Iskandar to become Malaysia’s Shenzhen

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With the backing of Singapore and Malaysia’s governments, Iskandar is anticipated to transform into a thriving production and technology hub just like what happened to China’s Shenzhen, Hong Kong’s neighbour, reported The Financial Times.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia, particularly Iskandar, can have a mutually beneficial relationship with Singapore, similar to New Jersey’s close ties with Manhattan.

Ravi Menon, the Head of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has also proposed that the city-state and Iskandar be considered as a single economic zone that would give investors an “integrated production and services base” in the ASEAN region.

3Policymakers see the possibility of businesses being co-located in Iskandar and Singapore,” said Singapore Management University Associate Professor Eugene Tan.

“We just don’t have the land here and Iskandar is close enough for companies to have manufacturing there but the finance and R&D in Singapore.”

In fact, some Singapore companies have already relocated a portion of their operations in Iskandar. For instance, a firm involved in machine tools reconditioning transferred its workshop to a hangar in the Malaysian region.

“Our sales office is 30 minutes from here, in Singapore. There’s a lot of walk-in customers and we can bring them here to test the machines,” said its Manager Angela Pang.

“Our rental in Singapore was going to expire and this is cheaper,” she noted, explaining that the rental cost of commercial space in the city-state is more expensive than those in Iskandar by about three times.

However, real estate investments in Iskandar have recently plummeted due to worries over a supply glut of residential properties.

In the year to March 2017, overall property investment there plunged to only US$86 million compared to US$1.4 billion during the corresponding period in 2013.

“The drop in volumes between now and 2013 is highly noticeable,” noted Real Capital Analytics Director for Asia Pacific, Petra Blazkova.

“Our view is that it stemmed from an imbalance between the supply of land or property and demand from real estate investors.”

One major factor behind the oversupply is the fact that China’s Country Garden is building a massive development on four reclaimed island off the coast of Johor.

Known as Forest City, the US$100 billion development is forecasted to have a population of 700,000 people in about 20 years.

However, Beijing’s restrictions on money outflows has affected the apartment sales in the project as most of its buyers are from China. The developer even closed down its sales galleries in the country and is planning to attract other buyers from other nations.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority’s (IRDA) CEO Ismail Ibrahim also admitted that there is a “temporary” oversupply of homes in the region. Nevertheless, he is confident that the excess units will be eventually absorbed by the market as Iskandar’s economy is anticipated to flourish.

Among top properties in Iskandar Malaysia are:

1. Meridin Medini

2. Meridin SOVOs

Image sourced from Iskandar Properties

 

Iskandar needs a further 500,000 new homes

BY NELSON BENJAMIN

JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Malaysia still needs about 500,000 new homes to cater for an estimated three million-strong population by 2025.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said the state only had about 700,000 homes presently.

“Iskandar Malaysia is growing at an annual rate of 7% to 8% and we expect the population to grow from 1.45 million in 2005 to 3 million in 2005.

“This population will need a total of 1.2 million homes,” he said during a special media briefing here.

He added that while there was a slowdown in the property sector in Iskandar, he did not expect it to last long as there was a need for new homes.

“As for capital controls imposed by China, so far none of the China-based developers are affected as construction is ongoing.

“These are big-time and long-term investors,” he said, adding that these China-based companies were not here to buy land and flip it for profit.

Ismail added that even with the 20,000 to 25,000 homes being developed by the Chinese, the state was still in need of more houses.

However Ismail reiterated that the property sector was not among the sectors being promoted in Iskandar Malaysia.

He expressed optimism that the property sector would bounce back and said that there was huge demand for homes priced between RM100,000 to RM350,000.

“So far Iskandar Malaysia is growing on track,” he said, adding that this was despite the uncertainties globally.

He added that Iskandar Malaysia was growing much higher than the national average of 4.5% to 5% annually.

Singaporeans like landed properties in Iskandar, say developers

Landed properties and well-planned business parks in Iskandar Malaysia proved popular among Singaporeans looking to set up businesses in Johor, reported The Star.

“They are looking for business parks that are near the highways and townships because setting up shop here is only about one-third of the cost of operating in Singapore,” said Johor Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) branch chairman Hoe Mee Ling following the official launch of the second edition of this year’s Malaysia Property Expo (Mapex).

