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Saturday, March 20, 2010

SoHo is the way to go

Courtyard view of CENTRIO project by YTL Land & Development.

The Small Office/Home Office (SoHo) segment is slowly but surely, becoming a growing trend in the market, especially among those looking for flexibility in their daily working schedules.

The modern concept of SoHo refers to the category of business, which involves from one to 10 workers. The concept also applies to people who convert part of their home into an office.

James Wong says the SoHo concept is a growing trend with sole proprietors or small partnerships.

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector Malaysia (PEPS) president James Wong foresees a growing SoHo demand.

“High office rental costs and traffic congestion are among some of the reasons why more people are going for this (SoHo) concept,” he tells StarBizweek.

He adds that the growth in information technology (IT) today provided the flexibility to individuals from virtually anywhere.

Wong says some banks were already outsourcing their marketing teams, for instance, because such departments could function elsewhere.

“There are also backroom departments like support services, and human resources don’t need to face the public or clients everyday. Soon, it won’t be necessary to have a full-fledged office.”

Wong says the SoHo concept was a growing trend with sole proprietors or small partnerships, such as lawyers and even real estate agents.

CB Richard Ellis Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Allan Soo says the typical SoHo buyer are mostly independent individuals rather than professionals.

“This can be advertising agencies or those within the IT industry.”

Soo says the location of the SoHo is critical.

“It definitely makes sense to work in the city within a business environment and having your business partners nearby. If it’s going to be a hassle for your clients to come to you, than it does not make sense.”

Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe concurs that the location of the SoHo is very important.

“You need to be around amenities. Otherwise it’s going to be tough! But ultimately, it all depends on both the product and the location of the property.”

Wong, however, reckons that a SoHo buyer would be more comfortable working outside of the city centre.

“The whole idea of living and working in the same environment is so that you can avoid the hassle of getting stuck in traffic jams when travelling to your place of work.

“People who operate out of a SoHo would most likely prefer a quiet environment rather than to be smack in the middle of the city centre and dealing with the noise. The ideal location would be the outskirts of the city, near a park or commuter train station.”

A search on, the country’s top property portal, reveals four SoHo developments that are currently in the pipeline.

They are the Selangor State Development Corp’s (PKNS) Kasturi Idaman in Kota Damansara, HR United Group’s SB1 and Persanda 2 in Sungai Besi and Shah Alam, respectively and Ong Chong Realty Sdn Bhd’s PJ5 SoHo in Kelana Jaya.

Previndran says there is a growing market for SoHo developments and cited YTL Land & Development Bhd’s CENTRIO at Pantai Hill Park in Bukit Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur.

According to reports, 70% of the development (at CENTRIO) have been sold. It opened for sales in 2006.

Akashdeep Singh, a 30-something freelance film editor, says working from a SoHo provided him with great flexibility.

“Some people enjoy this lifestyle – working late and sleeping overnight. It can lead to a lot of office romances,” he says, laughing.

Akashdeep, who was going to India for a month that same day, says: “And in cases of emergencies, like if you need to take a sabbatical, you can avoid the hassle of giving notice. In a normal working environment, it’s hard to do this.”

Former lawyer Melissa Ram used to work out of her home and relished the fact that she could completely avoid traffic jams.

“There’s a lot of flexibility, plus there’s no overhead cost or rentals to worry about. With the internet, you can work from virtually anywhere.”

Melissa, however, adds that there were also drawbacks when working from home.

“Sometimes when you need to meet with clients, having them over in your house isn’t appropriate and in such situations, having an office would be better. In such situations, you would have to go out of your way to meet your client rather than to have the convenience of them coming to you.”

She adds, however, that if given a choice, she would still prefer to work from home.

“While working you could still manage the house and do the cooking. Plus, you could work till midnight and not have to worry about security issues.”

By The Star (by Eugene Mahalingam)

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