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#Exclusive* Rehda: Real estate demand to pick up

KUALA LUMPUR: Demand for real estate in Malaysia is expected to improve this year as consumer sentiment recovers amid an improving broader landscape.

Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) deputy president Datuk Michael Yam said demand for properties was slow in the first half of 2009 as consumer confidence was battered by weaker economic conditions  then.

“The first half of 2009 was very slow due to homebuyers' lack of confidence in the economy. However sales began  to pick up in the second half as people realised that the property sector is not affected by the banking sector,”  Yam told the theedgeproperty.com.

In fact, Rehda's recently-concluded Malaysian Property Expo (Mapex) from March 19 to 21 could be deemed an apt barometer of the country's real estate sector's health.

Yam, who is also organising chairman of Mapex, said there were 122 registrations from potential real estate  purchasers involving 122 residential units with a combined value of RM36.12 million, a 30% increase from a year  earlier.

“We anticipate sales to proportionally increase 30% as well, when the sale and purchase agreements are signed  during the follow-up (after the event),” he said.

Yam said stratified properties made up the major chunk of real estate sold at the latest Mapex. Nearly 70% of  the properties sold were located in Selangor, 20% in Negeri Sembilan, while the balance is located in Melaka and  Pahang. More than 75% of the properties sold were below RM300,000.

A total of 23,541 visitors attended the three-day property event at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre. The  initiative saw over 5,000 property units valued at RM4.4 billion offered for sale. Some 50 developers had  showcased more than 100 development projects.

Demand for big-ticket items like real estate, and cars are crucial indicators of consumers' propensity to spend,  a much needed boost to drive domestic demand amid falling exports which have  hurt the  country's economic  fortunes.

While policymakers' stimulus packages are deemed pivotal to rejuvenate the home economy, what happens in the  global landscape will, at the same time, have a hand in dictating local sentiments.

Against the improving larger global backdrop, Malaysian companies are repositioning themselves in anticipation  of local consumers' improving appetite for big ticket purchases as the nation's economic fundamentals regain   momentum this year.

A strong local financial services sector, and availability of cheap credit amid an improving economic landscape  are deemed crucial factors which will prompt consumers to loosen their purse strings and boost demand for big ticket items.

Meanwhile, Yam said Rehda hoped the government would consider offering grants to first-time property buyers here to boost the local real estate market.
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