Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and MCC Singapore sign deal for $2.6 bil Johor property venture

Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and MCC Singapore sign deal for $2.6 bil Johor property venture

iskandar waterfront mcc singapore - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE

The joint venture agreement was inked virtually by director of IWH Hj Mohd Noorazam Bin Hj Osman and CEO of MCC Singapore, Tan Zhiyong (Photo: Danga Heights Development)

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Danga Heights Development, a subsidiary of Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH), has formed a joint venture with MCC Singapore, a subsidiary of Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), to co-develop Danga Heights.

Danga Heights is situated on 60ha of prime commercial land in Skudai, which is adjacent to Danga Bay and Skudai Highway, located about 15km away from Johor Checkpoint building.

The development is estimated to yield a gross development value of RM8 billion ($2.6 billion). It is one of the largest foreign direct investment deals in Iskandar Malaysia since the Covid-19 outbreak began. Development will happen in a few phases.

The first phase involves the constructing a mixed-use development on 38ha of land, which will have a gross development value of about RM2.88 billion. Construction is slated to begin early next year.

The joint venture agreement was inked virtually by director of IWH Hj Mohd Noorazam Bin Hj Osman and CEO of MCC Singapore, Tan Zhiyong. The ceremony was also streamed live on Facebook.

In a speech during the ceremony, Tan says that Danga Heights will also benefit from the cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Singapore and Malaysia, which will be operational by the end of 2026. Additionally, it will be near to “affluent households and high density of businesses” due to its proximity to nearby EduCity and Medical City, where renowned universities and medical institutions have set up their branch campuses. 

He also mentioned that Danga Heights will also focus on the development of e-commerce-related industry chains in line with the overall goal of developing Smart City Iskandar Malaysia, and create entrepreneurial platforms for start-ups and SMEs. “It will be the first future community in Johor Bahru that applies 5G to integrate smart facilities,” he adds. 

MCC Singapore has developed and project managed 15 residential projects in Singapore since 2010. It is currently developing JKT Living Star in Jakarta and Sky Villa in Cambodia.

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Lofty living at Southeast Asia’s tallest towers

Lofty living at Southeast Asia’s tallest towers

On a clear day, residents at The Astaka will have unobstructed views of Johor Bahru city, the Straits of Johor and Singapore from the sky gar- den on the 66th floor, says Zamani bin Kasim, CEO of Astaka Holdings, an integrated property developer in Iskandar Malay- sia that is listed on the Catalist Board of the Singapore Exchange.

The Astaka is a twin-tower luxury residential development comprising two towers of 65 and 70 storeys. With the 70-storey tower soaring 1,020 feet (311m) above sea level, it is said to be the tallest residential tower in Southeast Asia.

 

View across Johor Bahru to Singapore from the 66th floor sky terrace (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Located at One Bukit Senyum, The Astaka is less than 1km from the Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex as well as the future Rapid Transit System (RTS) station. In the future, it will take less than a minute to drive from the CIQ complex to The Astaka via a 200m dedicated underground tunnel, says Zamani.

Even from the lowest level — the seventh floor — apartments offer unobstructed views of the city, says Zamani. This is evident from the views from the 2,659 sq ft, four-bedroom show suite on the seventh floor, which has been purchased by Zamani.

 

The Astaka contains 438 luxury residences, with units starting from 2,207 sq ft for a typical three-bedroom apartment to 2,659 sq ft for a typical four-bedroom apartment. Each floor contains four units — two three-bedroom and two four-bedroom apartments — and each comes with private lift access. There are six duplexes of 5,554 sq ft each and two penthouses of 11,000 sq ft each.

 

Even from the lowest level - a four-bedroom show suite on the seventh level - residents enjoy unblocked views of the surrounding area (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

 

The lobby of The Astaka or "Royal Pavilion" with marble-clad walls and flooring (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

To appeal to the indulgent, the walls and flooring of the grand entrance lobby and common areas at The Astaka are clad entirely in marble. “We designed the main reception area to be equivalent to that of a five-star luxury hotel,” says Zamani.

All the units are fitted with Gaggenau kitchen appliances, Hansgrohe shower and Duravit bathroom fittings and accessories.

 

A total of 319 units (73%) were sold as at end-November. About 50% of the buyers so far are Singaporeans. Many of them bought the apartments for their own use — either as their primary residence or a second home. “We built The Astaka for Singaporeans,” says Zamani.

 

Facilities include sky lounges (pictured), cigar room and entertainment rooms (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

 

 

Private dining room with attached 'live kitchen' for residents who want to engage a chef for the evening (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Instead of a 30- to 40-storey, high-rise residential towers, Zamani decided to develop a super-tall structure and “position the 70-storey tower as the tallest building in Southeast Asia”. Beyond height, he also raised the bar in terms of product and price. “Many people were sceptical whether we could sell units at prices starting from RM2.1 million then, but we were 70% sold prior to completion,” he says.

Unlike many projects in Iskandar Malaysia that have yet to get off the ground, The Astaka was completed six years after it was first conceptualised in 2012.

To hold the load of the towers, bore piling for the foundation was up to a depth of 92m. “It’s the deepest bored pile in Johor Bahru,” says Zamani. “Overall, we put in 13.5km of piles to hold up these towers.”

 

Zamani: We built The Astaka for Singaporeans (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Wind tunnel tests were undertaken and the structures were reinforced at the 35th level. “There’s very little movement in windy conditions, and we even took into consideration risks such as earthquakes during the piling stage,” says Zamani. Japanese construction firm Penta-Ocean Construction Co was engaged for the foundation works. The company was also involved in the construction of ION Or- chard and The Orchard Residences, Arts Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands and The Esplanade Theatres by the Bay.

Construction of the two supertall residential towers at The Astaka cost about RM850 million, says Zamani. The Astaka sits on the site that was formerly occupied by the Hockey Stadium and Johor Bahru Indoor Stadium. The developer was given privatisation rights to build on the site in 2012. In return, it built a new hockey and indoor stadium on another piece of land identified by the government.

 

The Astaka, with a 65- and 70-storey tower, with the latter considered the tallest residential tower in Southeast Asia (Photo Credit: Astaka Holdings)

Even while it was constructing The Astaka towers, Astaka Holdings went ahead with the master plan for the rest of the integrated development on the 11.85-acre site at One Bukit Senyum, which will include a luxury hotel, serviced apartments, a Grade-A office tower and a lifestyle retail mall. When completed in 2021, the mixed-use development will have a gross floor area of 6.6 million sq ft and gross development value of up to RM5.3 billion. It will be Johor Bahru’s new central business district when completed.

Near the entrance of The Astaka, construction is already underway for the development of the 15-storey Menara MBJB, which is scheduled for completion in December 2019. It will be the new headquarters of the Johor Bahru City Council.

Astaka Holdings is also developing a 363- acre strata township, Bukit Pelali, near the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex in Johor Bahru.

 

Entrance to one of the towers at The Astaka, which will be part of a massive integrated development (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Formerly known as Astaka Padu Sdn Bhd, Astaka Holdings was listed on SGX Catalist in November 2015 after a reverse takeover of E2 Capital Holdings.

For now, Astaka Holdings is focused on selling the remaining units at The Astaka and completing the new headquarters for the City Council at One Bukit Senyum. It has engaged international shopping centre special- ists McArthur + Co to conduct a market feasibility study for its lifestyle mall at One Bukit Senyum. Projects that McArthur + Co has been involved in include the master plan of Smart City Korea, Deira Waterfront in Dubai and Lifestyle Centre at Bahrain Marina Bay.

According to Zamani, there are also plans to develop a 200,000 sq ft convention and exhibition space at One Bukit Senyum, and Suntec Singapore has been engaged to conduct a market feasibility study.

Once the market studies are completed, Astaka Holdings will engage a professional operator for the mall and convention centre. They will in turn be working with the appointed architect on the design plans and construction of the buildings. “We are good developers, but we want to find the right people to manage these various components,” says Zamani. “We are looking for strategic partners to take a stake in the company too.”

 

 

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Somerset Puteri Harbour investors frustrated with returns

Somerset Puteri Harbour investors frustrated with returns

 

Singaporean Victor Ng remembers the first time he cast his eyes on a potential investment in Iskandar Malaysia: It was Somerset Puteri Harbour in Iskandar Puteri (formerly known as Nusajaya) at a weekend preview in early February 2012. It was not an impulse purchase, he says. Before the purchase, he had visited the site and other projects launched in the area. “I felt that Puteri Harbour was an up-and-coming area,” Ng tells EdgeProp Singapore in a recent interview.      

 

Ng:  I felt that Puteri Harbour was an up-and-coming area (Photo Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

About 120 out of 132 units offered for sale under a sale-and-leaseback scheme were snapped up at roadshows in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur over a fortnight, according to a report by The Edge Financial Daily in Feb 24, 2012. The rest were purchased after that. A majority of the buyers (about 80%) were said to be Singaporeans.      

Somerset Puteri Harbour is a 204-unit serviced apartment project located on the waterfront at Puteri Harbour in Iskandar Malaysia. Units ranged from studios, and one- to three-bedroom apartments measuring 762 to 1,496 sq ft, to penthouses from 3,650 sq ft. Prices of units sold ranged from RM720,000 to RM4.5 million, or an average of RM900 psf. Upon completion, these apartments would be managed by The Ascott — the serviced residence arm of Singapore-listed CapitaLand — for the first 10 years. Under the leaseback agreement, investors were offered a guaranteed rental return (GRR) of 5% for the first two years after completion.       

Ng paid RM982,669 for a 1,178 sq ft, two-bedroom serviced apartment at Somerset Puteri Harbour, which he purchased off-plan. Another investor who purchased a unit at launch was Singaporean Peter Lim. “I was attracted by the Somerset brand and the reputation of the developer, UMLand [United Malayan Land], he adds. “I also liked the harbourfront locale, which is very niche, and very scarce.”  

Somerset is one of the brands under Ascott Ltd, the serviced residence arm of Singapore-listed property group, CapitaLand. Ascott has a third-party management contract with UMLand to manage the operations of Somerset Puteri Harbour. “For third-party management contracts, our scope is confined to managing the operations of the properties on behalf of the property developers,” says an Ascott spokesperson in an email response.  

         

The 204-unit Somerset Puteri Harbour, where 132 units were sold with a leaseback agreement for 10-years (Photo Credit: Ascott)

 

Other than the 132 units offered for sale and leaseback, another 72 units facing the marina at Somerset Puteri Harbour were sold as condominium units without a leaseback agreement. The project was marketed by Nusajaya Consolidated, a 50:50 joint venture between UMLand and UEM Sunrise. Clear Dynamic is a subsidiary of Nusajaya Consolidated, and was set up for the purpose of the leaseback administration. Many of the buyers of Somerset Puteri Harbour purchased their units from marketing agent Norman Sia of NS Global, which has since closed its Singapore office.     

