Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mayland's Elements at Ampang

If Mayland has anything for us to remember them by, it's their densely congested "luxury" developments in strategic locations. This strategy has served them well, that is to buy into expensive pieces of land and cut the units up to small affordable bite sizes. Example is their Plaza Damas serviced apartment in Sri Hartamas. Each floor has almost 40 units of 500sf studios. While in the past 2 or 3 articles, we been talking about luxury condos with their individual lifts, these 40 units per floor in Mayland's "luxurious" Plaza Damas is served by only 3 lifts! Mayland's "luxury" is also defined by their long school-type corridors...

So, when Mayland invited me to their Elements @ Ampang preview this weekend, I was a bit sceptical but made the trip anyway to see what it is all about. Well, it is slightly different... though not a too pleasant surprise.

Elements @ Ampang, a JV between Mayland and L&G features 12 units per floor (instead of their usual 20 to 40!!), ranging from 630sf studios to 1550sf 3-bedroom units. Mayland "generously" included 4 lifts to serve the 41 floors. This "generosity" is obviously reflected in the price which ranges from just over RM500k for the studios to just over RM1million for the larger units.

The density is still there. The project consists of 2 blocks. Each block has over 500 units and the 2 blocks on this plot of land has more than 1000 units. This is the trademark of Mayland.

With this kind of density, it is possible to throw in lots of high-end condo facilities as these can be supported by the maintenance cost. Elements is the only Freehold plot amond the leasehold part of KL's Ampang. Interestingly, it is neighbouring another up-coming project D'Rapport which is leasehold. The location is about 8km from KLCC accessible via the busiest stretch of Jalan Ampang and the AKLEH highway. It is at the fringe of the exclusive Ampang Hilir dotted by various embassies and high commissions. The most attractive selling point is the nearby International School KL (ISKL) at Jalan Kolam Air across the MRR2 highway.

But I think there is a mismatch in the project and the location. 1st of all, if you buy a project near a school, e.g. Mont Kiara with the Garden School and Saujana with the Japanese School, you can't go wrong. Expat families tend to congregate there, no matter where they work, they rather have their kids closer to the school than them closer to their work. With majority being 630sf to 690sf studios and 1-bedroom units, Elements is not exactly catering to the families with school-going kids in ISKL.

Junior expat officers at the Embassies normally have a budget starting from RM3k up to RM6k. But for what embassy officers are used to, they would be horrified at the thought of having an accomodation the size of 600sf because embassy staffs are expected to also do some entertaining. They would probably shop for the abundance of choices in Ampang Hilir which features larger units but much older design and up-keep. Perhaps they would consider the larger units at the Elements and with the 3-bedrooms starting at RM1.1million, they might just make it with a RM6k rental. But paying maintenance fees on a 1500sf unit with a RM6k tenancy might just be stretching the ROI a bit.
As for the senior expat officers, i.e. those ranked 1st Secretary and up, forget about renting a condo which is located among densely populated studio units with hospital-like corridors to them...

Nevertheless, Mayland have their hardcore supporters. Those who made money from Parkview, Maytower etc. swear by them. They even ban people from property forums for criticizing Mayland. Sales have not been that bad considering the soft launch. Take up for the 1st block of 500 plus units are about 45% with a 10% discount off published prices. For me, Mayland still need some convincing to do about their quality of work.

I'll provide more comments when I have managed to scan in the floor plan... keep rooted here..

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Greed can blind one’s vision

