Budget 2020: A futuristic sounding budget that (unfortunately) brings Malaysian and foreign buyers back to square one
Despite its focus on the digital economy, the budget is a regressive one for both local and foreign buyers
By Khalil Adis
Another year, another budget.
This year is no different except that they were announced against a backdrop of the ongoing global trade wars and a general slowdown in the global economy.
While the Malaysian government has announced several measures to spur its economy specifically in the digital arena, Malaysia is likely to ride through the current economic climate largely unscathed as it has a strong domestic economy, unlike Singapore.
As such, I will focus solely on those affecting the property market.
From the looks of it, the measures appear to be cosmetic to address the shortcomings and mess left behind by the previous government.
Foreigners and Malaysians at the losing end
Call it a band-aid if you will but the budget seems regressive by bringing us back to the Budget 2014 and 2016 eras for foreign investors and locals buyers respectively.
Let us look back at Budget 2014.
During this period, the minimum purchase price for foreigners buying a property in Malaysia was raised from RM500,000 to RM 1 million.
This was to prevent a property bubble from forming in the market and thus preventing Malaysians from buying such properties.
Well, guess what?
The situation got even worse despite this measure as there were no checks and balances in place by the Housing Ministry.
As such, developers were at the free reign to build units that local could not buy resulting in a huge glut that we are seeing right now.
To reduce the overhang, Budget 2020 now allows foreigners to buy completed and unsold units that are priced above RM600,000.
So what happens to foreigners who had bought a property at RM1 million and are now looking to sell?
Most probably, due to the current market conditions, they will now be selling at a loss to either a local or a foreign buyer.
Also, they will now have to compete directly with the primary market where foreigners can buy at a steep discount of RM400,000 (RM1 million - RM600,000) directly from developers.
This mixed signal could potentially deter foreign investors from buying property in Malaysia.
Verdict: Foreign sellers: 0, foreign buyers: 1*
*it remains to be seen if subsequent budgets will see a change in the minimum purchase price across the various states in Malaysia.
Next, let us take a look at Budget 2016 in the affordable housing segment for Malaysian buyers.
Previously, under Barisan Nasional, the government had announced that it was building PR1MA homes across various states during Budget 2016.
There were also promises to build such homes that are planned around transport hubs and train stations in Kuala Lumpur.
Back then, the government had announced that a total of 5,000 units of PR1MA and PPA1M houses will be built in the vicinity of LRT and monorail stations in 10 locations, including Pandan Jaya, Sentul and Titiwangsa.
Fast forward four years later, PR1MA has become a massive liability for the government.
As we speak, PR1MA is undergoing restructuring and is nowhere close to the lofty 1 million housing units it had previously promised to deliver.
Meanwhile, there is still no news on the 5,000 transit-oriented development units (TODs).
This leaves Malaysians who are in dire need of affordable homes stranded.
From the looks of it, they are now back to square one with another new policy in place to replace the old one.
A new budget for local buyers
As part of Budget 2020, the government will collaborate with financial institutions in introducing various schemes.
The first is the Rent To Own (RTO) financing scheme.
This scheme aims to assist those who cannot afford the initial 10 per cent deposit and access to financing in purchasing their homes.
This scheme, however, is not new and has been in place among private developers.
As such, Malaysian buyers who had hoped for a roof over their heads during Budget 2016 are better off buying from private developers.
Verdict: Malaysian buyers: 0, private developers: 1*
*Imagine the agony among those who had applied for PR1MA homes and are still waiting. If I were a Malaysia, it seems buying from a private developer is the way to go.
*It is an open secret that there are many Malaysians who had previously applied under this scheme are still waiting for their homes. Just speak to any Grab drivers.
While many other schemes are being rolled out such as Fund for Affordable Home that was launched by Bank Negara Malaysia in January 2019 and the Youth Housing Scheme, they remain under the umbrella of various government agencies.
As such, this could be very confusing for the first-time homebuyers who are unsure how to navigate the market.
What would work is for Malaysia to streamline them under one single government housing agency just like Singapore’s HDB model.
An independent analysis from yours truly