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Friday, March 7, 2008

MRCB Utama offers resort features in Laman Suria

An artist's impression of the Laman Suria apartments

MRCB Utama Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Malaysia Resources Corp Bhd, is trying to lure those working in the city of Kuala Lumpur to move to Kajang, Selangor, with its Balinese-themed Laman Suria apartments in Taman Kajang Utama.

Describing them as “e-resort” apartments, MRCB Utama’s sales and marketing manager Chiang Hon Kit said the 4-acre freehold development has resort features with each unit equipped with an alarm system, an electric clothes dryer and entry via personal access cards.

Comprising a total of 255 units, priced from RM88,000 to RM168,00, buyers have a choice of five designs with built-up sizes of 687 sq ft, 840 sq ft, 850 sq ft, 870 sq ft and 879 sq ft.

Chiang told Property Plus that the response has been very encouraging. “We are banking on Laman Suria’s affordable pricing, easy accessibility and full-condo facilities to attract potential buyers,” he said.

Block A of the 5-storey apartments were launched in the iddle of 2006, comprising 99 units that have been fully taken up, while 50% of Block B’s 87 units were sold within a couple of weeks, said Chiang. The units are currently under construction.

“Block C, with 69 units, is scheduled for launch soon,” he added.

The bulk of purchasers for the earlier units are those working in KL. “They prefer to live on the outskirts of the city, away from the crowds and traffic. Laman Suria is easily accessible by major roads as well as the SILK and North-South Expressways,” said Chiang.

As many as three major universities, shopping complexes and other amenities are in the vicinity of Laman Suria. Besides the quality finishing, Chiang adds that, “a great deal of effort was also put in the landscaping aspects of Laman Suria to give residents a ‘resort’ ambience.” He said among the facilities at the apartments is a swimming pool, a wading pool, a BBQ pit, changing rooms, a multipurpose hall, a convenience store, a launderette, 24-hour security service and a surau.

“Those interested in purchasing a unit in Laman Suria have to pay a down payment of only RM100,” said Chiang.

MRCB Utama’s completed projects include the Residensi Ayu small office home office (SOHO) apartments, also in Kajang.

The SOHO apartments are priced from RM90,000 onwards. The company has also ongoing projects in Negri Sembilan and Penang.

By theSun - Property Plus -(by Tim Leonard)

I&P plans four launches in Bangi

An artist's impression of I&P's Phase 1P3 2-storey cluster home

ISLAND & Peninsular Bhd (I&P) has planned four launches comprising terraced and semi-detached homes this year for its Alam Sari project located in the township of Bangi, Selangor. Having sold out Phase 1P1 of Ilmia during its sales launch in November last year, the developer will be launching Phases 1P2 and 1P3 before the end of this month.

I&P group managing director Datuk Jamaludin Osman told PropertyPlus that most of the buyers of Phase 1P1 were from and within the Bangi locality. “Buyers in Bangi look for landed property with freehold titles. There are purchasers who upgrade from living in apartments to landed homes; there are also some who upgrade from terraced homes to semidees,” he shared.

Phase 1P1 homes were priced between RM248,088 and RM512,760 and offered 90 units of 2-storey terraced homes sized at 22ft by 75ft with built-ups ranging from 2,099 sq ft to 2,271 sq ft. With Phase 1P2 and 1P3, I&P expects to put out 60 units of 2-storey terraced homes and 32 units of 2- storey cluster homes respectively.

Homes in Phase 1P2 are sized at 22ft by 75ft with built-ups from 2,044 sq ft to 2,500 sq ft while Phase 1P3 homes are sized at 33ft by 85ft with builtups between 2,400 sq ft and 2,600 sq ft. The homes are tentatively priced at RM255,000 for Phase 1P2 and RM448,000 for Phase 1P3. According to Jamaludin, these homes are targeted at government servants, businessmen and a multiracial community.

“Phase 1P3 offers cluster-style homes, which are planned in clusters and short rows. The homes are built according to the natural terrain and are functional, with a practical layout suitable for modern-day needs. These homes are also designed to be protected from the sun and rain,” explained Jamaludin.