The following article, which I found at Malaysia-Today touches the morality issue behind our investments in Students Accomodation. Koon Yew Yin is a philanthropist who has donated a lot of money to the development of the UTAR campus in Kampar and provided scholarships to poor and deserving students to study there. He has found that there is a lack of affordable accomodation around the campus and hence offered to donate money to build a hostel for the students. Interestingly, the UTAR board has been slow to accept this donation as there are vested interests who are making huge profits renting properties at high prices to the students.
On the opposite spectre of it, Taylors College hostel is charging RM870 for a room within campus. This is almost double the cost of accomodation outside the campus. While one might argue that students who study at Taylors are rich while those who go to UTAR are generally poorer, this inevitably affects students welfare and obviously the demographics of students who can afford to live in campus.
I applaud Koon Yew Yin's intentions. While we are not as wealthy to emulate his examples, I wish that while we investors are in properties to make money, we should be considerate towards the students' welfare too.
Here have a read:
After receiving confirmation that UTAR has no plans to build hostels, exactly one year ago, on 20th Aug last year, I offered a RM 30 million donation to UTAR to build hostels with all the net profit to go towards building more hostels. (But) for the last one year, it appears as if the Board of Trustees of UTAR has been using various methods to delay or reject my donation offer. Various stakeholders whose names I shall not divulge who own land outside the university campus and are reaping windfall gains from the booming student rental market do not want me to disturb their fantastically profitable real estate business.
By Koon Yew Yin
Every past issue of the Ipoh Echo during the past several months has carried an advertisement of my offer of scholarships to help poor students whose family income is less than RM 2,000 per month. In the last three and half years, I have given scholarships to about 70 really poor students and most of them are studying in UTAR Kampar.
Before the end of the year, my first scholarship holder will be graduating as an accountant. This student had 10A1 for his SPM but failed to receive a scholarship from anywhere. Moreover, his father died soon after he completed his SPM. He is one of many thousands of bright but poor students who do not have the resources to continue their higher education.
My assistance on its own can only make a small dent in this large scale phenomenon of deserving Malaysian students who cannot further their studies and realize their potential unless the government, private sector and the well-to-do step in to provide assistance.
Direct financial assistance by sponsors is one way to reach out to the poor and deserving students. There are other ways, including more structured approaches that are available, especially to higher educational institutions that can play such an important role in ensuring equity of access to poor bright students.
Let me explain one of these structured approaches. There are currently 12,500 students in UTAR and 2,100 students in TAR College. The student population is increasing by 2,000 a year and is expected to hit well above the 20,000 mark soon. As reported the Perak Government has allocated 520 ha of land and UTAR has utilized less than 100 ha. for the current development.
After receiving confirmation that UTAR has no plans to build hostels, exactly one year ago, on 20th Aug last year, I offered a RM 30 million donation to UTAR to build hostels with all the net profit to go towards building more hostels. I have openly declared that my intention is to help the students and I do not want any part of the profit for myself.
For the last one year, it appears as if the Board of Trustees of UTAR has been using various methods to delay or reject my donation offer. Various stakeholders whose names I shall not divulge who own land outside the university campus and are reaping windfall gains from the booming student rental market do not want me to disturb their fantastically profitable real estate business. Needless to say, whist they are making hay while the sun shines, the tens of thousands of UTAR students and parents supporting them are the big losers.
Frequently my scholarship holders complain that the amount of money I give them is not sufficient because the room rentals continue to go up. Moreover, they have the constant fear that they might not get a place to stay on their return from the university break period. According to the last check I did, the monthly rental of a twin sharing room was RM 420 some months ago. It may have gone up more since then.
I have been begging the Trustees of UTAR to accept my donation. To remind them of their fiduciary duty and their vision, I wrote this to UTAR Board of Trustees on 7th Sept 09 which should be of interest to all your readers.
Advantages of hostel and recreational facilities within the campus:-
  1. To help students especially new ones and those from out of the state to solve their immediate housing problem.
  2. The hostel environment is more conducive to learning as well as helping nurture the fuller development of human relationships.
  3. There will be more than 10,000 UTAR students next year and all of them will be searching for accommodation. As they will be scattered all over Kampar, the University has practically no control or little control over them after lectures. They are free to drink, gamble and misbehave or engage in unhealthy activities which will influence their future life style. If hostel accommodation is provided, the house masters or wardens will be able to exert an influence over the students and have them engage in more wholesome and educational activities.
  4. The rapid increase of the student population has created a big and urgent demand for accommodation and housing developers are taking undue advantage of the situation. Students have the constant fear that their landlords would kick them out or that their tenancies will not be renewed, and many will have to spend much time trying to find new accommodation before the start of the new semester. This situation can be quickly remedied if the UTAR Council accepts my Proposal.
  5. University students are always burdened with a lot of difficulties. Many studies have shown that hostel living provides a stress free and healthier living environment, leading to better academic performance and more developed social skills.
  6. Most parents will welcome the hostel facilities since they can enjoy peace of mind that their children are staying in the campus in secure and peaceful environments.
  7. The problem of commuting between outside place of residence and the campus for students will be resolved. This will help reduce students’ living costs and also save on the time taken to travel to lectures and seminars.
  8. Living in a university hostel is often the most pleasurable period of a student’s life. The hostel facilities will generate fellowship and comradeship among fellow students which will bring benefits long after they graduate. This sense of camaraderie will be a key factor in helping ensure strong alumni support for UTAR.
  9. The availability of high quality and yet affordable hostel facilities will build up the image of UTAR as well as serve as a major attraction in attracting good students from all over the country and region.

