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Friday, May 2, 2008

Reaching new heights with the super rich

KUALA LUMPUR: The sky is the limit for highrise condos, and with prices to match, lately.

The Binjai, an upmarket property in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's super rich are pushing residential property prices to new heights, mainly in the most hankered-for Kuala Lumpur city centre addresses.

Prices of some of these yet-to-be-ready units in this vicinity are touching RM2,300 psf or in excess of RM15 million for the larger units.

While addresses in Bangsar and Damansara Heights were the traditional favourites when it came to high-end living, now there is serious hype about having a city address, much similar to the lure of living in London's Hyde Park, New York's Central Park or Ropongi Hills in Tokyo.

Location aside, specifications like imported marble and timber strip flooring alone are not going to excite these buyers. Instead, they demand the "wow" factor and everything that comes with it. Never mind the price. And state-of- the-art security is top priority.

Knight Frank Ooi & Zaharin Sdn Bhd general manager (project marketing) Tan Lay Kuen said buyers of super high-end properties are becoming more conscious about brand image and quality.

"This is because they are well-travelled and want the comfort of a strong brand name behind a development, such as the Four Seasons or the Millennium, which will offer them a certain standard."

Tan said the most premium condo and service residences were being sought by those who were buying to "live in".

"Typically, these people are not looking at it from the investment point of view. They want a place they can call home, whether for year-round stay or in-between their travels. So quality is everything."

She described the buyers as middle-aged, and "not overly concerned about the price".

A few years ago, Oriental Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Loh Cheng Yean and former investment banker and former Singapore national tennis player Sherman Lim came up with a plan for Katana Residences, an exclusive 30-unit condo development in the U-Thant area, now nearing completion.

The idea for such a project was conceived because Loh, who was looking for a property in the city then, could not find one that matched her expectations!

Initial prices for Katana ranged from RM780 psf to RM1,000 psf (about RM3 to RM5 million per unit); the rest were subsequently sold during construction last year at prices ranging from RM1,200 psf to RM1,600 psf.

Lim described the condo buyers as "private and very particular" about the internal layout as well as how the building looked from the outside.

"The buyers are from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and other parts of the region.

"Basically, they place heavy emphasis on design as they all have lived in various international cities before, like New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. They are very international in their outlook and demand."

The first wave of modern high-end living in the KLCC area was tested by Amanah Capital Partners Bhd, when it came up with the Ascott service apartments and Kirana condominiums, launched just months before the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

Back then, those sussing out the place included Malaysia's elite upper class, including royalty and socialites. Prices were set at around RM550 psf then. A real bargain, if you consider the prices today.

By New Straits Times

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