2004 is graciously coming to an end with strong economic performance mainly propelled by the growth in the manufacturing and services sectors. Higher commodity prices, rising export earnings and growth improvement in the private investment sector have also contributed to the sterling health of the local economy. GDP growth in first half of the year expanded by 7.0% in 1Q2004 and 8.2% in 2Q2004. Although lower growth was registered in 3Q2004 at 6.8%, the outlook is very much optimistic to meet the official target of 7% for the whole year.
In addition to strong GDP growth, loan indicators from the banking sector showed improved business activities and strong domestic spending in 1H04 (January-June 2004). There were more loan applications, approvals and disbursement in 1H04 compared to previous corresponding period. Other economic indicators also showed positive signs with unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5% and higher demand for employment with the expansion of private investment. Consumer Price Index (CPI) has remained stable for the first seven months in 2004 at 1.1%, one of the lowest in the region.
The positive economic indicators had augured well for the residential property sector. In addition, government incentives such as stamp duty, real property gains tax exemptions and relaxation of FIC ruling on the purchase of property exceeding RM150,000 by foreigners, continued to aid the sales of residential properties. Overall property transactions increased by 20% in first half of this year and the residential sector was the major contributor to the growth in property market, accounting for 65% of total transactions.
Property Market Review
The total residential stock in Klang Valley stood at 1.18 million units in 1H04; Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur at 306,854 units and Selangor at 873,918 units. Of the total stock, 2-3 storey terraced house represented 28% of the existing supply followed by condominium/apartment (16%). There was an increase in stock compared to the previous 2H03 because of higher supply of townhouse, single storey semi-detached house and double storey semi-detached house located mainly in Selangor, signifying a change in housing preference, reflecting the contemporary lifestyle of the urbanites. Furthermore, the phenomenon of urban sprawl is observed especially in the growth areas of Shah Alam-Sg Buloh corridor and the southern corridor (towards Putrajaya) exhibiting signs of suburbanisation in Klang Valley.
The following charts show the half-yearly comparison for residential transactions activities in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Volume, Value and Value Per Transaction of residential properties transacted in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (1H03-1H04) (Source: NAPIC 1H2004)
Half-yearly comparison between 1H04 and the previous 2H03 showed that volume of residential properties transacted in Kuala Lumpur decreased by 6% while value of transactions increased by 6%. In Kuala Lumpur , during IH04 condominiums and apartments recorded the highest transaction activities, accounting for 35% of total transactions. In Selangor, both volume and value of transactions showed an upward trend with an increase of 5% in volume and 7% increase in value. The most popular transacted property was two storey terraced, forming 35% of total transaction volume.
Half-yearly analysis of 1H04 and 2H03 for value per transaction also showed an upward trajectory trend. Both Kuala Lumpur and Selangor recorded increase in value per transaction from RM301,608 to RM339,581 and from RM216,259 to RM221,548 respectively. The increase can be attributed to the higher value of properties transacted during the respective period such as upmarket condominiums.
Prices and rental values of residential units in the secondary market are mostly consolidating except for some established neighbourhoods such as Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Bandar Utama and Taman Setiawangsa which continue to indicate a rising trend. Meanwhile, up-market condominiums in trendy areas such as Bangsar and Mont' Kiara also showed attractive capital appreciation and rental rates while condominiums in Section 16 Petaling Jaya on the other hand, were generally indicating static growth in rental rates but declining prices ranging from 6% to 7%.
Planned supply of residential properties for Kuala Lumpur and Selangor as at 1H04 stood at 177,593 units with bulk of the planned supply i.e. 35% or 62,675 units being condominium/apartments. The growing pattern of strata-titled properties is anticipated to continue in the next 3 to 4 years mainly concentrating in areas such as KL city centre, Mont ' Kiara and Segambut. Upmarket condominium launched early this year was Dua Residency and a few more followed suits in the second half of the year such as The Meritz, CapSquare Residences and 2 Hampshire. Most of these projects reported commendable take-up rates amidst some pessimistic views that the market is getting a bit too crowded. In Selangor, the bulk of new schemes are mainly terraced houses in active growth areas such as Damansara-Kepong, Shah Alam 'Guthrie Corridor' and western part of Klang. Some of the notable new township developments include Bandar Aman Perdana and Bandar Setia Alam.
