Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unique Seri Bukit Ceylon 1-bedroom Unit For Sale

Earlier I posted about the 2 units for sale. They are in fact still available and the 1-bedroom unit has attracted more than 30 interests. However, as it is tenanted, viewing has been very challenging to organize. The tenant has just moved out and pending a new tenant moving in this 31st of August 2013, there is a small window for viewings. If you are still keen, get in touch a.s.a.p. - sinleongng@yahoo.com

This 1-bedroom unit is unique because out of the 111 units available at Seri Bukit Ceylon, there are only 10 of these. At 590sf, it is the smallest one and also the cheapest. So, it is extremely easy to rent out... as you can see. The new tenant moving in this weekend is an expat engineer with one of Britain's top engineering firm and he will be signing a new 1 year contract. 

Most people will be attracted to the partition which the owner built to offer privacy in the living room which can also be converted into a bedroom. The partition separates this room from the dining area below.

However, one may question the owner's taste in furniture but fortunately these are loose items which can be removed.

The bedroom below is rather small and can just nicely fit a bed. The room is adjoining the bathroom. The uniqueness of this 1-bedroom unit compared with the rest of the 1-bedroom units in Seri Bukit Ceylon is the bathroom can be accessed from both the bedroom as well as the living room.

The bathroom is almost as big as the bedroom so the owner has built the wardrobe inside the bathroom, which seems like a rather good idea. 

This unit also offers a window in the bathroom, not available in other 1-bedroom units in Seri Bukit Ceylon.

It also has a storage room which is not in this portfolio of pictures, useful to store cleaning materials. The only drawback is the kitchen sits in the entrance walkway and does not get direct daylight.

The kitchen top is also rather small...

But the view is fantastic. The only 1-bedroom unit in Seri Bukit Ceylon that offers both the KL Tower and KLCC twin tower views...

Monday, August 26, 2013

At Subang condo, ban against ‘African’ tenants

We were just on this topic recently, about race and prejudice. And now the Malay Mail has just reported that Sunway's Ridzuan condo has banned tenants from Africa citing nuisance. While it is every landlord's right to rent or not to rent, the article is right to wonder how this ruling can be enforced.

According to the memo, the presence of Africans has created “a lot of nuisance and problems to the community”, which in turn has driven down the property value of units there.

I can tell you that from the year 2001 to 2003, my company rented a 1-bedroom apartment at Sunway Ridzuan. The property value was already being driven down at that point although there were not a single African tenant. The value was falling not because of Africans but due to poor management. At that time, the changing room and sauna were not working properly and it was dirty. The gym was a total wreck and many of the equipment did not work. Lifts was slow and there was grafiti on the walls. So, this was 2003, 10 years ago. Why then blame Africans when it was Malaysians who tore the place apart. Due to the poor management, the properties started to attract mainly tenants who have a lower budget and many of them are from Africa.

The circular neglected to specify if this ban will apply along the lines of ethnicity or nationality, nor does it mention who would be the final arbiter should any party dispute the “African” label. 

I wonder if the apartment management will say anything if the tenant is an African white as many Africans are white. What about other races or nationalities who create a nuisance? Will the management ban these people too?

I do not deny that many (not few) people from African countries have been involved in illegal activities.  Similarly, many from a Persian country and China have also been arrested for trafficking drugs. Therefore owners should really be careful who they rent to. At the same time, colleges like Taylors, Sunway and Monash have been recruiting students from Africa to study here. There are genuine students as well as not so genuine ones. Some foreigners take advantage of the student visa to enter the country but never attended a single day of class. There are reports of girls from China who come here and become prostitutes. I think for the management of Sunway Ridzuan condo, prostitutes are OK but Africans not.

My suggestion to owners and landlords is still the same. Check the background of your tenant. If they are students especially, get a copy of their student visa and the passport - irrespective of where they are from. You can never be 100% right and in case things go wrong, you can lodge a report with the college as well as with the police.

