Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ipoh's The Haven Residences

Ipoh property has always been rather slow to pick up, with little capital growth. But lately this has changed. I am not talking about the slow and gradual capital appreciation we see with bank interests and material costs. Ipoh property prices in the 80s and 90s has been known to even come down especially during the economic downturn. However, in the past few years, the areas around Tambun has been seeing some sort of boom. 

The Haven Residences is one such project. It consists of 3 blocks of 26 storeys, with almost 500 units built around a kaarst limestone set up, complete with a lake. It is located somewhere along Jalan Tambun en-route to the infamous Tanjung Rambutan.  The drive towards the project runs through green and cooling fresh mountains, which will hopefully stay. 

Directly opposite the entrance to the Haven, there are these new vacant shophouses. Quite a risky undertaking as these commercial units will largely depend on the occupancy of the Haven and a neighbouring medium cost apartment as there really isn't anything else in the vicinity.

The Best Western hotel group has just begun operations of one of the 3 blocks as a serviced apartment. Despite being quite a long way out of the city, the attraction within the complex is quite impressive. 

The swimming pool, kids pool and jacuzzi by the lake is fully supported by the natural beauty of the limestone surroundings. 

However, I am not that keen about the greenish coat covering the buildings.  

There are 7 units on each floor - only 5 of them have the much cherished lake and limestone hill view. 

I viewed one of the 3+1 bedroom intermediate units. 3 bedrooms are a bit too much to squash into a 1172sf floor. And it shows in the layout. The living room and bedrooms feel and seem very narrow and small.

The picture below, I presume if the masterbedroom because among the 2 en-suite rooms, it is the only one with a long bath. But comparing all the bedrooms, the floor space of the master bedroom probably felt the most cramped. 

Architecturally, to me the layout is therefore disappointing. Very typical Chinaman design - trying to pack too much and utilize as much space as possible without regard for comfort. But this would be expected from any local purchasers in Ipoh. If they are going to spend more than what they pay for an average double storey house in Ipoh, they'd expect 3 bedrooms,...nothing less.

But the key attraction is not the accommodation but rather the facilities and environment. Here you pay for lifestyle. 

A stroll around the lake is certainly very worthwhile and breathtaking.

Apart from that, there is also a restaurant operated by Best Western, badminton...

and squash....

Despite being under-utilized as the apartments has just begun to be populated, some facilities like the changing room has started to fall apart. Hopefully, the rest of the facilities do not deteriorate further. 

Another kink is the lack of a gym and sauna. Ipoh people eat a lot, but rarely exercise....

With little in own resources, there is little that Ipoh has to offer any expats. So, who are the takers? Firstly there are the holiday makers that Best Western bring in. But they are mostly short term stays. Then there are the retirees... I cannot think of any more. Typical of any small town where property and land is cheap, locals tend to see more value investing in landed assets. 

So, I think the asking price of about RM2000/month rent may be a bit steep to attract tenants. This may drop in the future as units continue to stay vacant. But the amazing thing is, prices have appreciated over 100% from around RM300psf to over RM700psf today. This goes to show how a good concept can become an excellent investment over a short period of time. 

The nearby theme park by the Sunway group also appears to be well subscribed over this busy weekend. So, in my opinion, the Haven is largely going to be just for short stay tenancies if any decent returns are to be expected. If a lease back package from the Best Western is not offered, then I think any investors will need to be very hands on to manage this property.

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