Impacts of Global Financial Crisis vis-a-vis Asian Financial Crisis on Penang property sector

October 18th, 2009

Despite the onslaught of the global financial downturn, the Penang property sector in general has been resilient and relatively stable with no drastic movement in housing prices. The local housing developers have been better prepared this round to ride through the downturn with the exception of handful housing developers which are forced to slow down their construction activities or delay their project launchings during the height of the crisis. Though there are signs of market softening in 2H 2008 and 1H 2009, market sentiment for Penang property sector in the 2H 2009 has improved remarkably with more buyers/investors flocking back into the market whilst housing developers are beginning to make a come back and roll out more new planned projects in anticipation of improving economy outlook. Transaction activities in both primary as well secondary market are poised to pick up again buoyed by the continued support and lending by Malaysia’s banks with attractive financing packages at low interest rates of 3-4%.

Unlike the previous 1997/98 Asian Financial crisis, the Penang property sector at that time was badly hit due to the credit crunch of the Malaysia banking system and the sudden surge in lending rates to as high as 13%.  As a result, many housing projects were stalled and abandoned, with many developers were either facing cash flow and debt servicing problems and eventually collapsed and wiped off from the marketplace such as Adorna, Penas and Cayman etc. The aftermath of the crisis has crippled the Malaysia housing and construction sector with major property sectors suffered sharp price declines as much as 30-40% from their peak levels whilst the banking system saddled with huge bad loans and high NPLs.

Some notable projects in Penang/Kedah region which have been badly affected since the times of 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis are mostly retail/commercial and several mega projects, some of which are still in abandoned stage and awaiting revival or resuscitation:-

Penang Island

Bayan Central – An uncompleted commercial complex located at Bayan Bayu which commenced construction in 1997 and subsequently stalled.

Bayan Bay Marina and Leisure Resort by Eternal Resources (joint venture between Anson Perdana and PDC) which was originally scheduled for completed by year 2000 but stalled for several years. This multi-million Bayan Mall (now Queensbay Mall) was successfully revived by CP Group and commenced business in 2005.

Mainland Penang (Seberang Perai)

Plaza utama- A commercial complex comprising 6 storey shopping mall, 213 room-hotel and one office block at Bukit Mertajam town. Plaza Utama development commenced in Nov 1995 and completed in 1997. The commercial complex was opened for business after completion but ceased business after a short stint.

View of Plaza Utama in Bukit Mertajam


City Parade at Jalan Megat Harun, Bukit Mertajam – Another completed commercial building which is similarly affected like Plaza Utama and ceased operation after opened for business for a short period.

Both buildings have long been put up for sale by former Danaharta now Prokhas and still looking for potential “white knight” to revive it.

Fasda Heights (Taman Bidara)- a mixed housing project in Macang Bubok, Bukit Mertajam with about 1,000 units which was not fully completed and handover to the purchasers.

Taman Perindustrian Macang Indah- an abandoned SMI industrial park at Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam.

Leisure Tower- A 11-storey integrated commercial complex at Jalan Kampung Gajah, Butterworth by HCC Group originally schedule for completion end of 1999 but only partially completed and abandoned.

Kristal Golf Resort (Suasa Kristal) - a golf resort located at Sungai Bakap, Southern Seberang Perai, ceased operation several years ago and taken over by Danaharta. The site was reportly sold to a private housing developer.

Others approved commercial complexes which have been launched but failed to take off and subsequently shelved are “Plaza Everise” – a planned 2.3 acre commercial complex at Sungai Rambai Commercial Centre and  “Aseania Mall” at Bandar Perda. Both are located within bukit mertajam area. “Plaza Cayman”, another planned commercial project located adjacent to old MPSP building at the heart of Butterworth town.

Kedah

Padang Meha Parklands by MBF Country Homes and Resort (Alamanda) near Kulim– a proposed RM3 billion housing/resort development near Kulim covering 5,200 hectares launched prior to 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis which has since abandoned. Latest report disclosed that the developer has been liquidated in year 2005. More related info here: Developer liquidated, 300 land buyers in the lurch. Others include the 160 hectare  residential resort scheme (Diamond Santuary) in Mukim Padang Meha near Kulim Hi Tech Park and the proposed RM1 billion Diamond Creeks Retreats with 800 hectares of land in Ulu Behrang, Perak near the proposed Proton City.

In a nutshell, the magnitude and severity brought about by the impact of the 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis on the Penang property sector is comparatively shorter and much lesser compared to 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis. A healthier and resilient Malaysian banking system, on-going implementation of Malaysia economic stimulus package, Malaysia’s central bank prudent interest rate policy, relaxation of EPF housing withdrawals and other economic liberalization measures, have helped to cushion the impact of the recent economic downturn on the property sector. Malaysia economy is on track for a full recovery next year.

Global economic crisis - implications for Malaysia

August 13th, 2009

Khazanah Nasional Berhad organized its 6th Khazanah Penang Lecture entitled “The Global Economic Crisis: Implications for Malaysia” at Wawasan Open University last week. More than 300 guests of mostly businessmen attended the talk by Penang-born Professor KS Jomo, a prominent Malaysian economist who is currently serving as the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) whilst Mr Andrew Sheng,  another prominent Malaysian economist/chartered accountant chaired the panel discussion after the talk. Many were there at Wawasan Open University to seek their latest views and insights into this complex financial meltdown from global and Asia prospectives ! Related article : Global Financial Crisis and Malaysia Property Outlook.