Back then, many of the investors of Somerset Puteri Harbour went to NS Global’s office in Singapore to sign the sale-and-purchase agreement. It was only when they did so that they were given the leaseback agreement to sign as well. “There were three big chunks of documents,” says Ng. “Obviously, we didn’t have time to run through the entire three sets of documentation there and then. It caught us by surprise and we didn’t want to risk losing our option money.”   

 

In hindsight, 2012/13 was the peak of the property market in Iskandar Malaysia. Puteri Harbour was perceived to hold the most promise: Positioned as an integrated waterfront and marina development by master developer UEM Sunrise, it spans 688 acres (275ha) in the 24,000 Nusajaya precinct, which has since been renamed Iskandar Puteri.      

Puteri Harbour appealed to many Singaporean investors and developers then, as it was a waterfront residential enclave that has many of the attributes of Sentosa Cove, but at a fraction of the land and property prices. The properties there are freehold, unlike those in Sentosa Cove, which are 99-year leasehold.    

 

Puteri Harbour appealed to many Singaporean investors and developers then, as it was a waterfront residential enclave that has many of the attributes of Sentosa Cove, but at a fraction of the land and property prices (Photo Credit: Victor Ng)

 

The location of Somerset Puteri Harbour is ideal, as it is just a stone’s throw away from Legoland and an indoor theme park featuring popular children’s cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty, Thomas and Friends, Barney and Bob the Builder. It is within a 20-minute drive of the Second Link and a 25-minute drive of Johor’s Senai International Airport.     

“Puteri Harbour was meant to be an area of intense development and strong growth,” says Dennis Ng, group managing director of UMLand. “We believe the Puteri Harbour area will continue to improve as more residents move in. With the availability of Grade-A office space and other facilities in Medini, which is just a 10-minute drive away, more businesses will also move there.”

 

From 2011 to 2013, there was a lot of excitement about greater connectivity between Singapore and Malaysia. For instance, the Singapore- Johor Baru Rapid Transit System (RTS Link) was announced in 2010 and, in January this year, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing of a legally binding bilateral agreement for the RTS Link, together with then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Istana.     

The Singapore terminus for the RTS Link is to be located at Woodlands North station on the Thomson-East Coast Line, while the Johor Baru terminus will be at Bukit Chagar near JB Sentral, connecting with the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) station. The RTS Link is expected to ease congestion at the Causeway by 15%.       

 

The RTS Link from a new Woodlands North MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line is expected to ease congestion at the Causeway by 15%. (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)       

 

“To me, the biggest change is the RTS Link, which will reduce congestion in the two existing areas — the Causeway and Second Link,” says UMLand’s Ng. “The dream of living in Iskandar and working in Singapore is viable again. There are a lot of residents who moved in because of the schools, but you still need businesses and supporting facilities to come in before more people move in.”     

In 2013, the buzz was the high-speed rail (HSR) between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which would offer a 90-minute travelling time. The designated Singapore terminus for the HSR was in Jurong East. Another proposal to ease traffic congestion was a ferry service from Singapore’s HarbourFront Centre to Puteri Harbour, where there are already customs checkpoints in place. However, the HSR has since been deferred and the ferry service, a moot point.      

 

Somerset Puteri Harbour rode the ups and downs in Iskandar Malaysia. The project was completed in November 2014, more than a year after the scheduled completion in 2013. The GRR commenced in March 2015. Typically, hotels take two to three years for their operations to stabilise. The GRR was designed “to help smooth out the cash flow during the initial years”, adds UMLand’s Ng.       

During the two-year GRR period, the 5% returns were promptly paid. For a typical unit, it was RM7,552 bimonthly, or RM3,776 a month. The last payment of RM7,552 was received in January 2017 for December and January.      

 

Somerset Puteri Harbour rode the ups and downs in Iskandar Malaysia (Photo Credit: Alpha Marketing)

 

When the GRR period ended in February 2017, the investors did not hear from Clear Dynamic or UM Land. “For the first six months after the GRR, they just stopped paying us, but they didn’t tell us why,” says Simon Poh, one of the investors who spoke to EdgeProp Singapore. “They just didn’t communicate with us. We were left in the cold as to what was happening until a few of us contacted them and arranged for a meeting to find out what was going on.”      

Poh and a business partner had made a joint purchase of a one-bedroom unit at Somerset Puteri Harbour for about RM906,000. “It’s been one year and nine months since the end of the GRR period,” he says.     

A summary of bimonthly net rent paid to an owner over the 18-month period from March/ April 2017 to July/August 2018 came to a total of RM8,472.87 received. Based on the purchase price of the unit of RM982,669, the annualised return over one year is 0.57%.      

On months when the rents are negative, the losses accrued are deferred to the future when profits are made.      

 

Investors of Somerset Puteri Harbour who purchased units under the leaseback scheme decided to call for a meeting with representatives of UMLand, Clear Dynamic and Ascott to discuss how the returns post-GRR could be improved. The first meeting was held on July 19, 2017. A second meeting was held on Oct 24, 2017. In late December 2017, the owners set up the Leaseback Owners Committee (LOC) to liaise with representatives of UMLand and Clear Dynamic. Since February this year, a bimonthly meeting has been held at Somerset Puteri Harbour with representatives of UMLand and Clear Dynamic, along with an Ascott representative.     

“I requested for that,” says one Mr Chan, an investor in Somerset Puteri Harbour. “Fortunately, the managing director of UMLand, Daniel Chan, is a forthcoming and reasonable man. At these bimonthly meetings, at least there is communication. There is usually a group of four or five of us who actively participate in these meetings.”     

 

Singaporean investor Ng looking at his investment in Somerset Puteri Harbour (Photo Credit: Victor Ng)

 

According to an email dated Oct 29 from Clear Dynamic to investors, Somerset Puteri Harbour had “gone through a bad time” in 1Q2018 and 2Q2018. As gross operating profits were low, not all the owners’ expenses could be covered, resulting in “no distribution” to investors.     

Cumulative losses after taking into consideration owners’ expenses amounted to RM603,367.92. The losses would then be deducted progressively — at RM100,000 a month from October 2018 to June 2019, where the final deduction of RM103,367.92 would be made.     

 

“We are trying our best, and we have gone to the extent of subsidising the returns for now to make it easier for the investors,” says UMLand’s Ng. “Even the operating expense is advanced by us, and we won’t claim it back until times are better. We know the property could be performing better if external factors improve. Puteri Harbour is a beautifully master planned area that is still in the process of being fleshed out.”

For instance, a Khazanah-linked company owns three blocks of retail, shopping arcade and F&B space at Somerset Puteri Harbour. It has remained hoarded up. “We have been trying for years to get them to open,” says Ng.

 

Khazanah-owned retail block was hoarded up for many years (Photo Credit: Victor Ng)

Nearby, Pan Pacific Serviced Suites at the Puteri Cove mixed-use development is scheduled to open in 2Q2019. It will have 205 studios and one- and two-bedroom serviced suites in the third tower of Puteri Cove, developed jointly by Pacific Star Development and DB2. The Puteri Cove project also comprises two other 32-storey residential towers with a total of 658 units; four low-rise SOHO blocks; and a lifestyle retail centre fronting the marina. The two residential towers have already obtained Certificate of Completion and Compliance, and is about 80% sold.      

The retail centre at Puteri Cove is expected to open in 2Q2019, with the Pasar gourmet market as an anchor tenant. The One°15 marina operator at Sentosa Cove, SUTL Group, will be opening its sales gallery for its marina operations in Puteri Harbour: the private marina in Puteri Cove and a third marina for super yachts.      

Some projects in Puteri Harbour have been delayed, says Edmund Tie & Co (ET&Co) CEO Ong Choon Fah. “The postponement of the HSR project has indirectly affected some of the projects located near the proposed station in Iskandar Puteri. For now, the lack of clearer policies from the new government has left uncertainties in mega developments such as Forest City. However, properties that are located in mature areas or near public transport still offer good investment in the long term.”      

Ong adds that Puteri Harbour has a great waterfront lifestyle offering for residents, complete with hotels and indoor theme parks. It is also an ideal place for families with children. “However, more needs to be done — public spaces to encourage place-making — to generate higher visitor traffic and more business for the precinct. Similar to the Business Improvement District in Singapore, a special body can be set up where owners, developers and other stakeholders work together to increase the vibrancy in Puteri Harbour.”

 

ET&Co's Ong: Some hotels do enjoy high occupancy rates during weekends, as Singaporeans always fancy a weekend getaway across the Causeway. The occupancy rate is also contributed by locals who visit family or friends in Singapore but prefer to stay at hotels in Johor because of the cheaper room rates (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

From 2015 to 2017, the number of hotel rooms in Johor Baru grew 15% to 12,300. Most of the existing hotel supply is in the mid-scale segment with 66% share, says HVS in a report on July 3.     

Based on data published by Tourism Malaysia, hotels in Johor had an average occupancy rate of 57% from January to March. Meanwhile, the occupancy rate for five-star hotels was 40% from April to June; 45% for four-star hotels; and 68% for three-star hotels, according to ET&Co.     

“Some hotels do enjoy high occupancy rates during weekends, as Singaporeans always fancy a weekend getaway across the Causeway,” says Ong. “The occupancy rate is also contributed by locals who visit family or friends in Singapore but prefer to stay at hotels in Johor because of the cheaper room rates.” Location and accessibility to amenities like public transport, eateries, and shopping centres is important. For example, Amari Johor Bahru and Suasana Suites Johor Bahru enjoy good occupancy rates because they are easily accessible via public transport and surrounded by shopping malls and F&B outlets, observes Ong.    

Nevertheless, with the increasing competition from Airbnb catering to large groups of family or friends, it could affect both hotel room and occupancy rates, concedes Ong. For a group of six that would like to stay in Johor Baru city centre over the weekend, Airbnb offers a list of apartments or condominiums in the range of RM200 to RM500 a night, while a serviced apartment by an operator can be priced at more than RM700 a night.      

On weekdays, however, hotel occupancy rates in Puteri Harbour are a little more challenging. “The hotels and serviced apartments in Puteri Harbour also face competition from condominium owners who put their homes up for short-term stays on Airbnb and other similar platforms,” says Chee Hok Yean, regional president of HVS Asia Pacific. “For long-term stays, there’s competition from houses near the area.”  

 

    

GRR schemes are offered to attract investors from Singapore and other countries to help increase the take-up rate in these projects. “Few projects offering GRR have been very successful, though,” says ET&Co’s Ong (see table).      

“Generally, the schemes are applicable for investment properties for recurring income such as hotel or resort properties, serviced apartments, SOHO and student accommodation.     

“Cautious steps have to be taken by buyers, especially in the signing of the agreements. The sale and purchase agreement is covered by the Housing Development (Control & Licensing) Act, but the GRR schemes are not governed by the Act. There are some cases where buyers sued the developers for not giving their promised rental return.”     

