The Coffee Atelier, comprising 5 prewar buildings at Stewart Lane.
HERITAGE properties in Penang are now selling for RM600-RM1,200 per sq ft, depending on the historical and architectural characteristics of the property, the size and location.
Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) vice-president Shawn Ong says that prior to George Town's listing as a Unesco World Heritage Site (WHS) in 2008, the properties were selling from between RM300 and RM600 per sq ft.
“In view of the limited units of pre-war properties available in Penang, pre-war buildings with unique characteristics are generally attracting a lot of buying interest.
“Therefore, it is quite common for pre-war buildings available for sale being snapped up by investors, pushing up the selling price.
“The majority of buyers are Malaysians contrary to perception that more foreigners than Malaysians buy pre-war properties.
“A notable recent transaction is the sale of 30 units of pre-war shophouses in Nagore Road, George Town to investors,” he says.
According to Ong, the rentals of pre-war buildings of larger size in George Town's prime zones generally fetch RM10,000 to RM20,000 per month, compared to between RM5,000 and RM8,000 before George Town's Unesco WHS status.
“Locations such as Armenian Street, Stewart Lane, Chulia Street, Love Lane, and Muntri Street, due to their proximity to Little India and Khoo Kongsi, are among the most sought-after areas for heritage properties in George Town,” Ong adds.
The selling price of heritage properties in Penang has risen by about 10% this year compared with 2011, according to Ong.
According to Henry Butcher's Penang Real Estate Market Report, the total number of pre-war buildings within the conservation area of George Town Unesco WHS is 4,665, with 2,344 units at the core zone and 2,321 units at the buffer zone.
The core zone covers 109.4 ha bounded by the Straits of Malacca on the north-eastern tip of the island, Love Lane to the north-west, and Malay Street Ghaut and Dr Lim Chwee Leong Road to the south-west corner.
The core zone is protected by a 150-ha buffer zone bounded by Dr Lim Chwee Leong Road to the south-west and Transfer Road to the north-west.
According to PPC International Sdn Bhd director Mark Saw, the number of heritage property transactions for Penang in 2011 was 228, compared with 211 in 2010.
“Most of these properties were for double-storey pre-war houses in the north-east district of the island.
“Those with the foresight to invest in heritage properties before George Town received the WHS status would see the value of their properties increased substantially today.
“In the market presently, there are large-size heritage properties in inner George Town selling for more than RM10mil,” he says.
One such heritage building in inner George Town with a built-up and land area of 10,000 sq ft and 5,762 sq ft respectively is the No. 25 China Street, a double-storey property built in 1846 by Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee.
Malaysian-born David Wilkinson, who owns the property, says he bought the property in 2005 and spent over RM2mil to restore the building, which took about two years.
“It is the largest property on China Street as the building is equivalent to three shophouses. The property is being used as a private residence, but has the potential for commercial usage as a special heritage museum,” he says.
Another sizable heritage property in inner George Town that has seen its value rise substantially since 2008 is the row of five pre-war houses on Stewart Lane now collectively known as Coffee Atelier, comprising a coffee house cum restaurant, museum, art gallery and four hotel rooms owned by Stefan Gehrig and his wife Lorina.
Stefan says he purchased the five properties, which had a total built-up area of 8,160 sq ft and land area of 4,800 sq ft, for RM3.5mil in 2010.
He adds that he had recently received an offer of RM6mil for the properties.
“The five unique heritage properties were built in 1927 and were called shophouses because the original inhabitants carried out their trades on the ground floor, and lived with their families on the upper floors.
“One of these shophouses was once a coffee merchant's workshop in 1988.
“The name Coffee Atelier' derives from this element of the building's history and celebrates the memory of this artisanal trade from a bygone era,” he says.
By The Star