Notably, geographical location, growing workforce, continuing investments and improvement of infrastructure helped to boost demand for said properties.

“Property sales depend largely on the external factors like quality, concept and good after-sales service,” she said.

“Customers take these things into account before considering their investment decisions.”

Another factor that helped boost demand was the presence of job opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia, said Hoe.

Despite the overall slow economy, she revealed that they observed a “positive property sales trend as the fundamental demand for properties is still there.”

While the present political and economic climate may have some short-term effect on Iskandar Malaysia’s progress, this will be mitigated by the various inherent advantages of the economic region.

In fact, Johor Baru, particularly Iskandar Malaysia, did not witness a gaping decline in property sales trend, she said.

Held at the City Square shopping mall, the three-day expo saw a total of 35 developers and exhibitors offer 19,000 properties with a total value of RM18.6 billion situated in and around Iskandar Malaysia.

 

Slowdown in Iskandar Malaysia not a concern

The slow-paced period faced by Iskandar Malaysia today does not pose as a concern considering the momentum the region has been picking up during the last eight years.

While the property sector may be witnessing a slowdown, other sectors within the region are moving at a constant momentum.

“Over the past nine years, Iskandar Malaysia has been growing with consistency and quality, I think that is foremost in our mind,” Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, chief executive of Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), told Bernama in a recent interview.

“This consistency and quality shows that Iskandar Malaysia continues to be competitive as we are able to present it in terms of the many elements that make this region attractive for investment, for work as well as for living.”

On the challenges in developing the economic region, Ismail noted that balancing development and maintaining sustainability and the green agenda proved to be arduous for IRDA.

“During the early days, the challenge was mainly to win the hearts and minds of the people and the business community, to convince them that Iskandar Malaysia was ‘the thing’ for them, but we have already passed that phase of challenge,” he said.

“The challenge today is really about how to convince people on what more is coming for them in Iskandar Malaysia (and) what more the government is going to build, in terms of the ecosystem that makes Iskandar Malaysia more competitive.”

Already, some economic sectors are moving in their own momentum while others lag behind.

“The ones that have been experiencing growth consistently are tourism, education and healthcare. We have now almost completely covered the second phase of Iskandar Malaysia’s roadmap,” said Ismail.

“Now we are beginning to see perhaps three more sectors — creative, logistics and oil and oleochemicals — coming to play in the next one to two years.”

The three other sectors completing the nine under the region’s masterplan – financial services, electrical and electronics as well as food and agro processing – will probably take off a bit later, he added.

For this year, he revealed that Iskandar Malaysia targets RM30 billion worth of new investments, of which RM5 billion will come from logistics while another huge part will come from manufacturing sector.

Fitch’s stable outlook drives ringgit higher against the USD

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he ringgit opened sharply higher against the US dollar this morning, bolstered by strong demand for the local note after the positive announcement by Fitch Ratings, which revised Malaysia’s outlook to stable.

As reported by local media, at 9 am, the local currency was quoted at 3.7330/7380 against 3.7740/7770 yesterday.

The global rating agency also affirmed the country’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating (IDR) at ‘A-’ and local currency IDR at ‘A’.

Meanwhile, the issue ratings on Malaysia’s senior unsecured local currency bonds was also affirmed at ‘A’ while the outlook for long-rerm IDRs was revised to ‘stable’ from ‘negative’.

Against other major currencies, the ringgit was also traded higher. It rose against the Singapore dollar to2.7720/7775 from 2.8028/8061 on Tuesday and strengthened versus the yen to 3.0454/0507 from yesterday’s 3.0889/0921.

The local note significantly appreciated against the pound sterling to 5.8589/8690 from 5.9286/9348 and improved against the euro to 4.1567/1634 from 4.2076/2114 yesterday.

 

 

Guide for first time home buyer

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With the local property market providing some of the best in real estate – attractive prices, competitive rates, avant-garde architecture and design – one would often see long queues at prime property development launches. And if you are not among those first in the line, you will have to make do with the odd lots left.