I trust readers who feel as frustrated as I will persuade the leaders of MCA to instruct UTAR Board of Trustees to accept my donation to help students. I would like to complete the introduction I began with this conclusion.

Greed can blind one’s vision but at what price to one’s soul and peace of mind?

Koon Yew Yin

Monday, August 16, 2010

Malaysia Property Forum

Well today I found myself being banned from the Malaysia & Singapore Real Estate Forum. The admin and owner of this forum is rude, offensive and a coward.

He started off badly today by accusing a staff at Monoland and a friend I introduced to a buyer of ripping-off people and corruption. His claims were unsubstantiated and he offered no apologies for what he said, hiding behind his nickname and continued to post innuendos and implying that I have been dishonest in my dealings with regards to this Vipod deal since I introduced the buyer to the seller. The poor Monoland staff who merely helped the seller to explain to the buyer the choice of units available was accused of corruption!
I also have the right to protect my integrity and reputation. As he felt the heat, unwilling to apologize and faced with the threat of legal action by me, he decided to ban me from the forum as an easy way out. Now forum readers should know that the one with an integrity and reputation issue is the forum.
This is complete abuse of the internet and a free public forum. Although the internet is not regulated, it is morally and ethically wrong to use it to slander people, especially when specific names were used. Such attitude is totally uncalled for. I won't bother to go back to that forum for it's cowardness and lack of integrity.
Updated: Apparently, there is another twist to the story. I could not be bothered to visit this forum again so I can't verify. However, friends have informed me that an Admin, using the nickname Pai has banned me for criticizing his vested properties. I remember being banned from another forum for criticizing 231TR, someone's vested property. Well, if this forum is no different from the other one, i.e. used to promote one's vested interests, then I shall be no part of it. You will continue to hear from me from this blog, criticizing all properties, INCLUDING those I am vested in.... and do feel welcome to provide opposing comments or criticize my views as well. You won't get edited or banned from posting in this blog. Your comments do not need my approval to be posted. I only remove ads and racial and vulgar comments. Other than that, you can say whatever you want.
Further Updates: I have removed this forum from my favourite links. This blog shall not be used to promote other people's vested interests. Strictly no...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

UPDATED: Monoland's Quadro @ KLCC

UPDATED 28/8/2010: Suddenly today heard a bombshell... Quadro's title is not residential as Monoland sales people have been promoting for weeks. They now say they have been misinformed. The title is actually commercial!!!! In my opinion, this is not an easy mistake to make. Have we all been misled by Monoland? Or Monoland been misled by the Land Office or City Hall? Surely... when you buy a multi-million ringgit piece of land, you don't make this kind of mistake. So, what's the big deal of buying a residential property that sits on a commercial title? The most tangible is the utilities - water, electricity and sewer are based on commercial rates. The Assessment is based on commercial rates. All of which are much higher than residential rates. The Assessment makes the holding cost much higher but for a million RM property, one might say it's negligible but for the reason it is a million RM property makes the assessment rates even much more higher!
So, what's my stand on this matter? Well, if I have known from the start that this is sitting on commercial title, I would not have bought - despite the location, layout etc etc. Simple as that... Now, SixCeylon, Verticas Residensi and St.Mary (commercial but residential rates) suddenly overtakes Quadro in terms of attractability.
Last weekend, Monoland soft launched both their premier projects in the KL city center - Vipod and Quadro. Of the 2, most people tend to be attracted to Vipod, due to the smaller sizes and the affordability. However, since Monoland requires all affordable Vipod small units purchases to be paired with a big one, surely the affordability factor has dissipated... (?)
Monoland's Quadro features just under 40 floors, with only 7 units per floor. Each floor is served by 8 lifts!! Each unit has their own private lift lobby. Vipod is only slightly less exclusive, with 3 lifts serving 3 or 4 units. However, with the almost identical size of land, Vipod packed 11 units on each floor. So, Quadro has half the density of Vipod. Monoland's insider also informed that they paid more for the Quadro's Persiaran KLCC land compared with Vipod's Kia Peng's address.
Certainly then, the value has to be with Quadro. Interestingly, the price per sf for Quadro is less than Vipod.

