Thursday, June 24, 2010

Penang Property Has Prospects

Last year in December, I visited E&O's much hyped Seri Tanjung Pinang project. It is interesting to find terraced houses here, modelled after the colonial heritage houses in downtown Penang, fetching over RM1million in the sub-sale market. Unfortunately, I have reservations about the location and the fact that it is on reclaimed land. Hence, I ventured into town and found some interesting old houses between Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah and Jalan Burmah. The asking prices were just under a million but they looked like needing at least another half a million to fix them up.

As I was doing my search to invest in Penang heritage houses, I chanced upon this interesting article in the Senses of Malaysia July 2009 edition. The article says it all about the prospects of Penang properties. Although we are now probably experiencing the higher plateau of the Penang property boom, I think it is still worth buying into Penang for own-stay if not for investments. Since the World Heritage Site been bestowed on Penang, heritage buildings here have been wildly popular. Here is the piece, with permission from the Expat Group:

Historic Penang has a holiday feel that has tempted a lot of expats to make this seaside state their home. Douglas Williams takes a look at some of the properties available on the island just now.

Word is getting out about Penang and one of the key messages doing the rounds regarding the island state is that it’s good value, an important attribute these days.

This applies not only to the food but also to the property, those thinking of being in Malaysia long term should investigate further, we did. We took a gander at a variety of properties on offer, both residential and commercial.

First things first, Penang is famous for its pre-war shop houses and these are proving increasingly popular with expats looking for a challenge and their very own bit of Oriental history.

We started with a short row of functioning shops, five units in a very central location, in not bad condition and currently operating commercially. There is a slight issue with occasional flooding but this should be over-comeable with a clever drainage engineer.

This place has those three Ls in spades, yup – location, location and location. Chances are the seller will take less than the RM6.8m asking price for the lot which is more than 1,100 square
metres in total.

For many that might sound like just a little bit too much work but fear not, there are easier options. How about a fully renovated if slightly neat split-level, heritage house in a very cute lane just off one of the main Penang drags? Nearly 50sqm per floor selling at RM300,000. Bring your toothbrush and move right in to the thick of it with traditional eateries across the road and all the fun of the fair just round the corner.

One block away another fully attached property but an altogether differentproposition. This property is currently acting as an office and storage space and is basically a shell but it’s nearly 300sqm with the potential to add on half that area again.

At RM650,000 this property would require top to bottom redoing and this might cost the same again particularly if the aim was to retain the heritage character. Next door an expat has fully restored the property retaining exquisite heritage detail. Along the street next to a small hotel a former coffee shop is on the market at just shy of one million ringgit. This property is in good condition with a nice corner balcony and it is in a superb location slap bang in the middle of the heritage area. There is potential for reopening this property as a coffee shop but given the foot fall the area would benefit more from a gelateria.

There are those for whom all this heritage stuff is better observed than lived among. For those who prefer their home to have been built this millennium, Penang can also oblige. The Times quare development in down town Georgetown was completed earlier this year. It offers modern, apartment living with a superb pool, gym and quality shopping downstairs. Many of the apartments have stunning views over the city and out to the Straits of Melaka.

We saw a corner apartment, three bedrooms, one en suite, open plan sitting room/kitchen on the market for RM420,000 which is just over 80,000 pounds. North around the coast in Batu Ferringhi we saw a luxury six-bedroom apartment occupying the entire 38th floor of a superb development that overlooks the ocean. This property is being sold fully furnished and it has two huge balconies with spectacular views. It is on the market at RM3 million.

An IJM Properties Sdn Bhd signature development, Platino’s two tall towers house 228 freehold sky bungalows that have amazing views and offer resort style living amidst the peaceful ambience of a rainforest.

Despite the growing number of tourists and reports that there is something of a room shortage on the island there are a number of hotels for sale in Penang. We took a look at a variety, from derelict to fully occupied, all seeking buyers now.

In the heritage area of Georgetown we saw two charming pre-war hotels, one in operation with about 20 basic rooms and communal washrooms. It has a new café bar area. This is being sold with five street-front shops that include a currency exchange and an internet café.
The asking price is RM5.5m.

Along the street and currently derelict there’s another charming old property, slightly larger, that’s simply crying out to be turned into the queen of all boutique hotels. It is similarly priced.
Nearby there are a couple of very dowdy establishments – a 23 floor, 200 room monolith with an international style name for RM46m and an even scruffier 17 storey joint that is poised to catch Traders’ overspill perhaps. Centrally located it’s on the market for RM17m.

