5 million square feet shopping mall and a Grade A office building.
The JB-Woodlands RTS Link is a complicated matter as it involves the state and federal governments.
Nevertheless, it will be a win-win situation for both Singapore and Malaysia to continue with the project as it will mean and inflow of investments, particularly for Johor.
It will also ease the daily commute among Johoreans who are working in Singapore.
The spirit of good neighbourliness should prevail.
Buying a home will be your single most expensive investment in your life and these are the most common mistakes you should avoid.
By Khalil Adis
Buying your first home is an exciting experience that will have you go through a range of roller-coaster emotions.
From scouting for the right property to securing a loan, the procedures are endless that it is so easy to lose sight of what is important:
#1: Buying based on emotions
Buying a property based on emotions can cause you to gloss over some of its inherent shortcomings.
It is like falling in love in someone gorgeous until they start to open their mouth.
The initial phase may elicit a response such as exhilaration over its interior design finishing and then imagining how it would be like to sit in front of that bay window in that sleek glasshouse apartment.
However, your emotions can bite you back over the long run as such a home will result in hefty utility bills in the long term.
When buying a property, you should make calculated decisions by asking yourself these basic questions:
Is the property priced fairly?
Do your market research to find out what is the average price per sq ft of the property in the vicinity. This is important as it will ensure your property can have room for capital appreciation in the future.
Are there nearby amenities like schools, hospitals and train stations?
This will make the area desirable and attract people to want to live, work and play there. As demand increases, it will attract a significant population leading to the capital appreciation of your property. If you want to start a family, these are important considerations.
Can the property be rented out or sold in the future?
There will be some point in your life that you may end up as a landlord or a seller. Therefore, you must put yourself in the position of a tenant or a buyer by really looking at the property for what it is. As such, check if there any defects that may affect its future rentability or value. It is a good idea to upkeep your property to ensure all the electrical points and sanitary appliances are working while giving it a fresh coat of paint every year. You might also want to look at your interior design, layout and colour schemes and see if they will appeal to potential tenants or buyers.
#2: Buying a house facing East-West orientation
You should avoid buying a house that is facing the East-West orientation as it is directly exposed to the afternoon sun and therefore increases the heat gain. During night time, the concrete walls will radiate back the heat to your home leading to higher utility bills from your air-conditioning unit. Instead, you should go for a home that is facing North-South orientation. Do also ensure there is cross-ventilation from one end of the house to another to encourage natural air flow.
#3: Buying an odd-sized unit
An oddly sized unit refers to a layout which has odd corners like a triangle or irregularly shaped like an oval or circle.
Such homes have an inefficient layout meaning that it will result in wasted space which cannot be utilised.
It is also bad in terms of feng shui should the odd corners have an acute angle as they will collect energy that cannot be dispersed.
Instead, you should opt for a regularly shaped unit like a square or rectangle.
Remember this golden rule when it comes to a home layout: boring equals good.
#4: Buying a common unit versus one that is scarce
This is especially applicable for the property market in Malaysia where there is a severe oversupply of homes particularly in Johor and Kuala Lumpur.
When buying a home, you should opt for a unit that is scarce.
You should first study the development carefully and the unit types that are available.
For example, in a project where 4-bedroom greatly outnumber 2-bedroom units, you should opt for the latter.
This is because such units will be easier to offload in the resale market should you wish to sell or rent it out in future.
Of course, you must take into consideration your family size before making the final decision.
#5: Not asking about your prospective neighbours
A neighbour can make or break your property.
This is especially true if you are buying a resale home.
Recently, a friend confided how he had to move out from his current home to rent another place in eastern Singapore.
He had bought the HDB flat from the resale market from an owner who appeared desperate to sell it off.
“Don’t tell the neighbour downstairs how much I sold this house,” the owner said ominously.
This should have been a red flag.
After moving in, he realised his neighbour downstairs would often make a din throughout the entire day.
