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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prices surge in Iskandar

Setia Tropika, a mixed property development project by SP Setia Bhd Group in Kempas, Johor Baru.

PROPERTY prices in certain areas within Iskandar Malaysia rose dramatically last year, after nearly a decade of lacklustre demand, according to property consultants interviewed by StarBizWeek.

The soaring property prices mainly involves new commercial, industrial and high-end residential units around Johor Baru, the Tebrau corridor and Nusajaya, all within the economic growth corridor in Johor.

KGV-Lambert Smith Hampton (Johor) Sdn Bhd executive director Samuel Tan says that property prices have appreciated by between 45% and 160%, depending on the type of property and location, compared with prices five years ago.

V. Sivadas ... ‘The residential sector around Johor Baru is split into two different worlds.’

“A Danga View Apartment unit that was valued at RM240,000 five years ago can be sold at RM350,000 today,” says Tan.

A similar trend in property prices is noted in double-storey terrace houses in Taman Bukit Indah, Johor Baru, which Tan says are fetching RM380,000 (compared with RM250,000 in 2006). A vacant land in the Southern Industrial Logistics Cluster (SILC) in Nusajaya is now being valued at RM37 per sq ft (compared with RM21 per sq ft previously) and a piece of commercial land around Jalan Datuk Abdullah Tahir, is fetching RM320 per sq ft (compared with RM150 per sq ft in 2006).

Rahim & Co (Johor) Sdn Bhd executive director Loo Kung Hoe says the property boom has resulted in “peak excitement” at auctions.

“In the past, people were careful and there was little interest in auctions. Nowadays, they bid as high as they can for both residential and commercial properties,” says Loo.

Factors behind rise

According to Tan, the strong demand for property is being fuelled by fears of inflation, real needs for housing and the purchasing power of Malaysians working in Singapore.

“There are an estimated 300,000 Malaysians working in the republic and property buyers are impressed by the rapidly developing infrastructure and road networks they see in Iskandar Malaysia.”

Tan notes that the housing and commercial landscape in Iskandar Malaysia has transformed with the entry of property developers such as UEM Land Holdings Bhd, SP Setia Bhd, UDA Holding Bhd, Bandar Raya Developments Bhd, Mah Sing Group Bhd and IOI Properties Bhd.

“In the past, buyers were satisfied with basic one-storey houses. Today, buyers look at factors such as prestige, security and the developer's track record. In another five years, when new residential and commercial areas mature in Iskandar Malaysia, prices will be even higher,” says Tan.

He opines that there is still a lot of upside for the property market in Iskandar Malaysia, especially around the Johor Baru city centre, compared with the Klang Valley.

“The year 2012 will be the tipping point, when projects such as Johor Premium Outlet in Indahpura and Legoland Theme Park in Nusajaya are up and running,” says Tan.

CB Richard Ellis (Johor) Sdn Bhd director Wee Soon Chit adds that the buying euphoria in Johor is also being fuelled by speculation from Klang Valley investors.

Wee says investors' confidence in the region is also boosted by recent reports of a joint venture between Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Temasek Holdings for a “Wellness City” development in Danga Bay.

Strong demand

Loo says there is a strong demand for high-end residential properties such as Leisure Farm Resort in Gelang Patah (developed by Mulpha International Bhd), as well as East Ledang (developed by UEM Land Holdings Bhd) and Horizon Hills (a joint venture between UEM Land and Gamuda Land Sdn Bhd) in Nusajaya.

Another “hot” growth area in Johor Baru is the Tebrau corridor which encompasses the Setia Indah township, Taman Desa Tebrau, Taman Pelangi Indah, and Sunway College in Taman Mount Austin, according to Wee.

However, PA International Property Consultants Sdn Bhd executive director V. Sivadas, who is based in Johor Baru, says the strong demand for high-end properties has not translated into higher prices in the secondary market for older single and double-storey houses in Johor Baru. “The residential sector around Johor Baru is split into two different worlds,” he says.

“New housing units feature the latest designs and many are in gated and guarded developments. A premium is attached to such units, due to security concerns. Within this housing segment, prices have been strong with upward movements of between 10% and 30% over the last two years. These areas include Austin Heights, Taman Sutera Utama, Adda Heights and Horizon Hills.

“Double-storey terrace or cluster units in these schemes are now averaging between RM380,000 and RM500,000. Larger units such as semi-detached houses continue to attract a steady demand, in both the developer and sub-sale markets. Prices here are in the RM500,000 to RM1 mil range.”

However, demand for new double-storey terrace houses which are not located in gated and guarded developments, in the secondary market is very weak.

“There is little price appreciation upon building completion. In most instances, we note a reduction in sub-sale transaction prices,” says Sivadas.

A recent PA International report also points out that there is little demand for old landed housing units around Johor Baru, with some units even priced at pre-1997 rates.

