City&Country: Rahsia Estates in Langkawi draws foreign interest

The project started because I was feeling a bit competitive,” reveals Hanizah Abdul Hamid, CEO of Rahsia Estates Sdn Bhd.

The project she is referring to is Langkawi’s first gated and guarded mixed hospitality and resort residential development — the RM380 million five-star Rahsia Estates Resort Residences & Spa (RERRS). Rahsia Estates Sdn Bhd is part of the HD Concepts Consolidated Sdn Bhd group of companies.

Hanizah, who founded HD Concepts in 1987, is accustomed to a fast-paced life, having developed prominent projects in Kuching, Sarawak, including the Riverbank Suites, Riverside Round Restaurant and the new Kuching Court Complex.

“My husband, Azim Aziz, and a few friends bought a seven-acre tract in Langkawi for development and I was very jealous,” laughs Hanizah. Azim is the CEO of ATSA Architects Sdn Bhd and the architect for RERRS.

With the help of her personal assistant, the restless Hanizah sourced and found another 7-acre tract on the island next to the fishermen’s jetty at Kampung Temoyong.

“To get to the site, we had to drive through a long quiet road which ends at the fishermen’s jetty. From there, we had to cross to the other side and climb the hill to reach the site. But it was worth it as the place is beautiful. It’s the kind of place you want to keep as your secret hideaway,” says Hanizah.

Over the course of one year, the developer began acquiring the surrounding parcels of land until the site  reached the present 17 acres. The initial idea was to build a high-end gated residential development to fill a void in the market. The idea soon evolved into a hotel before settling into the mixed hospitality and resort residential development it is today.

A secret hideaway
RERRS is split into three precincts. Precinct one, which is phase one and two, comprises 121 units of resort apartments. Precinct two houses the five-star 116-room Eco-Hotel. The beach-fronting precinct three comprises 31 units of luxury Cabana Villas.

Rahsia Estates has appointed home-grown Ri-Yaz Hotels and Resorts to manage and maintain the luxury development. The resort apartments in precinct  one, branded as Ri-Yaz TreeTop Villas @ Rahsia Estates, offer a leaseback programme with a guaranteed annual return of 5.5% net for five years. Some 59 units were launched on May 22, with the rest of the units to be launched at a later date. All the units, except for those in the Eco-Hotel, will be up for sale.

The units range from 650 to 4,500 sq ft and are priced between RM650,000 and RM7 million. Owners enjoy a two-year waiver on maintenance fees and are entitled to  two weeks’ free stay per year.

The hotel operator will brand the Eco-Hotel in precinct two as Ri-Yaz Eco-Hotel @ Rahsia Estates. The contract is for a period of 12 years with the first rights given to Ri-Yaz to extend on a five-yearly basis.

“It took us about four years to get the necessary approvals and come up with the right design and concept. We have worked hard, so we looked far and near to find an operator that shares the same vision. We ended up finding one closer to home than we expected,” says Hanizah.

She adds that Ri-Yaz and Rahsia Estates were well matched, and the former understood and could envision what the developer wanted RERRS to be.

Ri-Yaz, which operates the Cyberview Resort & Spa in Cyberjaya and the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa at Pulau Duyong, Kuala Terengganu, is looking to add another 600 rooms to its present inventory of 340 rooms by 2015. It is on an expansion drive to add more destinations worldwide, including India, Bali and Dubai. 

Ri-Yaz is projecting an occupancy rate of 65% and an average room rate of RM1,200 in the first operating year at RERRS.

“We are selling a lifestyle within a secure gated environment with beautiful landscape and an affiliation with a hotel. We expect to increase the selling price by 10% to 15% for phase two because these units are located on top of a hill with great views,” she says.

Hanizah is confident of sales based on the response from international hospitality management outfits which the company talked to during the search for a manager. The developer took a year to meet  prospective parties before deciding on Ri-Yaz.

“Overall, we received great response from hotel operators. Many were keen to come to Langkawi. As hotel operators, they would have done their market research and know which location and product will sell,” offers Hanizah.

Place to de-stress
The developer has plans to build an aesthetic clinic on top of the hill. Hanizah says it will not be a “heavy duty” clinic, focusing instead on lighter offerings such as face lift, botox and alternative treatments such as ayurvedic treatment.

“What we want is a clinic that focuses on health, nutrition and general well-being. People are so stressed these days, we want to offer them a place where they can go trekking, take a boat ride, do treatments and where their nutritional needs are met, basically a place to de-stress,” says Hanizah.

The developer will soon be kicking off its sales road show in Singapore, Jakarta and Miri in Sarawak,  targeting investors.

“We are going to Miri because Brunei citizens will fly in there on weekends and we have contacts in Miri too. After these stops, we will assess our progress before hitting the Middle East, where Ri-Yaz has good contacts,” says Hanizah.

After its official launch late last year, RERRS has garnered strong interest from foreigners, some of whom are participants of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.

“We have been sending out our newsletters which has helped us gain interest from the Japanese and Koreans. We received some interest from Europeans as well,” shares Hanizah.

The construction, undertaken by Korea-based Sun Jin Engineering (M) Sdn Bhd, started in March. Sun Jin constructed the Four Seasons Resort in the Maldives and renovated the Hard Rock Hotel in Penang. The development is expected to be completed by mid-2015.

Environmentally conscious
The development is also the first Malaysian Green Building Index (GBI) certified mixed hospitality and resort residential development.

“We are putting in green features such as rain water harvesting and solar panels as well as inverter air conditioners for the rooms, which cuts about 30% to 40% of the electricity bill. We also took care in how we design the overall structure to ensure good ventilation,” says Hanizah.

As part of its corporate social responsibility, Rahsia Estates will also rejuvenate the surrounding mangroves and upgrade the nearby fishermen’s jetty.

“We want to turn the mangrove area into a park with a museum, docking bay and restaurant, so that it becomes a tourist attraction. The restaurant will be leased to the hotel ... it sits right at the tip and has spectacular views,” says Hanizah, adding that the project will cost around RM2 million.

Hanizah, who has a fondness for developments by the water, is keen to build a development with the same concept in Sabah next.

“We are exploring and looking for land at the moment. Once we find the right place and opportunity, we will kick off the project.”

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 912, May 28-June 3, 2012

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