Aggressive marketing and competitive price are nowadays insufficient in luring prospective purchasers, therefore developers are working hard to project refreshing development concept, and convenient accessibility while highlighting a contemporary lifestyle and beautiful landscape.
Competition is indeed stiff, thus, developers are inevitably challenged to create innovative products in order to meet market demand and capture a larger market share. Amidst the fierce competition, new concepts and ideas emerged such as gated community for landed strata-titled properties, variation of terraced houses and hi-tech smart homes as seen in Desa Park City and some housing developments in Putrajaya i.e. Precinct 9, Precinct 11 and Precinct 16.
Gated community is a concept previously unheard of for terraced houses as only bungalows that were gated. These days it is becoming more socially acceptable while developers are getting more serious in introducing significant product differentiation to create the extra competitive edge. Some of the notable examples are Desa Park City and Mutiara Damansara where terraced units were gated for privacy and exclusivity.
Where choices are aplenty and prices are competitive for 2-3 storey terraced houses, developers will need to create different concept to attract house purchasers. Therefore, good sales and marketing strategies are becoming more essential, hence, it is no surprise that some developers are offering incentives and freebies such as built-in wardrobe, kitchen cabinet, landscaping, upgrading of finishes, provisions of electrical goods as well as legal and stamping fee.
Other developers such as YTL offered product differentiation that was niche in meeting the gap in the Puchong market. The gated Lake Edge courtyard homes was launched early this year, setting a significant benchmark in Puchong locality for an inspiring lifestyle and trendy living, instead of the conventional housing scheme. It is anticipated that there will be more variation of terraced houses in terms of concept, design, layout and sizing as developers compete to seize a larger pie of market share. Following the success of Lake Edge , another developer (SDB Properties) launched their 18 Aman Sari project in the Puchong locality.
Upmarket condominium development trend is also evolving to higher standards as developers work hard to cater to the discerning group of purchasers who are well-travelled and exposed to building standard set by other renowned developments in other world cities. In recent years, KL City has been the talk of town with the emergence of high-end condo projects such as The Marc, Dua Residency, The Binjai and Stonor Park . All of these condos have been enjoying brisk sales and commanding premium price of above RM500 psf (up to RM1,000 psf!) because of their strategic location within the prestigious address of KLCC. With many more developers joining the foray of high-end condo development in the near future, competition will be stiff and more exciting buildings will be built, radiating style and sophistication in the KL sky line.
OLD OFFICE BUILDINGS: TO REFURBISH OR NOT TO REFURBISH
Generally, building condition for older office buildings often deteriorate over time and this would affect the occupancy and rental rates of office buildings. Due to the emergence of new prime office buildings in Kuala Lumpur 's Golden Triangle area and companies looking to relocate to these newer office buildings, it is inevitable that a substantial amount of vacant space would be available in the market when relocation takes place. Some major relocations that have took place in 2004 were companies in the financial, IT and advertising industry.
While older office buildings located in secondary location or on the fringe of Central Business District (CBD) area like Jalan Raja Laut, some parts of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman are more susceptible to being left vacant due to its unpopular office addresses and poor building images, similar buildings located closeby KLCC area gained from the strategic location and continued to enjoy sustainable occupancy rates mainly due to its competitive rentals rates.
But then again, strategic location alone would not always guarantee long term profitable investment portfolio. How then do these older buildings sustain its competitiveness? It is deemed necessary and even critical for older office buildings to undergo refurbishment to retain their building tenants. A market survey undertaken by us indicated that most building tenants prefer to operate within the Golden Triangle area, compared to relocating to other areas in KL City.
