Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Seri Bukit Ceylon a.k.a. Somerset

Seri Bukit Ceylon is a commercial-titled project, a serviced apartment. Developed by UMLand in partnership with Capitaland of Singapore and a Middle East investor, this project became an instant success through its' association with the Ascott Group. The Ascott Group runs a list of 4 and 5 stars serviced apartments in 3 different brands globally - the Ascott, Somerset and Citadines. Malaysia has its' 4th Ascott property through Seri Bukit Ceylon (others are Ascott Kirana opposite KLCC, Somerset Kuching and Ascott KL Sentral which is no more).

Somerset Seri Bukit Ceylon is almost always fully-occupied and very busy from the look of the breakfast counter every morning. Somerset occupies level 5 through to level 12 of the building, with about 100 mostly single bedroom apartments. 77 units of one-bedroom apartments and 55 units of 2-bedroom apartments together with about 5 duplex penthouses on the 23rd floor were sold to individual buyers. Many buyers leased back their units to Somerset.

picture above: The lobby of Somerset decorated for Christmas

Picture above: The popular Neroteca Italian restaurant and deli

There are 4 variants of 1 bedroom apartments, all with more or less the same design but with different views and sizes. The most common being the 640sf units facing the KLCC twin towers. However, I totally disliked the layouts because the large bathroom in every unit has no windows as most units are intermediate lots. Only the smallest variant has a bathroom with a window. Unfortunately, this variant has a poorly designed kitchen which is smack at the doorway and these units although faces KL Tower also have to live the stench coming from the Wisma MPL's rubbish dump down below. Nevertheless, the smallest units is enjoying the best returns and due to it's relatively lower rental, they are also the most popular. Early buyers paid on average RM200k for the smallest unit and they are fetching between RM2500 to RM3000/month today. The average rental for the larger 1 bedroom unit is RM3500/month.

picture above: View from the 640sf 1 bedroom units

Being the minority, the 2 bedroom units are usually fully occupied. They are also mostly corner units, with lots of windows, beautiful views and brightly lit. There are 2 variants with KLCC view and in my opinion both have the best layouts. Approximately 1000sf in size, the market price for them today has hit RM1million for the better renovated units while the lowest price I've seen today is RM800k. Rental ranges between RM5500 to RM9500/month and believe me, it's so easy to get tenants there appears to be a waiting list even today. This is not bad considering the average entry price for 1st time buyers is around RM450k just 5 years ago.

This is in direct contrast with the 1 bedroom units mentioned earlier. Due to the higher number of 1 bedroom units and in competition with Somerset's own properties, it is quite difficult to fill up the 1 bedroom units.

There are 5 penthouses occupying the 23rd and 24th floor. They are built around a private garden with a fountain and barbecue pit and the most stunning view of Kuala Lumpur. The materials are also a tad better than the school toilet tiles and cheap laminated floor boards used in the lower floors. The penthouses got quality marble and wood floor. Being only 5 units, they have been fully occupied since day one fetching minimum RM12k rental per month. The entry price was on average RM750k per unit and the last transacted unit in sub-sale went at RM1.6 million.

All units were fully sold within 1 month of launching. With the success, UMLand launched their duplex business suites on the 1st to 3rd floors. Unfortunately, these weren't so popular and there were still units for sale upon VP. Possibly this is due to the higher maintenance fees, the poor views despite the oversized windows and no parking lots allocated. The business suites and the penthouses pay RM0.55psf for their maintenance fees while the serviced apartments only pay RM0.36psf. However, since the building is holding a commercial title, all units pay commercial rates for utilities.... which is quite high...

Despite the small footprint, Seri Bukit Ceylon is actually a very high density development. There are 12 units on each floor. Despite a demarcation of lifts - 1 unit serving all floors, 3 units for Somerset serving their floors, 1 unit serving the business suites and 2 units serving the serviced apartments, the early morning wait for the lifts actually takes quite long. This is partly also due to the poor design of the parking lifts as only 1 lift can go all the way down to the underground parking. However, the problem is mainly due to the high occupancy and high density of the building. (Note: This is a warning for purchasers of 231TR as you've only got 3 lifts serving 19 floors with 15 units per floor!)

Although Somerset has their own posh marble and air-conditioned lobby, the whole building share common facilities on the 4th floor. There is a very small swimming pool with an adjoining jacuzzi and childrens pool, laundrette facilities, gym and changing rooms with dry saunas. Somerset's breakfast counter overlooks the pool. The gym is very well equipped and large but the changing rooms are poorly maintained. The management should also discourage staffs from using the changing rooms. I disliked the permeating smell of urine in the changing rooms even after cleaning - due to the poor plumbing I guess...

picture above: The Gym

picture above: The self-service laundrette

There is a little history about the construction of this building. It was initially designated as a hotel and the construction reached the 4th floor before it was abandoned for some time. When UMLand took over the project and sold all the units, the price of building materials shot up, causing the contractor to halt the construction several times to renegotiate the deal with the developer. Apparently, the project came down at a loss for UMLand and partners but being "reputable", they bit the bullet and went ahead. However, the construction went on with very poor quality materials such as the tiles I mentioned and the use of sand blocks instead of quality clay bricks. The thickness of the floors are also questionable. It is easy to hear what your neighbours are doing. Many owners of the duplex business suites converted their units for residential purposes and one such unit is unfortunately located beneath the gym. The owner 's counsel has sent a letter of demand to the management company for the noises created by the gym users although I feel he might be better off suing the developer for shoddy design and work. It's a case of the dog barking up the wrong tree.

Despite all the issues, Seri Bukit Ceylon is the choice address and the most expensive property in Bukit Ceylon. I think they owe it firstly to the Ascott and Somerset brand. The management committee is controlled by Somerset. Then there is the location factor in Bukit Ceylon, meters away from Changkat Bukit Bintang. And despite having no fences, the security is perfect - there are 2 sets of security from both Somerset and Seri Bukit Ceylon which means at any one time there are 6 guards patrolling the very small footprint of the building area. Then of course, there's the quality of the tenants.

Pictures below: The location of Seri Bukit Ceylon among the playground of Changkat Bukit Bintang

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