To the management committee of Sunway Ridzuan Condo, banning Africans or Blacks do not solve your problem. Perhaps solving your own management issues will do it - Property website PropWall has reported that Ridzuan frequently suffers from petty crimes due to lax security, while its previous management had also been embroiled in a recent financial fraud case. - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-subang-condo-ban-against-african-tenants#sthash.SAzZREQe.dpuf

PETALING JAYA, Aug 26 — “African” tenants at a Bandar Sri Subang condominium here have three months to vacate their units after the building’s management slapped an unprecedented occupancy ban on them last week.
The decision came after the majority of Ridzuan Condominium residents voted in an annual general meeting (AGM) held on July 6 against renting their units to foreigners from the continent, whom they allege to have “caused a lot of nuisance”.
The Malay Mail Online sighted a copy of the memo circulated to Ridzuan residents explaining the ban, which has also been making the rounds online through Facebook.
“We refer to the above matter without prejudice and without malice,” the memo dated August 19 started.
“As a result of the decision held in the AGM on 6th July 2013, the majority of the residents voted in the AGM to not letting their units for rental to Africans any more.”
According to the memo, the presence of Africans has created “a lot of nuisance and problems to the community”, which in turn has driven down the property value of units there.
It further asserts that owners have found it difficult to rent out or sell their units to other prospective customers due to the alleged situation.
resident who has an African tenant is to cancel the rental and to vacate them from their units within three (3) months from the date of this letter,” it added.
“It was also resolved during the AGM that any 
It did not, however, specify the course of action — if any — that would be taken by the management should an owner or African tenant fail to comply.
It was also unclear how they plan to enforce the ban, with the only criterion being “African”.
The circular neglected to specify if this ban will apply along the lines of ethnicity or nationality, nor does it mention who would be the final arbiter should any party dispute the “African” label.
The memo was signed by a Jerry Low Boon Chay, who was named as chairman of Joint Management Body (JMB) of Ridzuan Condominium.
A member of the JMB, who refused to be named, confirmed the authenticity of the memo to The Malay Mail Online through a phone call last week, and admitted to sending the memo to residents on behalf of Low.
During a subsequent visit to the condominium on Saturday, The Malay Mail Online discovered the same memo affixed to a notice board within the grounds of the property.
Ridzuan is a 14-year-old condominium situated near the PJS10 lake park, with units from 590-sq ft; rental starts from RM1,300 a month.
Residents are mostly families and working adults, and Ridzuan started out as a high-end condominium complete with a swimming pool, gymnasium and tennis court, but property analysts have noted a downward trend for its value in recent years.
Situated near a number of private tertiary institutions such as Sunway University, Taylor’s University, the Malaysian campus of Monash University, and INTI International University, Ridzuan has been home to mostly Malaysian students since 2002.
None of the aforementioned institutions are within walking distance to the condominium, and students commute via shuttle buses provided by their schools or drive their own cars, contributing to daily traffic congestion around the area.
The condominium is, however, some 15 minutes’ walk away from popular shopping mall Sunway Pyramid and close to the Sunway Mentari business area, which provides students access to entertainment and nightlife.
Property website PropWall has reported that Ridzuan frequently suffers from petty crimes due to lax security, while its previous management had also been embroiled in a recent financial fraud case.
The ban may be the first attempt of its kind reported in Malaysia after years of alleged discrimination and hostility towards the oft-maligned African community, including in mainstream media.
Despite being a continent of 54 countries with diverse and distinct ethnicities, cultures, languages and societies, its migrants are commonly pigeonholed using the “African” catchall, while the derogatory label “Awang Hitam” (literally, Black Fellow) is also used by Malay-language dailies in reference to their dominant skin colour.
The negative perception towards African migrants in Malaysia is believed to stem from the frequency of cases of drug smuggling, financial scams, frauds and sex crimes reportedly involving the group.
But it is also not a local stereotype. The ubiquity of online confidence tricks involving Nigerians, in particular, saw the global law enforcement community dub such swindles as the “Nigerian 419 scam”, with 419 being a reference to the country’s Criminal Code for fraud.
Malaysia’s Immigration Department reported that a total of 79,352 Africans entered the country last year.
The department also issued 25,467 student visas to Africans in 2012 to study in public or private institutions.
Map showing the location of Ridzuan Condominium, and its proximity to several colleges and universities.Map showing the location of Ridzuan Condominium, and its proximity to several colleges and universities.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-subang-condo-ban-against-african-tenants

