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City&Country: Cover Story-- Kajang rising

Kajang, known for its signature satay dish, is, for all intents and purposes, a laidback town. Its hub is a maze of narrow roads lined with pre-war and more modern shops anchored by Plaza Metro Kajang, which was developed by local stalwart MKH, formerly known as Metro Kajang Holdings Bhd. The only other notable shopping destinations in the town are Metro Point, also by Metro Kajang, and the Billion department store housed in some shoplots.

The outlying areas of the town could easily pass for housing estates in Petaling Jaya or Subang Jaya.

Kajang residents, however, seem like a contented lot probably because the cost of living here is lower than in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, says resident Ms Wong, it is still possible to get a terraced home in the Kajang secondary market for around RM300,000.

“I’m used to it [her daily commute to work in KL],” she tells City & Country. “I might consider moving out a few years later but I have no complaints now.”

It takes the real estate agent, who has called Kajang home the past 30 years, 45 minutes to an hour — via either Jalan Cheras and Jalan Loke Yew or the Sungai Besi Highway — to get to her office in Mont’Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, from her home in Sungai Jelok.

The opening of the Kajang SILK Highway in mid-2004 has also been a boon for the town, boosting its development, she says.

Some of the more significant developments include a Tesco hypermarket in Sime Darby Property’s 600-acre Saujana Impian township, Wong adds.

Saujana Impian is also the location of one of the three mass rapid transit (MRT) stations that will come up in the area. The Bandar Kajang station is expected to come up near the Kajang Stadium and some shops while the last station is supposed to come up near the KTM station in Jalan Reko where there are pockets of commercial activity.

What is interesting is that, even before the MRT project was announced, Kajang, which lies about 22km from the Kuala Lumpur city centre via the Cheras-Kajang Expressway, was already seeing a number of new property launches. This began after the Kajang SILK Highway opened in 2004.

The notable ones are Taman Prima Saujana, Taman Kajang Perdana, Jade Hills and Twin Palms, says James Wong, the managing director of VPC Alliance (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.

These upscale projects are growing in number, offering larger homes in gated and guarded communities as the general demand for homes remains robust.

For example, the first phase of Mutiara Goodyear Development Bhd’s gated and guarded Nadayu 92, launched in the middle of last year, was sold out within a day. The landed homes were priced at RM433,000 to RM1.02 million.

The project is now into its second phase, which is over 80% sold.

Metro Kajang’s Sentosa Heights — comprising 46 semi-detached homes, 12 bungalows and four bungalow plots — near the town centre achieved a take-up rate of 70% prior to its launch in April.
Meanwhile, the first three phases of Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd’s TTDI Grove — a 113-acre guarded project along Persiaran Kajang-Semenyih — have recorded 90% sales. The homes were launched over three weekends in March this year and were priced from RM290,000 to RM450,000.

Connectivity and affordability the key
Metro Homes Sdn Bhd’s director See Kok Loong tells City & Country that he noted a spike in property prices 18 months ago as the market recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis.

For instance, the prices of semidees in the Twin Palms Sg Long township developed by Singapore outfit Lum Chang Group had appreciated by 12.4% from RM889,000 in May 2008 to RM1 million in October 2010 while the prices of terraced houses in the same development were 14.5% higher at RM665,000 in September last year from RM580,000 in May 2008.

The value of vacant residential land in Saujana Impian had also risen from over RM50 psf in 2008 to over RM60 last year, representing an increase of 10% to 15%, See points out.

He believes the residents of Cheras, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya are buying some of these homes because the cost of properties in Cheras and Cyberjaya has risen significantly while most of the homes in Putrajaya are occupied by civil servants.

These groups and upgraders from Kajang itself are likely the core buyers of the homes, he says.
Developers are responding well to the demand for gated and guarded projects as these developments help them maximise the value of their land.

“High-end landed properties present a lower risk of investment because the smaller number of units per development makes it easier to control costs,” See explains.

He credits developers such as Country Heights Holdings Bhd, Gamuda Bhd and Mutiara Goodyear with bringing high-end homes in gated and guarded communities to Kajang. Country Heights Kajang and Jade Hills were developed by the first two respectively.

Other major developers in Kajang are Sin Hiap Lee Consolidated Bhd (Bandar Sungai Long), UDA, Lion Group (Bandar Makhota Cheras that falls under the Kajang municipality), Country Heights and I&P Group Sdn Bhd (Alam Sari township), says VPC’s Wong.

Developers that have ventured aggressively into Kajang of late are a mix of well-known listed entities and smaller unlisted players such as Ara Asa Sdn Bhd (Ridgeview Residences), Naza TTDI and OSK Property (Sri Banyan within Country Heights Kajang), Kueen Lai Villa Sdn Bhd (Tiara Residence and Tiara Parkhomes) and Tanming Bhd (Taman Taming Mutiara).

It helps that there is abundant vacant land in Kajang and that several highways have opened up in the last four years, such as the Kajang SILK Highway and Persiaran Kajang-Semenyih (which is linked to the Kajang-Seremban Highway), says See.