Wawasan Open University along Jalan Sultan Ahmah Shah
(Northam Road), Penang

Here is Mr Andrew Sheng’s An Asian View Of The Global Financial Crisis. Though economists are of the views that the worst is over and confident level on the global economy outlook is improving, the lingering concerns remain whether the world economy recovery is V-shaped or W-shaped recovery? Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s view ; World may witness W-shaped recovery whilst a local Fund Manager has a bullish view; V-shaped recovery has begun.

Malaysian Economy - at which stage of economic clock; 7 or 8 or 9 O’clock ?

6 websites that property investors need to know in Malaysia

July 1st, 2009

Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn Bhd compiles a list of Malaysia’s official portals providing property information and guidelines that property buyers and foreign property investors need to know in Malaysia.

1. Relaxation of FIC guidelines- The Prime Minister of Malaysia has announced that, effective 30/6/2009, all property transactions, including those between foreigners and non-bumiputeras, will no longer require Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) approval. The NEW FIC guidelines on acquisition of properties can be downloaded from the website of Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department.

However, foreign investors cannot acquire properties below specified threshold limits, with the threshold amount for commercial properties at RM500,000. For the purchase of residential properties, the present threshold of RM250,000 is maintained until the end of 2009, with the threshold increased to RM500,000 effective of Jan 1, 2010. More latest related information on deregulation of FIC guidelines at here and here.

2. Pemudah– A special taskforce set up by the government of Malaysia in 2007 to facilitate easier business dealings and improving public services delivery system. Pemudah has come out with a guidebook on land registration in Malaysia. The guidebook provides a brief information on land ownership registration in Malaysia. It also provides the stages and processes involved in land administration and complete with relevant forms required when transferring ownership for both local and foreign investors as well as list of registration fees for ownership transfer of each states.

The guidebook can be downloaded free from Pemudah’s website-here;

3.JPPHValuation and property services department, ministry of finance Malaysia. The JPPH’s website has shown much improvements over the years. The website not only posted the department’s up-to-date information but incorporates various NAPIC (National Property Information Centre)’s publications as well which was previously available on printed copy at a fee.

It is commendable that JPPH has posted NAPIC’s publication online on regular basis providing free quarterly property information such as Property Stock Report, Property Market Status Report, Property Sales Data etc. In addition, the portal now comes with new added online services such as stamp duties calculator for ownership transfer of real estate and MySMS services for property purchasers on stamp duty valuation cases. Though JPPH has uploaded the property information online, layman and property beginners somehow find that these quarterly reports are not easily comprehensible as there is little explanation or commentary and comparative findings on these tabulated statistics and data. The information is catered more for macro analysis on the suppy and demand of the various sub-sectors of the property market.

4. Department of Director General of Land and mines – this website posted general information (in Malaysian Language only) and a list of Malaysia Laws and application guidelines of various land dealings such as application for state alienated lands, subdivision and amalgamation, land conversion and guidelines on the approval process of land ownership (residential units) by foreign interests. Under Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, Land is under the jurisdiction of the respective state administration and each state has its own set of land enactments. Related link : Penang’s new policy on land conversion.

The website has also posted a paper written by Mohd Shukri Bin Ismail providing some insights into the latest amendments of the National Land Code 1965. The National Land Code is the primary land law of the states of Malaysia.

5.MM2H – Malaysia, My Second Home Programme, an international residency scheme being promoted by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia to allow foreigners to live in the country on a long-stay visa of up to 10 years. The portal, MM2H, has been enhanced several times and is now accessible in various languages and provided with all the one-stop information including guidelines on purchase of residential homes by foreigners/expatriates.

6. Guidelines for house buyers issued by Ministry of Housing and Local Government Malaysia- The guidelines has been posted on the ministry’s website for many years which are still relevant and provides  helpful tips to FIRST-TIME house buyers who wish to purchase new housing units (off-the-plan or under construction units) from primary market ie from housing developers.

The website also provides information of housing legal clinic and tribunal for homebuyer claims set up by the ministry to provide advice and help solve the problems faced by home buyers against housing developers.

For advisory on property investments in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

Evening Scene of Butterworth-Penang Skyline

KLCC skyline

How to increase your home value through smart renovations

May 24th, 2009

Many house owners have the tendency to renovate their new homes exceeding their original budget. It is common to see that house purchasers of newly completed schemes in Penang are “competing” each others in home renovations. Some common renovations visible in Penang’s new residential areas are demolition of front car porch and replaced with a bigger car porch to accommodate two or more cars, hacking down the entire front terrace and facade (without balcony) and replaced with a much bigger car porch incorporating a balcony, extending the rear portion of the house to accommodate a larger kitchen etc.

We have seen house owners carried out major renovations to their houses to the extent that the renovation costs exceeding the purchase price of the house.

Renovations do not always translate to an increase in the value of your home. However, if you’re planning to sell sometime in the future and want to ensure you get the most ROI (Rate of Return), it is important to assess the value renovation. Below are several ways to optimise the cost-value ratio and achieve maximum ROI for your renovations;

a) Avoid renovations with too much customization of personal liking and taste.