Notably, young professionals under 35 will find it easier to own or invest a property given the construction of more affordable homes and the government’s My First Home Scheme, which provides 100 percent financing.

FIABCI president Ir Yeow Thit Sang noted that property prices ten years ago were very affordable, such that property buyers between the ages of 28 and 38 can place a down payment with their parents’ help.

“Today, prices are two to three times more than what it was in 2003, and the percentage of young buyers has dipped some 20 percent as salaries don’t commensurate with property costs,” he said.

“These young buyers are also going for new developments. They’re price conscious, particular about location, and purchase within their means. Affordability is THE priority in the young buyer’s minds,” he added.

 

My First Home Scheme

Tailored for first-time home buyers, My First Home Scheme provides 100 percent financing, so there is no need for 10 percent down payment. Home buyers under this scheme also pay normal interest rates of the respective banks.

Who is eligible under the scheme?

• Malaysian citizens

• First time home-buyers

• Individuals or couples (husband & wife or siblings) up to age 35 years

• Private sector employees only (including couples)

• Monthly income not exceeding RM5,000 for individuals or combined monthly income of RM10,000 for couples (based on gross maximum income of RM5,000/month per individual)

• Individuals/couples with minimum employment of over 6 months with same employer

• Repayment of total financial obligation must not be more than 60% of the net monthly income or maximum financing limit of the participating bank, whichever is lower.

 

Eligible property

• Residential properties in Malaysia

• Minimum property value of RM100,000 and maximum of RM400,000

• Completed properties or those under development

• The home must be occupied by buyer and not for investment purposes

• For leasehold properties, with a minimum of 60 years remaining

 

Financing requirements

• Tenure for repayment not exceeding 40 years, subject to borrower’s age not exceeding 65 years at the end of financing tenure

• Amortizing facility only (no redraw features)

• Installments payable via monthly salary deduction of standing instruction

• Compulsory Fire Insurance/Takaful

 

How EPF help first-time buyers acquire a home

EPF allows its members to withdraw their savings in Account II to fund the home acquisition. The funds are typically used as a down payment, reduce/redeem housing loan, to pay monthly loan instalments or if one is going for My First Home Scheme which does not require down payment, the EPF money is used to cover other charges such as strata titles, legal fees, etc.

 

Who is eligible?

• Malaysian citizen

• A Malaysian citizen who have withdrawn your savings under Leaving The Country Withdrawal before 1 August 1995 and then choose to re-EPF

• Non-Malaysian citizens who became a member before August 1, 1998 or getting a Permanent Resident (PR)

• Member has not attained 55 years of age on the date the application is received by EPF

• Members have at least 500.00 in Account II

 

What are the conditions?

• Buying a house (bungalow / terrace / detached / apartment / condo / studio apartment / service apartment / townhouse / SOHO or shop with residential units.

• Home purchase financing through:

(i) Housing loan from any institution as follows: –

– Financial institutions licensed under the Banking and Financial Institutions

Act 1989 (BAFIA)

– Central Government/State or other government financial agencies

– Employer members

– Co-operation / collaboration company licensed (approved by the

Co-operative Commission of Malaysia).

– Licensed insurance company approved by Bank Negara Malaysia

– Lenders approved by the Board;

(ii) Cash

• Members who have signed a Sale and Purchase Agreement shall not exceed three (3) years from the date the application is received by the EPF.

• Members who have not made withdrawals or those who have withdrawn to buy a first home and have to sell or dispose of ownership, and then buy a second home. Proof of sale / disposal of first home ownership is required.

• Members who want to buy a house that has been acquired on hire purchase from the parties approved by the Board.

• Members who buy land to build a home on it as a package (the date of the land purchase and the date of the start of the construction must be within 6 months)

How much can an individual home buyer withdraw?

• The amount difference between the price of the home and total loan plus 10% of the home price

• The full amount of Account II

• The amount to be withdrawn must not be less than RM500.00

 

How much can a home buyer couple withdraw?

• The amount difference between the price of the home and total loan plus 10% of the home price

• The full amount of Account II from both accounts but based on the maximum amount that is allowed to be withdrawn

• The amount to be withdrawn must not be less than RM500.00

 

How much can a home buyer withdraw if applying for 100% loan?

