Securing a meeting with Datuk Seri Fateh Iskandar Mohamed Mansor — affectionately known as FD in the property industry — is notoriously difficult.

After all, this corporate chieftain wears many hats. While he helms property developer Glomac Bhd, sits on a variety of listed company boards across industries that include IT, telecommunications and media, as well as a staggering number of taskforces, business groups and councils, he is known first and foremost as president of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda).

Yet, the gracious and affable man, whose days are evidently a constant stream of interruptions, makes time to champion the cause of real estate as he and the association “do it genuinely for the love of the stakeholders, the industry and the country as a whole”, he tells EdgeProp.my.

“That in itself is very gratifying because we do it for a cause and for the good of the industry and we strongly believe it is also for the good of the nation,” he stresses.

Given his dedication to the industry, it is only fitting that he is accorded the Editor’s Choice — Malaysia’s Exemplary Real Estate Industry Leader 2018 award at EdgeProp Malaysia’s Best Managed Property Awards 2018.

The award — presented by the editors of EdgeProp.my for the first time ever — recognises his outstanding and exemplary leadership in these especially trying times for the real estate sector.

FD Iskandar ascended to the presidency in 2014, a period many real estate players and observers would say was the turning point of the sector’s decline into its current state of sluggishness.

Stringent credit controls, escalating costs of doing business and a yawning gap between would-be homebuyers’ incomes and property prices have battered the real estate market.

Rehda had responded to these challenges by lobbying the government for incentives to help homebuyers purchase affordable homes, such as the My First Home Scheme for homes priced up to RM500,000 introduced in 2015, the First Home Deposit Scheme (MyDeposit) under Budget 2016 with an allocation of RM200 million that offers RM30,000 for each affordable housing unit built, and the Step-Up Financing Scheme.

Most recently, Rehda had successfully appealed to the federal government to lift the ban on the development of high-rise homes priced above RM1 million, offices and shopping malls.

“We always tell our members to do their research. For example, why shouldn’t developers be allowed to build offices if they are able to guarantee 80% occupancy?” he asks.

However, most recently, the Valuation and Property Services Department’s “Malaysian Property Market Report 2017” showed that the number of overhang units has reached a record-high of 24,738 units worth a staggering RM15.64 billion.

To this, FD Iskandar says that nowadays, developers are more focused on cash flow than on profit. Thus, we can expect even more initiatives by developers to sell properties.

Nevertheless, the problem fundamentally goes back to a lack of timely quality data. FD Iskandar says Rehda has been pushing for a centralised authority for affordable housing that has the mandate to override federal and state-level government obstacles and oversee all development-related matters, including the collation of big data.

While data on the ground is scant, what the industry does know, however, is that housing demand will continue to grow. In broad strokes, household sizes will shrink — from five to six people per home to three to four people — as the population grows to a projected 33 million by end-2018. This necessitates stratified living, especially in urban areas, and thus the importance of proper management.

Hallmarks of a sustainable development

Good property management, in turn, is enabled by thoughtful planning and design, which is the hallmark of a sustainable and viable development. This is where developers lead the way, says FD Iskandar.

“Everybody wants to build iconic buildings but it is also important to be practical. This is because when people buy properties, it is ultimately to invest in their future,” he says.

He acknowledges that property management is often overlooked and underrated because of its mundane nature, yet it is far from an easy task.

“But at the same time, I feel there is a general awareness these last few years of how important property management is in stratified and communal living, which has become part and parcel of city living in our rapidly urbanised population,” he observes.

He notes that as Malaysia becomes increasingly cosmopolitan, the bar has been raised on real estate.

“This is where design innovations and creativity of developers carry a huge influence on the life-long sustainability of properties and its inherent maintenance and management issues.

“Developers now realise that it is never merely enough to build and sell properties but it is essential to ensure that their developments are sustainable and deliver top-quality services, and that when the management committee, joint management body or residents’ association takes over in any strata development or landed guarded community, the promise made of a quality lifestyle living can continue and is sustainable.”

Good property management is also vital in ensuring that Malaysian real estate continues to draw international investors and foreign capital.

“It helps that we now have the latest amendments to the laws relating to strata titles and strata management, and this can only be a step forward for the industry as a whole to ensure the dynamics of communal living issues are addressed and our benchmark and standards are raised to international levels.

“Therefore, standards have to be raised, expectations are also heightened and it benefits the property owners and residents because it makes the industry highly competitive, highly professional and highly matured,” he says.

This story first appeared in EdgeProp.my pullout on May 11, 2018. Download EdgeProp.my pullout here for free.

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