If the major renovations and home improvements are customized design to suit to personal liking and lifestyle which is not commonly acceptable in the marketplace sometime in the future, you may not get much of a return when you sell as potential buyers may find these renovations are not value-added renovations but rather owner’s own personal indulgence and lifestyle. Potential buyers may also view it as a liability because he may have to spend more money to change or renovate again.

When choosing tiles, countertops, paint, cabinet doors, kitchen appliances and awnings, go with colors that will stand the test of time even as fashions come and go. Conventional or classic home designs are still the ideal for home renovations because such designs never go out of style and will always attract buyers when you are ready to sell your home.

b) Retain the essence of the original design ambience

Avoid excessive renovations such as changing the structure of house from the original two storey house to become a three storey house or demolition of a front porch and facade and replaced with a totally new design super large car porch with a balcony. Such major renovations could have materially changed the external facade of the house and may render the house no longer blend in with the design ambience of the neighbourhood and this may affect the saleability of the house.

c) Summit proper building plan for new extensions

Check with the building department of the local council MPPP or MPSP and obtain a copy of building  approval guidelines. Engage a licensed draftsman or architect to ensure that the extensions are in compliance with the building guidelines by the local authorities.

A property valuer, when assessing the market value of a house, will give due consideration and only accord full value computation for properly constructed extensions with valid approvals.

d) Value-neutral or value-added renovations

Ascertain whether the renovations to be carried are value-neutral or value-added renovations. Upgrading cement floor with homogenous floor tiles, modernizing a kitchen or upgrading the kitchen into wet and dry cooking area, improving home security system are regarded as value-added renovations whilst demolition of front terrace and house facade and rebuilt it with a large balcony, adding a swimming pool or building a sauna or long bath,  reducing the number of bedrooms to less than three are considered value-neutral renovations.

List down your options before embarking on home renovations. For house buyer who prefers house design with large car porch and balcony, it is wise to compare and weight the option which is more worthwhile and cost effective ? to buy a landed house without a balcony and later renovate it or to look for house design that comes with large car porch and balcony ?.

House Design : 2-storey terraced houses without balcony

Another House Design : 2-storey terraced houses with large car porch and balcony

For more tips on home renovations, go to Renovation quotation.

Very often when house owner decides to sell off his house, they tend to overprice their properties as they calculate their asking price by factor in all the costs incurred during and after acquisition of the house ie. purchase price plus all incidental costs such as payment of legal fees and stamping charges plus  renovations costs, bank interest charges incurred plus exit fees or penalty charges for termination of loan agreement within the lock-in period (if any).

The true fact is that total cost spent on the particular house is NOT necessarily equate to the market price of the house. In an active and uptrend market, house prices tend to go up higher than the total acquisition costs. Conversely, in a weak or depressed market, house prices may go down and fall below the total acquisition costs of the house. The market price of the house is very much influenced by the prevailing economy conditions and market sentiments and more specifically relates to the demand and supply of similar houses in the local area.

For advisory on property investments in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

6 strategies to succeed in Penang property investment

April 27th, 2009

The current downturn in Malaysia property market provides good buying opportunities for property investors. Here are several strategies for property investors who are keen to invest in Penang Properties.

1) Determine your strategy

Before you venture into property investment, you should determine your purchasing strategy and evaluate whether it meets your income and growth expectations. For example, if you want a steady passive rental return, consider apartments and condominiums in areas close to major industrial parks, commercial centers, university, hospitals, where there is sure to be a constant supply of renters.

Conversely, if your investment strategy is to buy and hold a property so you can build equity for a capital gain, landed homes at Penang Island may offer steady capital growth and sustainability in the long term due to limited supply of land bank or escalating land cost for landed homes.

2) Avoid investment pitfalls

Like any other investments, property investment is often associated with risks and pitfalls that prudent investor would want to avoid. Learn more on 10 Most common mistakes made by first time investors.

3) Select the right location

According to the old real estate saying, “The only three things that matter in real estate are “location, location and location”. The property needs to be in a good location close to schools, shops, transportation centre and recreational facilities. The fact that a posh bungalow that is sitting next to a garbage dump has very low desirability factor and fetch poor value. Conversely, a sea-front condominium unit within the heart of the city or along the Gurney Drive promenade will have high desirability factor and therefore constantly attracting potential tenants and investors.

4) Buy property with positive equity

Buy property from motivated sellers, buy auction property at public auctions or buy bargain property that can bring you positive equity. Due to the imperfection of the property market, there are times when sellers are motivated or must sell at all costs urgently at below market price. In a slowdown market, property sellers are more realistic in their asking prices and receptive to offers by interested buyers.

5) Look for a catalyst

One sign that an area is up-and-coming and has potential to be a new vibrant growth center in the future is the development of new critical infrastructure projects such as construction of Second Penang Bridge and the expansion of Penang International Airport and other NCER projects which when completed, would spur more investments and developments to the Batu Maung/Bayan Baharu areas of Southern Penang Island as well as Batu Kawan of Southern mainland Penang. The completion of Jelutong Coastal Highway and Buterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) have indeed transformed its corridor areas into new property hotspots with many new housing schemes mushrooming along these highways.

When you see new highways, roads, schools, hotels and major shopping centers being built, it’s a sign that the community is set for a vibrant growth.

6) Capitalise on tax relief / incentives provided by SSP

Residential purchasers can take advantage of the tax relief on interest paid on housing loans up to RM10,000 a year for 3 years between March 10, 2009, and Dec 31, 2010 under the recently announced Second Stimulus Package (SPP) Mini Budget 2009.