Located within the heart of Bangi, about 3.5km south of Bandar Baru Bangi, Alam Sari has a gross development value (GDV) of RM1 billion and takes up 432.5 freehold acres. Set within the vicinity of higher learning institutions such as Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the EPF Training Centre (ESSET) and the Petronas Management Training Centre, the “Neighbourhood of Academia” township will feature academically themed parks and precincts.

Upon completion, the township is expected to have 3,435 units of residential properties including semidees, bungalows, orchard lots and apartments as well as shops, convenience centres and a supermarket or mall complemented by facilities and amenities such as schools, kindergarten, a community hall, police station, parks and gardens.

With an expected population of 17,000 upon full occupation, the township would take between eight and 10 years to complete. “Construction for Phase 1P1 which commenced in November last year, is currently in progress and targeted for completion in the middle of 2009,” said Jamaludin.

I&P’s other developments include Bandar Kinrara, Alam Damai in Cheras, Alam Impian in Shah Alam, and Kota Bayuemas in Klang. In early January, the developer launched Phase 4D5 of shop offices at the RM3.9 billion freehold township, Bandar Kinrara. Out of 30 units, only 20 were opened for sale while the remaining 10 units were retained as assets, said Jamaludin.

Currently about 30% sold, the shop offices come in six designs with standard lots measuring 22ft by 80ft and builtups between 4,960 sq ft and 10,896 sq ft. Pegged between RM1.68 million and RM3.99 million, these units are targeted at business owners, banks, restaurant owners and investors. “The land is currently being cleared, and the project is targeted for completion within three years,” said Jamaludin.

Meanwhile at the residential parcel of Bandar Kinrara, the developer launched Phase 9A9A also known as “Butik Bungalow”. According to Jamaludin, the 14 units of 2-storey bungalows have been 30% sold since it was opened for sale in November last year. Available in five types and five designs, the homes are priced between RM1,137,888 and RM1,459,888.

There are also two bungalow lots for sale within this phase. “These are affordable and modulardesign bungalows with big land areas, which allows room for future expansion.

The homes are targeted at the middle to higher-income group, and for those looking to upgrade,” said Jamaludin. The bungalows come in lot sizes of between 7,200 sq ft and 11,000 sq ft and built-ups of between 2,714 sq ft and 3,030 sq ft. “It is now at the foundation stage and will be completed in approximately two years,” he added.

By theSun (by Yeong Ee-Wah)

The rules of Renovating

People renovate homes for a myriad of reasons, but be aware that the end result could raise the value of your property or, actually make it harder to sell.

RENOVATING one’s home is something very personal and people do it for various reasons. Whatever your reason may be, renovations can enhance the value of your home. From basic touch-ups to expensive extensions, the different types of renovations done will affect the value of your home differently. Nonetheless, spending a huge sum of money does not necessarily mean that you will get the same returns when you put your property on the market. In fact, it may even be difficult to sell your property.

Several real estate agents PropertyPlus spoke to agree that before deciding on any renovations, it is important to work out a reasonable budget while keeping in mind the trends that would appeal to a wider market.

Teh: Don't go for unconventional renovations

“Keep things simple to appeal to a broader market and don’t go for unconventional renovations,” said Kayte Teh, principal of Pacific Alliance Realty. From Teh’s experience, a lot of buyers prefer doing their own renovations and would only consider buying a renovated property if it’s not too pricey. “Heavily renovated homes are always priced at a premium, but the market for it is small,” she stated.

Ng: Keep renovations, simple, nice and cozy

Alice Ng of Reapfield Properties (KL) Sdn Bhd agrees. “If you’re going to renovate, keep it simple, nice and cozy. Do not go for grand renovations, as it makes it difficult for the new owners to remodel or redecorate,” said Ng.

Andrew Ngiam, also from Reapfield Properties recommends the modern and contemporary look. “Renovations are quite personal, it depends on personal preference and taste, so renovate tastefully. If it looks like something you can pick out of an interior magazine, it would most probably sell,” he said.

Goh: Don't spend more than 50% of the cost of your home

When it comes to budget, the rule of thumb is not to spend more than 50% of the cost of your home on renovations, said William Goh, head of sales at Reapfield Properties (KL). “If you’re looking to renovate, make sure the cost is within your budget. Extensions are costly, but it will greatly affect the price; an increase in space translates to an increase in selling price.”