Sometimes, he would have the police knocking on his door as the neighbour had complained about him for no reason.
This caused him and his family so much distress that the neighbour’s mom had to come up to explain and apologise for her son’s erratic behaviour.
Apparently, her son suffers from a mental illness.
After talking to his neighbour, he realised the previous owner was not on good terms with the entire family.
This explains their decision to sell the flat.
While he now lives a quieter life elsewhere, his tenants are now at the receiving end of the neighbour’s constant abuse.
For example, recently, he received a call from the HDB complaining about the apparent noises from his unit.
Thankfully, the HDB and the police are aware of his problematic neighbour and have since closed the case.
Unfortunately, you cannot choose your neighbours if you had bought a new home directly from the HDB or developer.
However, you can mitigate your risks by being a good neighbour.
For instance, why not offer a serving of cookies or cakes during your festive celebration?
While your actions may not be reciprocated, a friendly hello on your neighbour’s door and offering such goodies will certainly go a long way in making a good first impression last.
Neighbours do talk so why not give them something good to talk about?
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.
2018 is a watershed moment for Malaysia's politics and the subsequent impact on the property market. We list down the key highlights in our 2018 property market roundups and our outlook for 2019.
By Khalil Adis
May 10 2018 was a watershed moment in Malaysia as it marked the first change of government in the country's history.
Since 1957, it had enjoyed an uninterrupted reign from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
However, the high cost of living, falling Ringgit, the lack of affordable homes in the market, high unemployment among fresh graduates, the unfettered check on power and the 1MDB scandal proved to be the undoing for BN as Malaysians far and wide casted their protest vote in the ballot box
The message from Malaysians is clear - they have had enough and want a new, clean government to lead the way.
With the Pakatan Harapan government now in power, all eyes are on the newly elected old Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad and his team to solve the pressing bread and butter issues.
Here are the top five property market roundups for 2018 and our top five outlooks for 2019.
#1: Demand-supply mismatch has resulted in an increasing number of unsold homes
According to Bank Negara, 80 per cent of homes or 146,196 units priced above RM250,000 remained unsold as of end March 2018.
In comparison, 130,690 units were unsold during the same period last year.
"Imbalances observed in the property market continue to persist," Bank Negara had said in a statement.
#2: Rent-to-own scheme being rolled out
To help ease the entry for the first time property buyers, the private sector has come up with a few initiatives.
Some private developers like Ayer Holdings have introduced a ‘Stay & Own' scheme for their Epic Residence and Foreston projects whereby part of the rent will be converted to the downpayment.
This not only provides a temporary solution for those who urgently need a home but also a form of security.
Meanwhile, Maybank has rolled a similar initiative called HouzKEY which they have called as "a rent-to-own solution that helps you to own your dream home."
The scheme involves zero per cent downpayment with the monthly rental forming part of the home financing.
#3: Ministry of Housing and Local Government studying Singapore's HDB model
In July, Zuraida Kamaruddin, the Minister of Housing and Local Government paid an official visit to Singapore to study the HDB model.
Singapore has succeeded to build demand driven homes under its Built-to-Order (BTO) scheme to house 80 per cent of the Singapore population.
This is especially useful in Malaysia where there is currently a demand-supply mismatch as in point number one.
#4: Malaysia looking into having a single housing government agency
In Malaysia, there are so many affordable housing programmes being rolled out by the state and federal governments such as Rumah Milik Mampu, Rumah Selangorku, PR1MA, My First Home, Program Perumaha Rakyat and the list goes on.
This confuses the public.
The Malaysian government is currently looking into having a single housing agency to streamline the whole process much like the HDB model.
If implemented, this could solve the current Malaysian housing woe.
#5: More help for the B40, M40 and first-time homebuyers under Budget 2019
More help is on the way for these group of property buyers as announced under Budget 2019.