Whilst for business owners, it is a good time to renovate and refurbish your commercial premises as expenditure incurred on renovation and refurbishment between 10 March 2009 and 31 December 2010 will be given Accelerated Capital Allowance, which can be claimed within 2 years. The Allowance is capped at RM100,000.

There is also no capital gains tax when you dispose off your investment property as the Malaysian Government has abolished Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) since 1/4/2007.

For more related articles on strategies in property investments, I like the following FREE web blogs of Milan Doshi and Bill Zheng, learn more :- Do properties Make the “Prefect” Investment? ; Part I and Part II By Milan Doshi and A straightforward guide to property investment strategies By Bill Zheng.

View of high rise buildings near Gurney Drive as seen from the playground of CRC.

For advisory on property investments in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

Why Penang apartment and condominium purchasers need to aware about COB, JMB of ACT 663?

March 31st, 2009

All stratified buildings in Malaysia are required to form Joint Management Bodies (JMBs) during the initial period (whereby strata titles are issued and pending transfer to unit owners) before the deadline 12th April 2008 in accordance to the Building and Common Property (Management and Maintenance) Act 2007 [BCPMM Act- ACT 663].

In mainland Penang, the Commissioner of Building (COB),  who is also the council president of MPSP recently revealed that although there are a total of  existing 512 stratified housing schemes with a combined 57, 144 parcels, only 53 JMBs and 30 MCs have been formed (Refer chart 1 below).

Chart 1

The recent awareness seminar by the local council – MPSP on the need to set up JMBs(高楼须成立共管机) for high rise stratified buildings in Penang State revealed that despite the deadline is already over and is coming to one year by this 11th April 2009, there are still many high rise buildings have yet to form JMBs. The COB is giving more time to some 400 high rise buildings to set up a JMB for each building.

With the appointment of the local council presidents as COBs and the formation of JMB under the ACT 663, the Malaysian government hopes to address problems faced by high rise buildings as many high rise buildings in the country more particularly low and medium cost stratified housing schemes have been beset with maintenance woes and with some of them experiencing deteriorating stage of maintenance and upkeep after only several years of completion. The quality and standard of maintenance and upkeep of each building has major impacts on the market prices of these stratified housing units, those schemes with good stage of maintenance have been able to maintain or preserve their market values. Likewise, poorly managed schemes are experiencing declining property values. Read more : problems of managing high rise strata buildings and the impacts of ACT 663 and Update on high rise building maintenance - Whither improvement ?.

Chart 2

Chart 3

Chart 4

It is observed that the number of JMBs formed in mainland Penang is lower, only 53 compared to Penang Island’s 115 although both councils received about similar submissions of accounts and minutes of meeting  ie 187 and 184 applications respectively ( Chart 2 & Chart 3), indicating that the level of awareness to form JMBs by high rise building owners in mainland Penang is lower compared to those of Penang Island.

The formation of JMBs for high rise buildings is not progressing as fast as expected. The COB has received many appeals from housing developers to give them more time for establishment of JMBs. These are still many housing developers including PDC Properties – the Penang’s state development agency, have yet to submit their audited accounts to COB for their housing schemes. The COB has identified recalcitrant developers who did nothing on their schemes and will take action soon.

Some pertinent issues brought up at the recent seminar ranged from problems of collection of service charges, parking lots dispute, illegal extension, defects and leakages etc. On the issue of recovery of maintenance arrears, the JMB  in addition to the normal court action against the defaulters,  can now submit a list of defaulters ( arrears more than 6 months) to COB for recovery action and to issue warrant of attachment against the defaulters. So far no precedent action has been initiated by COB against any defaulters yet.

Below are some pointers to help increase apartment and condominium purchasers’ level of awareness on ACT 663:-

*KNOW the progress phase of strata titles registration of your housing scheme whether it is still at first or second or third phase of post-development ;

The first Phase refers to the period whereby in accordance with Strata Title Act(ACT 318), developers are required to submit application for strata title. JMB to be formed within 12 months of vacant possession or 12 months of act in force ie 11 April 2008.

The Second Phase refers to Initial period whereby strata titles are issued and in the process of being transferred to unit owners from the developer. At least one quarter of the aggregate share units of the strata unit owners have to be registered first to form Management Corporation (MC).

The Third Phase refers to the formation of MC where parcel owners takes over responsibility of MC and termination of JMB within 3 three months after formation of MC.

For guide on the phases in relation to ACT 663 & ACT 318, go to impacts of ACT 663 on management and maintenance of stratified properties in Malaysia

*FIND OUT whether your housing scheme is one of those schemes that has been issued with JMB certificate by COB or otherwise. What is the name of JMB and when is the date of issuance and who are the committee members (JMC) if JMB has been set up ?.

Kompleks Bukit Jambul is the first stratified scheme in Penang Island to set up JMB on 21/9/2007..

*CONFIRM your monthly service charge payment; Is it bank into Building Maintenance Account in the case where JMB has been set up or still the developer’s account ? If the payments collected go to developer’s account, has the developer created a separate account for each project or one master account for all projects?

*UNDERSTAND the functions of COB, duties of JMB, duties of developer as well as duties of unit owners to pay maintenance charges.To know more about ACT 663 and ACT 318,  get FREE print out/download on ACT 663 and ACT 318!(Thanks to HBA).