Peter Lim, an investor of Somerset Puteri Harbour, is well aware that such leaseback schemes have lower rental returns after the GRR period. “But I am only expecting reasonable returns, for instance, 2.5% to 3% after the initial two-year GRR period,” he says. “This is less than the 4.7% mortgage interest I’m currently servicing.”     

He estimates his returns to be 0.5%, a far cry from the 5% during the GRR period. Other investors are also frustrated by the returns. As such, they have grouped together to engage law firm Shearn Delamore & Co in Malaysia to issue a letter of demand to Clear Dynamic on Oct 8. According to the letter of demand, “the rental returns after the guarantee period were unreasonably and inconceivably negligible”. The owners wanted Clear Dynamic to get Ascott to “promote and market the serviced residences and deliver reasonable returns”. They have also requested for a net return of at least 2.8% a year on their investment, stipulating that it be made within three months.     

Clear Dynamic, through its lawyer Soh Hayati & Co, replied on Nov 1 that they “strongly deny” the allegations made. They also point out that the investors had agreed to accept the conditions of the S&P agreement and those spelt out in the leaseback agreement “on a willing buyer, willing seller basis”. Through its lawyer, Clear Dynamic also added that the minimum net return of 2.8% “is without any justification”, and that it is not obliged to deliver those returns within the stipulated timeframe.      

The investors’ lawyer responded on Nov 12 with another letter, in which it stated that, given the returns, Clear Dynamic was “expected to review the management agreement and take necessary steps to remedy the situation, and explore the possibility of a replacement service provider if necessary”.    

 

Many of the investors at Somerset Puteri Harbour say a major factor in their decision to purchase was the brand.      

“While Somerset is a trusted and established brand, investors need to look at factors beyond that,” says ET&Co’s Ong. “These are some of the risks that investors have to consider; there’s no guarantee of profits and returns.” When buying overseas, one has to consider currency risks as well, adds Ong. “If you buy in a foreign country, you will be treated differently. When investing, you have to think of the exit strategy.”     

UMLand’s Ng believes things are starting to look more positive in Iskandar Malaysia. A new attraction, Sea Life Aquarium, will open at Legoland Malaysia in Medini, which should boost tourism, he adds. Although there was a lull after the shooting of two seasons of Marco Polo, the Netflix television series, more movies and television series will be shot at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in the coming year. “This will be positive for hotel rooms in the Puteri Harbour area, but the returns will be visible only further down the road.”

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The high life at a low price

The high life at a low price

A decade ago, Jerry Tan would never have imagined himself marketing a Malaysian property development, much less living in one. Last year, he did just that when he moved into his new six-bedroom villa at Emerald Bay in Puteri Harbour, Iskandar Malaysia.

“If it wasn’t Emerald Bay, I wouldn’t have been interested,” says Tan, speaking in the comfort of the spacious living room of his home while enjoying a glass of Prosecco.

 

The first phase of 82 homes at Emerald Bay fronting the water have already been completed, with keys handed over to the buyers (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

In an illustrious career spanning three decades, Tan carved a niche for himself as an impresario of luxury property marketing. He founded JerryTan Residential or JTResi, with executive directors Jason Tan and Eckardt Caius (previously known as Khaiz Noor). He has handled the sales of some of the most expensive homes in Singapore — including The Marq on Paterson Hill, Goodwood Residence and The Nassim — as well as set record prices for these projects.

When Tan received the key to his villa at Emerald Bay early last year, he was feted by an entourage of 15 representatives from the developer, Haute Property, a 60:40 joint venture between BRDB Development and UEM Sunrise. Tan was the first buyer of a villa at Emerald Bay in 2012 when it was just a vision presented by the developer. “There was nothing to see then — just an empty piece of land and no waterway,” he recounts.

He chose his villa based on the site plan. “I love cul-de-sacs,” he says. He did not mind that the house number was 4. “No big deal,” he says. “In Sydney, the number of our house is 18.”

 

The living room and kitchen of Tan’s house at Emerald Bay (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Tan and his partner Caius intend to make Emerald Bay their primary residence in the coming years. For now, it will be their second home. They have even applied for and obtained Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) status. “It’s good for 10 years,” says Tan. “When we come in, we no longer have to stamp our passports.”

The cancellation of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project “is inconsequential”, says Tan. “The people who buy homes in Emerald Bay are not interested in public transport.”

 

 

Tan (right, with Caius): I just love it here. It’s about living close to nature, and the water is teeming with marine life.(Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

For Singaporeans such as Tan, the lure of Iskandar Malaysia is its proximity to Singapore and the ability to stretch one’s dollar. For instance, in 2012, the same year that Tan and Caius purchased the villa at Emerald Bay for RM6.08 million, the pair also picked up a four-bedroom apartment of close to 1,600 sq ft on Alexandra View, in Singapore’s city-fringe area. It was a high-floor unit with sweeping views and was intended to be the pair’s “city apartment”.

However, having decided to move to Emerald Bay instead, they sold the apartment on Alexandra View in February this year for $2.92 million. The decision to move to Iskandar Malaysia was obvious, says Caius. “For the budget we had — $3 million — where can you live in Singapore? Even a 99-year leasehold, four-bedroom unit on the city fringe costs $2.9 million today.” The villa at Emerald Bay sits on a freehold site of about 6,300 sq ft.

The house spans three floors and has a built-up area of about 6,000 sq ft. There are six bedrooms, of which five are en suite. The house comes with a built-in platform lift, a swimming pool, fully equipped wet and dry kitchens, fully fitted bathrooms as well as a private berth.

 

The master bedroom with a view (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Before moving in, the couple decided to renovate the villa to suit their needs. They spent RM1.5 million ($503,618) in that effort. The basement level was enclosed and air-conditioned, with one room converted into a sports bar and the other, a formal dining room. The car porch was extended and a side entrance was created so that the pool man and gardener need not have to enter the house.

 The melamine kitchen countertop was replaced with marble. The mechanical and electrical system was changed, the air-conditioning units were replaced, and one of the bedrooms was converted into a private cinema. Another RM250,000 was spent on landscaping. 

Apart from the home entertainment system in the private cinema that was installed by the vendor from Singapore, the renovation works and most of the other furnishings were locally sourced. Tan was recommended to visit Maestro Perfect Home Store in Johor Bahru, and he engaged them to customise the leather lounge set in the living room and the recliners in the private cinema.   

 

One of the six-bedrooms have been converted into a private cinema (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

“The materials were imported but everything was locally made,” says Tan. “We were quite surprised at how good they were. It’s really about stretching the dollar here.” This is despite the ringgit having strengthened about 4% to RM2.98 against the Singapore dollar compared with RM3.11 a year ago.  

In Singapore, the equivalent of Emerald Bay is Sentosa Cove, where all the residential properties, including the waterfront villas, are 99-year leasehold. The latest transaction of a villa at Sentosa Cove was for a detached house on Paradise Island that sits on an 8,170 sq ft site. It was sold for $12 million ($1,469 psf) at end-May.   

 

The staircase at Tan’s house with its plantation shutters (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

In fact, the developer of Emerald Bay had modelled the waterfront development after Sentosa Cove. The master-plan architect for Emerald Bay is world-renowned WATG, the architectural design firm behind the Shangri-La Maldives, Four Seasons Dubai Jumeirah Beach and The W Singapore Sentosa Cove.   

At 111 acres (44.9ha), however, Emerald Bay is just 38% the size of Sentosa Cove. Sentosa Cove sits on 117ha of reclaimed land and has a total of 2,000 luxury condominium units and 300 houses. The RM4 billion Emerald Bay, on the other hand, will have a total of 1,649 homes, including 250 houses, to be built in 12 phases over the next eight years.

Haute Property spent at least RM60 million on the infrastructure of the waterfront development, including building a canal to channel water from the sea into the development, as well as lock gates to control the water level. The canal, which ranges from 30m to 60m wide, took 1½ years to build. It links Emerald Bay to the open sea as well as Puteri Harbour, where there is a Customs, Immigration and Quarantine checkpoint.   

 

Street view of the completed houses at Emerald Bay (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Tan is looking forward to the ferry service from Singapore’s HarbourFront terminal to Puteri Harbour, which has yet to take off. “My mahjong friends can then take the ferry from Singapore to Puteri Harbour and I can pick them up from there,” he says. It’s just a five- to 10-minute drive from Puteri Harbour to Emerald Bay.   

Tan is impressed by the marine life at Emerald Bay. “I just love it here. It’s about living close to nature, and the water is teeming with marine life,” he says. Since moving into his new home, Tan has not only been visited by his “mahjong party friends” from Singapore but also by a pair of otters, a giant iguana and several ducks.   

 

Tan was recently appointed chairman of the joint management committee at Emerald Bay. He considers himself a “resident agent”, as he has been appointed a marketing agent for Emerald Bay by the developer. Of the 82 houses in the first phase, only two villas, two terraced houses and a handful of semi-detached houses are still available for sale, he says.   

The next phase to be launched is an island of 12 houses, which will be ready in the coming months. These 12 houses will be priced between RM12 million and RM17 million. Another phase of 37 to 40 houses is in the pipeline, with houses priced in the RM10 million to- RM11 million range.   

Tan intends to showcase the next phase of Emerald Bay in Singapore towards end-July. This will be followed by a roadshow in Jakarta and Hong Kong.   

According to Tan, having experienced the entire process himself, he will be in the best position to advise potential international buyers — from purchasing to financing, applying for the MM2H scheme and furnishing their new home at Emerald Bay. “And I can show them my house,” he adds.   

 

The side access leading to the swimming pool and the garden (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore) 

 

Having turned 60 six months ago, Tan has decided to opt for a simpler life, without compromising on his lifestyle. That prompted the move to Emerald Bay. “We have settled here comfortably,” he says. “In a short time, we’ve already discovered where to eat, where to shop, and it’s amazing what you can buy online.”

For now, Tan and Caius intend to maintain their primary residence, located at Changi Grove, in the eastern part of Singapore. The couple purchased the freehold property in 2007 and redeveloped it. The house, which Tan and Caius have named “Pondok Indah”, sits on a 6,253 sq ft site and has a built-up area of about 6,000 sq ft, which is similar in size to the villa at Emerald Bay. The Singapore household currently includes two domestic helpers, two dogs and a cat.  

Tan and Caius spend at least two days a week at their new home at Emerald Bay, which they have also named Pondok Indah. They intend to hire a third domestic helper solely for the house. They are shopping for a boat next. “What’s the point of having a private berth if you don’t have a boat?” Tan says.

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Lure of a comfortable, semi-retired lifestyle at just $1,500 a month

Lure of a comfortable, semi-retired lifestyle at just $1,500 a month

Boaz Boon believes that living a semi-retired life is not just for the very rich in Singapore. He sees it as something within the reach of most Singaporeans. In fact, based on his estimates, one can live quite comfortably on a monthly income of $1,500 — by stretching the dollar across the Causeway.   

