THE EDGE Property Excellence Awards 2013: Raising The Zest

The Edge-PEPS Value Creation Excellence Award 2013 | Residential: Winner - The Zest @ Kinrara 9 – Darul Dinasti Sdn Bhd

BOUTIQUE property developer Trinity Group Sdn Bhd’s The Zest @ Kinrara 9 bagged The Edge-PEPS Value Creation Excellence Award 2013 in the residential category. It was developed by Darul Dinasti Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the group.

Apartments of the mixed-use development narrowly beat the big boys’ projects, namely I&P Group Sdn Bhd’s Temasya Suria superlink 2-storey terraced houses in Temasya Glenmarie and Hicom-Gamuda Sdn Bhd’s Lagoon Suites apartments in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam. The latter two got merit awards for overcoming the formidable challenges of their own sites to deliver successful, sought-after properties.

“It is an honour to be recognised by The Edge. The award is a milestone for us and it will drive us to be more innovative in adding value for our customers. In fact, when the competition was first announced, the whole industry was excited because it is one of the few awards you must work hard to win,” its managing director Datuk Neoh Soo Keat tells The Edge.

This relative newcomer to the real estate industry proved that it can overcome a lack of experience by going the extra mile for their buyers. The Zest wowed the judges with its concept, value-laden offer and impressive after-sales services such as leasing services offered by Henry Butcher Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

What makes a winner?

The Zest comprises 720 apartments with built-ups from 1,110 to 1,213 sq ft, and 3-storey and 4-storey shopoffices with lot sizes of 24ft by 79ft. While it is a mixed-use development, the residential and commercial components have their own entrances and are connected through discreet pathways to ensure privacy and security.

The project was conceived and launched in challenging times, circa the global financial crisis of 2008. The banks were hesitant to lend money to a company that did not have a track record, especially after the crisis. Neoh is thankful that his friends helped him kick-start the project by buying the retail lots.

Neoh: We treat our customers the way we treat ourselves. That means providing adequate and equal attention to all our customers.

Launched in early 2009, the apartments were priced RM230 to RM250 psf. With the benefit of hindsight, the timing of the launch could not have been better. All of The Zest apartments were sold in six months as the market hungered for investment opportunities in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Today, they are transacting impressively at almost double their launch price at around RM460 to 480 psf.

Remarkably, the apartments were the first high-rise homes in the area within the mid-high price range that actually took off. Before The Zest’s launch, most of the homes in Bandar Kinrara were landed properties.

“We saw a big gap in the market in Bandar Kinrara. On one hand, there were landed homes that cost at least RM400,000 and on the other, there were low-cost apartments. There was no in-between product that catered for the middle and middle-upper group,” he explains.

More bang for the buck

The Zest apartments were described by the judges as a Mont’Kiara-class project in the suburbs. For starters, they were impressed by its design and facilities. The apartments boasts glass balconies, which Neoh claims were previously found only in condos around the city centre. Its common facilities include a glassy, modern 2-storey clubhouse that houses a gymnasium, multi-purpose hall, nursery and squash court as well as an infinity pool amid decorative reflection pools. All these facilities are found on a deck facing Kuala Lumpur.

There were more pleasant surprises in store for The Zest’s buyers. The group built a ramp from the Serdang-bound side of Bukit Jalil Highway that links to Bandar Kinrara 9, just next to the project. This ramp costs RM7 million and is estimated to shorten the journey to The Zest from Puchong by 8km. Before the ramp was opened in late 2011, motorists had to drive up to Technology Park Malaysia to make a U-turn.

This is in addition to numerous smaller improvements that Trinity Group undertook on its own such as installing aluminium louvres at the corridor windows on the ground floor to shield the area from rain (RM50,825), resurfacing the swimming pool deck at a cost of RM25,000 and enhancing the barbeque area by replacing the tiles at the pit and adding a portable barbeque set (RM1,500).

“It’s a simple analogy. We treat our customers the way we treat ourselves. That means providing adequate and equal attention to all our customers,” says Neoh.

Surprising their customers with bonuses was also a strategic “investment” to build the Trinity Group brand and a loyal customer base.

The company estimates that about 40% of The Zest’s buyers are young professionals, aged 30 to 45, who have just started their families. Each household makes about RM10,000 to RM15,000 per month. Neoh reckons most of them are upgraders from medium-cost homes in the outskirts of Seri Kembangan, such as Cheras, USJ, Puchong, Sunway and Serdang. Meanwhile, 30% of them are first-time home buyers. Last but not least are parents who invest in these apartments for their children.

Top: The Zest is one of the first high-rise homes in Bandar Kinrara to cater for the middle to middle-upper group. Bottom: The judges described The Zest as a Mont’Kiara-class project in the suburbs due to the quality of its finishings, facilities and after-sales services.

“The younger buyers are climbing up the career ladder now and we would like to cultivate a following with this group, who will likely go on to invest in more properties as they grow older. To do this, we need to prove that the Trinity Group brand can provide quality products,” he explains.

Trinity Group’s efforts have paid off. The apartments enjoy a healthy 74% occupancy rate, with owners living in 45% of the units while tenants take up 38%. The rest are vacant as they were recently sold on the secondary market and their owners and tenants are expected to move in soon.

“We have a record of people who did not buy the apartments when it was first launched, so we alerted them of units coming onto the secondary market,” he explains.

Boosting overall values

The next challenge for The Zest is to benefit its retail component. Currently, about half of the lots are empty. Some of the tenants include a cafe, a laundrette, a travel agency and a mid-high-end clothing boutique.

“The tenants are here because they believe in the potential of this place. Within The Zest, there is a catchment of more than 500 upper-middle-class homes. Within Bandar Kinrara, there are 2,000 homes. But if you extend the radius to 1km, this covers 6,000 to 7,000 households, he says.

However, he notes that the light rail transit, which is expected to operate by 2016, will be the catalyst for the commercial part of the building as it will be a major source of traffic. For now though, Neoh advises retail lot owners not to charge ambitious rents.

“We will still work with the joint management body to manage The Zest until it is self-sustaining. That should take another one to one-and-a-half years. Now The Zest is still a baby, so we will hold its hands until it grows up,” he laughs.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 14, 2013.

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