Under these two Acts, The COB Penang has the power to act on matters relating to building maintenance problems and disputes. The COB Penang has dealt with many cases such as ceiling leakages-A property nightmare faced by this Penang blogger. Whilst legal redress is one of the options, the aggrieved owner can refer to JMB/MC and bring his case to COB secretariat to seek intervention of COB.

For advisory on property investments in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

UNIDO’s Report on Penang Industrial Transformation

March 5th, 2009

Despite the global economic downturn, Penang remains an attractive investment centre in Asia Pacific region. According to recently released United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s (UNIDO) Industrial Development report 2009, Penang is one of the top 10 dynamic industrial cluster locations in the world.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s (UNIDO) Industrial Development Report 2009, had rated Penang, along with Buenos Aries, Southeastern Brazil, Phnom Penh, Los Lagos (Chile), Qiaotou, (China), Chennai, Jakarta, Vientiane and Otigba in Nigeria, as the leading locations.

Penang industrialization journey

Penang industrialization journey

Some of the indicators that placed Penang as a robust location were, excellent basic infrastructure, strong cluster networks between firms and intermediary agencies such as the Penang Development Corportation (PDC) and the Free Trade Association of Penang. Below are the extract of the report on Penang Malaysia - An export-processing zone grows up;

Penang is the largest of the three major regional electrical-electronics clusters in Malaysia. It was Malaysia’s first export processing zone (EPZ), opened by the Government in 1972 to attract foreign electrical goods and electronics firms. The electrical-electronics industry has been the leading source of MVA, employment and exports in Penang since 1980.

Penang began as an “artificial agglomeration”. It was the outcome of activist Government policies designed to attract international investors. A formal clustering policy was adopted in Malaysia with the introduction of the Second Industrial Master Plan in 1996. The cluster approach was designed so as to develop greater linkages and complementarities between transnational investors and local industries.

In Penang, excellent basic infrastructure—good transport services, power supply, water supply and telecommunications—was combined with superior provision of social services, such as public health facilities and schools, to make the region attractive to skilled workers and managers. Institutional reforms were also introduced to improve the performance of the security and customs services within the EPZ. Drawn by these investments and financial incentives, Japanese, European and giant North American firms, such as Hitachi, Sony, Siemens, Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett Packard, Intel, National Semiconductor, and Seagate, moved to Penang. The agglomeration of these flagship firms helped stimulate the development of local supplier firms.

Penang has benefited particularly from the development of public and public-private organizations aimed at solving coordination problems for firms in the cluster. Strong networks exist between firms and basic infrastructure organizations, such as the Penang Development Corporation. Producers’ organizations, such as the Free Trade Association of Penang and chambers of commerce, also figure prominently in promoting the exchange of information among firms.

Penang’s manufacturing structure is moving towards higher value-added activities. Over time transnational corporations in the cluster have moved from low to high value-added activities and have been replaced in the value chain by local firms. In the 1980s, local firms were mainly involved in assembly. By the 1990s, some had diversified into other activities and become global players. Even small and medium industries are directly involved in exports (Ariffin and Figueiredo, 2004). Complementary industries, such as machine tools and plastics, have also developed. The technological development of local firms stimulated the transformation of flagship firms, such as Intel, Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, Fairchild, Hewlett Packard and Dell, into designing activities.

There is evidence of substantial cohesion and information exchange among firms in the electronics cluster. Supplier, distributor and customer relationships are stronger within the electronics cluster than for other firms in the same geographical zone. The Penang Development Corporation has helped to nurture linkages in advanced electronics, advanced materials, environmental engineering, high-technology and high value-added components with potential suppliers and distributors (Rasiah, 1994). Labour market externalities are potentially large.

The electronics cluster in Penang employs more engineers and managers than other manufacturing subsectors in Penang (Rasiah, 2002). The Penang Skills Development Centre has played an important role in providing firm-oriented skill training, adding to the thickness of the labour market. Tailor-made educational programmes (based specifically on industrial requirements) have been effective in reducing the gap between education providers and the industry. Firms without internal training centres (unlike Komag, Intel and others that have their own colleges and universities) are currently relying on these tailor-made programmes (Rasiah, 2007). Many industry managers, however, stress the need for local institutions (especially local universities) to upgrade their educational content based on industry needs.

Penang’s electrical-electronics cluster has clearly been the most successful of the ten agglomerations studied, in terms of the evolution of its industrial structure. Pecuniary externalities arising from infrastructure and the labour market, combined with knowledge spillovers from foreign-owned firms to large local firms and finally to smaller local firms, have resulted in the development of a very dense supplier-user network and considerable production-sharing.

However, the increasing technological sophistication of the cluster seems to have created a coordination problem that may inhibit further technological upgrading. Not surprisingly, surveys reveal that decisions by large firms to produce more sophisticated products and to outsource some of their existing production within the cluster influence the decisions of smaller local firms to invest in technological upgrading.

Smaller local firms are only willing to invest in new technologies and products after outsourcing contracts are secured. Large firms, for their part, are reluctant to transfer their product lines and do so only when they are convinced that local firms are technologically capable of producing the products.

Full text of the UNIDO’s report (in PDF format) is available here.

