Friday, February 1, 2013

The Manhattan at Jalan Raja Chulan

This is UEL, a Singaporean developer's 1st project in Malaysia. UEL being a reputable company back in Singapore will hopefully do it Right First Time to stamp their mark here. They have already got it right with the location. You can never beat this one. In the CBD fronting Jalan Raja Chulan with access from 2-way traffic. This is one up from St Mary Residences or direct competitor The Tribeca in Jalan Imbi which can only be accessed from a one-way lane/road or Idaman Residence or KLCC Parkview which are located inside some unknown small lane.

Having lived in St Mary, I can tell you how terrible it is when you only have a one-way access. I am not saying that it gets jammed or clogged up. Everywhere else, including in the suburbs get traffic jam during peak hours. But it's the non-peak slow moving traffic which gets at you when you need to make that frustrating long crawl around the block just to get home.

It has been over a year since I mentioned in this blog about an up-coming project on this plot of land. If I can recall, the land was sold at around RM150million in 2010. This is hearsay. But the figure seems about right for the location and size. It's really a very tiny plot, flanked by Wisma MPL, a Grade C office complex and a bigger car park which is awaiting development. At the back of it is a Chinese temple and Menara MPI.

I had a little scare a couple of months ago when there was news that the MUI group is selling Menara MPI to Mayland. That would have meant the building would be torn down and rebuilt completely blocking the KLCC views from my apartment in Seri Bukit Ceylon. But apparently, the plans was thrown out by DBKL... so, safe for now....

Surprisingly for such a location, despite the small plot of land, UEL has only packed in 139 units of mostly 2 bed-room units in the Manhattan. The 1-bedroom units are in the minority and the top floor consists of 900+sf duplexes. With a going price averaging RM1.4million per unit, the total development value assuming all units are sold out is just under RM200million. So, you may call it magnanimous or simply not greedy, UEL may just be trying to do it Right and Nice the 1st time. Or perhaps, DBKL was not allowing the project to be too dense... Anyway, every unit comes with a car-park and in fact, the bigger units, gets 2 car parks each. Not bad and certainly a good lesson for all those money-minded Chinaman developers in Malaysia who are stingy with car parks...

The pricing obviously reflects the low density. The cheapest units are just under a million. The best buy is the 588sf 1-bedroom corner units which has a really lovely layout and there were less than 10 of them. Needless to say, they were sold out, despite the RM200+psf premium i.e. RM900k and up. The deal is, early birds gets 8% discount and a further 5% rebate from the SPA price. All units are fully-furnished and if you buy a unit up to the 19th floor, you get a 5% guaranteed rental return over 2 years, which essentially is there to allow the developer to charge you more for the lower floors.
Picture Above: The 588sf 1-bedroom corner unit

Anyway, at this 5% rental return, that's implying that you are renting it out for RM3700per month. That's quite the going rate for 1-bedroom apartments in the CBD but not easy in the sluggish over-supply market these days. Even Singapore's Ascott has vacated their 110-unit inventory at Seri Bukit Ceylon. With the low density at the Manhattan, there will be hardly any internal competition but the challenge will be going against the more modern and established apartments in the CBD who have owners going-in at much lower investment such as SixCeylon, Verticas Residency, Fairlane Residence, One Ceylon, One Residency and Suasana Ceylon. That's where the Manhattan's location is so so very important. And that's why I think, the cheapest 1-bedroom units in terms of per square feet, the 603sf Type B2 are not going to make it. They are elongated intermediate units with the bedroom taking all the  windows leaving the living room and kitchens in the dark. No tenants in their right mind is going to sign a 1 year tenancy agreement to rent these for RM3700/month!

Pictured left: The 603sf Type B2

With the 588sf corner units sold out, the other 1-bedroom units worth considering is the Type B3. However, the cheapest unit is RM1.2million - after discount...

To me, if I am spending close to a million, I can never justify buying a 1-bedroom condo. For just about 15% more, I can get a 2-bedroom unit and most expat tenants tend to have a little more budget for 2-bedroom units. As a bench-mark, a 2-bedroom apartment at Seri Bukit Ceylon can fetch RM5000 - RM6000/month. Over at St Mary's, they start from RM8000/month (although an agent sent me an sms saying he has a client with a RM6500 budget and I wonder who would be that desperate...)

The 2-bedroom apartments at the Manhattan have quite nice layouts since most of them are corner units.  My only complain is the bedrooms being too cramped - especially the master-bedroom. There are mainly 4 variants about 1000sf with slightly different sizes due to the balcony being either an indoor-Lanai, a large balcony, a small balcony or no balcony altogether. The design with the Lanai is the most rediculously wasted space as there is a large post in the middle of it. I am rather surprised that the developer has chosen this design to be represented in their show room. Also, taking a close look at showroom, one can't help but notice that the quality of the furnishings especially the wardrobes are extremely poor. Now most showrooms you see in Malaysia, usually you don't quite get what you see - the delivered furnitures are normally low quality. So, if UEL is using low quality furnitures in their showroom, either they are being painfully honest or you might be getting something really terrible at the end.

The 2bedroom unit layout
With 7 floors of car parks, the 2-floor facilities deck lies on the 8th and 9th floor. The swimming pool is rather nice, designed like it's hanging over the 8th floor. The gym however, looks like it's going to be very small. E&O has made this big mistake with putting a small and ill-equipped gym in St Mary's. This has turned away many potential tenants, including all the British expats from my company. Most expats are very health conscious these days and they want a good gym to work out at when they're home.

Surprisingly, the maintenance fee is only RM0.40psf. I am not sure if this is sustainable for such a low density apartment. With 139 units, they're looking at a collection of about RM50k per month. I think this will hardly cover electricity costs and security, 2 of the main costs of running an apartment. It's freehold, but commercial-titled. So, the overall costs of maintenance may be higher than you think.

1 comment:

john said...

Once Bukit Ceylon/Raja Chulan is done with all the construction, it will be become a pleasant place to live again. Wonder if Ascott will expand in this areas by managing the new service apartment such as Suasana BK?