A renovated home could increase the value of the property by 10% to 20%, said Goh. “It can even increase by 30% to 40% if the renovations are properly done, with high quality finishes. The home should also be in very good condition,” he added.

Enhancing value
According to Teh, who has been in the industry for 15 years, some things that would enhance the
value of a home include wet and dry kitchens, spacious master bedrooms and living areas or a remodeled bathroom. “A well-designed garden helps too. A landscaped garden, koi pond, water features or perhaps a quiet area in the garden all significantly add value to a home,” she said.

Ngiam agrees. Having been in the business for eight years, he said the kitchen and bathroom are the most important areas of a home. “People are looking at modern kitchens and modern bathrooms. The modern and clean look is the trend now.”

The garden is very important as well, said Ngiam. While adding items, such as water features, ponds and fountains, enhances the aesthetic value of the home, it also lends a feng shui appeal; especially features with elements of flowing water.

Foo: Renovating a very old house is not recommended

Meanwhile, SM Foo of Oriental Realty does not recommend renovating an old house. “If the house is more than 30 years old, the design would be really outdated. Just a basic touch-up or simple refurbishment would do,” said Foo, who has been in the business for 13 years. It is not worth it to spend too much on renovations just to remodel an old house, unless there is enough capital for grand renovations, which would place the property in a premium market, he explained.

Extensions, especially to the back of the house, are very common, said Foo. “An extension of between five to eight feet to the back would cost approximately RM20,000,” he said, adding that
an extension could add to the value of the home about 40% of the cost.

Market feedback
From her experience, Teh said, it is difficult to sell renovated linked houses at a premium whereas bungalows sell better because the unit is larger and offers more space. “Buyers are willing to spend more if the cost is justified with space.

Nicely renovated homes are sellable of course, but it narrows down the market. In which case, you need to find the right buyer,” Teh shared. Although the market for premium, renovated homes is small, renovated mid-range and lowrange homes are more common compared to renovated bungalows, said Goh. “If a buyer is looking for a bungalow, he most likely wants to do his own renovations, and would have the capital to do so,” he added.

Goh, who has been in the industry for 20 years feels the target market for renovated mid-range and low-range homes are mostly first-time buyers such as young couples who do not have the capital to do their own renovations. “They prefer a unit in which they can just move in without having to spend too much.”

Renovated kitchens can add to the value of a property


The current trends in renovation, observed Teh, are Balinese and modern contemporary. “Many homes are sporting Balinese-inspired wood flooring and trimmings. The modern design is also hot right now, which is basically a really clean cut look featuring colours such as black and white or metallic,” she said.

“Spend on good quality built-ins with granite tops and have separate wet and dry areas in the kitchen. The kitchen should have a modern and classy feel,” advised Ngiam. “In the bathroom, rainshowers (a type of shower head attached to the ceiling) are the ‘in’ thing now,” he added.

Other features such as lighting and flooring also play a part in creating the look and feel of a home. “Downlights are really popular, and buyers generally don’t like fluorescent lighting, which can be too harsh,” said Ngiam. “Flooring depends on individual taste, but keep in mind if you decide to put in wood flooring, make sure it is of high quality. Expatriates also favour wood flooring, if you are planning to sell or rent to an expatriate,” he added.

Foo on the other hand recommends getting a designer. “You can tell when a home has been modelled by a designer; it makes a difference,” he said. Although it can be costly, it is worth it as properly renovated homes are definitely easier to sell as well as to rent.

Keeping cost down
If you’re strapped for cash, there are still ways to enhance the value of your home. “Finishings, a new coat of paint and built-ins add value to a home without having to spend too much,” said Goh.

“Refurbish your home to make it look nice, touching up parts that have gone through wear and tear. A change of flooring, especially if it is parquet, makes a difference. If you have wooden flooring that isn’t too old, a coat of varnish would do the trick,” he added.

According to Ng, basic touch-ups are adequate. “Fix any and all obvious problems; buyers are especially particular about watermarks, which lead them to think that there is a piping problem,” she advised. “Clean and tidy your home prior to viewings, to make it look spacious. First impressions are important,” she added.

“As a rule of thumb, make your house look nice and presentable,” said K Soma Sundram, president of Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA).