The measures included the Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association (Rehda) agreement to cut prices by 10 per cent for new launches, the exemption of the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) for properties that are priced below RM200,000 and the stamp duty exemption for properties priced in the first RM300,000 up to RM500,000 as well as those priced from RM300,000 to RM1 million.
Outlook for 2019
#1: Affordable homes to continue driving the market
There is currently a strong pent-up demand for affordable homes but where the supply is lacking.
As such, the affordable home segment will continue to be in strong demand for 2019.
However, there needs to be concerted efforts from both the government and private developers.
Under Budget 2019, the federal government has pledged to spend RM1.5 billion on such homes via the 1Malaysia People's Housing (PR1MA) and Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB).
Meanwhile, Rehda has agreed to cut prices as stated above.
#2: South KL to be the growth area
There are many infrastructure projects and economic drivers that are in the pipeline that will further boost property prices in Southern KL.
One such project is Bandar Malaysia will serve as the terminus station for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (KL-Singapore HSR) project linking both cities in 90 minutes flat.
The development for the project has been postponed to two years and will now commence construction in 2020 instead of 2018.
Meanwhile, the express service will only commence by 1 January 2031 instead of 31 December 2026, as originally planned.
Bandar Malaysia has been designated as a site for the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) initiative by Jack Ma. Home to the Satellite Services Hub, DFTZ is expected to create some 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. It will also possibly serve as the interchange to the MRT Line 3, which has now been postponed.
Another economic driver in the vicinity is Tun Razak Exchange (TRX).
TRX will be a mixed-use development comprising a Grade A office space as well as residential and commercial precincts.
To be developed in several phases over a period of 15 years, the first phase will comprise four investment grade A office towers, a lifestyle retail mall, two 5-star hotels and up to six luxurious residential towers with a target completion date by 2019.
In addition, Bandar Malaysia will house two MRT stations - Bandar Malaysia North and Bandar Malaysia South which will form part of the alignment for the Sungai Buloh - Serdang - Putrajaya Line (SSP Line).
#3: Properties along Sungai Buloh - Serdang - Putrajaya Line (SSP Line) will be sought after
Speaking of the SSP Line, properties along the alignment, particularly those situated in the growth areas of Sungai Besi, Bandar Malaysia and Cyberjaya City Centre are worth looking into.
Bandar Malaysia will house two MRT stations as stated above and located a few stops away from Tun Razak Exchange MRT station.
Meanwhile, Sungai Besi MRT station is an interchange station to the Sungai Besi LRT station.
It will serve as an interchange to the upcoming High Speed Rail station located in Bandar Malaysia, also in Sungai Besi.
Last but not least, Cyberjaya City Centre MRT station is a transit-oriented development (TOD) project to be developed by Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB).
With its experience in building the transport hub in KL Sentral, MRCB will be developing a new city that will be integrated with the MRT station.
Phase one is expected to generate a gross development value (GDV) of RM5.35 billion.
It will feature a 200,000 sq ft convention centre, a 300- to 400-room business hotel, low and high-rise office buildings and a retail podium. Cyberjaya City Centre will have a development plan spanning 20 years.
The MRT station is located just opposite Lim Kok Wing University of Creative Technology.
#4: Penang to get a boost from Phase 1 of Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP)
With Lim Guan Eng as Malaysia's Finance Minister, Penang's property market will get a further boost.
Just this month, Phase 1 of PTMP was approved.
It will comprise the Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) project and several main highways.
The proposed Bayan Lepas LRT line will be about 30 km in length with 27 stations running from KOMTAR to the future reclaimed islands in the south.
There will be three interchange stations - KOMTAR, Sky Cab Station linking it to the Sky Cab line across the Malacca Straits and The Light Station linking it to the George Town-Butterworth LRT line.
The LRT Line will also be integrated with the Sungai Nibong Express Bus Terminal at the Sungai Nibong Station.
