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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Timely reminder to builders on safety features

Malaysians can count ourselves lucky as the country is sheltered from major natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes and we have relatively safe abodes and buildings that do not easily collapse when there are tremors.

We are also not near the Pacific Rim of Fire that is notorious for huge earthquakes and tsunamis although we could still feel tremors during Wednesday’s earthquakes in Samoa and Indonesia.

Earthquakes measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale in Sumatra and 8.3 in Samao resulted in many fatalities and extensive damage to buildings.

With the increasing frequency of such natural disasters, it is important for local property industry players to look for ways to reinforce their projects and incorporate more safety measures to ensure the property they design and build, especially high-rise buildings, are able to withstand tremors and earthquakes.

Facilities to accommodate mass evacuation of occupants of high-rise buildings should also be a top priority of building designers.

As big earthquakes are usually followed by tsunamis and high waves, property should not be built too near the shorelines and there should be high reinforced walls as a first line of defence to shelter these property should another tsunami like the one in 2004 strike.

Otherwise, generally the country has quite a conducive environment for the people to enjoy a good standard of living, at a relatively affordable cost.

Although there is still room for improvement in the country’s infrastructure system, we should be thankful for the clean water, regular electricity supply, and good roads and highways, among other things. We will appreciate what we have better by visiting other “less privileged” countries.

As far as housing is concerned, the people have a wide choice of residential property to choose from. They can either opt for high-rise living or stay in landed residences in the many housing schemes.

Hopefully, prices of goods and services will not skyrocket once the economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis is reigned in and the economy returns to growth.

We should learn from the experiences of other countries whose economies have suffered badly due to excesses which included over-priced and over-speculative property markets.

The massive loans taken out for property purchases and the resulting sub-prime loans would not have happened in the US if the banks there had been more vigilant in ensuring only those who have stable income streams and ability to repay their loans are approved for loans.

So, our well regulated banking system that required a lender to be employed or has a business with a minimum level of monthly income, has at least one guarantor and collateral to support their loan application, could have saved our financial system from a systemic failure this time around.

Prudence is the key word and should not be compromised for high business turnover.

As far as property prices are concerned, the global crisis would not have resulted in such major losses in the property value like those seen in some major European cities had real estate prices remained anchored to fundamentals.

Property prices are a function of demand and supply and a host of other factors including the people’s purchasing power and their affordability, prospects for growth of an area and standard of infrastructure facilities.

So far, property prices in the country have been reflective of actual market situations and have not hit the roof like those in some countries.

Both buyers and developers have important roles to play to ensure the market stays balanced and does not move into either extremes of a spiralling downward or upward trend.

Whether the global economy manages to pull off a V-shaped recovery or has to contend with a double V (double dip or W) will only be known in the coming months or possibly years.

With such uncertainties, there will still be caution in the market and the people will continue to watch their expenditure.

Developers should always strive to raise the standards and quality of their property products to ensure they are saleable as buyers today have many choices to choose from.

Needless to say, industry players that continue to innovate and are trendsetters in the various market sectors – from the lower priced to medium and higher-priced projects – will stand out from the rest to attract buyers.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng is appreciative of her landed residence and will not be moving to a high-rise dwelling any time soon.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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