City & Country: Kueen Lai launches Tiara South, the first of its kind in Kajang

DATUK ENG SOO MIN, managing director of Kueen Lai Group of Companies, has been involved in a wide variety of businesses over the years. From a car dealer handling the import and export of auto parts in 1982, he ventured into the plantation business in 1997 and eventually into property development in 2002.

Kueen Lai’s first development is located in Taman Damai Mewah, Semenyih, and comprises 40 shops, 544 apartments and 140 low-cost units. The 5-storey low-cost units are equipped with elevators.

Today, the group’s property arm has projects in Kajang, Semenyih and Nilai, including industrial developments, with a total gross development value (GDV) of RM1.37 billion.

In 2006, the group ventured into Kuchai Exchange with a development comprising 70 bungalows and 136 shopoffices. Its latest project is Tiara South in Semenyih.

Spanning 30 acres of freehold land and commanding a total GDV of RM380 million, Tiara South has three phases. The first phase will consist of 250 units of gated 3-storey terraced houses while the second phase will comprise 21 units of 3-storey terraced houses. The third phase will have 266 apartments. The first phase will come with its own clubhouse, a swimming pool, jogging track, park central and playground.

The construction of Phase 1 began in January this year and is expected to be completed in mid-2017. Eng plans to launch the phase on May 8.

Phase 1 of Tiara South was designed to allow residents to interact with each other

Phase 1 enjoyed a 30% take-up rate during the pre-registration launch earlier this year, when the developer released 119 units. The rest will be released during the official launch. The price of the units starts at RM300,000 or RM360 psf.

Eng plans to launch the second and third phases, which will be located beside Phase 1, by year-end. He says the two phases will be separated by a highway, which the group is planning to build to provide easier access to Tiara South.

With a built-up of 2,700 to 3,100 sq ft, Tiara South’s first phase will have a different concept compared with other 3-storey terraced houses, says Eng. As the topography is hilly, Phase 1 has three different designs to match the different terrain — uphill, downhill and flat. There is a show house each for the uphill and downhill designs.

For the uphill design, upon entering the porch and walking through the front door, one would see the kitchen and dining area. To go to the living room, one would need to walk down a few steps and into a high-ceiling space that opens to the backyard.

“That is where the community happens. Instead of a backyard, or some may call it back alley, to a typical gravel road, we designed it to be a neat backyard that connects you with your neighbours,” Eng says. “We want to create a sense of community among the residents. The close proximity of the backyard space will nurture such relationships. The widely spaced living area and ample room for socialising in the backyard are the reasons Tiara South is selling well.”

The development is Kueen Lai’s first gated residential project. It is also the first of its kind in the area.

According to Eng, with better infrastructure, Kajang and Semenyih are becoming more popular. “If you’re going into KL, it’s closer and faster if you’re coming from here [Semenyih and Kajang] because there is no traffic. With highways like LEKAS, it’s easier to go up and down into KL without a fuss.”

As a result, properties in Kajang and Semenyih have enjoyed healthy capital appreciation, he says. “On average, residential properties enjoy between 80% and 120% appreciation as soon as the project is completed while industrial properties enjoy more — between 100% and 180% appreciation.”

In addition, Eng remarks that Semenyih has the potential to see more growth as the prices of homes there are relatively cheaper than those in Kajang or Cheras. “Land in Kajang is becoming more expensive while that in Cheras is already expensive. However, for Semenyih, land is still affordable and its size is big.”

In Bangi, terraced houses are going for RM550 psf while similar developments in Semenyih are selling at RM330 psf, he says.

“We already have big players like S P Setia Bhd, Eco World Development Sdn Bhd, Mah Sing Group Bhd and IJM Land Bhd venturing into Semenyih.”

The show house for the uphill design

More land, more projects

As Eng believes the property market in Malaysia will continue to grow, Kueen Lai has acquired several parcels in Perak, Johor and Sabah.

In Johor, it has acquired 13.4 acres in Nusajaya on which the group plans to develop 4,000 apartments and 100 shops, although the project is still in the planning stage.

Kueen Lai has also acquired 62 acres in Kampar, Perak, with plans for a development with commercial and residential components, but the details have yet to be finalised.

Meanwhile, Eng is excited about the group’s newly acquired land in Sabah — 6.4 acres in Kota Kinabalu and 47 acres in Beaufort. The tracts may feature commercial developments but it is still too early to say, he says.

In Selangor, the group plans to launch another project by year-end called Tiara Imperio in Bandar Baru Bangi. The RM400 million residential and commercial development will sit on five acres of freehold land. It will comprise of 808 small offices/home offices (SoHos) and 34 retail outlets. The built-up of its SoHos  will be from 450 to 636 sq ft while the retail lots will be from 461 to 4,212 sq ft.

Kueen Lai hopes to acquire a further 100 acres in Semenyih, behind Nottingham University. So far, it has acquired 62 acres. Eng wants to develop residential properties once he has acquired the 100 acres, which he hopes to accomplish in the next two years.

Industry outlook

Eng is optimistic about the outlook for the Malaysian property market. He expects property prices to grow between 15% and 20% per annum.

“It’s a healthy market,” he says. “I believe property prices will continue to see a gradual increase because there will always be demand for homes, thanks to the growing population.

“Also, Malaysia is enjoying a healthy economy and I think the property market can leverage that.”

Eng adds that a lot of factors can influence the price of properties. “And it’s not just the cost of materials. Prices are going up because of the scarcity of land while the population is growing.

“When the economy performs well, land prices will increase twofold or more. Take Mont’Kiara, for example. I bought two acres of land for RM2.4 million 10 years ago but now, people are offering RM30 million for it,” Eng says.

“Similarly in Nusajaya, Johor, land price was at RM28 psf. Now, it’s RM150 psf, and this is over a span of two years. The price of properties will not go down.”

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 5 - 11, 2014.


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