• 10% of the home price

• The full amount of Account II (if amount is not less than RM500.00)

How much can a home buyer withdraw with no home loan?

• Amount of the home price plus 10% of the home price

• The full amount of Account II (not less than RM500.00)

(Information retrieved from KWSP website. For more information such as the required documents, please visit http://www.kwsp.gov.my)

 

Things to do before buying a property

• Take time looking around at available properties

• Shop for the best mortgage loans and packages

• Pre-check your income, credit, and assets to know your credit score, or the amount of loan that you handle

• Make a realistic budget on your monthly instalments

• Have a long term plan on paying your home loan instalments

• Read and understand the fine print prior to signing the dotted line

Things to look out for when viewing property

• Check the quality of buildings and get a feel of the area

• Check the surroundings while anticipating the changes likely to happen

• Check the roof, ceiling and walls and watch out for water marks, leaks.

• Check the floor for damages caused by water and the doors and windows for rotten wood and cracks in glass surfaces.

• Keep an eye out for termites and other pests particularly in wooden areas.

• Test electrical outlets.

• For renovated areas, request from the seller a copy of the local town council’s approval for the renovation works.

 

Iskandar confident of RM30bil target for new investments

 

 

 

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Based on its achievement since its launch nine years ago, economic growth corridor Iskandar Malaysia is confident of achieving the RM30bil target set for new investments this year.

According to Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, it had already received RM3bil in new investments in the first quarter of the year. Irda is the regulatory authority mandated to plan, promote and facilitate the development of Iskandar Malaysia.

Ismail said the RM3bil new investments came from the manufacturing, services and property sectors and an official announcement on the breakdown of the investments would be made by the end of the month.

“The party is not over yet. The background music is still on and all stakeholders have to work even harder for Iskandar Malaysia to stay attractive and relevant,” Ismail said at a press conference yesterday.

He said this after giving a closed-door briefing on Iskandar Malaysia’s development and progress to Penang Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas during his visit to Kota Iskandar.

Ismail stressed that it was not easy to attract strong interest from domestic and foreign investors to Iskandar Malaysia.

He added that Irda and other stakeholders would not rest on their laurels as Iskandar Malaysia is facing competition not only from other economic growth corridors in the country but also from other countries in the region.

The other corridors are the Northern Corridor Economic Region, the East Coast Economic Region, the Sabah Development Corridor and the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy.

“Although we have surpassed the investment target since our launch, more effort is needed to continue attracting investments to Iskandar Malaysia,” added Ismail.

Malaysia is one of the ‘seven emerging markets worth putting your money in’

Malaysia is one of the ‘seven emerging markets worth putting your money in’, reported a popular business publication, Fortune Magazine.

“In Malaysia, the incumbent (Barisan Nasional) government is trying to stay ahead of increased demand for change,” penned Ian Bremmer.

Bremmer wrote Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak scrapped fuel subsidies and will enact a six per cent Goods and Services Tax in April to improve his government’s fiscal position.

He believed that Najib will likely accelerate his Economic Transformation Programme by introducing further tax incentives for foreign investors.

“Further liberalisation of the manufacturing and financial services sectors is likely as well.

“It is a fair bet that as growth tapers in China (and the impact of that slowdown is felt in Malaysia), Najib’s government will feel pressured to boost public spending on infrastructure, education and health care.

“That is a good thing, particularly if authorities, as expected, continue to advance a broad fiscal reform agenda, with support from the middle class, to balance the nation’s budget by 2020,” he wrote.

The other emerging markets that Fortune Magazine described as the ‘lucky seven’ are India, Indonesia, Mexico, Columbia, Poland and Kenya.

The full story is published in the February 2015 issue of Fortune.

 

Top 5 Considerations for Buying Your First Property

 

 

Top 5 considerations for buying 1st property

Buying a home is a huge commitment, so make sure you are ready before making that big leap. Evaluate to see if you have the capabilities, or the need to purchase a home. Check out mortgage calculators to see how much are your monthly loan repayments. As a general rule of thumb, monthly loan repayments should not exceed 1/3 of your monthly income.

Why do you buy a property?

