Top 10 things to look out for in a condo

  • Business
  • Saturday, 03 Jan 2015

Nice corridor with good lighting and ventilation.

WITH property prices going sky high in recent years, many people are struggling to buy their first property.

Gen-Y who is currently the generation looking to purchase their first property are often seen in showrooms around the Klang Valley over the weekends. However, not many know what determines a good buy. While there are books available, the knowledge given is often too general and perhaps, not applicable locally. A lack of knowledge and misleading information can lead to painful mistakes.

As MCT group of companies executive director Datuk Danny Goh says, “Any property development – good or bad, can be sold. It is the property buyer who suffers at the end of the day.”

As landed properties are out of reach for most young adults, condominiums are the way to go. This is evident with the number of studios and integrated developments comprising high-rise buildings mushrooming around the Klang Valley.

What are the specific criteria that truly determine a good condominium? As properties don’t come cheap, homework is important so that you avoid a painful lesson.

“I am familiar with all property developments in the Klang Valley,” says Goh. “Property is my passion and I have spent years analysing property and I know what makes good property. It is all merely logic.”

Indeed, many people depend on guesswork and a hunch when buying a condominium. Few know what is truly a good buy these days. Here are the criteria you need to look out for to ensure a solid investment.

In property, good looks count.
In property, good looks count.

1. Attractive facade

Just like first impressions count in people, so does property. You must be impressed at first glance. An attractive facade with elements of luxury and a classy design gives an immediate positive feeling. If you have to convince yourself when looking at a facade for the first time, imagine how a future buyer will feel when you wish to sell it off one day. In property, good looks count.

2. A grand entrance and lobby

Good looks must follow through. High-end condominiums are not the only ones today that come with a grand entrance and lobby. These days, everyone wants to live well. A grand entrance and lobby add tremendous intrinsic and extrinsic value to a condominium and gives residents a sense that the developer cares and respects their buyers.

3. Excellent parking space design

Are cars a hassle to park? Are corners too narrow and are the walls filled with bumps from accidents? Parking spots must be properly designed for the convenience of residents. Some older condos use a multi-storey or a spiral multi-storey carpark. This is not the best choice, simply because it is a daily discomfort for the driver. A basement carpark is most preferable, and the parking space has to be designed to allow for wide turning.

Each car park should measure 3.5m (height) and 2.5m by 5m for comfortable parking. With this size, even a small lorry can park.

But all the ease in parking won’t matter if the parking area is not brightly lit. The parking area must look and feel safe enough for residents to walk about at night. An eerie parking space eats into the safety factor and pulls down investment value.

4. Sunny and luxurious elevators and lobby

If you feel afraid riding in an elevator, chances are you won’t be keen to live there. That’s why elevators must be designed with care. While some developers take on the standard design, a well-designed elevator with a more expensive look, perhaps even a hotel design, will go a long way in giving comfort to the resident. The elevator must be spacious so many can enter at a go and it has to be well maintained.

A see-through elevator is preferable, as this means added security, especially for the lone person riding it at night. There is no sense of being alone as the outside can see inside. Even if the ride is long, the resident is able to enjoy views rather than look at the steely walls of an old lift.

The lobby in which the resident waits for the elevator is of equal importance. If the lobby is dim and lonely in design, even a minute’s wait feels like a long time. However, with a nice and bright lobby, residents won’t have issues waiting even for five minutes.

5. Wide and comfortable corridors

Dark corridors, narrow stretches and a lonely feel are no-nos. Today’s condominium corridors must be wide, preferably with plenty of lighting and ventilation. There musn’t be a dark and dank feel. Residents must be comfortable walking through it whatever the time of day.

6. Practical layout design

You may not notice it, but the best condominiums in town do not stinge on land. Tower to tower distance must be at least 120 ft apart. Towers which are too close give a feeling of high density and claustrophobia. It also looks slightly more barrack-like and less prestigious. Look out also for the air-conditioning compressor. A well thought-out condominium will keep unsightly contraptions out of sight.

7. Practical facilities and big open spaces

When a condominium development has big open spaces, value is enhanced. Condominium land is typically small, and to enhance space, a basement car park is a must. However, the cost of building a basement carpark is high and often developers shy away from it.

“The footprint of the building versus the land should be about 30%,” says Goh. “The open spaces should be reserved for jogging and cycling tracks. Open spaces are a contrast to the tall buildings and this gives far more enjoyment to residents. If the footprint percentage is too high, it becomes too dense and it’s hard for the resident to relax and enjoy.”

Look at the master floorplan of the whole development to gauge the percentage.

8. Sufficient parking ratio

The next time you go to a showroom or visit a property exhibition, ask the salesperson how many parking bays the property has. There must be enough parking space for the residents. Take the assumption that every resident has two cars and do the math. If a condominium has 800 units – it must have more than 1,600 parking bays as visitors have to be catered to as well. Assuming it has 1,300 (and that is very likely) that’s not a good sign.

Residents are unaware that once parking availability is inadequate, problems arise. A look around some existing condominiums is proof. Residents will be forced to park outside – often far away, and jam up the entrance. This equates to bad traffic and poorer security once the number of residents increases.

9. Reasonable maintenance fees and the promise of continuous good maintenance well into the future

When most people buy a condominium, they often hope the number of units is low and equally the maintenance fees. However, this is not the best scenario.

“Maintenance fees are very important because maintaining a condominium is very costly,” says Goh. “If the fees are too low and the number of units is low, there won’t be sufficient funds to maintain the development. A condominium which isn’t well-maintained clearly goes down in value. With low maintenance fees, you need the economies-of-scale to back it up. I recommend looking at a development with a minimum of 1000 units.”

10. Unit must be semi-furnished upon vacant possession (VP)

When a resident moves in, he must be able to switch on the lights and move in immediately. The developer should build a condominium where the main fixtures like lighting, cabinetry and kitchen appliances are all ready.

“For condominiums to sell today, they must be semi-furnished,” says Goh. “From my research, a condominium takes about two to five years before it becomes well-inhabited. This is too long and discouraging for those who want to stay in a thriving development. Often the long process is caused by the renovation works and looking for a designer and contractor. Busy people don’t have the time, and that is why units remain vacant for a long time.”

It’s also common for people to exceed their renovation budget. RM40,000 can become RM100,000 and the result is more stress. When the developer takes away this headache by including the main fixtures, it benefits both developer and resident greatly.

If a condominium is not semi-furnished, residents will have to put up with renovation works by others every few months. Dusty, noisy and unsafe.

When a condominium is semi-furnished, people move in faster and a majority of renovation works are cut down.

Bring this checklist wherever you go and most likely you won’t go wrong.

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