Friday, August 16, 2013

Of Race and Prejudice

Today I have seen the worst part of some Malaysians. A friend, (now a former friend) had asked me to help her find tenants for her condo. So I advertised it for her. Last week, an estate agent called me and said there is an African guy interested to view it. I made an appointment and I have also made arrangements to show several other vacant units belonging to other friends.

The viewing went well. The client agreed to the price but he had a few requests. As all the units we viewed were the same in layout and have the same old furniture, he didn't mind which unit he takes as long as the owner agrees to change the sofa and dining chairs - which were dirty and heinous. He also wanted WiFi, an LED TV and a clothes dryer. He asked me which unit he should go for and I said this former friend since she lives far away and always had problems finding tenants and I thought she was kind and uncomplicated.

Actually at first I was right. I called her up and asked her if she wants to rent to this client since many people had concerns about renting to Africans, Arabs, Eastern Europeans and mainland Chinese. I interviewed the client during the viewing and I am satisfied he is OK. And I interviewed him because I would always find out first the background of the would-be tenant no matter what race or nationality he or she is and not because he is an African. This former friend decided yes she is happy to rent her condo to him and agreed to the conditions except for the LED TV. In fact, during the next 3 days she even called me to find out how to apply for broadband and she was even going to shop for the furnitures. I told her to hold her excitement until the contract is signed and the deposit collected as some tenants tend to back out at the last minute.

So on the day of signing, she couldn't make it and she sent her friend, P. P is not a pleasant person at all to deal with and she seemed like she was forced there at gun point. When she saw the tenant, she excused herself to go meet another friend who lives in that building. Subsequently, we sat at the lobby waiting for 2 hours while she said she could not contact the owner. Then she asked us to go up to her friend's place which was a duplex loft office. While we sat there waiting for another 30mins, P's friend called me up to the loft office which was not partitioned and in full ear of everyone in the office he said he has adviced P to call the owner to reconsider. His tone of voice was really hostile and he said 1st of all, I am not an estate broker therefore I am not allowed to do this. Then he went on and on about Africans coming to this country to cheat people and sell drugs. All in full ear of everyone without even a speck of consideration for other people's feelings and yet, this office is a law firm!

After telling this lawyer off and explaining the circumstances and that I have had 3-4 days of discussions with the owner before today's signing, he finally said OK. When I went back downstairs, the tenant who had overheard all the conversation said he wants to back off. Then I reassured him that the owner is a nice person and it's only her friends creating problems. So, he went ahead and signed the contract. A few minutes after that, the owner called and said she is not going to provide the tenant a car park. I asked what was the problem and why so petty. She just simply replied no car park and if he doesn't like it, he can find other apartments to rent. Then she rudely hung up.

I am absolutely at a loss of words and the amount of disgusts I had was simply undescribable. And to think I was doing all this to help her!

I have just this to say. In my many years of renting my properties out, I have come across many types of people. No doubt there are Africans out there who cheat people and traffic drugs plus they seem to have developed a bad reputation among themselves but there are also Malaysians, Arabs, Caucasians, other Asians and many other races involved in the drug trade but nobody ever emphasized or worry about it when they are renting to them. Also about cleanliness. People tell me Arabs are very dirty. But I can tell you the 3 Arab tenants I used to have, 1 was absolutely disgusting while the other 2 were neat and even cleaner than any of all my other tenants. And the dirtiest tenant award I have must go to 2 Caucasians, one from Canada and another from Australia who lived in my apartment worst than a pig sty for 12 months each! And I had a few Japanese tenants, though they were not the dirtiest but not a single one of them were clean either.