In another recent report by KMPG International Advisory-Exploring global frontiers: The New Emerging Destinations; Penang has been listed as one of the world’s top Information Technology (IT) – Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) locations. According to the survey, Penang is among top 31 countries worldwide as IT-BPO destinations. Among the key drivers that made Penang favourable IT-BPO destinations are its government’s strong focus in promoting the industry, the Multimedia Super Corridor status and creation of the Software Consortium of Penang (ScoPe) and the availability of skilled English Speaking personnel to facilitate multi-lingual service delivery. The 10 countries in Asia-Pacific include Brisbane, Changsha, Hangzhou, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Nagpur, Penang, Davao City, Iloilo City, Ho Chi Minh City.

Penang is the first state in Malaysia outside Multi Super Corridor (MSC) to be officially granted the Cybercity status, providing a high-tech growth platform for the state of Penang. Penang Cybercity 1 (PCC1), covering an area of about 923 hectares at the south-eastern of Penang Island,  includes Bayan Lepas Industrial Park, a portion of Bayan Baru area, and Queensbay as well as PDC’s upcoming Bayan Mutiara development along the Sungai Nibong coastal area. More related articles on Penang Industrial at Penang as outsourcing and training hub and Expanding SME in Penang.

For map guide on Penang Industrial development, click here.

Mainland Penang offers competitive industrial land costs ranging from RM15 per square foot to RM30 per square foot(USD4 to USD8 per square foot)  in major industrial parks whilst rental rates for ready purpose built industrial space ranges from RM0.80 to RM1.50 per square foot (USD0.20 to USD0.40 per square foot) per month for industrial buildings with floor sizes ranging from 100,000 sq ft to 300,000 sq ft.

Besides this, Penang Island is one of the popular destinations for second homes under Malaysia, my second homes programme(MM2H). Penang Ranks top ten Asia’s most liveable city.

For advisory on industrial property investments in Penang, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

How to refinance your home loans smartly

February 20th, 2009

As competition is heating up amongst the commercial banks for banking on home loans, more new home loan promotions and competitive refinancing packages are available in the market to entice homeowners to refinance their existing loans. Following the latest cut of interest rates by Malaysia’s central bank, most commercial banks have already revised their base lending rates (BLR) from 6.75% to 5.75-6.0%. Update : The Malaysia’s central bank has cut interest rate again on 24th Feb 2009, BLRs of commercial banks have further revised lower to 5.55% - 5.60%. With interest rates trending lower, it is a good time to review, restructure and refinance your existing loans. There are several good reasons that home owners would benefit from switching their loans to a new loan with lower interest rates;

1. Lower your monthly installment payment
2. Debt Consolidation
3. Using the Existing Equity in the Home
4. Shorten the term of your home loan
5. Combine a first and second mortgage
6. Reduce the interest you pay over the life of the loan
7. Switch from conventional housing loan with variable rate to a fixed rate loan or Islamic loan (or vice versa)
8. Eliminate MRTA mortgage insurance

Before opting to refinance, it is important for home owners and property investors to consider the savings or benefits of refinancing vis-a –vis the costs of refinancing. Do your own break-even analysis between long term savings and refinancing costs to determine whether the savings really outweigh the costs of  refinancing or otherwise. More at Making sense of mortgage refinancing and Should I refinance now ?.

However, there are circumstances whereby refinancing might not give you the maximum savings such as when you have short remaining years to retire your loan etc Refer why say no to refinancing.

For Malaysia home owner as well as property investors who are uncertain of holding the property for long term or you have plans to sell off the property in the near term, not all refinancing packages will provide you the best refinancing benefits. Refinancing packages with features of “Zero-Entry Cost” or “Zero-Moving Cost” may not necessarily the best option, depending on your financial needs. Under such packages, although you are not required to pay any processing fee, legal fees, stamp duty, valuation fees upfront, the loans are subject to higher interest rates and imposition of exit fees or early redemption penalty up to 5% of the loan amount (vary from bank to bank) in the event that you choose to redeem your loan within the lock-in period of 5 years. Example if a house owner has to redeem his loan of RM200,000.00 within the lock-in period, he has to pay 5% of exit fees ie RM10,000.00!!!

We have come across property sellers who were stuck with loans with lock-in period and only realised that if they decide to take up a good deal offered by interested buyer, they have to pay the exit fees for redeeming the loan prematurely. On the other hand, if they choose to wait until the expiry of lock-in years ie after 5 years to avoid payment of exit fees, they might lose the opportunity of capitalising gains or losing the sale due to changing market conditions. For investment properties, the better alternative is to look for refinancing packages with no exit fees or shorter lock-in period which give you more flexibility in terms of selling / renting,  though initially you may have to pay slightly higher interest rates and documentation costs, it is still better than paying exit fees which could end up diluting your capital gains.

Below is a simple checklist to guide you on home loan refinancing :-

1 Get information on the current mortgage

For the current mortgage, you should be able to get the following information from the bank:

- the outstanding balance or ringgit amount left on the mortgage;

- the remaining number of years on the mortgage; and

- the interest rate on the loan.

