HOW time flies. Before we know it, many of us, including this writer, have hit the magical age of 55 and suddenly we find ourselves at a crossroads, eager to take on new challenges.
Having been a property columnist for the past 18 years and a journalist for 33 years, it is time to pause and make a brief observation of the housing industry over the past 20 years.
There are too many things to discuss in one article, but I am glad to note that thanks to keen competition, the housing industry has evolved from merely catering to the mass market to undertaking niche developments and over the past two decades, have seen new designs and concepts introduced not only for residential but also commercial properties.
Developers, conscious of the need to fulfil the requirements of a very discerning house-buying public, have made many improvements.
This include giving quality ceramic tiles and timber strips replacing old-fashioned broken marble and parquet, double-volume ceiling height to houses and some offices, high ceilings (some 14ft high) to even link houses to give them a majestic look, and more interesting facade and interior layout.
Eco-friendly homes (like those in Mulpha's Leisure Farm Resort in Gelang Patah, Johor, whose Pinggiran Bayou Village Homes won the FIABCI Malaysia Property Award 2007 for best residential development (for low-rise category) and “back to nature” themes have become very popular, especially among the younger generation who have grown up in barrack-styled houses.
Gated and guarded communities, green street concept (underground cabling), and zero-lot concept have mushroomed over the past decade.
And in recent years, the Safe City concept where CCTV cameras and other security surveillance systems are incorporated into a development have become the trend in view of the rising crime rate.
One of the companies that embraced this concept is Brunsfield, which has teamed up with Sime Darby Property in projects such as Oasis Ara Damansara in Selangor to provide top-notch security in its developments.
Asian Pac Holdings Bhd's RM1bil KK Times Square in Kota Kinabalu also set new industry benchmarks with many features such as ventilation fans and air wells in the basement car park, many CCTV cameras, double-volume ceilings and chimneys for its ground floor shop lots.
One thing good has also come out of the last recession. The house buying public has become more discerning and, with so many new developments, can afford to pick and choose.
Gone are the days when only a few big names dominated the industry.
Today, many of these big players, especially those that have failed to deliver, are gone.
In their place sprouted a new breed of caring developers such as SP Setia, Bukit Kiara Properties, YTL Land, Gamuda Land, Mulpha Land, Sunrise, Dijaya Corp, Mah Sing, Ken Holdings, KIP, Ireka, Mitraland, Sunway City, Glomac, E&O and Perdana Parkcity, to name but a few, which have helped to raise industry standards.
They have come out with innovative ideas, vastly improved the quality of their products and tirelessly branded themselves not only for the local but international markets.
In the process of promoting their brand names, the developers have added value to their products and improved the image of the industry that was once badly hit by shoddy workmanship and abandoned projects.
The “bad boys” just cannot survive in today's demanding market.
SP Setia has spearheaded its signature town parks in all its township projects in the Klang Valley and Johor.
Under the stewardship of group managing director and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, SP Setia has grown by leaps and bounds.
Older players such as Sime UEP Properties, Hap Seng Land, Berjaya, I&P and TTDI Development are re-branding themselves.
Sime UEP, a household name since the 1960s, has been re-branded under Sime Darby Property, a regional giant.
Meanwhile, Hap Seng Land, a household name in Sabah, will be the company to watch as it spreads its wings to Peninsular Malaysia, bringing with it some 30 years of experience in property development in East Malaysia.
An important gauge of a development's success is its capital appreciation and rental yield. In this respect, I foresee the next winning UPS (unique selling point) is to have a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) status. It is the way to move forward.
One company that has the foresight to work towards an MSC status for its project is I-Bhd.
Its proposed i-City, Selangor's first cyber centre with MSC status in Shah Alam, is testimony of a bold private initiative that will bring enormous benefits to its investors.
With rapid modernisation and transformation of the working and living environment, an MSC project will particularly appeal to foreign companies who expect world-class physical and IT infrastructure. Hence offices in i-City will have a true plug and play experience.
Companies, especially foreign start ups, can save time and money from hiring staff to support their infrastructure, and there will be no long waiting period to get services such as telephone numbers and broadband.
I-Bhd is offering an advanced ICT infrastructure that is at par with developed countries.
Upon completion in five years, i-City will create 50,000 jobs for knowledge workers.