“At $1,500 a month, one can barely make ends meet in Singapore,” says Boon. It amounts to just 55% of the median monthly income from work per household member in Singapore, which, according to the Department of Statistics, was $2,699 in 2017. A monthly income of $1,500 in Singapore would mean living in “relative poverty”, as it is less than 60% of the median income, going by the definition of the United Nations Department Programme.   

 

Boon: At $1,500 a month, one can barely make ends meet in Singapore, but one can live comfortably across the Causeway (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

After spending 15 years with CapitaLand, where his last position was head of research, Boon left and founded Thred in 2016. The firm specialises in real estate and design thinking. Boon is also a director of VestAsia, where he heads the real estate advisory business.   

On his decision to give up his corporate job, he says: “After I turned 50, I decided it was time to quit the rat race.”   

 

Boon spends part of his time in Johor Bahru, in a newly completed semi-detached house on Jalan Bijaksana, an established upper-middle- class housing estate.   

 

The rebuilt semi-detached house in the established estate of Jalan Bijaksana, Johor Bahru, is inspired by the colonial black-andwhite
bungalows in Singapore (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

In Singapore, he and his wife live in a comfortable executive apartment in Choa Chu Kang that they purchased in 1998 and designed to suit the needs of the family. Boon and his wife have two adult sons.   

According to Boon, driving time is just 25 to 35 minutes door to door from his home in Singapore to the one in Johor Bahru. He likes the flexibility of taking off to Johor Bahru for a short break and returning to Singapore for meetings and business engagements. And he does not have to give up holidays in Europe either. In fact, he now has more time for holidays.   

The house in Johor Bahru is Boon’s childhood home. His parents purchased the property in 1965 for just RM18,000. After Boon’s father passed away in 2006, he tried to persuade his mother to move into a condominium, but she refused. “She has known the neighbours for many years and they are also retired,” says Boon. Across theroad is a retired doctor who has been a neighbour and friend for decades.

 

The enclosed patio of the house has white brick walls and terracotta floor tiles (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Since she did not want to relocate, Boon persuaded her to let him rebuild the house to suit her lifestyle and needs. The entire process — from tearing down to rebuilding and furnishing the interiors — took nine months. The house was completed in time for Christmas in 2016.   

The new four-bedroom house sits on a freehold site of over 4,000 sq ft. Boon engaged his Johor Bahru childhood friend, who is an architect, to design the property. His sister in Kuala Lumpur, who has experience working for a construction company, also helped in supervising the construction and paying the contractors.   

 

The kitchen island has become the favourite gathering point for the famiy (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

“The inspiration for the house was the colonial black-and-white bungalows of the past,” says Boon. It reminds him of the colonial house in Ulu Tiram where his parents first lived and where he was born. To create a harmonious streetscape, the authorities had stipulated that all the houses on Jalan Bijaksana have to be single-storey. However, the architect created more space by adding a mezzanine floor at the rear of the house.    

This allows Boon’s nephew to have his own apartment on the second level of the house — complete with its own living room, master bedroom with en suite bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. It also allows the addition of a fourth en suite bedroom and a family room, which can be turned into a bedroom when there is a spillover of house guests. The creation of the mezzanine floor means the first level enjoys a double-volume ceiling. Having a pitched roof added to the colonial feel of the house. A skylight was included to bring natural light into the middle section of the house.   

 

The reception area and living room is separated by sliding glass doors (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

The house was extended outwards to accommodate a bigger living area and patio. The kitchen has also been extended to create a dry and wet kitchen, as well as a spacious utility and laundry area.   

On the first level of the house are three en suite bedrooms. The windows on the mezzanine level feature plantation shutters, similar to those of colonial bungalows and conservation shophouses, Boon says. To complete the colonial black-and-white bungalow look, the whole house — both its interior and exterior — has been painted white, with black trims. Even the bamboo chicks are painted in black and white stripes.    All in, Boon estimates that he spent less than $400,000 in redeveloping the house. “What’s important is that my mother enjoys the house and there’s enough space for the entire family to gather together during festive celebrations such as Christmas and Chinese New Year,” he says.   

 

The gramaphone table (above) in the living room that has been restored and repurposed (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore) 

Many of the pieces of furniture in the house have been restored and repurposed. These include an old gramophone table, a Singer sewing machine, a coffee table and Peranakan display cabinets. “Furniture restoration in Johor Bahru is extremely inexpensive, and the guy is so good, I call him the ‘resurrector’,” says Boon.   

Furniture shops that Boon discovered in Johor Bahru include Actally, Commune Furniture and Kian Contract. He purchased several lounge chairs and the entire dining set from Kian Contract after he learnt that the company had designed all the furniture for Pollen, a restaurant at Gardens by the Bay.   

A statement piece is a chandelier Boon purchased from a shop in Balestier. He got the inspiration from the cylindrical lights he saw at the Colony restaurant at luxury hotel Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore.   

 

The 'Colonial style' lampshades that were made in Johor Bahru grace the side tables at the reception area of the house (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

In the reception and living areas are table lamps purchased from Lim’s Art in Singapore. As Boon could not find the lampshades he wanted, he tried to get them made. “In Singapore, the art of lampshade-making is gone,” he laments. He chanced upon a shop selling lampshades while at Holiday Plaza Mall in Johor Bahru, located just a five-minute drive from his home. He showed the lady at the shop a picture of the lampshade he had in mind — “something colonial”, he said. It turned out that the shop made lampshades for the British India lifestyle brand and was able to create the ones he wanted.   

Boon’s house has two 10-blade ceiling fans, smaller versions of the ones at MRT stations in Singapore. “The guy at the shop said they were very expensive, but I was prepared to pay,” recounts Boom. “He told me they cost RM1,000 ($335) each and I said I would take them.” He had them installed at the reception and living areas, and they are ideal, as they are quiet and effective in cooling the space, he explains.   

“It’s amazing what you can find here, and they are all at a fraction of the cost in Singapore,” says Boon.   

 

Double volume ceiling and skylight (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Boon reckons that some locals have returned to Johor Bahru to start their own businesses after having worked in Singapore. Some Singaporeans have also been lured by the cost-savings of starting a business across the Causeway. These entrepreneurs have rejuvenated many of the older neighbourhoods in the city, such as Taman Molek, which is near Boon’s home.   

For instance, the Yummy Nasi Lemak restaurant in Taman Molek is operating in a converted office building. It serves not only nasi lemak but also traditional Nonya kueh, and even has space for cooking classes.   

Chef Toast in Taman Molek looks like a typical shophouse unit from the outside. The proprietor was trained by a German pastry chef when he was working for a hotel in Singapore. Later, he decided to return to Johor Bahru to start his own business. Besides coffee and toast, he also makes all kinds of artisanal bread, which go for RM5 a loaf. “It’s interesting to find these hole-in-the-wall places that offer great food at such attractive prices compared with those in Singapore,” says Boon.   

 

Hole in the wall places with great food, and at a fraction of the cost in Singapore (Credit: EdgeProp Singapore)

 

At another coffeeshop, a young man is busy making coffee. There are people queueing up patiently, waiting for their turn. “He may not be a certified barista, but he’s probably better than most because he’s been doing it every day for so many years,” says Boon.   

There are also new malls in Johor Bahru, such as Paradigm Mall, and the biggest Ikea store in Southeast Asia, as well as Aeon Tebrau City. They are located just a 20-minute drive from Woodlands across the Causeway.   

 

A quiet rejuvenation is taking place in some of the old estates like Taman Molek in Johor Bahru (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore) 

 

While the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project may have been scrapped, the Rail Transit System linking Woodlands in Singapore and Johor Bahru has not been derailed. And that is what many Singaporeans are looking forward to. “[The RTS] will increase accessibility and allow more people to explore the flexibility of living across the Causeway and working in Singapore,” says Boon.   

One need not buy a property in Johor Bahru or elsewhere in Iskandar Malaysia to enjoy the semi-retired lifestyle. “You can just rent,” says Boon. Listings of newly completed terraced houses in developments in Johor Bahru and other parts of Iskandar Malaysia have asking rents of RM1,000 to RM3,500 a month. Studio apartments of about 560 sq ft are available for rent from RM950 a month, while three-bedroom apartments are from RM1,700 a month. “These are asking rents, which are usually negotiable because there’s a lot of supply and so many choices for potential tenants,” he adds.   

With the exchange rate for the Singapore dollar still attractive at $1: RM2.98, it makes sense for those who want to lead a “simpler, semi-retired life”, says Boon. It is one he is certainly enjoying.it.   

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Iskandar Malaysia’s property market could take a hit

Iskandar Malaysia’s property market could take a hit

With the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) aborted, Singapore’s Jurong Lake District could lose some of its shine. However, the ramifications for Iskandar Malaysia in Johor could be more far-reaching.

After all, Iskandar Malaysia — which is three times the size of Singapore — was always regarded as Singapore’s potential hinterland. The HSR would have been instrumental in completing that connection.

The planned HSR project has seven stations in Malaysia: Bandar Malaysia, followed by Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri, before terminating in Jurong East, Singapore.

Iskandar Malaysia has been suffering from a glut in high-rise condominiums and lacklustre sales since Malaysia introduced property cooling measures in 2014. The HSR and the station at Iskandar Puteri would have been a much-needed shot in the arm to revive its fortunes.

 

Traffic congestion at the Singapore-Johor Bahru Caseway (pictured) and the Second Link will persist without the high-speed rail (Credit: Bloomberg)

 

REDISCOVER SINGAPORE

 

Rediscover Jurong East Today!

#FINDYOURSPOT in our beloved city island

 

Now that the HSR has been derailed, “there will definitely be a negative impact on sentiment and property demand”, says Ryan Khoo, director and co-founder of Alpha Marketing, which specialises in marketing property in Iskandar Malaysia. “Many people in Iskandar and the rest of Johor will be disappointed if the HSR is cancelled, as the economic impact of the HSR is large.”

Khoo adds that many business plans and investment decisions made by foreign companies and individuals depended on the HSR’s coming online. The project was first announced in February 2013. “Plans laid out over the past five years have now been affected,” he says. “Singaporeans and Malaysians working in Singapore will also be disappointed that hopes for improved connectivity are again at risk. Traffic on the Causeway and the Second Link is already so bad.”

Developers with projects in Iskandar Malaysia — from Malaysian developers to those from China, Singapore and elsewhere — “are all disappointed”, says Khoo. “It is a setback for Iskandar Malaysia if the HSR does not go through.”

Khoo says, however, that there has been no official cancellation of the HSR at this point. “We only have Prime Minister Mahathir making his preferences known and he has admitted as much that he has not fully understood the implications of cancelling the HSR, nor has he discussed it with the Singapore government.”

Following Mahathir’s comment to the press on May 28 that he intends to scrap the HSR connecting the two countries, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport responded with the following statement: “Singapore has not yet received any official notification from Malaysia. We had agreed to proceed with the HSR project based on mutual benefits and obligations set out in the HSR bilateral agreement. We will wait for official communication from Malaysia.”

