Branching out in Kota Kemuning

LOCATED some 33.5km from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Kota Kemuning in Shah Alam is a vibrant, self-contained township with mature residential areas. Finding sizeable land in the township to build something unique would have been difficult but the opportunity presented itself to BCB Bhd in 2011.

The Johor-based property developer successfully tendered for 150 acres stretching over 2.5km in Kota Kemuning. It paid RM108 million or RM16.40 psf for the tract.

BCB, which was established in 1988, had concentrated on property developments in Johor, particularly Batu Pahat and Kluang. Besides residential projects such as Taman Bukit Perdana, Evergreen Heights and Bandar Putra Indah, it also developed shopping malls BCB Plaza in Kluang and U-Mall in Skudai and a hotel called Prime City Hotel in Kluang. To date, BCB has completed projects with a gross development value (GDV) of RM2.1 billion in Johor.

The developer's first project in the Klang Valley — the three-tower condominium called Concerto in North Kiara, which is just a stone's throw from Segambut Dalam in Kuala Lumpur — has received good response. The units in the first tower were launched in July last year at RM988,000 to RM1.1 million and are fully sold. Those in the second tower were launched in November last year at RM1.1 million to RM1.3 million and are 80% taken up. The units in the last tower will be launched in August this year.

Concerto has 440 units with built-ups ranging from 1,500 to 1,900 sq ft and a GDV of RM520 million.

Group managing director Datuk Tan Seng Leong reveals that the Kota Kemuning land belonged to TPPT Sdn Bhd. According to TPPT's website, it is a property developer established by Bank Negara Malaysia in 1990 to manage a special fund, the objective of which was to provide affordable public housing.

Tan says he decided to bid for the land because of its mature surroundings. "There are two golf courses, plenty of shophouses and residential products there, and there is a proposal to build a bridge to Putra Heights [through our land]. There are also plenty of services, such as banks, schools and other amenities, in the area."

His son and executive director Sean Tan concurs. "When visiting the Kota Kemuning site, I discovered that access to the area was good. I went to Kota Permai Golf and Country Club and noticed the expensive cars parked there. I felt there was potential for a luxury development in the area."

The luxury development BCB is planning is called Home Tree. With an estimated GDV of RM2.1 billion, the project will be a joint venture with Langxiang Real Estate Ltd — a prominent developer in Xiamen, China. BCB will have a 70% stake in the JV.

This is Langxiang's first JV development in Malaysia. It was invited by BCB after Tan and Sean saw and were impressed by its residential development in Xiamen called Orient Golf International Community. Founded in 2003, the China developer focuses on high-end, low-density products.

"We are calling the development Home Tree because the master plan of the four residential phases looks like a tree," remarks Sean. "There is no straight road but winding ones that branch out to the houses."

Of Home Tree's five phases, four are residential and the fifth commercial. This is BCB's first high-end landed development in the Klang Valley.

What is unique about the development is that it offers only bungalows — 521 to be exact. According to Sean, the land was approved for over 1,000 terraced, semi-detached and bungalow units. However, he and his father decided to go for just bungalows.

Explains Tan, "We decided only bungalows because we want to differentiate ourselves from other developers and their projects. Also, we want to give our customers exclusivity with competitive pricing. And lastly, while we want to make a reasonable profit, we also want to build our reputation and not just think of making money."

Sean adds that all the residential phases will feature a clubhouse for the residents. Each phase will also have open spaces for residents to enjoy the outdoors. The phases will be strata-titled and gated.

Long Branch

The first residential phase, called Long Branch, was launched on June 22. Sitting on close to 22 acres, it has a GDV of RM278 million and will contain 101 bungalows. In an earlier preview, Tan revealed that response was encouraging. As a result, BCB is planning to launch Home Tree's second phase in September or October this year. The bungalows in the yet-to-be-named Phase 2 have an indicative selling price of RM2.5 million onwards or about 10% more than prices in Phase 1.

The overall layout of Long Branch contains cul-de-sacs with seven to nine houses in each. "Research in the US shows that compared with houses facing the main road, the ones in a cul-de-sac are worth 20% to 30% more. The reason is privacy," Sean explains. "I hope this design will create a community feeling as the neighbours will see each other regularly and get to know each other, as there will only be a few houses in a cul-de-sac."

