Saturday, 21 January 2012

Here is the Dragon, the best to come?

The Dragon is here and the best is yet to come

BRICKS AND MORTAR By TEH LIP KIM

COME midnight tomorrow, as we usher in the Year of the Dragon, most of us will not help but stop to wonder what the next 12 “moons” of the lunar calendar have in store for us.



The Dragon the fifth and incidentally the only mythical animal of the 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac is a symbol of power and good fortune.

Those born under this sign are considered to be dynamic, flamboyant, colourful and vibrant. People born under the sign of the Dragon include historical figures Joan of Arc and Martin Luther King Jr, author Pearl S. Buck and artiste John Lennon.

This year is the year of the Water Dragon and astrologers believe will be a year of many opportunities for growth and expansion.

But astrology aside, what exactly can we expect in the year ahead for the property sector? If one is to listen to the rumblings on the ground, it sounds like it's a mixed bag up ahead.

Built quality: A worker inspects a dragon lantern decoration made from recycled materials and energy-saving LED lights at a temple in Jenjarom, Selangor. The Chinese year of the Dragon ushers mixed feelings about the property sector but with the right design concept like this environment-conscious dragon lantern, homebuyers will still make that commitment. -AFP

For many in the business from those who are building and selling or just analysing its investment climate there still is room for growth in the Malaysian property market, at least in the next few years.

Initiatives by the government, such as the proposed high-speed rail link from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru and the MRT project, are expected to give the property sector a boost.

Areas that currently are not nearly as easily accessible will soon be easily reached by rail or MRT, and this will certainly be a boost for the value of property in these areas.

Take a look at the route for the first phase of the MRT between Sungai Buluh and Kajang and you will see that major residential centres will soon be linked by rail to popular commercial and entertainment centres.

Of course the finer details such as where all the stations will eventually be located are still being worked out.



On the other hand, some players in the property market are painting a rather gloomier picture, citing conditions in Europe and the United States as reasons for caution. The European debt crisis does not seem any closer to resolution and, some analysts fear, export driven economies such as China, Brazil and Malaysia, are not likely to come off the turmoil unscathed.

Across the Atlantic, the US economy is, as some economists there put it, “still messed-up”. In Japan, hit by the mega earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the economy is still experiencing long-term problems that are considered even worse than that in the United States.

Back home, some players in the property market are expecting a more moderate growth in 2012. In some areas, there may even be a price correction, going by what these people are saying.

According to them, commercial properties as well as high-end residential units are likely to be most susceptible to a market downturn. These are the first to be hit when confidence in the market ebbs.

Nevertheless, there is a bright spot of sorts in the midst of this gloomy outlook. A bubble is unlikely in the Malaysian property market.

So what do we think? Do we see a boom or bust, or something in between? Predicting what will come is a game of chance. Who really knows what the future holds for us anyway?

On the other hand, we can always analyse our own experience in the preceding 12 months to find hope in the corresponding period ahead.

As we have seen, Malaysian property prices are still among the lowest in the Southeast Asian region. As I wrote in this column sometime last year, Kuala Lumpur is only the sixth most expensive city in this region to invest in property, behind Singapore, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila.

That means there still is room for upward price movement. Of course other factors will come into play. As most property investors will tell you, location is a prime consideration.

Areas that are well served by public transportation facilities will certainly be preferred over those that are not and, logically, will command higher demand and thus fetch higher prices.

Entry price is, of course, another factor. Take a look around you and you will see that many new launches, even in the Klang Valley, have remained unsold. These mostly luxury homes have unfortunately been priced way above most investors' affordability.

At RM3mil to RM4mil a unit, even for landed property, landing a buyer is a tall order.

Of course this does not mean that million-ringgit homes are no longer in demand. Our experience shows that anything priced between RM1mil and RM1.75mil, and in the right location can still find buyers.

At that price, such properties still meet the needs of those who purchase with the intention to occupy as well as those who hope to see their property appreciate in value. At the same time, the repayment amount is still within the means of a fair number of Malaysians, especially those in their 30s or 40s and who are already fairly established in their careers.

For instance if a couple were to purchase a home at RM1.75mil, they are likely to be able to get a loan of up to 80% of the cost of the property or about RM1.4mil.

At an interest rate of 4.35% (BLR-2.25%) for a repayment period of 20 years, their monthly repayment amounts to RM8,744 a sum that a fair number of working couples can afford.

The right designs and concepts also add to the value of such properties. Many property purchasers today do not have the time and some not even the inclination to fuss over how to spruce up an apartment before moving in.

To meet their needs, developers also provide many fixtures and appliances so one can move in with just clothes and perhaps a new bed.

Overall, I think there still is room for growth in the Malaysian property sector. There will certainly be many more new launches whatever the doomsayers say. At the right price, in the right location and with the right design concept, homebuyers will still make that commitment.

Our economy is expected to grow about 5% or more and unemployment is at a low 3%. The outlook remains positive, as reflected in the stock market.

So if you are still looking to invest in property, the Year of the Dragon may be as good as any year to make that commitment. Remember, it is supposed to be a year when there will be many opportunities for growth and expansion.

Teh Lip Kim is the MD of SDB Properties Sdn Bhd, a lifestyle property company. Bouquets and brickbats are welcomed. Send by email to md@sdb.com.my

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