The Singapore government will have to find an alternative use for the land designated for the HSR if it falls through. “Property prices in Jurong are not so dependent on the HSR’s presence,” says Khoo. “The HSR would, however, have had a large positive impact on Iskandar Malaysia’s relatively smaller economy. I think the bigger loss is to Iskandar, and the other smaller cities where the HSR would have a station, such as Batu Pahat, Muar, Melaka and Seremban.”

Some developers have been marketing Iskandar Malaysia projects based on their proximity to the HSR station. “The real estate hype might be affected in the short term,” says Boaz Boon, founder and principal of THRED and director at VestAsia Group.

Malaysia’s new Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on May 30 that the government has agreed to continue with the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Johor Baru and Singapore’s Woodlands North MRT station, “but wants to look at ways to lower costs”.

If the frequency of the RTS is increased, “that will further enhance Johor Baru’s attractiveness” for those who work in Singapore but are considering a second home in Johor Baru, says Boon. The attractiveness of Iskandar Malaysia has always been its proximity to Singapore and the exchange rate between the Malaysian ringgit and Singapore dollar. “That attractiveness will remain,” adds Boon.

As for the halt in the HSR project, Alpha Marketing’s Khoo says: “The hastiness in which comments are made on the HSR is very disruptive and confusing to the local businesses, economy in Iskandar and Singapore.” He believes the Malaysian government has to do a thorough study of the pros and cons, and read the cost-benefit analysis of these various projects and details of the bilateral agreements signed “before making any further decisions or announcements”.

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Sentimen positif dari Singapura membanjiri Iskandar

Sentimen positif dari Singapura membanjiri Iskandar

Pacific Star Development, sebuah perusahaan yang terdaftar di Singapura, meluncurkan fase tersisa akan pengembangan unggulannya, Puteri Cove Residences dan Quayside di Pelabuhan Puteri Harbour senilai RM 1.75  miliar.

 

Seorang pakar IT berkewarganegaraan Singapura, Crystal Lai menantikan untuk segera pindah ke unit kondominum barunya di Puteri Cove Residences, proyek unggulan Pacific Star Development.

 

Lai berniat pulang-pergi kerja dengan berkendara setiap hari, yang diperkirakan memakan waktu selama 30 sampai 40 menit dari hunian barunya di Puteri Harbour ke kantornya yang berlokasi di Tuas — jumlah waktu yang sama yang akan dia habiskan untuk bepergian dari rumahnya saat ini yang berlokasi di Jurong  ke CBD atau Orchard Road.

 

Puteri Cove Residences dan Quayside di Pelabuhan Puteri Harbour (Foto: Pacific Star Development)
 

Sebagai keutungan lainnya, dia dapat menikmati kualitas hidup yang dia idam-idamkan di Singapura — “tetapi, seperlima harganya”, ujar dia. Apartemen dengan tiga kamar tidur yang memiliki luas sebesar 1.200 m2 , dibanderol RM 1,7 juta sampai RM 1,8 juta di tahun 2015.  Dengan tambahan kurang dari $ 100.000, Lai akan menghuni unit pilihannya yang dilengkapi dengan furnitur sesuai dengan tema pilihannya, “elegance”. Total paket untuk unit yang dilengkapi dengan perabot lengkap seharga kurang dari $ 620.000, berdasarkan kurs tukar saat ini $1 = RM 2,96.

 

Memenuhi kebutuhan

 

Dengan biaya tersebut, Lai akan menerima kondominium premium dengan status hak milik (freehold tenure) serta pemandangan kolam renang yang spektakuler, marina, dan laut lepas. Dia menantikan untuk menjamu teman dan keluarganya di hunian barunya — ada delapan ruang serbaguna di Puteri Cove Residences — beserta 30 fasilitas beragam mulai gym, kolam renang seluas 50m dan kolam jacuzzi, hingga lapangan tenis dan taman lanskap.

 

Sebuah momok bagi apartemen kosong —yang menunjukkan tanda kelebihan pasokan — terus menghantui Iskandar Malaysia, akan tetapi Lai percaya bahwa Puteri Cove Residences akan menunjukkan hasil yang berbeda. Keyakinannya bersumber dari fakta akan banyaknya orang yang seperti dia, termasuk teman-temannya yang juga telah membeli beberapa unit di Puteri Cove Residences untuk dijadikan tempat tinggal. “Saya rasa ini akan membuat cukup bersemangat”, imbuhnya. Daerah Puteri Harbour mengingatkan dia akan Singapura, yaitu infrastrukturnya, tetapi lebih tenang, tambahnya.

 

Ruang duduk mewah di Puteri Cove Residences (Foto: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
 

 

Apresiasi modal

CEO Pacific Star Development (PSD), Glen Chan merasa telah membuktikan kebenaran bahwa Puteri Cove Residences telah diselesaikan: Bulan ini, menara kembar bertingkat 32 yang terdiri dari 329 unit masing-masing telah memperoleh Sertifikat Penyelesaian dan Sertifikat Kepatuhan (Certificate of Completion and Compliance – CCC), setara dengan Izin Huni Sementara (Temporary Occupation Permit - TOP) di Singapura. Sejauh ini, 80% dari unit tersebut telah terjual.

 

Ketika Puteri Cove Residences diluncurkan pertama kali pada Oktober 2013, harga rata-rata unit tersebut RM 1.250 psf yang harganya lebih tinggi dari beberapa proyek-proyek yang diluncurkan setahun sebelumnya. Misalnya, harga pada beberapa pengembangan di Medini, pusat kota Johor Bahru dan tempat lain di Puteri Harbour saat itu senilai RM 700 psf. "Beberapa pembeli tergoda oleh harga yang lebih rendah," ujar Chan. 'Saat ini, beberapa proyek itu masih dibanderol seharga RM 700 psf. Itu membuktikan kalau membeli dengan harga murah tidak selalu menjamin apresiasi harga produk tersebut."

 

Di samping itu, permintaan harga di Puteri Cove Residences saat ini berada di kisaran RM 1.400 sampai RM 1.600 psf. "Jika Anda membeli properti unggul, itu memiliki nilai kelangkaan," kata Chan.

 

Chan: Pembelian properti unggul memiliki nilai kelangkaan (Foto: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
 

Untuk pembeli awal Puteri Cove Residences seperti orang Singapura yang bernama K S Leong, itu adalah kabar baik. Leong membeli unit apartemen dengan tiga kamar tidur dengan luas sekitar 1.200 kaki persegi (sq ft) di lantai 13 Tower 1  empat tahun yang lalu. Dia membayar unit tersebut sekitar RM 1,6 juta (RM 1.333 psf). Meskipun dia tidak berniat menjual unit tersebut, dia senang mengetahui bahwa dia mendapatkan keuntungan di atas kertas.

 

Sejak awal, Leong sudah berniat membeli unit di Puteri Cove Residences sebagai rumah saat akhir pekan untuk keluarganya, karena ia memiliki dua anak kecil.

 

Paket furnitur dengan 11 tema

 

Sementara Leong menyadari bahwa dia membayar dengan harga lebih tinggi untuk unitnya di Puteri Cove Residences, dia merasa itu merupakan "hal yang baik". Bagaimanapun, properti itu nantinya akan diserahkan kepada dia sepenuhnya dengan tema "Marina" yang telah dia pilih. "Itu menambah kenyamanan," kata pria berusia 45 tahun itu. "Ini tidak seperti beberapa proyek lain di Malaysia yang pernah saya lihat, yang lantainya belum rampung dikerjakan, dapur belum sepenuhnya dipasang dan ubinnya dibuat secara lokal. Sebagai orang asing, jika kita menginginkan finishing yang berkualitas lebih baik, kita tidak tahu caranya mencari kontraktor dan mungkin harganya lebih mahal kalau membuat sendiri. "

 

Semua unit akan datang sudah dilengkapi penuh dan berisi perabotan, yang boleh dipilih dari paket furnitur 11 tema (Foto: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
 

Menurut Chan dari PSD, pembeli Puteri Cove Residences terdiri dari 28 warga negara. Sekitar setengah dari mereka adalah warga Singapura, yang mana 70% dari mereka menyatakan bahwa mereka membeli unit untuk mereka gunakan sendiri  —  baik sebagai tempat tinggal utama, seperti Lai, atau sebagai rumah di akhir pekan, seperti Leong. Sedangkan sekitar 20% pembeli merupakan orang Malaysia, diikuti oleh orang Indonesia (11%) dan orang Korea, yang mencapai 5% sampai 6% namun merupakan yang tercepat pertumbuhannya.

Karena mayoritas pembeli adalah orang asing yang Pacific Star telah memutuskan untuk menawarkan pilihan paket yang sudah tertata dan terisi oleh perabotan (furnishing) dengan 11 tema, di antaranya: Bali, Bondi, Elegance, dan Marina. Adapun harga paketnya berkisar dari $ 60.000 sampai $ 100.000.

 

Hak Milik (Freehold), sebagian kecil harga Sentosa Cove

 

Puteri Harbour merupakan jawaban Malaysia akan Sentosa Cove Singapura, sebuah permukiman tepi pantai yang melayani pembeli hunian internasional yang kaya raya. Meskipun harga Sentosa Cove telah melunak, berdasarkan nilai tukar, harga di Puteri Cove Residences masih sepertiga dari produk serupa di Sentosa Cove. Pembangunan Sentosa Cove semuanya berstatus sewa (leasehold) untuk 99 tahun, sedangkan Puteri Cove Residences berstatus hak milik (freehold tenure).

 

Kolam renang tanpa batas di Puteri Cove Residences (Foto: Pacific Star Development)

 

Transaksi terakhir di Sentosa Cove adalah sebuah unit dengan tiga kamar tidur seluas 1.711 kaki persegi di The Oceanfront, yang berpindah tangan seharga $ 2,9 juta ($ 1.694 psf), menurut sebuah surat protes (caveat) yang diajukan awal bulan ini.

Di Puteri Cove Residences, unit tiga kamar tidur yang tersisa di Tower 1 — di lantai 26 dan dengan area seluas 1.750 ft2 dan pemandangan indah 270o yang dihargai sekitar RM 3 juta.

Sebuah pengembangan campuran (mixed-use development) yang menghabiskan dana RM 1,75 miliar berdiri di atas lahan hak milik seluas 340.000 kaki persegi yang menghadap ke marina, Puteri Cove Residences hadir dengan podium komersial bertingkat lima yang dinamakan Quayside. Ada 56 SOHO atau kantor kecil/rumah kantor, unit di tiga lantai atas serta 78 unit strata ritel dan unit F & B di dua lantai bawah. Quayside juga memperoleh CCC bulan ini.

 

Ruang surat/dokumen yang di desain seperti brankas safe deposit box di bank (Foto: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
 

Pengembangan campuran (mixed use).