Nobody ever put a gun to your head and force you to rent your property to them. It's your property and you have every right to rent or not to rent. You can also back out even at the last minute as long as you haven't signed the agreement. In fact, you can also back out after you signed, just need to pay and compensate. So, you are the king, you are the landlord. By all means, do your due diligence. Ask your would-be tenants lots of questions - Ask not because he is Black! Ask because you need to ask every would-be tenant and because you need to have all the details to make an informed decision - whether to rent or not, it's your decision but please look beyond skin colour when you make your decision.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Business of Short Term Lets

In this market glut, I have in the past 8 months experimented with short term lets. I've tried out 2 rental websites, airbnb and ibilik. I've had much success with airbnb compared with ibilik. Comparing the 2, airbnb has a much wider market, their website is much more user friendly and has many useable features and they charge much lower fees, 4% vs 10% charged by ibilik. Moreover, airbnb pays me on the day the guests check-in while I have to wait over a week for ibilik's payment. Airbnb also collects deposit from the guests on my behalf. With ibilik, it's a very messy business of trying to convince the guest to pay the deposit especially when they come from overseas and do not have the change in local currency. 

So, enough about the portal I've been using to promote my short-lets. It goes without saying, airbnb and I has formed a good partnership. In the past 8 months, I have collected over RM50k and have another RM20k in further bookings. This does not include over RM100k of overlapping bookings I had to reject. But is all this worthwhile?

To be honest, lately I have found all this to be extremely tiring and the compensation is not really that fantastic. Unlike the normal 1-year or more tenancy, besides a fully-furnished property, one has to provide linen, towels and absorb utility fees. Typically, guests who book their stay on these type of home-stay arrangements tend to look for value-for-money accommodation. So, they won't pay good money like in a hotel but they will use your utilities like they are staying in a hotel. Many of my guests will have the air-conditioning on throughout their stay. As a result, my utility bill goes up 200% to 400% above the average.

On average, the occupancy for a full time short-stay property i.e. a property that I allocate fully for this purpose is 30% to 40%, never exceeded 50%... With daily rate collection about 30% to 50% higher than the usual long term tenancy and added with the need to absorb high utility charges plus provide cleaning services, my properties end up grossing 10% to 20% lower than the usual long term income.

In the early days, I was fortunate to have some really nice and friendly guests to begin with which encouraged me to dive deeper into this business. But as I went on, I came across some very undesirable people. Some were very aggressive and even rude. Then I began to wonder if this is really worth doing.  The money isn't good to start with and it is also very tiring checking-in and checking-out guests and dealing with their demands.

The top most demand is WIFI. Surprisingly, some guests couldn't care less if the construction next door is noisy, the electricity got cut for half a day due to maintenance or the maid has forgotten to come in to do the cleaning. But if the Internet is down or slow, the whole world comes down, they'll call you to demand an immediate fix or a refund and they write a bad review! Once you get a bad review and especially it is about the WIFI, you see a sudden drop in bookings for the rest of the month...

But nothing prepared me for what happened last weekend. Due to a failed water pump, water polluted with high sediment contents flowed out of taps affecting the whole building of one of my properties. One of the guests decided she couldn't take it and she moved out. Then she demanded a refund from me. It is cases like this which made it so frustrating. I understand why the guest felt this way but at the same time, we charge more than 50% lower than market rate for a similar property. Certainly, we do not operate as a 5-star hotel nor do we aspire to be one. We have situations like this which is beyond our control and yet there is totally no tolerance from the guest.

Then I have a family from China who booked a 1-bedroom apartment for his family of 5. I told him that might be a bit challenging. Because I was trying to be nice, I said maybe I can upgrade them to a 2-bedroom apartment if it is available But as soon as they placed the booking, the 2-bedroom apartments all got booked up during the same period... So, I immediately wrote to him to tell him of this situation. He uttered his dismay and cancelled the booking. I was happy to authorize a full refund but unfortunately airbnb's policy is the admin fees from a cancelled booking is not refunded. Till this day he has been bugging me to pay him this admin fee.

I am giving it another 4 months to fulfill all the rest of my commitments to airbnb bookings then I'm going to close shop. We are going back to long term rentals from then on....