Therefore it is not surprising that tastefully refurbished older office buildings located nearby KLCC area such as Wisma Selangor Dredging, Bangunan Angkasa Raya, Wisma Getah Asli and Wisma Equity remained popular among established clients who appreciate the privileges of being located in the heart of the city which include convenience of accessibility, prestige office address, competitive rental rates, availability of public transport and many other advantages.
A good majority of the survey respondents also indicated these older office buildings enjoy excellent amenities such as food and beverages, shopping and parking facilities a part of the building owners' commendable track record in building management. Another factor that attracts tenants into these older office buildings is the building management's office response to tenant's complaint.
In order to make refurbishment a success, building owners would need to realise that refurbishment works and capital expenditure for a building are a necessity for a building to maintain its functionality rather than something luxury, more so, if the building management is targeting multi-national corporations and major local companies. Furthermore, these companies have the propensity to occupy buildings that portray good corporate image and reputation. The provision of certain facilities such as fast-moving lifts, CCTV surveillance and broadband connections are deemed as 'minimum facilities' as their expectation are usually more sophisticated.
From the point of view of the tenants, they would fully support the refurbishment work provided it would directly benefit them and should the rental rates are to be reviewed, the refurbishment work must justify the amount increased in rental.
In some cases, the capital expenditure in refurbishing an office building does not automatically translates into increase in rental rates or giving immediate direct financial benefit to the building owner. More often, rental value for office space is a function of supply and demand, the latter of which is dependent on various other variables. The rentals are also dependent on the macroeconomic situation and the office market sentiments amongst occupiers.
Nevertheless it has to be viewed as a long-term gain to attain benefits such as high occupancy, competitive rental rates, attractiveness to future tenants and for the building owner - profitable investment profile, all vital reasons in ensuring continuous market competitiveness.
From the operation point of view, the building owners should up-date its Building Audit Report to ensure the maintenance of essential services has been managed professionally while sustaining an efficient building operation. Subject to the building's age, facilities available in the building, monthly maintenance cost must be within acceptable level for the owner or the shareholders to be financially satisfied.
Refurbishment work should be considered vital primarily to keep the office building in desirable condition while ensuring the investment value of the building remains attractive. From our survey, it was highlighted that the most critical improvement works that need to be carried out immediately include an upgrading work of the toilets and improvements on the air-conditioning system.
In determining the projected rental rates subject to the completion of the proposed refurbishment work, the following factors should be well considered:
- the prevailing property market conditions, particularly the oversupply situation of office space;
- the project cost; and
- the perception of the completed project to the prospective tenants.
The projected rental rates upon completion of the refurbishment exercise should ideally conform to the following criteria:
- the prevailing property market conditions, particularly the oversupply situation of office space;
- the project cost; and
- the perception of the completed project to the prospective tenants.
The chart below depicted the trend of rentals rates of some of the older office buildings located on strategic location in the city.
RESURGENCE OF CITY CENTRE LIVING
The madness of city centre congestion and the city becoming more like concrete jungle have propelled many city dwellers to purchase residential home out of KL city. City dwellers who can afford upmarket properties moved out of the city, preferring to reside in low-density residential estates such as Sierramas (Sungai Buloh) and Bukit Gita Bayu (Seri Kembangan) that were not favoured by many back then due to its distance from KL city centre and relatively undeveloped amenities. Today, the scenario has reversed with the development of infrastructure, residential townships and amenities that have increased the value worth of properties in Sungai Buloh and Seri Kembangan.
In the last five years, city-centre living has become alive again. There seems to be resurgence in city living with the mushrooming of condominiums and serviced apartments in the city centre. However, it is noted that the segment that is coming back to the city are mainly the higher income group as observed in the many launches of high-end properties in KL city centre over the past two years.