 

Quayside di Puteri Cove Residences memiliki sekitar 120.000 kaki persegi ruang yang dapat disewakan, yang mana tiga kali ukuran ruang ritel di The Quayside Isle, Sentosa Cove. Para penyewa diantaranya: Pasar by MASLEE, sebuah supermarket gourmet yang akan menempati ruang seluas 15.000 kaki persegi; Restoran Cina Yi Jia dengan konsep tiga-dalam-satu yang terdiri dari restoran dim sum, bar dan ruang banquet bertempat di sebuah paviliun mandiri berlantai dua; serta sebuah artisan grocer cum café yang akan menampilkan produk kesehatan baru ke pasar yang ditawarkan oleh agropreneurs di bawah naungan Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi).

 

PSD berniat menempatkan Quayside sebagai tujuan khusus F&B, kata Kam Tin Seah, chief operating officer perusahaan tersebut. Unit ritel strata tidak akan ditawarkan untuk dijual lagi, tambahnya.

 

Menara bangunan bertingkat yang ketiga di Puteri Cove Residences akan berisi 340 apartemen servis (serviced apartment) dengan nama Pan Pacific Serviced Suites dan akan dikelola oleh Pan Pacific Hotels Group, cabang perhotelan dari pengembang properti yang terdaftar di Singapura, UOL Group. Menara tersebut akan memperoleh CCC pada bulan Juni.

 

Berdasarkan Kam, PSD akan segera meluncurkan unit yang tersisa di Puteri Cove Residences dan unit SOHO pada awal Maret. Unit SOHO yang berada di tingkat pertama dan ketiga memiliki tinggi plafon bervolume ganda setinggi 4,8m dan hadir dengan lantai mezzanine yang bisa diubah menjadi loteng ruang kerja atau kamar tidur tambahan. Unit SOHO tingkat tiga akan memiliki jacuzzi di atap yang dapat menampung enam orang, sementara itu terdapat kolam renang di unit SOHO tingkat pertama. Unit SOHO di tingkat dua memiliki tinggi plafon 3,5 m. Unit SOHO, yang juga berstatus hak milik (freehold) dan berhadapan dengan marina langsung, akan dijual seharga mulai dari RM 2,3 juta ($ 777.027).

 

Marina privat yang terletak di Puteri Cove itu akan bermerek One°15 (Foto: Pacific Star Development)

 

Marina dan clubhouse privat di Puteri Cove akan dikelola oleh grup Singapura SUTL Enterprise dengan nama One°15. Marina pribadi One°15 akan memiliki clubhouse yang lebih besar daripada yang berada di Sentosa Cove dan tempat berlabuh dengan kisaran jumlah yang sama (278). SUTL juga menandatangani kesepakatan dengan UEM Sunrise Bhd untuk mengembangkan dan mengelola sebuah marina publik yang berkapasitas 148 dan marina kapal pesiar besar hingga 14 kapal di Puteri Harbour. Marina ini juga akan dinamakan One°15.

 

Faktor pertumbuhan

 

Sekolah internasional terakhir yang dibuka di Iskandar Malaysia adalah kampus baru The Raffles American School, bagian dari Raffles Education Group yang terdaftar di Singapura. Sekolah ini bergabung dengan kampus bergengsi seperti: Marlborough College, University of Reading, University of Southampton dan Newcastle University of Medicine, yang membentuk EduCity.

 

Sementara itu, Ascendas Tech Park dan Mitsui Tech Park keduanya telah dibuka, seperti halnya taman logistik IKEA, dengan toko Ikea terbesar di Asia Tenggara. Perusahaan kosmetik raksasa Korea Selatan Amorepacific Corp juga tengah membangun pabrik baru di samping Ikea. Pabrik tersebut akan menjadi yang terbesar di luar Korea Selatan.

IKEA telah membuka taman logistik dan toko IKEA terbesar di Asia Tenggara di Iskandar Malaysia (Foto: Bloomberg)

 

"Semua pengembangan baru ini diwujudkan karena meningkatnya pekerja kerah putih, terutama untuk eksekutif tingkat menengah dan atas, dan kenaikan populasi berpenghasilan menengah, serta permintaan perumahan di Iskandar Puteri," kata Chan dari PSD.

 

Banyak orang asing, seperti orang Korea, Jepang, Cina, dan juga ekspatriat Singapura, mengirimkan anak-anak mereka ke sekolah internasional di Iskandar Malaysia. Beberapa juga mendirikan usaha kecil atau membuka pabrik baru di sini, catat Ryan Khoo, pendiri dan direktur Alpha Marketing, konsultan perumahan yang memiliki spesialisasi di Iskandar Malaysia. "Karena kelebihan pasokan diserap dalam beberapa tahun ke depan dan lebih banyak fasilitas dan layanan gaya hidup ada di tempat, jadi minat beli dari para pembeli orang Singapura akan kembali, terutama begitu mereka melihat system transportasi transit cepat [Rapid Transit Tystem - RTS] dan kereta berkecepatan tinggi (HSR) yang akan datang . "

 

November lalu, Iskandar Puteri, ibukota administratif Johor, dinyatakan sebagai kota ke-14 di Malaysia. Tidak seperti Johor Bahru, Iskandar Puteri adalah daerah perkotaan baru yang direncanakan dengan amat baik dengan infrastruktur yang tepat. Ini juga akan menikmati manfaat kereta berkecepatan tinggi (HSR) Singapore-Kuala Lumpur, mengingat salah satu stasiun akan berlokasi di sana.

 

'Seperti Punggol'

 

Punggol Waterway dan taman yang terletak di “daerah digital” baru Singapura (Foto: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Puteri Harbour terletak di Iskandar Puteri. Pacific Star telah membeli situs di Puteri Harbour untuk pengembangan Puteri Cove Residences dan The Quayside pada tahun 2012 bersama dengan pengembang DB2 Land di Singapura. "Saya yakin hanya ada satu tempat di Iskandar Malaysia dan itu adalah Puteri Harbour, karena memiliki bakat untuk menjadi kota internasional di tepi laut, dan itu dengan status hak milik," ujar Chan.

 

Ia merasa pengembangan Iskandar Puteri tidak berbeda dengan pembangunan perkotaan Singapura selama 30 tahun terakhir, terutama di Punggol. Dia menceritakan bagaimana saudara iparnya mengantri flat HDB di Punggol 25 tahun yang lalu. "Pada saat itu, Punggol dianggap berada di daerah pedalaman," kata Chan. Akan tetapi, pemerintah Singapura saat ini memposisikan Punggol Utara sebagai "daerah digital baru" untuk perusahaan digital dan cybersecurity yang diharapkan dapat menghasilkan 28.000 pekerjaan di masa depan.

 

Khoo dari Alpha Marketing sependapat. "Untuk kota kecil baru yang baru berumur 10 tahun dan sebelumnya hanyalah hutan belantara dan perkebunan kelapa sawit, kemajuan di Iskandar Puteri sangat luar biasa," katanya. "Sangat mirip saat Singapura pertama kali mengembangkan Punggol."

 

Sentimen positif

 

Prospek RTS Link dan High-Speed Rail yang akan hadir dapat membantu dalam mengangkat sentimen (Foto: Bloomberg)

 

Sebagai tempat baru dan sangat terencana dengan baik, Iskandar Puteri menarik orang-orang Singapura dan orang asing lainnya yang lebih suka lokasi tersebut daripada pusat kota Johor Bahru, yang lebih tidak teratur dalam hal perencanaan kotanya, catat Khoo.

 

"Pasar properti perumahan mewah di Iskandar Malaysia sangat dipengaruhi oleh pembeli orang Singapura dan juga mencerminkan harga properti Singapura," tambahnya. "Singapura melihat koreksi yang dimulai dari pertengahan tahun 2013, dan pasar perumahan mewah di Iskandar Malaysia juga dipengaruhi oleh ketakutan akan kelebihan pasokan, langkah pendinginan properti oleh pemerintah Malaysia pada tahun 2014 dan erosi pada sentimen pembeli."

 

Karena sentimen di pasar properti Singapura telah berubah positif, minat terhadap Iskandar Malaysia telah bangkit kembali, catat Peter Lim, pendiri Pierre International dan seorang veteran dalam bidang pemasaran real estate Iskandar Malaysia. Dia telah melihat peningkatan permintaan akan  properti di Iskandar Malaysia sejak penandatanganan perjanjian bilateral RTS Link Johor Bahru-Singapura, yang dilakukan oleh kedua perdana menteri negara tersebut bulan lalu. "Prospek RTS dan HSR yang akan hadir online pasti telah mengangkat sentimen," tambahnya.

 

Perbaikan sentimen di Singapura juga telah mendorong Pacific Star untuk merencanakan perumahan. (Foto: Bloomberg)
 

Dorongan lainnya antara lain pengurangan biaya tol di Woodlands checkpoint sejak Februari dan pengenalan baru-baru ini akan biaya tambahan 1% pada kewajiban pajak bagi pembeli (buyer’s stamp duty) untuk properti yang berharga di atas $ 1 juta. "Itu memberikan dorongan ekstra bagi calon pembeli rumah untuk melihat-lihat Causeway," catatan Lim.

 

Mencari pertumbuhan

 

Perbaikan sentimen di Singapura juga telah mendorong PSD untuk merencanakan perumahan. Grup ini sedang mempertimbangkan situs yang bernilai hingga $ 100 juta dengan usaha joint venture dengan pengembang lainnya. Fokusnya akan berada di lokasi blok di distrik utama, kata Chan.

Terdaftar melalui pengambilalihan LH Group senilai $ 140 juta setahun yang lalu, Pacific Star melaporkan adanya kenaikan sebesar 78,3% dari tahun ke tahun dalam pendapatannya pada 4Q FY 2017 menjadi $ 30,7 juta pada 12 Februari. Hal ini terutama terkait penjualan Puteri Cove Residences. Pendapatan selama 12 bulan penuh melonjak 42% menjadi $ 83,9 juta. Laba kotor juga melonjak 76,2% menjadi $ 14,7 juta pada 4QFY2017 dan 39,4% menjadi $ 40,4 juta selama 12 bulan penuh.

Menurut Chan, PSD sedang menjajaki peluang di Singapura, Iskandar Malaysia dan tempat lain di kawasan Asean.

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Is it time to relook Iskandar Malaysia?

Is it time to relook Iskandar Malaysia?

I recently encountered a new dilemma when asked where I live. My answer used to be “Sin­gapore” without hesitation, as the city state has been my home for a good eight years now. Considering the amount of time I spend at my second home in Johor Bahru today, however, I now give a vague answer about how I work and live in both cities.

Judging from the heavy cross-border traffic be­tween Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia, I know I am not alone. Despite the typical misgivings on Iskandar Malaysia, there is still a large, silent (or perhaps not-so-silent nowadays) population enjoying the benefits of cross-border living. And with recent events, per­haps it is time to relook at the real estate market in Iskandar Malaysia. Here are five reasons to do so.