Meanwhile, PIL 1 is a new 20km highway that will be aligned along the mountainous terrain of the island and will take around 15 minutes from between Gurney Drive to the Second Bridge.
There will be six interchanges in all - Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (LCE), Awang, Relau, Paya Terubong, Utama and Gurney.
#5: Johor Bahru to get a boost from the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link
Meanwhile, over in the southern state of Johor, Iskandar Malaysia's muted property market will get a boost as the RTS Link will commence construction next year.
The RTS Link will link Bukit Chagar station in Johor Bahru to Woodlands North MRT station in Singapore when completed in 2024.
There are also plans for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system within Bukit Chagar station to link it to the different areas of Iskandar Malaysia.
The BRT will feature a dedicated bus lane with three lines - BRT Line 1 will span from Bukit Chagar to Tebrau, BRT Line 2 from Bukit Chagar to Senai and finally, BRT Line 3 from Bukit Chagar to Iskandar Puteri.
However, based on market talk in the ground, there is a possibility that the BRT system will be upgraded to an LRT system instead.
Since taking power in May 2018, the newly formed government has announced a slew of policy changes that will impact developments in Iskandar Malaysia. We analyse the impact of its policy changes in Iskandar Malaysia and how they may affect you as a consumer.
By Khalil Adis
Take a drive around Iskandar Puteri, Danga Bay and Johor Bahru and one cannot help but notice the rapidly changing skyline at this Malaysian state bordering Singapore.
Once seen as a buyers’ beware market, Johor has since 2008 rebranded itself as an up and coming economic zone called Iskandar Malaysia which is meant to complement the Lion City.
For a while, Singaporeans were afraid of buying Johor properties due to the many horror stories reported in the local press.
However, interest surged in 2010 after Singapore and Malaysia agreed to a land swap deal which led to Temasek Holdings and CapitaLand investing in Danga Bay and Medini respectively.
The warming bilateral relations, coupled with HDB flats hitting the million dollar mark, saw properties in Iskandar Malaysia being snapped up like hotcakes.
However, in the subsequent years, the entry of Chinese property developers like Country Garden, R&F and Greenland raised alarms of a potential oversupply as they appear to be building townships by the thousands.
Perhaps, more pronounced, is the development of the controversial Forest City project.
The project sparked concerns of environmental damage and land encroachment leading to an official protest from Singapore.
As a result, interests in Iskandar Malaysia started to wane as Singaporeans steered clear from the property market.
Here are the five impacts post GE-14:
Impact 1: No more foreigner only enclave
Forest City is currently one of the mega projects under review by the Pakatan Harapan government.
Although Forest City is a relatively new entry to the property market, it was granted a special economic zone status much like Medini.
This confused the public while many local developers were reportedly not very happy about it.
For example, it was not subjected to build a specified number of low-cost homes or to allocate a certain percentage of its development for bumiputras.
In addition, there are no caps on foreign ownership but with a minimum price threshold at RM500,000 per strata unit for foreigners.
It was also granted a duty-free zone where buyers will automatically be eligible for the Malaysian My Second Home (MM2H) programme.
This programme enables foreigners to enjoy a long-stay visa of up to 10 years.
However, as of September 2018, MM2H will no longer be granted automatically.
In addition, the federal government has said a foreigner-only township is no longer allowed.
As it stands, the current entry price for a condominium here averages RM1,400 per sq ft which is way beyond what the locals can afford.
For now, the developer is required to build affordable homes for locals.
Meanwhile, the minimum purchase price for a foreigner has been reverted to RM 1 million per strata unit.
The only thing that remains is its duty-free zone status.
Impact 2: Longer development period for Gerbang Nusajaya and Iskandar Puteri
This follows the review of another major project which is the High Speed Rail project linking Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
The project was initially cancelled and then postponed.
Full service for the line will commence before 1 January 2031.
The Iskandar Puteri station will be located close to Motorsports City near East Ledang in Gerbang Nusajaya.
