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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ipoh condo project among top SEA property award winners

SINGAPORE: A condominium development in Ipoh has been named Malaysia's Best Condominium at a property event here that gathered a host of high-flying professionals and companies from the luxury residential property sector from all over the region.

The Haven Lakeside Residencies development was among four Malaysian entries that shone at the annual South-East Asia Property Awards 2012 here on Friday night.

The project, developed by The Haven Sdn Bhd and launched in January last year, comprises three luxury condominium towers overlooking a natural lake and scenic limestone hills.

An added attraction is a limestone rock said to be 280 million years old and standing about 14 storeys high, according to The Haven Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Peter Chan.

The other Malaysian winners at the awards night were Sunway Bhd (Best Malaysian developer), The Residences, Putra Heights, developed by Sime Darby Property Bhd (Best Malaysian villa) and Savills Rahim & Co (Best Malaysian property consultancy).

More than 370 guests from around the region including Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and host Singapore joined the gala dinner which saw 35 awards given out for various categories, including developer, development, real estate service, architecture and interior design.

Jose E.B. Antonio, chief executive officer of Philippines-based Century Properties Group Inc took the coveted Property Report Real Estate Personality of the Year award.

Chan, in his acceptance speech on behalf of The Haven Sdn Bhd, said he was happy to receive the award for Ipoh.

“It shows Ipoh can win prestigious international awards because the city is truly attractive.

“Its potential has not been recognised and has been under-rated for too long.

“We hope with this recognition, the awareness of Ipoh will be awakened that Ipoh can produce a condo development that is recognised as the nation's best,” he said, adding that his company had won seven other awards in the past.

Event organiser Ensign Media CEO Terry Blackburn, in his congratulatory address, said: “We have seen some real world-beating developments awarded here that really represent the full gamut of what South-East Asia real estate has to offer.”

Over 1,400 nominations were received, with over 300 entries in the hotly contested Best Condominium awards for Malaysia and Singapore.

By The Star

Breaking new ground with The Atmosphere

Artist impression of an aerial view of phase 2E or Lava, of The Atmosphere in Seri Kembangan.

The Atmosphere sets a new benchmark for commercial developments in Seri Kembangan, Selangor with its unique hybrid “shopping mall” design for its 20.1-acre commercial centre, says Tempo Properties Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Khoo Boo Hian.

This commercial centre is the second phase of The Atmosphere, which aims to integrate leisure, retail and office elements in a central hub.

“They are shopoffices but the commercial centre looks and feels like a shopping mall. This hybrid design is unique in Malaysia,” says Khoo.

Khoo: ‘The biggest headache for a commercial development is the car park’.

Khoo points out that the unique design of the commercial centre has resulted in “two ground floors”, with an elevated and landscaped boulevard on the second storey.

“With four-storey shopoffice blocks, usually the top two stories don't carry a lot of value. But with our boulevard level, the third level also becomes a ground floor. People come up to the boulevard level using the escalator, and they can patronise the shops.”

Beneath the boulevard level are two levels of covered car park bays, and it was this design element that led to the creation of the “two ground floors” for the centre.

“The biggest headache for a commercial development is the car park. We were toying around with the idea of a dedicated car park block, which is very inconvenient for people. So we spoke to the architects and authorities. We said ... can we have a situation where we do away with the back lane? So, we covered the back lane. That was how the boulevard level was conceptualised.”

Khoo says this also means patrons of the centre benefit from the covered car park and the open courtyard design with space for events.

Highlights of The Atmosphere's commercial centre include a 1.4-acre public park, covered walkways, public toilets, sheltered boulevards, alfresco plazas, open lawns, an open courtyard design for events, and high ceilings for retail outlets, 22 to 28-feet wide shop frontage as well as the spacious 20 to 30 feet wide walkways.

There are 1,600 covered and open-air car park bays. Areas in the commercial centre are inter-linked via covered walkways, escalators and lifts.

“You can walk from one end to the other without getting wet,” says Khoo.

The Atmosphere's commercial centre, with a gross development value (GDV) of RM370mil, was launched in 2009.

Unit prices ranged from RM1mil to RM4.5mil, and the average selling price was RM300 per sq ft.

Khoo says the 136 units in the earlier launches were sold out, and the final launch (phase 2E or Lava) has a 70% take-up rate.

“Investors have benefited in terms of capital appreciation as the units that have been handed over were sold on the secondary market with almost 100% appreciation in price.”

Phase 2E, which will consist of 54 retail and office units, is expected to be completed by end-2013.

Khoo also points out that phase 2E has a “three ground floors” concept with raised courtyard plazas.