 

With the Singapore dollar now hovering around $1/ RM3, retirement living in Iskandar becomes an in­creasingly attractive option (Credit: EdgeProp Singapore)

 

The property market in Iskandar Malaysia has been in a downturn since late 2014. The oversupply has been limited to high-end residential homes, and pric­es have largely mirrored Singapore’s private property price index, falling between 5% and 15% from the peak in 2013. Fire sales and auctions have been fair­ly few so far, however, and most owners have been willing to hold on, especially once they have found tenants.

Some property developers have also slashed pric­es to entice buyers, so better deals can be found com­pared with a few years ago.

Opportunities exist for buyers who are willing to scour the market and buy in the current down­turn while prices and sentiment remain depressed. High-quality completed freehold properties can be found from RM750 psf ($250 psf), still a veritable bargain considering how fast land prices are moving up in Singapore, owing to en bloc sales and govern­ment land sale sites.

 

Projects like Puteri Cove Residences (show unit pictured) appeal to Singaporeans considering treating their property in Iskandar as their primary residence, a weekend home or future retirement home (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

One scenario that a number of Singaporeans take advantage of is to rent out their homes in Singapore and live in Iskandar. Many Singaporeans have fully paid up HDB flats that can be rented out from at least $2,000 a month. A two-bedroom condominium in Iskandar can be bought from as low as RM750,000 ($250,000) or rented at RM2,000 a month. This gives you gross savings of at least RM4,000, which is more than enough for living expenses in Iskandar.

A second scenario is for Singaporeans to buy properties in Iskandar with 100% cash. Rental yields for high-end residential property in Iskandar range from 3% to 4% a year, which is a decent return for an up-and-coming city bordering Singapore. Most Singaporean buyers who opt for this scenario treat their Iskandar property as a future retirement home or weekend home in old age. Perhaps it is a tempting option for all the en bloc millionaires in Singapore?

 

University of Reading, one of the international tertiary institutions that opened in Iskandar Malaysia's EduCity, where  expatriate residents send their children (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

With the Singapore dollar now hovering around $1/ RM3, retirement living in Iskandar becomes an in­creasingly attractive option, especially if you consider using your Central Provident Fund monies to live out your retirement comfortably in style (three times of CPF savings!). A cup of coffee in a hawker centre is RM1.60 (53 cents) and a bowl of noodles is typically RM6 ($2). The price of a typical meal in a food court in Singapore can buy you a mid-range restaurant meal in Malaysia.

Singapore is an expensive country, especially when it comes to healthcare. Healthcare costs in Ma­laysia is remarkably cheaper and you have the option to choose from high-quality services from Parkway Health’s Gleneagles and Singaporean-operated Re­gency Hospital. You can also use Medisave to pay for medical costs in selected private hospitals in Iskandar Malaysia.

Buying a car is also an interesting option for those who choose to live in Iskandar Malaysia. A new Toyota four-door sedan costs about RM85,000 ($28,400), and does not require a Certificate of En­titlement (COE), unlike in Singapore. And you can drive it indefinitely, unlike in Singapore. Singapor­eans can apply for vehicle financing from banks and check out second-hand vehicles for even better bar­gains. Buying a car gives you the freedom to travel not only within Iskandar Malaysia, but also to ex­plore Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and even Thailand.

Interestingly enough, today we see other nation­alities besides Singaporeans who are choosing to live and work in Iskandar Malaysia. More and more Chi­nese, Japanese and Koreans have become residents in Iskandar, either operating small businesses or having their children educated at the international schools there.

 

Entrance to LegoLand Malaysia, which will see the Sea Life Aquarium opening at year-end (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

The shopping and entertainment scene in Iskandar Malaysia has expanded and is fast growing. IKEA opened its first store in Johor Bahru in October 2017, with the Singapore media and online shopping por­tals creating a buzz by making price comparisons with IKEA Singapore. Paradigm Mall Johor Bahru opened last year, boasting more than one million sq ft of gross floor area (as large as Singapore’s VivoCity). This year, Capital 21 is expected to launch its indoor theme parks of Cartoon World, Movie World and Music World.

Legoland will be opening its Sea Life Aquarium at year-end. Fans of extreme sports will be delighted by X-Park’s opening in Medini later this year, offer­ing a host of outdoor activities such as paintball, wall climbing, glamping, archery. A virtual reality indoor theme park will also be opening in Medini by early next year.

Tourists and visitors have also been making a beeline to the heritage areas of Johor Bahru city cen­tre, where massive rejuvenation is taking place. Her­itage shophouses are being converted into hip trendy cafés and boutiques that showcase young designers, including those from Singapore.

Other related hotspots include the relaunching of Desaru’s white pristine beaches (about an hour’s drive away from Johor Bahru), with water sports, golf courses and high-end hotels such as Aman and Hard Rock Hotel.

 

The Rapid Transit System will have a link from Singapore's Woodlands MRT station (pictured) to Johor Bahru (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

High Speed Rail and Rapid Transit System have firm delivery deadlines

In recent years, the governments of Singapore and Malaysia have signed legally binding bilateral agree­ments to construct the Rapid Transit System (an MRT link into Johor Bahru from Woodlands MRT) and High-Speed Rail (high-speed trains linking Ju­rong East and Iskandar Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur) by 2024 and 2026, respectively.

The HSR and RTS will help cement the prospects and liveability of Iskandar Malaysia. Between 150,000 and 300,000 people travel across the border daily, and the HSR and RTS will help create more economic ac­tivity in Iskandar Malaysia.

 

There is a plethora of choices for the interested buyer. I always recommend checking out the secondary/re­sale markets, as you can immediately view the prop­erty and judge the build quality as well as its occu­pants in the area or building.

Buying real estate is a long-term commitment and, given the many upside catalysts for Iskandar Malaysia, as long as you choose a decent property and have patience, you will be better off in the long run.

 

Ryan Khoo is founder and director of Alpha Marketing, a real estate consultancy focused on the Malaysian property market, especially Iskandar Malaysia.

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Positive sentiment spills over to Iskandar

Positive sentiment spills over to Iskandar

Singapore-listed Pacific Star Development to launch its remaining phases at the RM1.75 billion flagship development, Puteri Cove Residences and Quayside in Puteri Harbour

Singaporean IT professional Crystal Lai is looking forward to moving into her new condominium unit at Iskandar Malaysia’s Puteri Cove Residences, the flagship project by Singapore-listed Pacific Star Development.

Lai intends to commute daily to work, estimating that it will take 30 to 40 minutes to drive from her new home in Puteri Harbour to her office in Tuas — the same amount of time it would take her to travel from her current home in Jurong to the CBD or Orchard Road.

 

Puteri Cove Residences and Quayside at Puteri Harbour (Credit: Pacific Star Development)

 

In return, she will enjoy a quality of life that she aspires to have in Singapore — “but at one fifth the cost”, she reckons. After all, her three-bedroom apartment is a sizeable 1,200 sq ft, tagged at RM1.7 million to RM1.8 million in 2015. The unit will be handed over to her fully furnished, according to the theme she has chosen, “Elegance”, for which she paid a top-up of less than $100,000. The total package for the fully furnished unit amounts to just under $620,000, based on the current exchange rate of $1 to RM2.96.

Stretching the dollar

For that amount, Lai will enjoy a premium condo unit with freehold tenure and unparalleled views of the swimming pool, the marina and the sea beyond. She is looking forward to entertaining her friends and relatives at her new home — there are eight function rooms in Puteri Cove Residences — as well as enjoying the 30 different facilities ranging from gyms, a 50m lap pool and jacuzzi pool to tennis courts and landscaped garden.

The spectre of vacant apartments — tell-tale signs of an oversupply — continues to haunt Iskandar Malaysia, but Lai believes Puteri Cove Residences will prove to be an exception. Her conviction stems from the fact that there are others like her, including some of her friends, who had also purchased units at Puteri Cove Residences with the intention of moving there. “I think it’s going to be quite vibrant,” she says. The Puteri Harbour area reminds her of Singapore, given its infrastructure, but is more tranquil, she adds.

 

The grand lounge of Puteri Cove Residences (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Capital appreciation

Pacific Star Development (PSD) CEO Glen Chan feels vindicated now that Puteri Cove Residences is completed: This month, the twin 32-storey towers containing 329 units each have obtained their Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC), the equivalent of the Temporary Occupation Permit in Singapore. So far, 80% of the units have been sold.

When Puteri Cove Residences was first launched in October 2013, prices averaged RM1,250 psf, which was at a premium to those at some of the projects that were launched a year earlier. For instance, prices at some developments in Medini, Johor Bahru city centre and elsewhere in Puteri Harbour were RM700 psf. “Some buyers were seduced by the lower prices,” says Chan. ‘Today, some of these projects are still priced at RM700 psf. What it tells you is that buying cheap does not necessarily guarantee price appreciation.”

At Puteri Cove Residences, on the other hand, asking prices today are hovering in the range of RM1,400 to RM1,600 psf. “If you buy prime property, it has scarcity value,” says Chan.

 

Chan: Buying a prime property has scarcity value. (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

For early buyers of Puteri Cove Residences such as Singaporean K S Leong, that is good news. Leong purchased his unit — a three-bedroom apartment of about 1,200 sq ft on the 13th floor of Tower 1 — four years ago. He paid about RM1.6 million (RM1,333 psf) for it. Even though he has no intention of selling his unit, he is happy to know that he is sitting on a paper gain.

Right from the start, Leong had intended to purchase the unit at Puteri Cove Residences as a weekend home for his family, as he has two young children.

 

Furniture package with 11 themes

While Leong recognises that he paid a premium for his unit at Puteri Cove Residences, he feels it was “a good thing”. After all, the property will be handed over to him fully furnished in the “Marina” theme he chose. “That’s the added convenience,” says the 45-year-old. “This is unlike some of the other projects in Malaysia that I’ve seen, where the flooring is not done, the kitchen is not fully fitted and the tiles are made locally. As foreigners, if we want better-quality finishing, we wouldn’t know how to go about looking for a contractor and it will probably cost a lot more to do it on our own.”

 

All units will come fully fitted, with a choice of 11 different themes for furniture package (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

According to PSD's Chan, buyers of Puteri Cove Residences are made up of 28 nationalities. About half of them are Singapore citizens, of which 70% have indicated they were buying the units for their own use — either as a primary residence, like Lai, or as a weekend home, like Leong. Malaysians make up about 20% of the buyers, followed by Indonesians (11%) and Koreans, who account for 5% to 6% but are among the fastest-growing.

It is because the majority of the buyers are foreigners that PSD decided to offer them the option of a furnishing package with 11 themes, for instance, Bali, Bondi, Elegance and Marina. The packages range from $60,000 to $100,000.

 

Freehold, at a fraction of Sentosa Cove’s prices

Puteri Harbour was Malaysia’s answer to Singapore’s Sentosa Cove, a waterfront residential re- sort catering to well-heeled international home- buyers. Even though Sentosa Cove’s prices have softened, based on the exchange rate, prices at Puteri Cove Residences are still a third that of similar products in Sentosa Cove. While Sentosa Cove developments are all 99-year leasehold, Puteri Cove Residences has freehold tenure.

