Wooing buyers with new concepts, products


S0 much has changed in Malaysia's property development scene that one may be astonished not only by the new skyline but the different concepts and products that have flooded the market over the past decade. 

One may recall the ubiquitous mixed townships that mushroomed all over the country in the late 1980s to the middle of the 1990s. Back then, buying huge tracts of land seemed the norm but the economic slowdown forced many developers to re-strategise as holding costs were high. Towards the end of 1990, there appeared to be fewer mega townships but more smaller niche developments. 

Following the mid-1997 recession, affordable housing was the watchword. Now it's gated and guarded residential communities. So from the property mantra of location, location and location now it's location, concept and branding. 

The past few years saw the advent of hypermarkets, more exclusive residential enclaves and larger condominiums. The bungalows and shop offices are also back, some reporting good sales.  

An interesting concept is the two-in-one home suite office like the Seri Bukit Ceylon duplex business suite in Kuala Lumpur. Every suite is designed with the lower level as a sophisticated SOHO (small office, home office) complete with broadband Internet access. 

The others include:  

l One-stop centres: Of late the retail scene is aggressively promoting “one-stop” centres again. One of the latest is the Asean Bazaar at the lower ground level of the City Square shopping centre. The 10,000-sq ft (formerly occupied by Toy r Us) centre is opening soon. Rental is RM1,500 to RM2,800 for a 100-sq ft space and RM800 per month for a 6ft by 3ft kiosk. Other centres include Jaya Jusco's Home Centre and the Eneous car centre in 1 Utama and the All IT Hypermarket on the third floor of Low Yat Plaza, billed as the largest computer retail outlet in Malaysia. However, some “one-stop” centres like the ones at the Ue3 shopping centre in KL have failed. 

l Guaranteed Rental Returns: The GRR schemes are back! Prior to the last recession there were many schemes where purchasers were promised attractive, guaranteed rental returns.  

However, following the property market crash several years ago, many serviced apartments and bungalows that were leased back to developers to be rented out as holiday resort units suffered low occupancy rates. Many developers were also in deep financial difficulties and could not fork out the money to make good their pledge.  

The current GRR schemes appear to boost sales. For example, purchasers of the Villa D'Savoy condopark (priced from RM143,900 to RM290,900) in the A'Famosa Resort in Malacca are guaranteed 50% rental return over five years. 

Purchasers also get a host of freebies including free exclusive memberships worth RM95,000 to the resort's golf club, Animal World Safari, orchard, Flying Club, Water World and Equestrian Club. There are also free incentives worth RM27,960 like 14 days' free stay per annum for five years, free legal fees for the sale and purchase, and loan agreements. 

Similarly, buyers of the CintaAyu resort apartments in Pulai Springs Resort in Johor Baru are promised a 10% annual GRR or 60% over six years.  

Purchasers would also get free furniture and fittings, free bank interest during construction period, free legal fees for the sale and purchase agreement and bank loan agreement, seven nights' free stay per year of tenancy, seven nights' free stay at the resort's Anugraha, a tropical resort boutique hotel (when their units are under construction) and resident's golf membership. 

It is important for purchasers to check out whether a GRR scheme is viable by looking at the developer's track record, the location and current occupancy rates (if any) of its existing accommodation.  

l Cash Back Guarantee: This is another fairly new product that has spurred an increase in land values and created prime locations practically overnight, following a rush to grab these “too good to be true” investments.  

Developers of such schemes give an assurance in the form of underwriting from financial institutions. Started from the Klang Valley, the concept spread to other towns. Keris Properties Sdn Bhd launched a cash back return scheme for its freehold County Valentine properties in Ipoh, Perak, this year. Its tagline is: Buy a property and own it for Free! 

l Serviced apartments/suites: There is also a current trend to build serviced apartments not only in the inner city but also in new growth areas. This product is attractive to single professional, young married couples with small families as well as college students and outstation workers. Some of them boast a resort flair and are generally bigger than the last generation of serviced apartments. 

Among recent launches are the Heritage at the Mines Resort City (South Lake), Amcorp serviced suites, Sunway Lagoon Resort Suites, Windsor Tower, Mayfair Place (dubbed as Johor's best luxurious serviced apartment), and Millennium Place in Section 14, Petaling Jaya.  

Sales of the fully furnished Sunway Lagoon Resort Suites launched about two months ago had been brisk. Checks showed that all the bigger units (of 853 sq ft) had been sold. They are priced from RM265,880 to over RM500,000 with size from 456 sq ft.  

Buyers get free service fee for the first year, free seven nights' stay for investors, free Sunway Lagoon Club membership, free entrance to Sunway Lagoon Theme Park and 5% guaranteed return per annum for the first two years. 

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