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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Talk to your buyers

Customers quite spontaneous to share their views if sought

The property market is set to move into higher gear after the dreary days of project delays and deferment of the past one year.

Despite the seemingly brighter days ahead, developers are treading carefully and have not completely lowered their guard on the market’s passiveness to avoid an over built situation that will send property prices southwards.

While mulling over whether it is still too early to launch their projects, especially if they are green field developments that will take many years, developers should not completely withdraw from the market. Instead, they should stay in touch with their potential and existing buyers.

Engaging their customers will enable developers to stay on top of things and know what their buyers want and plan their projects accordingly.

Buyers’ needs are always evolving and developers who take the trouble to stay in touch with them will benefit tremendously.

After all, customers know best what they want and they will be quite spontaneous to share their views if sought.

They would appreciate developers who keep them posted on new initiatives and seek their views, especially for product development and improvement.

These days, it is not unusual to receive newsletters and project brochures from developers. There are also announcements on new upcoming project launches to promote repeat buying.

With the Internet, developers should go a step further and interact directly with buyers. By opening up the communication channel through a well managed and user friendly website, a participative virtual community will emerge among residents and buyers of their projects.

An active two-way communication flow and interaction will promote a more well informed and knowledgeable society.

In the process, developers will be able to get invaluable information first hand from their customers on how to design, or redesign, their projects.

Developers who value their customers’ views and input will be able to have the right products in place, whether it is during the good or bad times.

The tag line for developers these days should be to deliver real value for customers. A clear focus on customers will certainly go a long way to earn their lifetime loyalty.

It is still very much a buyer’s market and property buyers now have many choices to choose from.

Instead of building rows and rows of standard housing units or shop lots, it will be good if developers allow buyers to have some degree of flexibility in the interior layout plans of the property they are buying.

For a start, this can include the number of rooms and their sizes, choice of colours, and materials used, to meet the different needs and budgets.

Although such flexibilities are only practised in very high-end housing estates now, especially for houses with price tags of at least a few million ringgit onwards, the developer that is willing to extend this “magnanimous” gesture to the medium-range projects will, without a doubt, become an instant favourite.

Many Malaysians are still practising the extended family tradition with their aging parents and grown-up children staying together in the same house, and catering to their differing needs will be a good act of corporate social responsibility on the developer’s part.

Going by the earning capacity of the majority of average Malaysians, buying a decent house priced at slightly over RM300,000 is still a big commitment.

To borrow for a property priced that cost RM300,000, a couple will need to have at least a combined monthly income of RM10,000.

So the onus is on developers to offer greater value to house buyers and any gestures that show that they truly take great care to plan their projects to meet their buyers’ needs will earn them a more loyal following.

Village or “kampung” environment has always been the preferred for many Malaysians until quite recently when rapid urbanisation and massive infrastructure projects changed the people’s living landscape and way of life.

To many, it is still their preferred living environment as they like the stability of staying “grounded” in landed housing units and enjoy the closeness and camaraderie of their fellow villagers.

To promote closer kinship among the people, one of the ways is to replicate the village–like features and environment in our new townships.

■ Deputy news editor Angie Ng believes that a return to more community-centric developments will be good to promote and revive a stronger bonding among the people, in line with the 1Malaysia aspiration.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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