City & Country: Sterboul builds ultra-luxury homes

Nielsen says Sterboul aims to establish itself in Malaysia first before expanding to other countries in the region like Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Dubai

BUILDING ultra-luxury homes is what Sterboul, a boutique property developer based in Malaysia, focuses on. It started operations in 2010 with its maiden bungalow project called Carre D’Art in Country Heights Damansara.

“Carre D’Art is Sterboul’s showcase,” says marketing manager Mirjam Nielsen. The house had its soft launch late last year.

Sterboul has about 70 employees — 50 of them are construction workers while the rest are designers and managers — who are experienced in luxury home development in their homelands like Italy, France, Canada and Argentina.

“We interact via Skype and an amazing project management programme called Basecamp, which has revolutionised the way we manage developments,” says Nielsen. “Our CEO or designer can be in Alaska but they will still be able to get updates and messages through Basecamp.”

On why Sterboul decided to start operations in Malaysia, she highlights several key points.

“English is spoken widely, which gives Malaysia easy access to the international market, but there are also the Chinese- and Indian-speaking communities that make Malaysia more international.

“Malaysia has a strong economy and the government is promoting the country to international investors to buy their homes here through programmes such as Malaysia My Second Home. So, Malaysia is a place that is promoted, and we don’t see that happening in other countries in the region.”

She adds that the solid legal and financial systems, which are based on the British models, were also one of the reasons Sterboul chose to start in Malaysia.

One of the main challenges faced by the company was expertise. Nielsen says skilled labour was hard to come by and Sterboul, therefore, decided to have its own construction crew, hiring 50 full-time workers to ensure each project is delivered on time and on budget.  

At the moment, Sterboul has several houses under construction and in the planning stage. Carre D’Art is its first completed and ready-for-sale house and still available for purchase. According to the developer, the house is likely to be sold soon as there are four to five offers of between RM15 million and RM22 million.  

Carre D’Art has a built-up of 20,000 sq ft and comes with 5+2 bedrooms. It is fully furnished to give visitors an idea of what Sterboul is capable of doing. It also comes with a lift for those who may not be able to use the spiral staircase.

Walking through the house, one is immediately “transported” to some foreign place like Beverly Hills. The views are unhindered and plenty of natural light enters the house through its high windows. The interior design offers European sensibilities with modern touches throughout. A chandelier hangs from the ceiling at the top-most floor and is surrounded by the spiral staircase. A swimming pool provides a wonderful place to cool off and sunbath, away from prying eyes. There is a games room and an entertainment centre with a large screen and comfortable seats.

The house is fitted with a state-of-the-art automation system where everything can be controlled with a smartphone or tablet, including switching on or off the lights and air-conditioning system, and controlling the volume in the audio-visual room.

The finishes of the house are all imported. Products from brands like Villeroy & Boch and Dornbracht, and materials such as American wood and Spanish marble are used. Even the brushed aluminium switches are imported from the UK, and thus far, Carre D’Art is the only home in Malaysia using them, asserts Nielsen.

More houses to come
Sterboul has six other houses in the pipeline. The gross development value of these six and Carre D’Art is about RM100 million. Currently, three are being constructed while the rest are in the planning stage.

The second house Sterboul is building is called Parc Monceau in Titiwangsa. “It is named after a park in Paris,” she says. “Both the land and built-up areas are just under 10,000 sq ft.” It is located at the end of a cul-de-sac and close to Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.

The house comes with five en suite bedrooms and two living areas. There will be a home theatre, a cantilever staircase, the same automation system as that of Carre D’Art, and a swimming pool. The selling price is in the region of RM10 million.

The third house is called 272 Country Heights Damansara. It sits on 12,045 sq ft and is priced around RM25 million. It will have a European design, just like all Sterboul houses, and the defining feature will be a glass bridge with waterfalls on both sides welcoming one into the house.

The fourth house is 234 Country Heights Damansara, of which the details will be made available soon.

The other houses will be built in Kiara Peak, Mont’Kiara. “The development should commence in the next few months,” Nielsen says.

She adds that at present, Sterboul’s projects provide a modest GDV. However, in the next five years, the company hopes to increase that fivefold to RM500 million. To ensure this happens, Sterboul has its own construction company, allowing it to maintain its standards.

“We don’t do mass-market products. If something is exclusive, we need to be able to deliver on our promise. We are now managing seven projects. We could easily do more, but that would mean we have to employ more people. And we need to make sure these people can maintain our high standards.

“Obviously, as a company, we are always looking at growth and expanding, but that is not a purpose on its own because we believe it is better that we do it the right way and let the houses speak for themselves.”

Nielsen says in future, Sterboul would like to expand to other countries in the region such as Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Dubai.

Sterboul’s focus on building only ultra-luxury bungalows or detached houses may make some people wonder if there is a market for such products. According to Victor Lim, managing director of iProp Realty, there is. “You wouldn’t believe how rich some Malaysians are. RM10 million is considered common to have nowadays for the rich. Imagine some condos are already costing RM3 million to RM4 million each.

“If you notice the increase in the number of supercars and luxury cars on the street in the past few years, most of them cost RM1 million to RM2 million each, and the rich don’t own one, but a few. I have a friend who owns more than 20 supercars. So, what is RM10 million to them? On top of that, our market is globalised and we have buyers from all over the world. What is RM10 million to buyers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore or the UK?”

While only the super rich can afford Sterboul’s houses, the developer is doing a good job in providing them with an opportunity to own a dream home.

The Carre D’Art showcases Sterboul’s expertise in building ultra-luxury homes The expansive living spaces with an open concept and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in plenty of natural light

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on March 17, 2014.


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