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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pace of new property launches picking up

An artist impression of Five Stones, a condominium project in SS2, Petaling Jaya.

Last Saturday’s launch of double-storey linked houses in Glenmarie, Shah Alam had buyers queuing up several days before selling began.

The 133 freehold units, located from across a Perodua service centre, were sold in two hours.

At RM750,000 for an intermediate unit, the offerings from Island & Peninsular Bhd (I&P), known as Temasya Suria, were by no means cheap.

Even as you are reading this today, I&P is selling another series of double-storey housing in Bandar Kinrara, Puchong.

Known as Sentosa, the 80 units of double-storey terraced houses are priced between RM462,000 and RM694,000. As with previous week’s launch, buyers were known to have been queuing up several days.

General manager (group marketing and communications) Noor Lida Nazri says both situations reflect the confidence in the market. “Although many invest in different types of assets, there are those who find property to be the most reliable. They are essentially going back to what our forefathers have always believed in,” she says.

More than half of the buyers bought to stay, she says. It has been quite some time since freehold double-storey terraced housing, a staple in Malaysian housing market, has been put on the market and the interest generated is interesting.

Noor Lida says the other reason for the positive response is the financial package they are offering. Buyers pay 10% and their next payment is due when they get their keys. In the interim, the banks will pay the progressive payments and interest. Stamp duty, transfer and legal fees are absorbed by the developer. The fact that Temasya Suria is about 75% complete when they reached the market is also a selling point, Buyers will be able to move in the first half of next year. Its second project in Puchong will take two years to complete.

On Aug 14, Selangor Dredging Bhd (SDB) will be launching what will be Petaling Jaya’s most pricey condominium project in SS2/72. It will be SDB’s branding vehicle.

The last time they had an outing there, it was with Ameera in 2007, which had prices starting from RM380,000 onwards. Although it is building Ameera which will be ready next year, that project is a legacy from Luxor group, the previous land owner.

With this second project, known as Five Stones, SDB managing director Teh Lip Kim has a clean slate to put down her mark. It will be different from Ameera in terms of ambience and landscaping with lots of open space.

The 185-unit freehold project comprises three low, medium and high-rise blocks with prices starting from RM800,000 onwards, a jump of about RM500,000 from its Ameera launch.

Size ranges between 1,700 sq ft and 2,400 sq ft while Ameera comes in smaller packages.

Over the last three months and in the months ahead, developers had, and will continue, to dangle a carrot in terms of financing to get sales moving again from Penang to the Klang Valley. This has been a strong factor in pushing up sales. Most of these developers are among the country’s top players in the sector (see table).

But will sales continue to be buoyant when this carrot is taken away?

Two sources, an analyst who has been tracking the property market, and another from a locally incorporated foreign bank, say “for sure, it is still a buyer’s market”.

Says the bank source: “The attractive financing packages worked out by developers and their banking partners today reduce the price by between 5% and 7% for the buyer. This will eat into their margins. They may have the sales, but profit will slack.

“This trend of dangling the carrot has triggered a lot of forward buying. Many of the buyers may not need a house but because they have the savings, and all these costs are being absorbed by the developer, they enter the market.

“If an apartment costs RM600,000, I need only to pay RM30,000 under a 5/95 scheme where I pay only 5% downpayment and nothing more until I get the keys in three years. It is not far-fetched that the price will increase by 10% if the economy picks up. If it increases to RM660,000, I’d make 100% profit. If the economy does not pick up, with so much forward buying, a time may come when developers will have difficulty selling.”

Every developer is selling at a discount because they have to sell. Because the buyer are billed on a progressive basis, the sales are recognised only a few years later, until the house is built. There is a delayed revenue recognition. Hence, although the pickup rate is positive, profit will be slack because of the carrot they have been dangling since the beginning of this year.

Only when the carrot is taken away and the sale is as good as before, then one can safely say the market is rosy again, he says.

In the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, the property market only picked up late 2000 and early 2001 and peaked at 2006. The pickup took time.

Between a V and a U-shaped recovery, he would prefer a U, says the bank source.

An analyst who has been tracking the sector says the optimism throws into focus how bad the situation was in the last quarter of 2008.

“Things are looking rosy today because we are starting from a very low base since Q408.”

As the year comes to an end, he says, developers will end their financing schemes because they eat into their margins.

“We will continue to see sales but this may be less compared to what we saw the last few months. Hopefully, the good run seen in June and July will continue into the coming months in what has been an erratic year,” he says.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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