picture above: The rendering of the Quadro as seen from Traders Hotel. Many online forumers baulk at the horrific Quadro architecture to be wasted on such a beautiful address.

Monoland positioned their Quadro as the higher end of the two. According to their Sales Agent, Vipod is their product for the "mass market", while Quadro is the exclusive market. It has a more exclusive address in Persiaran KLCC, sharing the same row as Traders Hotel, Menara Exxon-Mobil, Park Seven and Binjai on the Park. Buyers get 2 car parks instead of 1 with Vipod and the title is residential, while Vipod's commercial. The long term maintenance will be a lot different with a residential title.
picture above: The tanga shaped floor plan of the Quadro. Notice that there are 8 lifts serving just 7 units on each floor.

Really forgiven...if the floor plan reminds you of this...

The layout dictates that only 2 units actually get the KLCC view. Both are relatively large units and priced above RM2million at the special Preview launch. The floor layout of the units and designs are not really that interesting except for the Duplex units. The Duplexes face South, which means a Bukit Bintang view or in a few years time, Ireka's condo project... The layout is extremely thoughtful. They have their own lift lobby, just like the other 6 units on the floor. The upper floor has its' own entrance directly into a utility which can also double as a maid's room. So your maid, can have her own entrance!

The lower floor features the adjoining living, dining and dry kitchen. Then, there is also a wet kitchen which really suits our Asian lifestyle and cooking. It's just so thoughtful...

However, the 3 bedrooms upstairs are a bit crammed. Monoland should have just done with 2 large bedrooms, rather than packing three in...

Duplexes generally do very well in the expat high-end tenancy market. This one is a little revolutionary because it is the only small sized residential Duplex in the KL city center. Everything else from Somerset's penthouses, to Binjai on the Park, OneKL, Dua Residency and Park Seven are large units from 2500sf and up. Quadro's duplex is only 1500sf. The fact that Quadro only offers 16 Duplex units mean that they will be in great demand!

pictures above and below: The Quadro is bordered by Jalan Kia Peng and Persiaran KLCC and the access to the site is via the more prestigious of the 2 addresses. Picture below shows the site as seen from Traders hotel.

It has to be also noted that the road access to Quadro is a dual-way - both Persiaran KLCC and Jalan Kia Peng. The Vipod's access road is a one-way stretch of Jalan Kia Peng. That's a huge difference. And comparing the 2, Quadro's access road is seldom jammed.

The googlemap picture above showing the entrance to the Quadro via Persiaran KLCC (in red), also shared with Menara Exxon Mobil to the north of Quadro and Traders hotel (north West, diagonally across)

pictures above and below: The roof top plan at the Quadro with the infinity swimming pool below

The land however is still tiny. But not much difference from OneKL's. So, they have to pack all the facilities onto the roof deck.

One huge concern I have about Monoland is their maintenance background. Although they have a slew of high end portfolios and references, their track record in managing their 2 hotels, Northam and Gurney in Penang has not been very good. They still have a long way before they get to likes of being truly 5-star. The fate of Quadro lies in this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finally Launched: Monoland's VIPOD @ KLCC

Move aside Wingtai's Verticas and Bolton's SixCeylon, here comes Vipod @KLCC. Finally, there is a match to rival St. Mary's in the uber saturated KLCC property market. This long awaited project by Penang's Monoland is thriving on it's prized location - literally in between KLCC and Bukit Bintang's Pavilion.

If one feels like he's behaving like Monoland's Sales Agent, one cannot be blamed. Since the soft launch on the 8th of August, Monoland's sales office has been inundiated by visitors. As of today, 11th August, all the units up to the 21st floor which was opened for soft launch has been booked. However, Monoland has been wise to come up with a method to erase the short term speculators. In past practices, for hot cake properties, touts or short term speculators visit sales offices upon launch and place their bookings on the best units. They then off-load their bookings at a premium to other investors who come late.

