Old and basic. This is among the reasons Pantai Hill is generally cheaper than Damansara Heights. It must be noted that Pantai Hill homes that have enjoyed a makeover do command a premium in price.

Attracted by the potential return on investment, interior design contracting company Bukit Kiara Interiors Sdn Bhd paid RM2.05 million for a bungalow in Pantai Hill in early 2004. After obtaining approval from the relevant authorities, the company invested another RM1million in renovations and other incidental costs. Upon completion of the renovation works a year ago, the property was put back on the market and within weeks it was sold for RM4.2 million, says Bukit Kiara Properties group managing director N K Tong. Bukit Kiara Interiors is a sister company of Bukit Kiara Properties, a developer of landed and high-rise residences in the upmarket Mont'Kiara.

The 10,000 sq ft property had some 4,500 sq ft in built-up but this was expanded to about 5,500 sq ft with the renovations.

This was the second such property in Pantai Hill that Bukit Kiara Interiors has bought, renovated and sold. The first was acquired in 2002 for RM1.95 million. This freehold 9,100 sq ft property was sold in early 2005 for RM2.8 million after the gross built-up area had been expanded by 10% to 4,400sq ft.

On the renovations that went into the recently sold house, Tong says the main objective was to capture the advantage of the elevated site, as the location has little obstruction in terms of city view.

With that in mind, new walls, glass panels and partitions were erected; an outdoor pool was created, the wet kitchen extended and the roof dismantled and replaced. A walk-in wardrobe was added to the master bedroom, while a part of the courtyard area was converted into a wet kitchen and maid's room. A new study with en-suite bathroom was also created. Almost all the floor finishes were replaced with quality tiles or solid timber. The electric supply, electrical wiring and air-con piping were upgraded while all plumbing pipes and sanitary ware changed. New designer grilles and a new gate went up at the driveway. A new alarm system was also installed. Outside, the gardens were re-landscaped.

"By doing this and more, about 1,100 sq ft was added to the built-up area. But more importantly, the property now fully capitalises on its potential and enjoys breathtaking city views both day and night," adds Tong.

According to Pillai Properties managing director Prasad Pillai, refurbishing an old home and then selling it at a premium is a lucrative business especially in land-scarce prime areas. "Pantai Hill is a target of investors who are waiting to pounce on any old rundown bungalow for sale here," he says.

Pantai Hills is an old and established area, which makes it ideal for investors. They pay mainly for the land value as the house itself would be of little value. "I have a long list of clients who constantly call me up asking me to remember them if there are any such houses for sale," he reveals.
There are, however, few houses among the 300-odd bungalows that come on the market. If there is any house up for sale, it is usually taken up within weeks, he says, adding that those who buy into the area are usually successful businessmen between the ages of 40 and 45, wishing to upgrade their lifestyle. They are willing to pay for something they like and since they have the means, they are fussy about quality. Not only do they look for refurbished homes, but also at the quality of the design, adds Pillai.

Rahim & Co managing director Robert Ang says it is quite common nowadays to redevelop an old house. "A number of houses built 30 years ago are small but the land area is large so today's purchasers with new money, will tear down the house and rebuild with a much bigger built-up to show they have 'arrived'. They are not going to stay in a house with four rooms and two bathrooms. They want a house with seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms."

Ang cites the experience of a buyer who paid RM2.8 million for a house in Pantai Hills two years ago, spent RM1 million over 1½ years to upgrade it and then sold it for RM5.1 million recently.

Prices, offers Ang, will continue to appreciate as demand increases and supply diminishes. Sellers are also getting very savvy and many are not selling just yet.