In April 2015, Nusajaya’s master developer UEM Sunrise Berhad revealed its comprehensive development plans for Gerbang Nusajaya which will have its own CBD similar to Jurong Lake District.
Spread across 4,551 acres of land, this second phase of Nusajaya’s development will be designed with catalytic industries similar to the various economic drivers in Nusajaya and Medini.
In anticipation for the High Speed Rail terminus in Gerbang Nusajaya, a number of catalytic developments have been planned.
They include Nusajaya Tech Park, a 519-acre integrated eco-friendly tech park and FASTrack Iskandar which is a 300-acre ‘motorsports city’.
Gerbang Nusajaya will have a gross development value of RM42 billion and with an estimated 220,000 population upon its completion
However, now that the project has been suspended, it will take a longer period for Gerbang Nusajaya, Iskandar Puteri and Medini to experience the expected spillover impact from the High Speed Rail project.
Impact 3: Opportunity costs to be passed on to consumers
With the delay of the High Speed Rail project, it may even result on the opportunity cost from developers to be passed on to consumers.
As such, new launches will likely be priced higher.
Developers who are banking on the project will be affected.
Impact 4: Correction of prices in the property market
The postponement of the projects plus investors sentiments on the perceived oversupply situation have impacted the market.
In fact, there is currently a glut in the housing sector in Johor.
According to data from the National Housing and Information Centre (NAPIC), Johor has the second highest number of supply of homes in the first quarter of 2018 - 795,363 units.
In comparison, Kuala Lumpur trails third with 471,475 units.
With the High Speed Rail project as the only property booster at the moment, the property market in Iskandar Malaysia is expected to be muted, moving forward.
This will likely impact the prices for current homes
For example, the median condominium prices in Iskandar Puteri and Medini were RM900 per sq ft and RM700 per sg ft respectively in 2015 since we first started tracking data based on our on the ground survey.
However, the latest data from Brickz showed that the median prices have now corrected to RM515 per sq ft and RM542 per sq ft in Iskandar Puteri and Medini respectively.
Likewise, the median condominium prices in Johor Bahru and Danga Bay were RM1,000 per sq ft and RM1,200 per sq ft respectively in 2016.
However, the latest data from Brickz showed that the median prices have now corrected to RM662 per sq ft and RM863 per sq ft in Johor Bahru and Danga Bay respectively.
Impact 5: Iskandar Halal Park and Pengerang Rapid project still ongoing
Iskandar Halal Park and the Pengerang Rapid project were spared from the policy changes.
Iskandar Halal Park is part of the state government’s effort to promote entrepreneurship in Johor.
Recently, Iskandar Halal Park scored a major coup among when US based-company, Chocolat Moderne from New York, picked Iskandar Halal Park as the manufacturing site to set up its first business in Asia.
Meanwhile, the Pengerang Rapid project, with a gross development value of RM70 billion, was affected by the slowdown in the oil and gass sectors.
While both projects were spared from major reviews, there has also been a price correction for residential homes located in the Eastern Gate which spans from Pasir Gudang to Pengerang.
For example, the median housing prices in Permas Jaya and Pasir Gudang were RM300 per sq ft and RM450 per sq ft respectively in 2016.
However, the latest data from Brickz showed that the median prices have now corrected to RM272 per sq ft and RM329 per sq ft in Permas Jaya and Pasir Gudang respectively.
Only Pengerang recorded a price increase from RM80 per sq ft in 2016 to RM236 per sq ft in 2018.
Is it on of off? We study each station and list down the good and the bad from the possible impact of its postponement in their surrounding areas.