The project also won the category of Best Mixed Use Development in the Asia Pacific region (including 5 stars for Malaysia) in the 2011 Asia Pacific Property Awards 2011 (in association with Bloomberg Television).

It is also the first commercial development in the South Klang Valley to be Green Mark certified by Singapore's BCA (Building and Construction Authority).

Khoo says this will translate into lower water and energy bills and maintenance cost, as well as an enhanced work environment.

“To get the Green Mark certification, we have features like heat reflective polycarbonate roofing from Korea to cover the boulevards, water and electricity saving fixtures and fittings, and reflective glass for the shop offices. Together with disabled-friendly features such as wheelchair ramps and tactile tiles, we spent an extra RM1.5mil. But we felt that it was necessary to enhance this development rather than just building another high-density commercial area.”

Khoo says the commercial centre is a strata-title development, “so investors pay some management fees but they get 24-hour security and tip-top maintenance.”

The Atmosphere has three phases of development, with the first phase being a Giant hypermarket on a nine-acre site.

“The Giant Hypermarket chain bought the land in 2008 for about RM30mil. The hypermarket opened two years ago,” says Khoo.

Another 6.1ha remains to be developed as the third phase on the 53-acre site of The Atmosphere, and Khoo says various options are being planned.

“We are looking at close to a GDV of RM1bil eventually for the 53-acre site,” says Khoo.

Khoo also points out that The Atmosphere is strategically located near to areas such as Prima Tropika, Alam Santuary, 16 Sierra, D'Alpinia, Taman Putra Permai and Taman Equine.

“We are in the heart of the Golden Triangle of South Klang Valley with Puchong, Putrajaya and Seri Kembangan forming the axis.” He says Seri Kembangan is a rapidly growing property hotspot, with high demand for commercial zones.

Khoo cites a Spectrum Research Asia report that last year said the residential population of Seri Kembangan within a 20-minute drive time zone was 1.6 million people.

The project is developed by The Atmosphere Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company that is 60% owned by Eksons Corp Bhd, with the remainder owned by Tempo Properties.

Eksons Corp, which is listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia, is one of the largest manufacturers of tropical thin plywood in the Asia Pacific region.

Tempo Properties provides project management support and expertise.

Being different

Khoo says Tempo Properties is a boutique property developer that aims to create a win-win situation for investors, business owners and patrons in commercial developments such as The Atmosphere.

“We aim to provide investors with something that they don't know they want. We think differently.”

He points out that prices for units at The Atmosphere was the highest for commercial developments in the area.

“Our intention was to set ourselves apart, and come up with something that is unique.”

Tempo Properties has its roots in Yoon Hin Sdn Bhd which is a rice wholesaler in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.

Yoon Hin diversified into property development by setting up Tempo Properties in 1995, and its first project was developing the 48-acre Taman Cenggal Utama near the Seremban International Golf Club in 1997.

Taman Cenggal Utama consisted of 492 units of residential houses and shoplots, and 179 units of low-cost flats.

It was completed at end-2003, and generated sales of RM65mil.

Meanwhile, in the heart of Seremban town, Tempo Properties recently completed the Medan Suria commercial development which consists of 34 units of three and four storey shop offices that generated RM27.5mil in sales revenue.

“With Medan Suria, we became the first developer in Seremban that does not have a back lane for our shops.”

“It took a lot of convincing to get approval from the authorities. Usually, shops have a back lane for rubbish collection. Our reasoning was - in shopping centres, you have food and beverage outlets without any issue. So, why do you need to have a back lane for shops? The project was well taken up, and the authorities were happy with the design.”

It should also be noted that The Atmosphere is adjacent to the 60-acre Taman Prima Tropika residential development, which was Tempo Properties' first foray in Selangor.

Khoo says 470 units of double-storey terrace houses and two-and-a-half storey terrace houses with a GDV of RM180mil have been built in Taman Prima Tropika.

These were launched from 2004 onwards at prices ranging from RM229,000 to RM379,000.

There are 4 ha left for development in Taman Prima Tropika.

Khoo says Eksons Corp and Tempo Properties have another joint venture company, namely Oval Rock Sdn Bhd for property acquisition and development.

Oval Rock is also 60% owned by Eksons Corp, with the balance held by Tempo Properties.

In January this year, Eksons Corp told Bursa Malaysia that Oval Rock had entered into an agreement with Azam Hartamas Sdn Bhd to acquire 22.7ha of leasehold land at Jalan Gombak, Setapak in Selangor for RM17.1mil.

“We might start a mixed development in Gombak in the third quarter of next year. We are also in discussions with a land owner in Cheras for eight acres,” says Khoo.