Other major links to the area are Lebuhraya Utara Selatan, Lebuhraya Cheras-Kajang and Lebuhraya Klang Selatan, he adds.

Agreeing that improved connectivity has benefited Kajang tremendously, Wong says the Kajang SILK Highway offers easy access to Puchong, Bangi, the neighbouring Semenyih and Cheras.
He says property hot spots can be found all over the municipality, which he defines as the huge 787.6 sq km district encompassing Kajang town, Cheras, Semenyih, Berenang, Hulu Langat and Hulu Semenyih.

“With improved accessibility due to the Kajang SILK Highway and the Kajang bypass and the availability of parcels of development land, high-end residential developments have mushroomed all over Kajang, for example Twin Palms at Sg Long, Taman Sri Banyan, Jade Hills and Prima Saujana.

“The population of Kajang is growing very fast — at about 7% per annum — partly due to migration from Kuala Lumpur because property prices are relatively cheaper here. The fact that Kajang is only half an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur is encouraging homebuyers to own landed residential property here. They probably cannot afford similar properties in KL,” he observes.

Wong observes that Kajang can also be considered an education hub as it is home to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, the Nottingham University campus, the German Malaysia Institute and the Australia International School. Thus, the parents of students are interested in buying homes here, he explains.

i-Realty Sdn Bhd’s senior negotiator Raymond Ng, whose family is involved in property development in Kajang, says demand is growing in Kajang for luxurious properties with security features.

“Safety is a concern because Kajang’s crime rate was once high. This might explain the appeal of gated and guarded homes,” he adds.

According to MKH’s group managing director Datuk Eddy Chen, demand is good in the Kajang property market. He says as major players expand their presence here and competition intensifies, the winners are the homebuyers because the offerings get better and the prices more reasonable.
He notes a 20% to 30% increase in property prices in recent years, underpinned by higher construction costs, demand for more sophisticated properties as well as more technical provisions and infrastructure required by the authorities. The result is low-density developments, he observes.

“With more demanding and increasingly sophisticated buyers in the current market environment, developers are launching premium projects with the standard features being gated and guarded homes, well-designed landscaping, innovative and contemporary façades and larger built-ups.

“Also, although location is still the main criterion in the selection of products, homebuyers these days do not mind travelling further as long as there is good transport infrastructure,” says Chen.
All this makes it difficult to compare the prices of new homes with those of homes built more than five years ago, he adds.

“Very often, the response depends on concept, security and, these days, returns on investment. Buyers do not seem to mind paying more if their criteria are fulfilled. Hence, we observe buyers coming from various locations in the Klang Valley, some even from other states.”

Chen says it helps that there are more highways leading to Kajang with the addition of, for example, South Klang Valley Expressway and Lebuhraya Kajang Seremban.

Prospects

On Kajang’s prospects, Chen says he expects the town’s population to grow, helped by migration from other areas and better accessibility.

“The perception that Kajang is ‘far’ no longer exists because it is now a superb location with good connections. For example, it takes a mere 30 minutes to drive to KL, 20 minutes to Putrajaya and 30 minutes to Damansara via the SKVE.”

The MRT — expected to come up in 2017 — will help boost the value of Kajang properties by creating a wealth of job and business opportunities, Chen adds.

The bulk of Metro Kajang’s landbank lies in Kajang and Semenyih, naturally rendering these locations the group’s main markets. The group also aims to acquire more land in these areas, having set aside RM100 million for the purpose.

According to Mutiara Goodyear’s executive chairman Hamidon Abdullah, the group ventured into Kajang because the town gave it the “best opportunity” to set new standards in medium-cost gated and guarded developments.

“Our attempt here is to redefine link houses in a resort-like environment that is integrated, cohesive, safe and hygienic,” he tells City & Country.

He notes that the group is already planning to launch another development in Kajang with a similar concept in the second half of next year.

The yet-to-be-named, 15-acre freehold mixed-use development will come up next to Nadayu 92.
Mohd Johan Shadzli Mohd Daud, Naza TTDI’s senior general manager of marketing and sales, tells City & Country that the group decided to enter Kajang because it is a growth area with mature infrastructure and connectivity.

“Its accessibility to KL makes it easy for residents to travel to and from the city centre. The area that we are developing is strategically located close to mature townships. Our township is also freehold and will be a great addition to this thriving area.”

Metro Homes’ See, however, is not optimistic about Kajang’s near-term prospects because he feels property prices are headed towards unsustainable levels.

“For instance, you have new superlink homes priced at RM1.2 million and new terraced homes almost hitting RM500,000. The older homes cost less than RM300,000. Prices shouldn’t be going up like that, yet they are.”

See also feels there is limited upside for Kajang’s secondary market as the homes do not have the large built-ups and security features of the new homes.

VPC’s Wong, on the other hand, feels that the outlook for Kajang over the next three years is bright because the terminal for the MRT Blue Line is expected to come up in the area in 2013. There are also plans to built a link between this MRT station and the KTM station in Jalan Reko.

“The prices of Kajang homes are sustainable because if you compare them with prices in prime areas such as Kuala Lumpur, they are more affordable,” Wong adds.


 

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 863, June 20-26, 2011

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