With the introduction of fashionable city living by high-end condos, more developments of similar nature are coming on stream in the next 3 to 5 years. Some of these new developments are under-construction and a few more are scheduled to be launched next year. The emergence of these new properties has breached the benchmark for capital value in KL city. For instance, the Marc Residence entered the market in 2003 at RM600-700 psf while Dua Residency was sold from RM540 psf onwards. Sales were brisk for these two projects indicating strong demand for high-quality projects in prime locations. The Binjai was also reported to make an entry into the market with RM1,000 psf, touted to be the most prestigious luxurious residence in KL city.
Joining the flight of new high-end condo are The Meritz, Park Seven, Suria Stonor, 2 Hampshire, IGB condo at Jalan Stonor and TA Condo. All these projects are located close to one and another and within 5 to 10 minutes walking distance to KLCC. With these projects, we also see mid-cost developer venturing into high-end development, taking for example, Glomac who purchased a 2-acre plot on Lorong Stonor for RM475 psf. It is anticipated that the launch price for Suria Stonor will be ranging from RM600 psf. Although all these projects belong in the high-end category, some developers are distinguishing their product by catering to a slightly different market of young families and young professionals by offering smaller units.
The larger units will appeal to a more matured market with larger families or those who simply prefer luxurious space, liken to the built-up in semi-detached or bungalow houses. The following table shows the built-up sizes of new condo projects and their expected pricing:-
Of late, it seems that not only condominiums that are gaining popularity but serviced apartment as well. Traditionally, serviced apartment developments are mainly located in city centre providing hotel-like services to their guests who are usually foreign business travellers staying on long term basis. However, the concept of serviced apartment has evolved lately to become more residential in nature, catering to local demand instead of business travellers. Hence, many serviced apartment projects in our market today are not purpose-built serviced apartment and operated by hotelier such as The Ascott, Lanson Place and Micasa Serviced Apartments. Instead, developers have adopted the concept of serviced apartment into their residential condominium development for land that is zoned for commercial development to capture the market segment of condominium dwellers.
Serviced apartment is fast gaining a strong foothold among house buyers in KL city, particularly young working professionals who prefer to stay nearer to work place. Some of the notable serviced apartment projects that are currently being developed in KL city are Berjaya Central Park, Goldhill Gardens and K Residence. Berjaya Central Park (located adjacent to Concorde Hotel) comprises of 1,402 units while serviced apartment in K Residence (opposite Petronas Towers ) is a 30-storey development with 298 units. Price range for these units are from RM500 psf to RM1,000 psf. The newly launched Berjaya Central Park has breached the RM1,000 psf mark for serviced apartment in city centre. Besides the high-end projects, there are also other more affordable units such as Nas Pavilion (Jalan Imbi), Scott Sentral (Brickfields) and Golden Avenue (Jalan Ipoh). Pricing for these units ranged from RM250 psf to RM500 psf. Brisk sales are reported for both these market segments, indicating a pent-up demand for these units in the Klang Valley .
Looking ahead, the resurgence of city centre living augurs well for Kuala Lumpur as this will improve its ranking of city living worldwide while encouraging more investment made in property development and significant rise in the standards of living such as improvement in transportation, health services, education and telecommunication services.
n the western countries especially in the United States and major European countries, excellent Information Technology (IT) facilities and convenient telecommunication services has expedited the growth and popularity of Small Office, Home Office concept, also known as SOHO . Unfortunately, if misunderstood, this acronym usually invites undesirable impression, often relates to people who work and operate businesses from untraditional offices and sometimes employing unconventional workers. In today's modern and borderless world, SOHO 's denizens are becoming more educated, well equipped with IT knowledge, confident and entrepreneurial-minded.
Small entrepreneurs, part-time business owners and IT start-ups have been the predominant catalyst for SOHO . The rationale of working from home is to save commuting time and expenses, while reducing the cost of starting the business including the hassle of finding suitable business premises, paying some advance rental, getting the right workers to man the office etc. Therefore, SOHO may be the best alternative for this group of people.