Monoland however, allows such bookings but no booking fee is collected. One is allowed to go away for 24 hours to raise cash and return to sign the S&P and place the 10% deposit straight away. If you do not pay the 10% deposit within 24 hours, your unit is released back to the market. This practice in effect removed all the touts. Bravo to Monoland!

The project consists of over 440 units on 41 floors. Typically, each floor has 11 units - 5 of them 2+1 bedrooms above 1000sf, 1 two-bedroom unit and the rest are little 653sf one-bedroom units. Initially Monoland had wanted to build more of the smaller units but faced restrictions from the City Hall citing the density limit. So, they had to merge some smaller units into 2+1 bedrooms which are priced from RM900k onwards. Realizing that the speculators market would tend to pick up the smaller units leaving the larger units unsold (example from E&O's St.Mary's), they introduced another revolutionary sales idea which is to pair up the large units with the smaller ones - one is only entitled to buy the small units if they have also purchased a large one. Buyers of their neighbouring project at the Quadro are also entitled to purchase a small unit at the Vipod.

The floor plan is divided into 3 clusters - each housing between 3 to 4 units. So, when you buy a large unit, you are entitled to buy a small unit which will be allocated to you on the same cluster and same floor. When one is about to feel being forced-sell a mass market product, it has to be noted that each cluster of 3 to 4 apartments are served by 4 lifts, including 1 utility lift!

Upon closer inspection, one observes that Vipod actually stands on a very small piece of land. As such, all the facilities befitting a high-ish end project are squeezed onto the roof-top (above).

Entrance to the site is from Jalan Kia Peng, which today is a one-way street heading towards Jalan Raja Chulan, both stretches being the most congested in KL during peak hours. Each unit is given a car park, whether they are the large 2+1 bedrooms or the 1+1 bedrooms. The car parks are under-ground.

All the 2+1 bedroom large units faces KLCC, well at least theoretically for some as the lower units will be blocked by the Grand Hyatt (below - under construction on the left) and Menara Kia Peng on the right. The lower picture taken at night shows how the Grand Hyatt effectively blocked out the KLCC view for some low units.

However, for those endowed with the KLCC view will forever have it as there is nothing else standing in the way.
In my opinion, the best layout goes to the 2 corners. They are bright and airy and the kitchens are nicely cubicled to suit the Asian-cooking and lifestyle. The large full glass windows afforded to every unit presents a very nice breath-taking scenery (if you have it). The Western corner is preferred as the Eastern corner need to be at least above the 18th floor to enjoy any un-obstructed view.
However, the corner units are priced higher starting from RM1000psf. If one is looking to spend below RM1000psf, down to even RM900psf, go for the intermediate units. Type D below, being the cheapest is also probably the least desired as the kitchen is just a long piece of cabinet sharing the living room. It just feels like a studio unit - one which St.Mary's designer should learn too that this is not so suitable for long term stays.

Fortunately, Type C of the intermediate units offer an enclosed and separated kitchen.

In terms of positioning, St.Mary still offers a fight. St.Mary's 4 acre quadrangle offers the largest common play area in KL center besides the ageing Desa Kudalari. Monoland themselves admits that of their 2 products launched, Vipod is geared more towards the mass market, while their Quadro is for the exclusive end. Squeezing 440 units on a small piece of land, hardly 1 football field is really dense. With a majority of small units at play, the larger 2+1 bedrooms can't help but feel like being the bungalows in the middle of slums. Vipod offers a great location, unbeatable until the next project comes up on the parking lot next door. Probably sensing the already saturated market, Monoland has correctly priced their preview launch well below market. Early buyers at this stage will make money, no doubt. This explains the buying frenzy currently. The location promises that the un-even tenant spread in KL will be attracted to Vipod, especially more if Monoland do it right, with the right partnership and management.
BTW, the rumour that the low maintenance fee of 20sen persf is not true. Reliable insider stated that the maintenance fee has yet to be fixed and when it does, will be according to market rate, which is at 36sen to 40sen.