2 Get information on the new loan

For the new loan, you should get information on the following:

- the terms or the number of years of the new loan; and

- the interest rate on the new loan.( the latest interest rate can be as low as BLR - 2.4% )

3 Get the costs of refinancing

The costs you are likely to encounter when refinancing include:

- processing fee or application fee;

- credit check fee;

- legal fees;

- stamp duty;

- disbursements fee;

- valuation fees; and

- redemption fees (if applicable)

4. Shop for best refinancing loan packages that suit you.

- Find out the latest home loan promotions by various lenders in Malaysia :-

-Malaysia Home Loans - What’s New (January 2009)

-Conventional home loan packages

-Islamic Home Financing Packages

-other home loan packages offered by non-bank lenders; AIA, ING

For advisory on property investments in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

New housing scheme by SP Setia in Penang Island

New housing area in Prai

5 market indicators on Penang Property Sector

January 23rd, 2009

1.Fewer new project launchings - Unlike first quarter last year whereby a slew of new housing projects were launched feverishly, this quarter will likely see a subdue market with fewer housing project launchings judging from the promotional activities and advertisements in the local dailies during the period of year-end holiday seasons and new year festivities. Recent housing advertisements and promotional activities are mostly geared towards “stock clearance sales”, indicating that developers/contractors are attempting to reduce their overhang units or clear their inventory.

2.Softening property prices - Whilst some of the housing developers are still holding on to their selling prices, few have started reverting to their old selling prices after price increment ranging from RM10,000 to RM50,000 per unit 5-6 months ago due to escalating costs of fuel and building materials.

Previously, it is common to see developers offering “free legal fees for SPA” only. Now, developers are more “generous” in dishing out perks which include free legal fees for all documentations and absorb all stamping duties on transfer and loan and progressive interest payments during construction period and freebies like LCD TV, air-conditioners, home alarm system, no maintenance charges for first two years etc. Under such packages, If one is to purchase a house costing RM500,000.00 with 95% loan (RM475,000.00), the estimated “savings” can total up to RM35,000.00 - RM45,000.00 per unit or approximately 3-4% of the sales price. The primary market of  Penang Property Sector is likely to see more such offerings and new pro-consumer financial packages such as 5/95 Home Loan Package.

3.Higher overhang units were reported in 3Q08 in the latest NAPIC’s report of which 86% of the overhang units is from Seberang Perai (mainland Penang), which still has abundant of usable lands and is facing stiffer competitions as compared to Penang Island.

In a softening demand environment, developers are shifting strategies to shore up sales and focus more on cash flow management to sustain their projects rather than holding on to their overhang units whilst some may review their project plans to either cater for niche product segment or more affordable products range.  A clearer picture on the take-up rates of the ongoing housing projects which indicating the demand trend will emerge over the next few months when NAPIC releases its 4Q08 and 1Q09 reports.

4. Slower construction activities-Construction activities of some ongoing housing projects have also noticeably slowing down or scaled down in recent months. Several property developers in Penang have already announced plans to defer their projects in the state;here and here.

5. Lower housing supply -Given the global economic downturn and weak domestic market outlook,  the number of new housing supply coming on stream this year may be lower compared to previous good years. It is a challenging times for housing developers to launch new planned projects.

According to Malaysia’s NAPIC Report - Residential Property Stock Report 3Q08(Page 31-33), the Penang State housing stock totals 322,426 units including 1,687 newly completed units in 3Q08. The incoming supply (under construction and works started) is estimated at 51,612 units whilst another 34,648 units planned supply units from housing projects which have been approved as well as those submitted but pending approvals.

On the national front, Malaysia’s housing ministry has projected a lower number of supply of newly completed houses at 80,000 units for year 2009 as compared to annual average of 100,000 units. More at Ministry hopes for 80,000 homes in 2009.

As the property market in Malaysia is taking a breather, the current property downturn has opened up good opportunities for property investors with a long term prospective as Malaysia properties are still comparatively attractive as compared to other regions. For advisory on property investments in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.

New housing schemes in Bayan Lepas near Penang International Airport

View of  the newly completed housing scheme in Butterworth town.

House buying guide –with more insightful tips that first time home buyers need to know

January 9th, 2009

Buying a house is more than just a financial investment as a house is often costs tens or hundreds of thousands. The money that a purchaser put down to buy a house is often the result of years of savings. So before you commit to purchase a property, you have to be clear about your objectives whether is it for your own occupation or investment or both? Although the house provides safety, shelter and comfort to your family, the decision to purchase or invest in a particular property today is a major one, the investment can become a solid asset or wealth in the future or turn out to be a financial disaster if the housing project is abandoned. www.intproperties.com compiles this updated blog with more up-to-date information, tips and guides.

Basically, you have the choice to buy residential properties of the following categories with its advantages and disadvantages as belows:-:

1.Buying a new/off-the-plan house from primary market;

This usually refer to buying property off the plan from housing developers which are yet to be built or under construction.The advantage of buying from the developer is that it is new and has never been occupied before. There are usually cheaper than completed properties. There is also the 18 months defect liability period available, if it is a residential property.However, the disadvantages are one cannot inspect it before purchase, and there is no certainty of quality or workmanship or completion or delivery date, which prompts some buyers to opt for a reputable developer.

Beware that most show units are beautifully constructed and decorated with impressive interior fittings and furniture to woo buyers whereas the units that you are going to purchase may just be a standard vacant unit without those additional things. There are progressive interests to be serviced by purchaser/borrower for loan amount disburse to developer during construction period. You will also have no idea who are your immediate neighbours or the address number of the property before buying.