Back up in Batu Feringghi there’s a licence to print money in the shape of a mid-sized, beach front, three star hotel that averages between 80 and 90 percent occupancy year round. As somewhere to invest the asking RM100m price in these troubled times it could scarcely be safer.
Around the bay there is the Lost Paradise Estate which has three properties. The one we saw was Ombak Kasih, Waves of Compassion, a “resort” home with beach frontage, nine bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, a separate guest house, a 20 metre infinity pool and a great view over a private beach. The interior is Minangkabau/Balinese styled, the owner of the estate lives in one of the houses.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Overly Aggressive or Just Plain Idiots?

I have an issue with some Property Agents. They are behaving rather thuggish. Recently I came across one particular agent who is trying to peddle an apartment in Sunway. No doubt it is a very good location and can command good rental. But in my opinion, the asking price is a bit high. On top of that, the agent demands a RM50k booking fee plus his commission of RM10k paid upfront (Yes... he wants the buyer to pay his commission...).
Anyway, it warrants further checking so I just exchanged some emails with him to find out more. Then he wrote rather sarcastically, " m impressed by ur way of Qs in email the speed i think u need to intro urself, wat u seek,budgetby the time the email is done, maybe ppl took alrdy".
To be honest, I don't care if someone else wants to take it. After I replied that I am not in a hurry to buy, he said I don't have to "move... cuz many people want". In my opinion, if anyone got money, they can do whatever they want. As an investor, I am not going to be pressured into buying something just because others are also rushing in to buy it. That's how one would end up paying too much.
In Lowyat forum, there is another agent trying to peddle a "Very good investment, at least 10% returns". Then someone replied in the forum that the price should be between RM200k to RM300k. She responded "You must be joking, developer price is already RM 290k that's 4-5 years ago, I don't think you know what you are talking about... ".
Again, one wouldn't care how much the developer price was. At the end of the day, the investment is based on returns. When I pointed out that her 10% yield is quite misleading since she did not cost in maintenance charges etc., she started to attack me and at one point she stated that "Different people calculate ROI differently, maybe urs is nett yield, that does not give u the right to disturb my post if you do not have interest in the property".
Frankly, I did have interest in that property. But with that kind of attitude, I will buy it from someone else. There are so many Property Agents out there. Exclusive or not, if the owner still can't sell it after a few months, whoever the agent can bring the right offer to the table I am sure the owner will forget about exclusivity.
She posted the ad in March and this is June.
Property trading should always be on a willing seller, willing buyer basis. Of course when I'm selling or renting my properties, I want to do some marketing to try and convince buyers or potential tenants - at the end of the day, the buyers or tenants make their decision after comparing the various options. Here we are talking about properties, we are not dealing with biscuits, so it is only fair that whoever is parting with their sum of money should have the right to their own decision.
People have accused me of being aggressive too. Some parents came to view my student rooms. They like it and said they wanted to book it. So, I adviced them to leave a deposit so I can hold it for them. But at the same time, they want to go view other rooms before putting down the deposit. I told them it is going to be 1st come 1st served - this, they felt is me trying to pressure them. Then someone else came along, viewed the room and paid on the spot. When these parents came back to me with the deposit and I told them the room is gone, they scolded me for not holding the room for them. WTF....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Refurbishing Old (Heritage) Houses

I have always taken a great interest in heritage houses. Some heritage or old houses in the old quarters of Bangkok and Penang are being converted into trendy homes. One such home in Bangkok located in Yaowarat China Town was converted from an old rice mill. The owner has now put a price tag on the house with a ten-fold increase from the original value.
Lately old houses are being snapped up in the KL city center and converted into Back-packer Inns, pubs and many were demolished so their land can make way for taller commercial lots. In the Bukit Bintang area, especially around Changkat Bukit Bintang, these houses were priced just below RM1million 5 years ago and recently climbed close to RM2.5million today.
While it is heartbreaking to see some of these beautiful solid and historical houses being pulled down, it is equally sad that some new owners have no appreciation for heritage houses at all when they renovated the facade beyond recognition. Examples are those in Tengkat Tong Shin. The row of houses opposite Mutiara Villa have been turned into massage joints and the owners turned the front of the houses into something totally ugly. One such house was torn down and converted into a Mamak restaurant!
Luckily, albeit in a minority, there are some owners who still have taste (and conscience!). Below picture shows 2 such charming refurbished houses (OK, these are not quite heritage houses, but they were built in the 60s and pretty run down before being refurbished).