Singaporean house buyers are returning to the Johor Baru property market after being absent for almost four years.
Their numbers had dropped drastically during the 1998 recession but they are now making a comeback with the strong Singapore dollar and improved economy in the republic. Changes in leadership and improved political ties on both sides of the causeway are also among the reasons for their return.
Johor Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) chairman Steven Shum estimated that as much as 10% of the owners in housing estates around Johor Baru were Singaporeans and about 80% of them were middle-class and above 50 years of age. They are also mostly retiring civil servants. He said professionals aged 35 years to 45 years and looking for a second home were the new group of buyers. “Singaporeans want to have the best of both worlds and Johor is the perfect choice,’’ he told StarBiz.
He said many Singaporeans were attracted to the relatively low cost of living in Malaysia where they could stretch their dollar with cheaper food and shopping.
Although the Federal Government had reduced the ceiling price foreign purchase of residential and commercial properties to RM150,000, Johor remained the only state where foreigners were required to buy at more than RM250,000 each, he said.
Shum urged the state government to reduce this ceiling price so that it could benefit from the current influx of Singaporean buyers. “If Johor does not want to review it, at least it could speed up on the approval process for foreigners, which now takes about three months,’’ he said, adding that states like Malacca, Penang and Selangor as well as the Federal Territory should also take advantage of the pricing factor to attract Singaporean buyers.
He said these Singaporean buyers were mostly owners-occupiers. Some of them live and work in Singapore but spend their weekends or public holidays in their Johor Baru homes. There are also those who stay in Johor Baru and travel daily to Singapore to their offices or to their schools and senior citizens who live here but have families in Singapore.
“Johor should make foreign property ownership rulings more investor-friendly and make Singaporeans and other foreign buyers feel welcome,’’ he said, adding that the state government should cut red tape while the police must monitor the city’s crime situation which has become “quite alarming”.
“Johor must be more pro-active, otherwise, it would lose to other states or even to Batam Island in Indonesia, which are aggressively targeting Singaporean property buyers,” he added.
Pelangi Bhd sales manager Lim Sung Heng said the situation had improved a lot unlike during the economic slowdown when his company had no Singaporean buyers from 1997 to 2001. “Now there would be 20 and 30 Singaporean buyers at every launch. On the average, at least between 10% and 20% of these buyers will end up buying our houses,’’ he said.
He said most of the buyers were middle-aged and near retirement and they would go for double-storey terrace houses especially the corner units and semi-detached houses.
Lim said besides holding property shows every three months at its Plaza Pelangi and City Square shopping complexes, it also holds property exhibitions in Singapore. He hopes that through these exhibitions, Singaporeans would become more aware that the Pelangi Group is a reputable developer and this would build up their confidence.
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