Soma: Renovations are a personal choice

Leaky roofs, peeling paint, a rusting gate, cracks in the wall, watermarks, termite problems and a faulty toilet should be fixed. “Spend some money to make it look habitable,” advised Soma.

“One of the things we’re [estate agents] required to do is to make sure any property for sale is in habitable condition and free of repairs. Therefore, the seller should make the necessary repairs as new owners would be turned off by having to fork out more than the cost of the property,” he explained.

Although renovations — especially those done tastefully — definitely add value to a property, there are no set rules to follow. “Renovations are a personal choice; it is to meet the home owner’s needs and is ultimately for the home owner to live in and to enjoy,” he said.

By theSun - PropertyPlus - (by Yeong Ee-Wah)

Wal-Mart to headline at Retail City conference

The driving force behind the “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” philosophy of the world’s largest retailer is to share his insights with Middle East business leaders on turning a modest business into a global giant.

Don Soderquist (pix), former senior vice-chairman and chief operating officer of Wal-Mart, will be giving the keynote address on the remarkable growth of the US retail giant at Retail City, which takes place from June 1-3, 2008, at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.

“No other executive since the legendary Walton himself has embodied the principles of the company’s culture. Don will share his knowledge and experience of Wal-Mart’s amazing success, something that regional retailers should find invaluable,” said Irina Awote, conference director of Retail City 2008, organised by IIR Middle East.

Founded by Sam Walton in 1962, Wal-Mart is the world’s largest public corporation by revenue, according to the Fortune Global 500. Wal-Mart was built on Walton’s “pile ‘em high - sell ‘em cheap” philosophy. The company built on this by re-investing profits to obtain better terms from suppliers, in turn leading to better deals for customers.

After Walton’s death, Soderquist became known as the “keeper of the culture” and believes business ethics are not a luxury but an essential element in creating high performance organisations.

Now with 7,100 stores in 15 countries, Wal-Mart recently reported three months sales above US$100 billion (RM318.5 billion) for the first time in history. With almost two million employees, Wal-Mart is also the largest private employer in the world and the fourth largest utility or commercial employer after the Chinese army, the UK National Health Service, and Indian Railways.

“Put into perspective, Wal-Mart is bigger than Europe’s Carrefour, Tesco and Metro combined,” added Awote.

The Retail City 2008 exhibition and conference brings together global retailers, investors, shopping centre developers, franchise networks, shopping centre managements, architects and regional authorities to discuss the dynamic retail sector both in the Middle East and other emerging markets.

This year a new Retailers Pavilion will also be unveiled providing invaluable networking opportunities for both new and established retailers to expand their brand presence and to make direct contact with mall management, retail developers, investors and operators.

The Retail City Awards will also take place at the June event, rewarding excellence in the retail industry, with categories such as Emerging Market Retailer, Retailer of the Year, Corporate Social Responsibility, Architectural Designer, Franchise Operator, Mall of the Year and World’s Best Retail Destination.

By theSun

S$18 million revamp of Tiong Bahru Plaza

SINGAPORE: Shopping mall management group, AsiaMalls Management, the joint venture between ARMF and Singapore Exchange-listed Guthrie Group, announced recently that it will be repositioning Tiong Bahru Plaza (above), one of the suburban malls in its portfolio which includes six other malls — Hougang Mall, White Sands, Century Square, Liang Court, Central Plaza and the upcoming Tampines 1.

Two floors of the Central Plaza office tower (acquired early last year) located next door to Tiong Bahru Plaza will be converted to civic use. This allows the latter to provide additional gross floor area for retail use. Targeted for completion by 3Q2008, the estimated cost of the revamp is S$18 million (RM41.3), and will add another 19,000 sq ft for retail and F&B outlets, while the existing areas will be reconfigured.

By The Edge Singapore

Malaysian property mart outlook 'very bright'

Prospects for the Malaysian property market this year continue to be bright, with the residential sector expected to be the star performer yet again, says top real estate services company CH Williams Talhar & Wong (WTW).

The commercial sector, however, is set to become increasingly important as property trusts actively look to expand and foreign property funds continue to show keen interest here.

As usual, the Klang Valley is expected to lead the market, but things are also looking good in places like Johor Baru (Johor) and Butterworth (Penang).

