Investors step up demand for branded residences in Southeast Asia

/ EdgeProp Singapore
September 27, 2019 12:00 PM SGT
There are only about 120 branded residences in the Asia-Pacific region, and demand for properties in this niche is increasing among luxury property buyers who view them as a step up from typical luxury properties on the market, says Joanne Kua, managing director of KSK Land. The Malaysian developer is behind 8 Conlay in Kuala Lumpur, one of the newest branded residences in Southeast Asia.
Located within the prime Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), 8 Conlay by KSK Land is an integrated development with a nine-storey retail podium, two high-rise residential towers (Towers A and B) containing 1,062 apartments and a hotel tower branded Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
8 Conlay by KSK Land comprises a Kempinski serviced branded residence, and the first Kempinski Hotel in Kuala Lumpur (Picture: KSK Land)
The residential towers will feature branded residences called “YOO8 serviced by Kempinski”, with interiors in Tower A designed by Hong Kong-based designer Steve Leung, while those in Tower B are designed by UK-based interior designer Kelly Hoppen for YOO. The firm YOO is in turn a partnership between international property developer John Hitchcox and designer Philippe Starck.
The first residential tower (Tower A) at 8 Conlay was launched in early 2016, and more than 75% of the 564 units has been sold. The remaining units in the tower have been set aside for “bumiputra” homeowners. The second residential tower (Tower B) comprising 498 units was launched for sale last September and is 30% sold. The entire development is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Affordability, product differentiation

Close to 25% of the buyers are Malaysians, with buyers from China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore making up the majority of the foreign buyers, says Kua. Buyers of branded residences are buying into the service and luxury lifestyle associated with the brand; for instance, Kempinski, which reflects old-world glamour, she adds.
Compared to prices of branded residences in Singapore and Bangkok, most buyers feel that those in Kuala Lumpur are the most affordable now, says Joanne Kua, managing director of KSK Land (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
At 8 Conlay, the residences comprise one- to three-bedroom units of 700 to 1,300 sq ft. Prices are at an average of RM3,350 psf ($1,102 psf). “Luxury property prices in KLCC are still relatively affordable compared to cities like Singapore and central Bangkok, and [residents] can still get the expected level of quality and service,” says Kua.
To attract buyers, developers have to focus on carving out a niche for themselves because buyers today want products that are different, observes Kua.
Malaysia’s capital city has been struggling with unsold residential properties, especially high-end homes, for several years. According to National Valuation and Property Services Department estimates, unsold inventory increased by 30% y-o-y to 32,313 residential units at the end of 2018. High-end residential units accounted for 43% of the unsold stock and were concentrated in Perak and Kuala Lumpur.
“Developers must start differentiating themselves to give a reason for buyers to pick their products,” she notes. “This is the reason why sales at 8 Conlay have been growing strongly, and why the market for branded residences is on the rise.”
Branded residences are usually associated with luxury and premium hotel brands, such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, St Regis, Kempinski Hotels, and Mandarin Oriental.

Central locations, key cities

Most buyers of branded residences want to be in central locations and in urban cities where the property market is already mature, and when they consider the serviced residences market in cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore, they find that KLCC is probably the most affordable at the moment, says Kua.
The residences of 8 Conlay comprise one- to three-bedroom units of 700 to 1,300 sq ft, and KSK is marketing units at an average price of RM3,350 ($1,102) psf (Picture: KSK Land)
The first hotel-branded residential development in Singapore is the 173-unit St Regis Residences located next to St Regis Singapore, in the prime Cuscaden Road-Tanglin Road neighbourhood. Launched in July 2006, the project was completed in 2008. Units sold have averaged $2,427 psf, based on caveats lodged from March 2018 to July 2019.
Meanwhile, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, a boutique standalone residential development with just 58 units, saw five transactions last year, with units sold at an average price of $3,461 psf. The project was launched in December 2007 and completed in 2011. Debuting in Singapore is the Pullman Residences Newton on Dunearn Road.
Meanwhile, The Residences at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which is the first Mandarin Oriental-branded residences in Southeast Asia, is more than 85% taken up. The 146-unit luxury residences saw units sold at prices starting from THB47 million ($2.12 million or $1,515 psf) for a 1,399 sq ft, two-bedroom unit to THB450 million ($20.3 million or about $4,961 psf) for a penthouse of 4,090 sq ft.

Health and wellness components

KSK Land’s Kua believes that a growing trend in upscale residences is the incorporation of health and wellness components as part of a mixed-use development. And those are the components she will be including in her next development in Klang Valley. “Seniors are living longer and the young want to live healthier,” she says. “We used to talk about green buildings and sustainability, but today the conversation is about how we can embed wellness into residences.”
For now, her focus will still be on the RM4.5 billion 8 Conlay, which will establish KSK Land’s legacy in upscale integrated residential developments. This makes the developer “an ideal partner given its ability to innovate and walk the talk”, she adds.
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