With recent news of the High Speed cancellation, much remains to be seen if Bandar Malaysia will succeed or not. However, Bandar Malaysia North MRT station’s alignment has already been confirmed. Initially, Bandar Malaysia has been planned with a gross development value (GDV) of RM150 billion with a dedicated commercial district to support new start-ups as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has said 30, 000 units of homes will be delivered housing some 120, 000 residents within Bandar Malaysia. Whether or not this will go ahead, remains unclear. The only glimmer of hope here is the Digital Free Trade Zone by Jack Ma which so far has not been canned by the new government.
The Bangi-Putrajaya HSR station is located in the south of Klang Valley and within the state of Selangor at Kampung Abu Bakar Bagindar. Putrajaya is the Federal Administrative hub of Malaysia. Major townships include Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and Bangi. There is a proposed connection to the Putrajaya Monorail that will connect this station to Putrajaya Sentral which will serve as an interchange station to the MRT station and the Putrajaya Sentral Express Rail Linl (ERL). The latter links you to KLIA and KLIA2.
The Seremban HSR station is located within the Malaysia Vision Valley area within the state of Negeri Sembilan. Sited within the Labu and Kirby estates, major townships in the vicinity include Bandar Enstek, Bandar Ainsdale Property and S2 Height. Seremban will be an interchange station to the Seremban Komuter Line and KTM Electric Train Service .
The Melaka HSR station is located in Ayer Keroh within the state of Melaka. Melaka is a hub for tourism and medical tourism. Major townships in the vicinity include Taman Tasik Utama, Kampung Baru Ayer Keroh and Taman Melaka Perdana. Many Indonesians and Singaporeans flock to hospitals such as Mahkota Medical Centre for medical treatment.
The Muar HSR station is located within the state of Johor at Bandar University Pagoh. Muar is a coastal town by the Straits of Melaka that is a hub for furniture manufacturing. Major townships in the vicinity Pagoh, Parit Jawa and Sungai Balang. The main economic drivers here are those in the education, trading, furniture manufacturing, historical tourism and agrotourism industries.
The Batu Pahat HSR station is located within the state of Johor at Pura Kencana, Seri Gading. Batu Pahat is a hub for garment and textile factories. Major townships in the vicinity include include Rengit, Yong Peng and Semerah. The main economic drivers here are those in the the furniture manufacturing, food processing and agrotourism. However, isnce 20011, there has been a notable growth in small and medium industries such as textiles, garments and electronics.
The Iskandar Puteri HSR station is located within Gerbang Nusajaya in the state of Johor It is the gateway to Iskandar Malaysia and covers an area of 1,841-hectare. Gerbang Nusajaya features a number of catalytic developments including Nusajaya Tech Park and FASTrack Iskandar. Major townships in the vicinity include Gerbang Nusajaya, Iskandar Puteri and Medini. This will be the final leg of the Malaysian station before it enters Singapore, terminating at Jurong East. While the station in Nusajaya has not yet been announced, government officials have indicated that it will be located close to Motorsports City near East Ledang.
The Jurong East HSR station is located within the Jurong Lake District in Singapore. It is the gateway to Singapore and covers an area of 67-hectare. Jurong Lake District is the hub for commerce, retail, healthcare and tourism industries. Major townships in the vicinity include Jurong East, Teban Gardens, Lakeside and Taman Jurong. Jurong East will be an interchange station to the North South MRT Line, East West MRT Line and the proposed Jurong Region MRT Line.
Also known as MRT Line 3, this is the final line that will comprise of a “wheel and spoke” system to connect to MRT Line 1 and SSP. Line 3 is expected to be completed in 2025. Collectively, all three lines will be integrated with the current trains systems forming the Klang Valley Integrated Train System. However, this project has been postponed by the new federal government when it took power in May 2018 owing to budget cuts.
The impact for this postponement will be marginal as this MRT Line will still need to be constructed to connect the SBK Line and SSP Line.
We will most likely see speculators staying away from the market.
This presents good opportunity for genuine homebuyers to start looking in and around the station.
Homes in the secondary market will be the most ideal as they are priced cheaper than new launches.
An independent analysis from yours truly