Down south in Singapore , in encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit, the government has taken some measures in facilitating businesses that operate from homes. The government's Technopreneur Home Office Scheme (THO) enables start-ups in technology-based and knowledge-intensive businesses to use their homes as home offices. Once the application is approved by the Economic and Development Board (EDB), the applicant can use his home as home office for a year. The approval can be extended on a yearly basis provided there are no complaints received for the use. However, the use may be terminated if the businesses are found to have adverse impact on the neighbourhood and causing pollution in terms of noise, dust, odour or smoke. This is to ensure that the good ambience and proper use of the amenities provided for the residents are not compromised. In addition, the business activities must not resulted in an increase in human or vehicular traffic to the surrounding area.
In Malaysia , unofficial home office is not something unfamiliar as there have always been small businesses operated from homes providing variety of business services, food and beverage, consultancy, tuition, tailoring and many others. Realising the potential of small businesses to boost the economy by indirectly creating new jobs and employment opportunities, the government is putting an effort to encourage the set-up of small business. For example, the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives provides loans up to RM10,000 under Yayasan Tekun Nasional for small-medium entrepreneurs. SOHO entrepreneurs are encouraged to take advantage of the fund up-grade their businesses. However, there are a few businesses that are not qualified to apply for this fund which include agriculture, fishery, insurance, contractor and direct selling businesses.
Private as well as government agencies such as Johor Corporation are also playing an active role in promoting the concept of SOHO to promising entrepreneurs, mainly capitalising on its low-overhead and low-risk advantages. Aiming to improve the socio-economic status of the participants, JCorp is understood to organise a series of seminars on SOHO , mainly targeting housewives, single mothers and unemployed graduates. The purpose of the seminars is to educate, create awareness and highlight the advantages of operating a business form home.
Despite operating from home the home business would have good potential for future expansion with the opportunities of marketing the products globally should the business owners are well equipped with modern technology, using Internet facilities, faxes, teleconferencing and couriers, to mention the few. The prospects are better in the sense that the products can be marketed to a broader target market.
In terms of enhancing the telecommunication services, following the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, in long term, together with active participation of the industry players in leveraging the government initiatives, the government is hoping to achieve a 10% penetration rate for broadband usage in the country by 2008. The government also hopes to see 1.3 million broadband subscribers in 2006, representing a 5% broadband penetration rate from the current 2% of the total population. The country's overall use of telephone facilities ( refers to the sum of Direct Exchange Line ( DEL ) and cellular subscriptions ) as tabulated below indicates that the penetration rate is yet to reach satisfactory level although the growth looks promising.
Source: Malaysia Communication and Multimedia Corporation (2004)
The property industry is not all indifferent in reacting to the changing need and preference of the end users. A handful of developers are already committed in making the SOHO concept a reality. IGB Corporation Berhad for example, is presently launching the Northpoint Mid Valley City located within the greater Mid Valley City. The 22-storey building, anticipated to be completed by end of 2005, will comprise a total of 432 units of a mix office suites and residences. The office suites are offered for sale at price tags starts from RM557,000 (for units measuring 1,410 square feet). While the main target market would mainly comprise business owners or investors who are looking for office space at an affordable price, what makes the product different is that the office will be sold on a modular basis.
Berjaya Central Park, a 46-storey commercial building located at the junction of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang, developed by the Berjaya Group Bhd will be featuring a mixed of retail entertainment and service apartment units. Capitalising on the strategic location near the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur, with full range excellent facilities and amenities, the proposed serviced apartment would also be suitable for business owners who intend to acquire a trendy yet modern business premises that also accommodates a private residence.
While SOHO in the city is likely to brighten up the night life while reducing the vehicular traffic in the immediate vicinity, Kuala Lumpur is yet to see a proper designated building solely for the purpose of SOHO as long as the vacancy space is yet to be comfortably taken up.