In times of market slowdown and economic uncertainties, there is a greater risk of under construction housing projects being delayed or stalled or abandoned as most of the Malaysia housing developers are still building houses on Sell Than Built (STB) concept. If you wish to purchase a new house from housing developers, then check out the developer’s background and its track record, choose only to deal with housing developers with proven track record with on time delivery and reliable maintenance management team. Ask for feedback on their previous projects from third independent source! Walk away from errant housing developers. Get more information and guidelines at the website of Malaysia Housing and Local Government Ministry. Related link: Purchasing a new property.

2.Buying a completed house from secondary market;

The advantage of buying completed property is that you can inspect the house and its neighbourhood and you will get exactly the unit that you have seen. There is no risk of the project being abandoned; some buyers would rather pay the extra premium.

The disadvantage is that such properties have been lived in before, and may have some undesirable history. The other option is to buy a completed new property which is pending or has issued its certificate of fitness. Related link :Pros and cons of buying property from primary market or secondary market.

3.Buying auction property;

The advantage of buying an auction property is that it is usually below the market price. An auction is a good market place for those who wants to acquire properties fast and potential buyers could choose their preferred properties in terms of location, size and pricing at the auction and also for those who wish to acquire second property for investment as it could be rented out almost immediately.

There are factors and pitfalls that a property buyer needs to know when buying action property. Learn more at my latest blog – 8 things to consider when buying auction property.

As property is a specialized sector involving comparatively high capital, low liquidity investment, it is wise to consider one’s financial budget and needs before making a decision to rent or to buy a house.

Renting versus Buying

If you do not have much savings for the down payment to purchase the house, a cheaper alternative would be renting. As tenant, besides the normal rental and utility deposits required by the landlord, you do not need to bear documentation costs such as legal fees for preparation of sale and purchase agreement and loan documents and stamping charges for ownership transfer and yearly taxes like assessment rates and quit rent. No maintenance charges and structural repair costs either as these costs are also to be borne by the landlord. One disadvantage is that you may have to move out if the landlord decides to sell off the house or take back the place for his own use by just giving written notice to you or even increase the rentals upon expiry of tenancy. And each time you move, relocation or moving costs will be incurred.

It is certainly a better alternative to rent rather than buying if your stay is intended for short term period or you are subject to transfer to other workplace by your employer. However, buying would be a better option if and when you are going to remain in one place for long time. As new buyer of the house, you acquire the interest of the property which means you have the benefit of security and ownership of the house and it provides stability for your family. Recommended blog - Buying vs. Renting.

What are the most important factors to consider before you decide to buy your choice property? Studies have shown that two important factors influencing a person’s decision to buy a property are Location and Price.

Location versus Pricing

Completed houses in established well-populated areas are usually fetched relatively higher price than their equivalent types in new areas. These completed houses are situated in a prime locality whereby ample facilities, public transport and all essential services are easily available and are close to the heart of the main employment centres. In contrast, newly built houses in new growth areas are usually located further away from the city whereby amenities and services are usually lacking or partially available. Prices of residential properties in prime localities will usually move up where job opportunities area readily available whilst supply of houses and land availability is limited. So it would be prudent to compare the weightage of location versus pricing factors in each individual’s budget.

If a person is currently working in Bayan Lepas Industrial Area, one would have to consider whether to pay the price of say RM550,000 to RM700,000 to buy a standard double-storey terraced house nearby his workplace somewhere in Bayan Baru/Sungai Nibong/Sungai Ara area of Penang Island or pay only less than half of the price for a similar double-storey terraced house in Bukit Tengah/Bukit Mertajam area on the mainland but further away from workplace which requires longer travelling time as well as the hassle of traffic congestion at Penang Bridge.

However, for those who are looking for affordable landed houses costing RM150,000.00 and below,  your choice is rather limited and you have to widen your search to new growth areas in mainland Penang or Kedah areas which is far away from major workplace.

The future housing trend of housing in land-scarce Penang ; more supply of high rise flatted housing units whilst new stock of affordable landed homes are likely to come from new growth areas in Southern district or Northern district of mainland Penang..

Once you make up your mind to purchase a house, the next question is about sourcing for a right housing loan?

Financing a house

There are many loan packages available in the market that a buyer can choose from ie commercial banks and finance companies, building societies and insurance companies and government loans for eligible government servants.

For first-time house buyers, a recommended must read resource website would be Banking Info, a consumer educational programme by Central Bank of Malaysia which provides complete guidelines and invaluable tips on financing a house, type of loan packages, legal fees and stamp duties incurred when acquiring a property.

How much lawyer fees and stamp duty when purchase a property?

When a buyer has decided the property that he/she wishes to purchase, you are advised to engage your own solicitor to act on your behalf and are required to pay the legal fees for sales and purchase agreement and loan agreements as well as stamp duties for both documents.

To know more about charges on legal fees for the purchase of a property go to : How much should you pay a lawyer in a property transaction?.

Cash or financing when buying property?

If you are buying a property for cash instead of bank financing, there are factors to consider too, its benefits and downside, more at Cash or financing when buying property and Buying properties for cash.

For more tips and guides on house buying, go to recommended links:Ten tips for buying property and Tips of buying a home for the first time by Amy Fontinelle.

Now, ready to go for house hunting ! Get a FREE printout on Property Buying Checklist-Download here!

For advisory on individual property needs, email to your property consultants at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd. or call us at +604-6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.