 

Infinity pool at Puteri Cove Residences (Credit: Pacific Star Development)

 

The latest transaction at Sentosa Cove was for a 1,711 sq ft, three-bedroom unit at The Oceanfront, which changed hands for $2.9 million ($1,694 psf), according to a caveat lodged earlier this month.

At Puteri Cove Residences, the remaining three-bedroom unit at Tower 1 — on the 26th floor and with an area of 1,750 sq ft and 270o views — is priced at around RM3 million.

A RM1.75 billion mixed-use development that sits on 340,000 sq ft of freehold land fronting the marina, Puteri Cove Residences comes with a five-storey commercial podium called Quayside. There are 56 SOHO, or small office/home office, units on the upper three floors as well as 78 strata retail and F&B units on the lower two floors. Quayside also obtained CCC this month.

 

The mail room designed like a bank's safe deposit vault (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore) 

 

Mixed-use

Quayside at Puteri Cove Residences has about 120,000 sq ft of lettable space, which is three times the size of the retail space at The Quay- side Isle in Sentosa Cove. Tenants include the Pasar by MASLEE, a gourmet supermarket that will occupy 15,000 sq ft; Yi Jia Chinese restaurant with a three-in-one concept comprising a dim sum restaurant, bar and banquet room housed in a two-storey standalone pavilion; as well as an artisan grocer cum café that will feature new-to-market wellness products offered by agropreneurs under the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi).

PSD intends to position Quayside as a dedicated F&B destination, says Kam Tin Seah, the company’s chief operating officer. The strata retail units will not be offered for sale yet, he adds.

The third high-rise tower at Puteri Cove Residences will contain 340 serviced apartments branded Pan Pacific Serviced Suites and will be managed by Pan Pacific Hotels Group, the hospitality arm of Singapore-listed property developer UOL Group. The tower will obtain CCC in June.

PSD is looking to launch the remaining units at Puteri Cove Residences and the SOHO units in early March, according to Kam. The SOHO units on the first and third levels have a double-volume ceiling height of 4.8m and come with a mezzanine floor that can be converted into a work loft or an additional bedroom. The third-level SOHO units will have a rooftop jacuzzi that can fit six people, while the first-level SOHO units boast a plunge pool. SOHO units on the second level have a 3.5m ceiling height. The SOHO units, which are also freehold and have direct marina frontage, will be priced from RM2.3 million ($777,027).

 

The private marina at Puteri Cove will be branded One°15 brand (Credit: Pacific Star Development)

 

The private marina and clubhouse at Puteri Cove will be managed by Singapore group SUTL Enterprise under its One°15 brand. The One°15 private marina will have a clubhouse that is larger than the one at Sentosa Cove and around the same number of berths (278). SUTL also inked a deal with UEM Sunrise Bhd to develop and manage a 148-berth public marina and a mega yacht marina for up to 14 vessels at Puteri Harbour. These marinas will also be branded One°15.

 

Growth factors

The latest international school to open at Iskandar Malaysia is the new campus of The Raffles American School, part of Singapore-listed Raffles Education Group. It joins the prestigious Marlborough College, University of Reading, University of Southampton and Newcastle University of Medicine, which make up EduCity.

Meanwhile, Ascendas Tech Park and Mitsui Tech Park have both opened, as has IKEA logistics park, with the biggest Ikea store in Southeast Asia. South Korea’s giant cosmetics company Amorepacific Corp is also building a new factory next to Ikea. The factory will be its largest outside of South Korea.

 

Ikea has opened a logistics park and its biggest store in Southeast Asia at Iskandar Malaysia (Credit: Bloomberg)

 

“All these new developments translate into increased white-collar jobs, especially for mid- and high-level executives, and a rise in the middle-income population, as well as demand for housing in Iskandar Puteri,” says PSD’s Chan.

Many foreigners, such as Koreans, Japanese and Chinese as well as Singapore expatriates, are sending their children to international schools at Iskandar Malaysia. Some are also setting up small businesses or opening new factories here, notes Ryan Khoo, founder and director of Alpha Marketing, a real estate consultancy that specialises in Iskandar Malaysia. “As the oversupply gets absorbed in the next few years and more lifestyle amenities and services are in place, buying interest from Singapore buyers will return, especially once they see the RTS [rapid transit system] and HSR [high-speed rail] coming up.”

Last November, Iskandar Puteri, Johor’s administrative capital, was declared Malaysia’s 14th city. Unlike Johor Bahru, Iskandar Puteri is a master-planned new urban area with proper infrastructure in place. It will also be a beneficiary of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR, as one of the stations will be located there.

 

‘Like Punggol’

Punggol Waterway and parks in Singapore's new "Digital District" (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

 

Puteri Harbour is located within Iskandar Puteri. PSD had purchased the site at Puteri Harbour for the development of Puteri Cove Residences and The Quayside in 2012 jointly with niche Singapore developer DB2 Land. “I believe in only one place in Iskandar Malaysia and that’s Puteri Harbour, as it has the makings of an international waterfront city, and it is freehold,” says Chan.

He feels that the development of Iskandar Puteri is no different from Singapore’s urban development over the past 30 years, especially in Punggol. He recounts how his brother- in-law had queued for an HDB flat in Punggol 25 years ago. “At the time, Punggol was considered to be in the boondocks,” says Chan. However, today, the Singapore government is positioning Punggol North as the “new digital district” for digital and cybersecurity companies that is expected to generate 28,000 jobs in the future.

Alpha Marketing’s Khoo concurs. “For a new township that is only 10 years old and was previously just jungle and oil palm plantations, the progress at Iskandar Puteri has been remarkable,” he says. “It is very much like when Singapore first started developing Punggol.”

 

Positive sentiment

 

The prospect of the upcoming RTS Link and the High-Speed Rail will help lift sentiment (Credit: Bloomberg)

 

Being new and master-planned, Iskandar Puteri attracts Singaporeans and other foreigners who prefer it to Johor Bahru city centre, which is more haphazard in its town planning, notes Khoo.

“The high-end residential property market in Iskandar Malaysia is heavily influenced by Singaporean buyers and mirrors Singapore property prices as well,” he adds. “Singapore saw a correction that started from the middle of 2013, and the high-end residential market in Iskandar Malaysia was likewise affected by fears of an oversupply, property cooling measures by Malaysian government in 2014 and an erosion in buyer sentiment.”

As sentiment in the Singapore property market has turned positive, interest in Iskandar Malaysia has revived, notes Peter Lim, founder of Pierre International and a veteran in marketing Iskandar Malaysia real estate. He has seen an increase in enquiries on property in Iskandar Malaysia since the signing of the bilateral agreement on the Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link between the two countries’ prime ministers last month. “The prospect of RTS and HSR coming online has certainly lifted sentiment,” he adds.

 

The improvement in sentiment in Singapore has also encouraged Pacific Star to look homeward (Credit: Bloomberg)

 

Other impetus included the easing of toll charges at the Woodlands checkpoint since February and the recent introduction of an additional 1% in buyer’s stamp duty for properties priced above $1 million. “That provided the extra push for prospective homebuyers to look across the Causeway,” notes Lim.

Seeking growth

The improvement in sentiment in Singapore has also encouraged PSD to look homeward. The group is considering sites of up to $100 million in joint ventures with other developers. The focus will be on en bloc sites in the prime districts, Chan says.

Listed via a $140 million reverse takeover of LH Group a year ago, Pacific Star reported a 78.3% y-o-y increase in its 4QFY2017 revenue to $30.7 million on Feb 12. This was mainly attributed to sales from Puteri Cove Residences. Revenue for the full 12 months jumped 42% to $83.9 million. Gross profit likewise leapt 76.2% to $14.7 million in 4QFY2017 and 39.4% to $40.4 million for the full 12 months.

According to Chan, PSD is exploring opportunities in Singapore, Iskandar Malaysia and elsewhere in the Asean region.

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Forest City opens second hotel, launches sale of villas at golf resort

Forest City opens second hotel, launches sale of villas at golf resort

Guests look at a scale model of Forest City Golf Resort at the lobby of Forest City Golf Hotel

Guests look at a scale model of Forest City Golf Resort at the lobby of Forest City Golf Hotel
(Credit: CGPV)

 

Nov 5 marked the soft opening of Forest City Golf Hotel in Iskandar Malaysia. The 305-room hotel, located in the 800ha Forest City Golf Resort, is the second to open in the second phase of Country Garden Pacificview’s (CGPV) Forest City project, which covers 3,000ha and costs US$100 billion ($136.4 billion). On the same day, the golf resort exhibition area was launched at the lobby of the hotel. Set amid nature, the golf resort comprises nearly 2,000 acres of ecological wetlands and over 49 acres of greenery, with a 17km coastline.

The golf resort will contain three 18-hole golf courses. The first, designed by world-renowned retired US professional golfer Jack Nicklaus and his eldest son, Jack Nicklaus II, is slated to open in 2H2018.

Besides the hotel and golf course components, Forest City Golf Resort will feature residences — from apartments to villas, built at a cost of RM1.8 billion ($580.9 million). The first phase of 202 villas was launched on Nov 5. These villas are a mix of double- and triple- storey cluster homes and semi-detached houses of between 2,034 and 6,975 sq ft, with prices starting from RM1.38 million.

The 11-storey twin-tower Forest City Golf Hotel is scheduled for completion in 1H2018, and is targeted primarily at guests from Singapore, Malaysia, China and Korea. The rooms are 484 to 3,476 sq ft, with rates ranging from RM300++ to RM6,000++.

 

The 11-storey, twin-tower Forest City Golf Hotel is scheduled for completion in 1H2018

The 11-storey, twin-tower Forest City Golf Hotel is scheduled for completion in 1H2018
(Credit: CGPV)

 

The lobby of the 305-room Forest City Golf Hotel

The lobby of the 305-room Forest City Golf Hotel
(Credit: CGPV)

 

Forest City’s first hotel, the 283-room Phoenix Hotel, opened last December. Next to it is a two-storey mall, which is popular with Singaporeans and enjoys near-full occupancy, according to CGPV.

When the entire Forest City project is completed, all the four reclaimed islands will be connected by a highway bridge. Within phase 2 of Forest City, which occupies a total area of 10 sq km — about one-third of the project — there are also shops, luxury hotels, water parks, the Shattuck-St Mary’s International School, MJ Fitness Centre and other lifestyle amenities.

Besides boosting the profile of Forest City as an international tourist destination, the golf resort is set to provide job opportunities for locals, says Mohd Othman Yusof, executive director of CGPV.

 

Artist’s impression of a villa at Forest City Golf Resort

Artist’s impression of a villa at Forest City Golf Resort
(Credit: CGPV)

 

Artist’s impression of a golf course at Forest City Golf Resort

Artist’s impression of a golf course at Forest City Golf Resort
(Credit: CGPV)

  

This article appeared in EdgeProp Pullout, Issue 805 (Nov 13, 2017).

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