The front of the 2½-storey bungalows will have no gates, although they will have perimeter fencing. There are eight bungalow designs in modern contemporary style. The selling price ranges from RM2.3 million to RM3.3 million and the built-ups from 5,000 to 7,000 sq ft. The lots will have a land area of 4,700 to 8,000 sq ft.

Tan points out that there will be less than four bungalows per acre. Management will take care of the landscaping of the phase, including the front lawns of each bungalow. Maintenance fee is 15 sen psf.

Moreover, there will be a 0.8-acre retention lake with a residents-only clubhouse next to it. The 1-storey clubhouse will take up about an acre and will offer a gym, multi-purpose hall, barbecue areas, the management office and a swimming pool. There will also be a 300m jogging/bicycle track and a park with a playground, half basketball court and exercise corner. Long Branch is slated for completion in 2016.

The 150 acres, says Tan, will take between five and seven years to fully develop. The lone commercial phase will sit on about 20 acres and feature a 4-storey mall with serviced apartments, he adds. Sean says the lifestyle and service mall will have F&B outlets, hair salons, spas, cafes and other conveniences that could include a cinema.

The design details of the mall and service departments are still on the drawing board.

Property market

Both Tan and Sean say the outlook for the property market is positive for the rest of the year.

"The market will continue to grow," comments Tan. "Interest rates are low and I encourage people to hedge against inflation by buying property."

He opines that inflation will rise as the government deliberates on reducing subsidies and implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST). "It isn't whether they will do it; it is a matter of when."

Sean adds, "After the general election, demand in the property market has risen. As supply cannot match demand, the property market will be active." He sees property prices in the Klang Valley and Johor Baru growing faster than in the other states, which should see steady growth.

In his home state, Tan, who was recently elected president of the Johor Chinese Chamber of Commerce, sees Iskandar Malaysia going from strength to strength. "I am confident of Iskandar Malaysia and it will be good for everybody," he remarks. "Locals and foreigners are looking at Iskandar to invest in. Look at the developers from overseas and locals moving to Johor to capitalise on the growth there."

With regard to the new taxes foreign buyers will need to pay for buying property in Johor, Tan does not see it as a problem. "I believe the foreigners don't mind paying the higher tax due to their stronger exchange rate."

BCB is looking for more development land in the Klang Valley, Johor and Sabah. In the meantime, its objective to be one of the top property developers in Malaysia is slowly taking root as it builds a reputation as a purveyor of luxury homes at competitive prices.

How much nearby bungalows cost

Landserve Sdn Bhd's executive director Tan Kim Seng says bungalows in Kota Kemuning are located within the precincts of Anggerik Vanda, Anggerik Oncidium and Anggerik Eria, all built around the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club. Anggerik Vanda is a gated scheme while the residents in the other precincts have hired their own guards.

"Anggerik Vanda is exclusive by virtue of its concept and design as a gated scheme," observes Tan. "The standard 2½-storey bungalows by developer Gamuda Land Bhd, with land area and built-up of 12,000 and 4,000 sq ft respectively, are going for around RM4 million while those with a view of the golf course are fetching around RM4.5 million. The standard 2-storey bungalows in Anggerik Oncidium and Anggerik Eria with land area and built-up of 8,000 and 3,700 sq ft respectively only command around RM3 million."

He says there are several other gated developments nearby, such as Sri Suria, Sri Damai and Averton Park in Bukit Rimau, that offer bungalows and terraced and semi-detached houses.

"Individually-designed bungalows in Sri Suria and Sri Damai with land area of 6,000 to 7,000 sq ft and built-up of 4,000 to 5,000 sq ft are going for RM2.5 million to RM3 million. Standard bungalows in Averton Park — which is located next to the Bukit Kemuning Golf Club — with land area and built-up of about 5,400 and 4,100 sq ft respectively are fetching RM2.5 million to RM3 million.

"In summary, the prices of bungalows in Kota Kemuning more or less conform to those of similar properties in other successful townships in this part of the Klang Valley, such as USJ Subang Jaya, Ara Damansara, Bukit Jelutong and Setia Eco Park," Tan comments. "Low-density gated schemes, especially those with only bungalows, are preferred. With the ever-increasing cost of land, building materials, labour and so on, we expect the prices of bungalows in Kota Kemuning to stay firm and rise steadily in the medium to long term."

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of June 24-30, 2013.

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