By The Star

Stratified developments becoming a way of life

As stratified developments become a way a life, good maintenance and management have become an issue.

EARLIER this year, a new set of property managers replaced the previous one in the condominium that Siti lives. Not having a current account, she paid her quarterly management fees in cash. She was told that the receipt would be put in her postbox. It never came and she soon discovered that the property management company had absconded with the money.

As stratified developments which include condominiums, service apartments and gated and guarded projects become a way of life, good maintenance and management have become an issue.

Good management and maintenance will improve the value of the asset. This applies to all segments of the property market, be it residential, commercial or industrial.

Hence, the third reading of the Strata Management Bill 2012 on Monday is crucial, says Assoc-Prof Ting Kien Hwa, head of Centre for Real Estate Research at Universiti Teknologi Mara.

“Currently, property management is part of a service provided by valuers, who are regulated by the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents.

The work of valuers can be broadly divided into three areas property management, valuation work and real estate agency work.

This means that property management is a regulated profession and delinquents risk having their licence suspended.

For the last five to six years, managing stratified properties has become an issue, he says. As more of us live in gated and guarded developments, and high rise condominium and serviced apartments, property management is evolving to become a lucrative industry.

Ting says the Board of Valuers is in the process of creating a third register to accommodate property managers. Valuers and real estate agents are governed by two registers and the Board of Valuers are working on creating a third one for property managers.

Says Ting: “This is a similar situation as in the early 1980s when there were many illegal real estate agents. They were given a one-year period to register with the board.”

Ting says the duty and responsibilities of property managers go beyond just collecting money and managing a property. The word “managing” covers a whole gamut of expertise and responsibilities. These include insurance valuation, the appropriate rate of service charges to levy on owners, managing service providers like security guards and cleaners, gardeners and managing tenants and rental rates among other duties.

Depending on whether it is a residential or commercial property, some issues may overlap.

To claim that valuers want to monopolise the property management industry is incorrect, Ting says.

“Some parties say they want to liberalise' the profession. Just as engineers and architects are regulated by the Institute of Engineers and Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia respectively, so property managers are regulated by the Board of Valuers because property management is part of the work of valuers. This is the situation in the United States, Britain and Australia. Shall we then liberalise' the achitecture and engineering profession by allowing more people who are untrained to practise as architects and engineers because architects and engineers are monopolising' the industry?” Ting asks.

Ting says this argument to liberalise the profession and cut out the monopoly does not hold water at all.

He says there are currently 8,000 trained property managers in the country and every year, 450 more graduates enter the job market.

The local public universities provided courses in property management in the late 1960s because they knew there would be a need for this.

Malaysian Institute of Professional Property Managers president Ishak Ismail says: “The Government was visionary enough to foresee a time when stratified housing will become part of the Malaysian property landscape. The first condominium was Desa Kuda Lari in the KLCC area.

“Today about four million people live in stratified projects. About 80% of all the stratified projects are managed by joint management bodies and management committees. About 20% are outsourced and of this about 58% are managed by illegal property managers.”

Ishak said over and above the various issues that fall under property management, two sets of skills are needed the hard skills in managing the property and the soft skills in people management.

He says there is a need to put in the proper regulations to regulate property managers in order to improve the value of our property assets. There must be no conflict of interest because it involves public money, be it house owners or tenants of commercial properties, he says.

By The Star

Global launch of Battersea project in Jan

SHAH ALAM: SP Setia Bhd will kick off the worldwide launch for the first phase of its Battersea Power Station project in January next year, said its top executive.

"It will be a worldwide launch stretching over a six-month period," SP Setia president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Si told pressmen after the company's extraordinary general meeting here yesterday.

The launch series of the iconic development project in London would start in Malaysia followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei and Indonesia. It would then move to Europe and possibly to the Middle East before returning to Kuala Lumpur once again.

The project's show village and office overlooking the River Thames would be ready by April 2013.

The first phase will consist of 800 apartments above a commercial podium with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of STG1 billion (RM5 billion).

The ground-breaking ceremony for the project is expected to be between July to September next year.

Liew expects a strong take-up rate, given SP Setia's pool of Malaysian and international buyers.

He said the Battersea development will be projected as an international enclave to ensure value appreciation.

According to him, Malaysians would hold not more than 50 per cent of the properties in the project.

"It would not be a kampung Malaysia," he said.

Yesterday, shareholders approved the company's plans to pursue equity funding with a proposed placement of new shares of up to 15 per cent of its share capital to institutional investors, which will be identified via a book-building exercise.

The company could potentially raise about RM1 billion from the placement of new shares.