People buy properties for many different reasons. These reasons will influence the type of property that would be suitable for you. For example, a studio apartment would be ideal for a single working adult who wants to have a place of his own. However, a bigger apartment would be more suited for a newly married couple.

If you have just welcomed your first child, then you might want to opt for a landed residential property with more space for your child to play and grow. Then, there are also investors who seek out specific properties to fulfil their investment goals. Whatever your reason may be, it is crucial to find a property that suits your unique lifestyle and needs.

Who can buy a property?

In Malaysia, as long as you are a citizen aged 21 years old and above, you can purchase any property in the country. However, there are certain properties which are only reserved for Bumiputeras.

How to find a property?

There are several channels to find properties for sale. You can browse through the classified sections in the local newspapers. This medium is also a good source to find newly launched properties in the market.

Another option is online property portals. Some of these internet property portals such asPropertyGuru allow you to customise your search according to location, type, price, and size, which makes it much easier to find the property you want. Alternatively, you can also hire a property agent to do the legwork for you.

Picking the right place

Location is the key to finding the perfect property. Ideally, your house should not be too far from your work place. This would help you cut down on travel time and expenses. For those who depend on public transportation, finding a house near a train station or bus stop would be great.

You also need to consider the amenities in the area. Is it near shop lots, eateries or clinics? Young working adults might want a place in town where the popular entertainment spots are mostly located. For families with children, you may want your home to be near some reputable schools. It is also good to check that the neighbourhood you pick is safe and has a good reputation.

You would want a property that will increase in price, and the factors stated above will definitely help with the appreciation in value of your home. Another notable factor is to see if there are any on-going or upcoming developments in the surrounding area of the property you intend to purchase. Based on the fundamentals of supply and demand, an over-supply of houses will cause slower appreciation in prices. Hence, be sure to do research on developments surrounding your property area that can potentially affect the price of your home.

When to buy?

Like all major decisions in life, you would want to plan ahead before purchasing a property. If you are buying a newly launched house, it will take at least two years to complete. Buying an existing house would mean you can move in almost immediately but you might also need some time for repairs or renovation. The waiting period must be factored in to determine the timing of your purchase.

Then, there is also the age factor. Most financial institutions only offer a housing loan tenor of up to 35 years or a maximum age of 65 years old for the borrower. Based on this calculation, it is best to buy your first property before the age of 30 so that you can benefit from the maximum loan tenure.

Malaysia is third best place to retire

Malaysia has been voted as the world’s third best place to retire based on International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index for 2014.

Malaysia came in behind Ecuador, Mexico and Panama, but ahead of all retirement destinations in Asia. Other Asian nations included in the index, although way behind Malaysia, were Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Under the caption “Malaysia – Great Value for Money in a Cultural Melting Pot”, the index noted that more and more expats see the amazing opportunities offered by Malaysia each year.

“The country has one of the most robust economies in Asia, and this is reflected in the consistently high standard of living available to locals and expats alike. It’s just one of many factors that led to it being ranked the highest Asian nation in this year’s index,” it said.

Quality of life within the country is considered to be excellent and cost-efficient. Malaysia also makes a “perfect base from which you can explore the innumerable natural, historical, and cultural treasures that Southeast Asia has to offer. The proliferation of cheap Asian airlines in recent years has made it easier (and more affordable) than ever to explore Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Japan. In Malaysia, Asia is truly at your doorstep”.

International Living cites the example of Thomas O’Neal, a New Yorker who lives in Penang.

“I rent a 1,600-square-foot apartment with an amazing pool, just five minutes’ walk from the ritzy Gurney Plaza shopping mall,” O’Neal is quoted as saying.

“It costs me just US$850 (RM3,000) a month. I don’t need a car, either, so I’m saving money left, right, and centre. I love the weather – 82 degrees Fahrenheit on average – and the ease of getting to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. When you combine that with a cost of living of US$1,500 (RM5,295) per month, including my rent, it’s almost unbeatable.”

Nonetheless, International Living tells potential retirees that “ultimately no list or formula can automatically deliver the best destination for you. Only you can decide that.”

“Only you can assess your personal preferences, needs, budget and desires, and look at the options available to see which nation best suits your needs”.

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