“We do not expect price escalations here due to these being older schemes, as well as due to the continuous offerings of new landed housing units in the market. However, older schemes in the city area such as Kim Teng Park, Serene Park and Taman Pelangi are an exception to this pricing.”

In the condominium sector, the report says that demand remains strong in Johor Baru, due to limited supply in the market.

Prices for high-end condominiums such as that of Petrie Condominium, Johor Baru and the Straits View in Bandar Baru Permas Jaya have exceeded RM350 per sq ft.

The Straits View condominiums which had transacted sales in the region of RM250 to RM300 per sq ft in 2008, are fetching between RM300 to RM350 per sq ft at present.

Service apartments like Ujana in Nusajaya are sold out, while D'Esplanade Residence @ KSL City in Century Gardens, Johor Baru is expected to “do well” as it nears completion, says the report.

However, the PA International report paints a depressing picture for low- and medium-priced apartments.

Apartments in the RM150,000 price range over the last few years, have dipped to below RM100,000 in the secondary market in most areas.

“The number of units put up for sale by public auction companies continues to be be high. This is happening in areas such as Masai, Pasir Gudang, Plentong and Kulai,” says the report.

Boom time

Sivadas says double- and 3-storey shop offices in newer housing estates such as in Taman Nusa Bestari in Nusajaya and in Taman Sutera Utama and Taman Molek in Johor Baru have appreciated in prices over the last two years.

“In most instances, units facing busy main roads and those in established commercial areas, have appreciated by 50%. New 3-storey units offered by developers are at substantially higher prices. All riding on the wave of this euphoria,” says Sivadas.

The PA International report notes that, 3-storey shop offices in Taman Molek that were launched at RM800,000 (intermediate unit) in mid 2000, have an asking price of RM1.3 million today.

In Taman Desa Tebrau, Johor Baru, a 3-storey shop office launched at RM768,000 three years ago, is hovering between RM900,000 and RM1mil today.

The report also notes that rentals for 3-storey shop offices are in the region RM5,000 to RM8,000 per month (intermediate unit), and RM15,000 to RM25,000 per month (corner unit).

Sivadas adds that gross yields for such properties are lower. They have dropped from 6% to 7% two years ago, to about 5% per annum for intermediate units as rental levels are generally unchanged.

Loo points out that some transactions did not seem to be sensible like the shoplots that were launched last year in Taman Sutera Utama, Johor Bahru at RM2.08mil (intermediate unit) and RM2.3 to RM2.6 million (corner unit).

“Currently, the monthly rental is about RM7,500 (intermediate unit) and could go up to RM13,000 (corner unit). So, the yield is between 4.3% and 6% per annum if rentals remain at the current levels when the new shoplots are completed. Perhaps buyers are expecting higher rental yields in the near future.”

He adds that the existing intermediate shoplots in Taman Sutera Utama, launched in mid 2000 were sold at between RM700,000 and RM750,000 per unit and were presently priced at between RM1.5mil and RM1.7mil per unit in the sub-sale market.

Sivadas says that generally, the office space market has fared poorly since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998.

“Rentals within office towers in and around the city centre continue to hover at RM1.50 to RM2.50 per sq ft per month, inclusive of service charges, thus making this sector a less attractive investment option.”

Also, the retail sector within the city centre have been stagnant over the past year in terms of pricing and rental levels.

Sivadas places part of the blame on the relocation of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) to Bukit Cagar in December 2008, which he says has diverted traffic and pedestrians away from the city centre.

He also says that there are abandoned retail complexes in Johor Baru, such as Pacific Mall, Kemayan City in Tampoi, and Lot 1 Waterfront City.

There is also ample supply of commercial complexes, such as Aero Mall at Senai, Tesco at Bukit Indah and Giant at Nusa Bestari.

“With massive commercial projects being planned in Danga Bay and Nusajaya, we expect office rentals in the city centre to remain stagnant for the next year.”

Positive near-term outlook

Areas such as Tampoi, Kempas, Seelong, Senai and Nusajaya have seen a gradual increase in the values of industrial land.

The PA International report says converted industrial lands in Tampoi were sold at between RM30 and RM40 per sq ft within the last two years (compared with between RM20 and RM25 per sq ft in mid-2000).

Prices of converted industrial land in Seelong, Kulaijaya and along Jalan Kempas Lama have doubled or more than doubled within the last two years (compared with mid-2000 prices).

“Nusajaya is also a hotspot. Prices in the Nusa Cemerlang Industrial Park, developed by Crescendo Corp Bhd is up by 50% when compared with 2008,” says Wee.

Sivadas says that while the immediate outlook for Iskandar Malaysia is positive, with various projects in the region expected to have a multitude of effects resulting in more job opportunities and higher incomes, it remains to be seen whether the property boom for new developments can be sustained in the long term.

“The key factors now are sustaining demand, and ensuring that supply does not go out of hand,” says Sivadas.

By The Star

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