Liew said the proposed placement would enable the company to raise the necessary funds to part-finance the Battersea Power Station project, as well as be used to fund the development of St Kilda project in Melbourne and the Qinzhou Industrial Park in China.

He also revealed that the company would decide in two months whether to undertake an employees share option scheme or Long Tern Incentive Plan.

By Business Times

Banks should do their part to help aggrieved buyers

It was reported in the news media last month that some house-buyers were conned into buying housing projects that do not exist. If it does not cause revulsion and anger, it must at least be shocking to know that individuals and groups were allowed to sell and build houses without the basic requirement of the law, that is, a developer licence from the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

A slew of professionals from bankers to architects and from lawyers to engineers and the related local councils allowed dozens of unlicensed developers to sell and build houses to the unwary public. At last count, there were 195 abandoned projects undertaken by such “developers” some of whom had built on land which had not been zoned for housing but was still “agriculture” status.

These startling facts were revealed at a high-powered meeting on abandoned housing projects chaired by the then Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan in April this year.

What is more disgusting is that at every step of the way, such a serious breach of the law could have been prevented. Even before the first blade of grass was cut to make way for housing, the flaws were staring in the face of the approving or financing authorities.

Because of the shortcomings of most of them, thousands of innocent and unwary buyers have been left in the lurch. They not only parted with their hard-earned money as downpayment but are also compelled to service their loans for what would have been a roof over their heads.

Lawyers for the deceitful developers prepared those contracts that were not the mandatory sale and purchase agreements regulated by the housing legislation.

Today, they are left in the quandary. Some continue to pay for their rented premises and continue to make monthly payments for their loans with no sight of their dream homes. HBA has been inundated with calls from victims of those ill-fated projects and crying for the Government, Bank Negara and professional boards intervention.

This whole episode yet again reflects the manner in which the laws of the land are not respected and upheld.

Banks and financial institutions (FIs) are so eager for business that they are indifferent to legalities. Their sales and marketing team has a pre-imposed target to meet until loans are disbursed recklessly. The banks implicated should have, as a matter of course, troubled themselves to find out if their transactions are tainted or not.

Saying that only some banks and FIs are involved does not exculpate other member banks and FIs; it is in fact an admission of culpability. Affected banks and FIs should let the public and the affected buyers of unlicensed housing projects know what they propose to do in the dilemma.

Renouncing your security interests in such cases and withdrawing all impending court cases against them would be a good start.

The Association of Bank Malaysia (ABM) should get its members to cooperate with the purchasers to release their security interest on purchaser's property where the purchaser has paid in full. Truth is they don't care that the purchaser has paid if the developer has not with their arguments of “no legal obligations”.

It is surprising that the alarm bells were not triggered when those developers did not produce evidence of the vital Housing Development Project Account (HDA) as required under the law?

It is therefore astonishing to note that those member banks did not do any additional security checks other than to rely on the sales and purchase agreements. Even for projects that are not within the Housing Development Act, the developer must obtain the requisite approvals and licences before being allowed to commence work.

Thus, the banks must surely have their strict criteria to abide by unless the new breed of bankers are not in the know. The issue of breach of fiduciary duty of care (to customer) will surely arise.

Perhaps, the banks should observe a moratorium on interest and instalment owed by nave and innocent victims till the project is revived.

Banks should take a proactive role to make their utmost efforts to revive such projects. Attempts should be made to delist those purchasers/borrowers who are now blacklisted by the banks and may never qualify for another loan! Not even to buy a second hand motor car.

Perhaps, the affected member banks should exercise their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) in this instance far deserving than others. These affected buyers must be assisted in tangible deeds and not merely words.

Chang Kim Loong is the honorary secretary-general of The National House Buyers Association, a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organisation manned by volunteers. For more information, click or e-mail

By The Star

Zelan's share price falls 8.9pc

KUALA LUMPUR: Builder Zelan Bhd's share price fell by as much as 8.9 per cent a day after it said its contract in the UAE for a RM771 million property project was terminated.

The shares, which sunk to an intra-day low of 30.5 sen, closed 2 sen or six per cent lower than the previous day to 31.5 sen.

Zelan on Thursday said the owner of its Meena Plaza mixed development project in Abu Dhabi - Meena Holdings LLC - had given it 14 days' notice of its plan to end the contract via a letter on November 21.

Zelan, which had secured the project in 2008, is taking legal action to challenge the termination.

Zelan, which has been leveraging successfully on its ability to work as a consortium partner to other international players, also has a significant presence in the infrastructure construction sector in the Gulf region.

The Meena Plaza was to be the third building construction project for Zelan in the region.

By Bernama