"Overall, the outlook is very bright. Property prices haven't peaked. Foreign interest is helping drive the market, but there's also a lot of local interest," WTW managing director Goh Tian Sui said yesterday at the launch of its property market and CEO opinion survey for 2008.

Concerns over the impact of the US subprime crisis remain a downside risk, but it has so far not affected the local property market, he said.

"Foreign investors are still actively looking for spots to buy Malaysian assets. People who come to us are prepared to pay top dollar. There's so much capital chasing too few buildings," he remarked.

He predicts that Malaysia, in line with markets elsewhere, will see yields of less than six per cent this year in the Klang Valley, compared with between 6.25 per cent and seven per cent now.

Malaysia's residential sector, which typically accounts for about 60 per cent of total property transactions, has been the best-performing of all sectors since 1997.

Current hotspots include the Kuala Lumpur city centre, KL Sentral, Melawati-Ulu Kelang, Mutiara Damansara, Mont Kiara/Segambut, Kota Damansara and Menjalara/Kepong.

Boutique developments, rather than townships, are expected to do better and are set to be the trend this year.

By New Straits Times (by Adeline Paul Raj)

Property market to keep drawing foreigners

KUALA LUMPUR: The property market will continue to attract strong foreign interest, says international property consultant CH Williams Talhar & Wong Sdn Bhd (WTW).

Managing director Goh Tian Sui said the economic slowdown in the US and Britain had drawn investors to Malaysia due to the higher dividend yield compared with its regional peers.

The exemption of the real property gains tax (RPGT) announced in Budget 2008 was also another pulling factor, he told reporters at the release of the WTW Property Market Outlook for 2008 & CEO Opinion Survey yesterday.

According to the survey results, 90% of respondents said the RPGT exemption would have a positive impact on the local property industry, while 96% thought the exercise would increase the volume of transactions in the industry.

It also showed 76% of respondents felt the flexible monthly withdrawal by Employees Provident Fund contributors would drive up the local property market.

Last year, integrated mall KL Pavilion, which is 49% owned by Singapore-based Pacific Star group, together with The Gardens@MidValley and Sunway Pyramid 2 contributed 63% of new local retail space, said Goh.

He added that local retail space grew by 14.5% to 36.87 million sq ft last year from 2006.

“We expect another seven retail centres in the Klang Valley to be completed this year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the residential market – principally in the KL City Centre area – remained the “star performer” in the property sector.

In the industrial sector, foreign investments rose 57% to RM21.8bil for the first nine months ended Sept 30, 2007 from RM13.9bil in the previous corresponding period, while domestic investment slipped 17%.

Goh said the top three foreign investors for the period were from Japan, Iran and Singapore.

“We expect the healthy demand for investment-grade properties to continue this year,” he said.

In the hospitality sector, WTW predicted hotel occupancy rate in the country to continue to be over 70% this year.

Last year, tourist arrivals increased to 20.97 million from 17.5 million in 2006.

By The Star

IDR highway project to be completed by 2010

JOHOR BARU: The construction of the RM1.1bil Coastal Highway has begun and the 15km six-lane project is expected to be ready by 2010.

The highway's seven interchanges and three bridges would be a lifeline for the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) as it provides a vital road link between the east and west of South Johor, Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said.

He said site-clearing works had begun and they would be followed by piling and construction.

“It is one of the biggest infrastructure projects within the IDR,” Ghani said in a statement.

The highway will connect Johor Baru city to the Johor State New Administrative Centre in Nusajaya (JSNAC) and the Second Link crossing.

JSNAC, the nexus of the IDR, is 90% completed and will be ready for occupation by June.

The highway project is spearheaded by the South Johor Investment Corp (SJIC), the master developer and investor in strategic projects.

The highway will be a boon for visitors from Singapore using the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex here as it will provide direct access to Danga Bay, Nusajaya, JSNAC and a proposed theme park.

“The economic spin-offs from the highway project will be tremendous as it will lead to the creation of new growth centres in Skudai and Gelang Patah,” Ghani said.

He said at least two mega projects worth billions of ringgit would begin this year in the IDR, including the RM4.2bil Node 1 project funded by Arab investors.

By The Star