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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Signs of green shoots

An artist’s impression of The Light Waterfront Penang’s residential precinct. More developers are lining up new greenfield projects for launch from the later part of this year

The housing property market which also succumbed to the dampening impact of the global financial crisis may be showing some “green shoots” of recovery, especially in the medium-range landed housing sector.

However, the high-end condominium market around the Kuala Lumpur City Centre vicinity is still fragile.

Since the middle of this year, the take-up rate for landed housing units has improved and developers are seeing a return of buying interest for good projects in well sought after locations. Even the high-rise residential market is showing some glimmer of hope.

The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research’s Residential Property Index (MIER RPI) hit 91.5 points in the second quarter of this year, which is a strong rebound from the all-time low of 69.3 points in the fourth quarter of 2008.

As a sign of their improved confidence, more developers are lining up new greenfield projects for launch from the later part of this year.

This is a much improved situation from late last year when things practically came to a halt and the sale registers at developers’ offices stopped ringing.

Just when developers are about to look forward to brighter days ahead, the proposed reimposition of the real property gains tax (RPGT), albeit at a flat 5% rate irrespective of holding period and category of owners, is seen as a dampener of the “overall feel good” sentiment.

Although some are not overly concern that the RPGT will slow down sales substantially, especially among first time buyers and owner occupiers, some say it will impact the investor market.

Overall, with the prevailing low interest rates and improving economy, the environment is still relatively positive.

IJM Land Bhd managing director Datuk Soam Heng Choon says with the current benign interest rates and the pent up demand due to lack of new launches in the last nine months, the sentiment should remain positive.

“Most of our projected launches are on track and we will be putting more projects into the market. By our financial year ending March 2010, we would have launched about RM1.3bil worth of products nationwide,” Soam adds.

Among IJM Land’s latest launches are the Nusa Duta project in Johor Baru in July and The Light Waterfront Penang in August. A new commercial project in Melaka will be launched next month.

On challenges ahead, he says land prices are still on the rise and the cost of doing business remains high.

“Industry players should take the lull period to improve their product delivery and refocus on quality products to lift the industry’s image in the years ahead,” Soam points out.

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin says developers are still careful with planning their launches.

According to SP Setia Bhd president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, the country’s economy is showing strong signs of recovery. Coupled with prevailing low interest rates and ample liquidity, the outlook looks more promising.

Although sales is picking up, he says developers are still careful with planning their launches and only time will tell if the recovery is sustainable.

Liew adds that product innovation which caters to the people’s changing lifestyle and needs will continue to fuel demand, adding that the company will continue with its launches in its townships in Johor, the Klang Valley and Penang.

Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum ... ‘The market is gaining momentum for an up cycle in the second half of 2010.’

Mah Sing Group Bhd group chief executive Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum says: “The market is gaining momentum for an up cycle in the second half of 2010.

This would be true for mid- to high-end landed residential projects as well as commercial projects in prime locations.”

The company is lining up some new project launches next year, including Garden Residence in Cyberjaya by the first quarter of 2010. The project has received more than 600 registrants so far for the superlink homes and semi detached houses.

Mah Sing is also planning to launch the iParc project in Bukit Jelutong comprising semi-detached factories with flexible layouts for corporate warehousing.

Leong says as property demand in the country is largely driven by fundamentals, there has been no price bubble so far and hence, any downside for property prices is limited.

“We have not seen any fire sales, and good properties that are developed by reputable developers in prime locations still see strong take up.”

As of the middle of July, Mah Sing achieved RM543mil in sales, exceeding the full year target of RM453mil.

Its unbilled sales stood at RM812mil, approximately 1.6 times the revenue recognised from the property division last year.

Hunza Properties Bhd executive chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong says prevailing low interest rates, a growing population, relatively low unemployment, and no significant overbuilding are strong factors to fuel growth in the market.

Industry players should also be well versed with the industry cycles, trends and changing needs of the society.

Concurring with him, Gamuda Land Sdn Bhd managing director Chow Chee Wah says innovative master plans with strong concept, good systematic implementation and execution will result in quality delivery system.

“Projects by developers with strong track record, good capital appreciation and rental yields will continue to do well even during difficult economic times,” he says.

Chow says to ensure more sustainable growth, it is necessary to maintain the current financing rates. “To provide a further lift to the property market, it is important to liberalise the bumiputra quota issue and state consent on purchase of leasehold property.

“Streamlining the process to cut down red tapes for speedier approvals in the two areas will be great help to the property industry,” he says.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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