Chow Chee Wah
Gamuda Bhd executive director
STARBIZ: What is your outlook of the property sector for the second half of 2005?
Chow: We are optimistic that the property market will be able to sustain the moderate growth it has enjoyed in the first half of 2005. The industry is still able to keep buying interest strong and with positive factors such as urban migration, easy financing facilities and competitive mortgage rates, the outlook remains positive.
The growing affluence of our population and increase in foreign investments of our properties will further encourage sustainability in the Klang Valley corridor. The real test will be in our ability to rise above a rapidly competitive market, rising costs of building materials and petrol.
StarBiz: What are some of the opportunities and challenges for the sector, going forward?
Chow: The challenge is in creating product differentiation. In a market now inundated with similar concepts, or seemingly similar concepts, it will take a developer who has that unique differentiating factor to stand apart from the competition and command market share.
The investing public and homebuyers have become selective and cautious as they have a wide array of choices in the market. The present situation is one of a buyers’ market where supply exceeds demand and this allows buyers the luxury of choice and time to decide on a property purchase.
There would be a need for creative and innovative ideas, not only in development concepts, but also in marketing strategies that would have to entice buyers. Quality concepts, design quality, infrastructure, facilities, pricing and location are key considerations that will determine buyers’ preference.
There is great potential in niche and high-end developments. A new breed of affluent homebuyers is emerging. Their need is for a lifestyle environment and they place aesthetics over hard brick-and-mortar. In our up-market Valencia development, privacy and exclusivity factor highly on their priority list. At Kota Kemuning, our properties sell close to 20% more than surrounding developments because of our quality in concept, design and infrastructure. This speaks for the growing demand for upper middle and upmarket products.
Moving forward, we will continue to build on our Gamuda Land brand of 4 Quality Pillars (Design Quality, Communities & Facilities, Healthy Lifestyle, Safety & Security) to provide homebuyers with well-planned, unique and value-added townships. We are confident our sound strategies will take us through the coming years.
StarBiz: What are some of the major government policies and happenings in the economy and the property market that have contributed to the industry’s performance?
Chow: The property industry is increasingly becoming an investment industry as it provides more stable returns as compared with the fluctuating stock market and low fixed deposit rates. It was, therefore, a right move by Bank Negara in maintaining low mortgage rates as this has encouraged investors to consider properties as alternative investments. The industry, of late, has also been duly excited over the REITS incentives, which are stimulating interest in the otherwise dull commercial sector.
StarBiz: What would you like to see happening that would contribute to better opportunities and a more robust property market?
Chow: We look forward to positive government policies that will help generate more growth in the property market. These are in the relaxation of regulations and processes on acquisition of leasehold properties, and the acquisition of properties by foreigners. Shortening the approval process can help speed up property sales transactions – for example – shortening the approval process for consent to transfer and discharge charge, and simplifying the process on foreign purchase of properties under the “Malaysia, My Second Home” scheme.
StarBiz: Which property sector and market offer the best potential for your company?
Chow: Gamuda Land’s niche is in lifestyle residential townships. We have always believed that the house buyer should not just buy a roof over his head. We plan and design our townships into lifestyle environments to offer quality design, quality infrastructure and complete with an extensive range of facilities and amenities. Our ultimate objective is to provide for sustainable communities and we ensure that infrastructure, facilities and amenities are well designed to meet the community’s requirements over the years.
Of our three developments, Kota Kemuning and Bandar Botanic are mixed projects, offering homes across the range of middle, upper middle and upmarket products; and Valencia offers only upmarket homes. But our brand of lifestyle is the hallmark of all three.
We believe that our financial strength and sound management will augur well for us as we tap further opportunities and areas of growth as in our recent joint venture with UEM Land for a project in Bandar Nusa Jaya in Johor.
StarBiz: What are some of the interesting property launches that can be expected from your company in the coming months?
Chow: Our strategies have always been to take bold initiatives, while mindful of meeting customers’ needs. We were the first to develop lifestyle townships in a big way. For example, in Bandar Botanic, the lifestyle theme was designed around resort living with a luscious environment of theme parks, lakes and gardens and a full-fledged range of community, recreational and healthy lifestyle facilities and amenities.
Transformed from a golf course land, Valencia was ingeniously designed into a 9-hole private golf course residence (the only one of its kind in the country) and is today reputed for its very exclusive, cosy and friendly community lifestyle.
Our challenge now is to take the industry to another level. We are adopting a daring build-and-sell approach. Having reached a level where we are totally confident in the quality of our projects, we will build selected precincts even before we open these up for sale. With this, home buyers can readily see what they are buying into. Our high-end lifestyle development, Valencia, will continue to offer innovative products, one of which will be SOHO homes to meet the growing number of expatriate residents who work from home.