Section 5, PJ old but still gold

Though it is one of the older residential areas of Petaling Jaya, Section 5 retains a certain attraction and is still very much a coveted address. It is not hard to see its appeal after a drive round the neighbourhood. Bungalows sit on either side of hilly two-lane roads, cooled by the shade of the surrounding trees, giving it the quaint feel of a bygone era. Within close proximity are several schools and places of worship catering for different religious groups as well as pockets of retail shops.

Strategically located, Section 5 offers easy access to the Federal Highway, the New Pantai Expressway, LRT stations and roads that lead to nearly all the major areas of Petaling Jaya. 

According to Derek Fernandez, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor for Section 5 and Section 10, two of the earliest developers here were Lee Fah Sung and Petaling Garden Bhd. Section 5 was developed in 1963 as a satellite town of Kuala Lumpur and was one of the first townships in Petaling Jaya. It is subject to strict planning laws, with a density lock of nine houses per hectare, and no new condominiums are allowed, says Fernandez. Bungalows with limited commercial use along Jalan Gasing. Photo by Kenny Yap

Section 5 runs along the 2.31km stretch of Jalan Gasing and covers 570.81 acres. Fernandez says there are currently 725 bungalows, 366 semi-detached houses, 562 linked houses and four condominium projects in the area.

“We get the best of both worlds here; the area has a nice suburban feel, like you’re living away from the city, yet it’s close to the city. You have everything within a short drive and even Mid Valley (Megamall) is just down the road if you want to do some shopping,” says Mrs Sim, who moved into a charming 2-storey bungalow she shares with her husband and two children about eight years ago.

All these factors bode well for properties in Section 5. Although the residential area is mature, with houses more than 40 years old, demand is still strong. “Section 5 is one of the most active residential areas in Petaling Jaya. The market value of the properties has held steady over the years, even during the worst of the recession. Prices are climbing; last year, bungalows of 4,000 to 8,000 sq ft were selling at around RM130 psf. Now, they can fetch RM150 psf,” says Vincent Ng, CEO of Kim Realty.

For a good renovated unit, the price can go higher, as evidenced by a recent transaction in which the company sold a renovated 6,000 sq ft, 1-storey bungalow for RM1.2 million, which works out to RM200 psf. Another 11,218 sq ft bungalow was sold for RM1.4 million in Lorong 5/10F while a 8,391 sq ft bungalow in Jalan 5/9 was sold for RM1.2 million.

Says See Kok Loong, director of Metro Homes, “Though the value is increasing at a slower pace compared with the newer areas such as Mutiara Damansara, the yearly increase of 5% to 10% in prices makes Section 5 a good investment.” Despite being one of the oldest residential areas in Petaling Jaya, Section 5 is still a very much-coveted address. Photo by Kenny Yap.

This rings true, even after taking into consideration that there are no new developments in the area and the younger generation is more attracted to gated residences with more modern designs. But, See says, the houses here sit on large parcels of land at a “good” price, something that is hard to come by these days. However, the most important factor remains the location.

Ng adds, “A good number of residents in Section 5 are professionals with families and most work either in the city centre or in Petaling Jaya. Section 5 sits midway between Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, so it is very convenient for them. When you have a family, you would want to get home sooner instead of getting stuck in the traffic.”

Leasehold conundrum

A real estate negotiator who is familiar with the area says it is also a case of supply and demand. There are only limited units for sale in Section 5 and the demand is usually high, which in turn ensures units put up for sale are snapped up within a short period.Nearly all of the houses are leasehold with about 50 to 60 years left. The only freehold houses are located in the Gasing Indah area.

“Some leasehold property owners have opted to renew their lease, reverting the title back to 99 years. But this can cost the owner a fair bit, we’re looking at about RM200,000 for a semidee,” says the negotiator. 

For residential properties, the formula for calculating the renewal premium is ¼ x market value of property x 99 years less the number of leasing years remaining. This works out to about 25% of the property market value, says Metro Homes’ See.            
According to him, a house can usually be sold within two months, unless it is in an unfavourable location like at a T-junction, near high tension wires or just below the LRT lines.

“Bungalows are the most sought-after properties in Section 5, but the demand for semidees is almost as good. The prices vary widely, depending on the condition. You can get a 4,000 sq ft built-up semidee for as low as RM450,000 if extensive renovation is needed, and it can go above RM1.5 million if the house is in good condition. For well-kept linked houses with built-ups of 1,600 to 2,600 sq ft, the average price is about RM500,000 to RM900,000,” says the negotiator.

“The houses are mostly owner-occupied and there are not many investors here. The other type of buyers are ‘flippers’, or those who will purchase a rundown bungalow or house, fix it and sell it for a profit. They can buy a property for RM800,000 and sell it for as high as RM1.5 million.”

Bungalows here are going for RM150 psf to RM200 psf. Photo by Kenny YapCommercial bungalows

There is a smattering of bungalows with limited commercial status in Section 5. Those located on the inner roads are mainly used for offices while the ones along Jalan Gasing are more commercialised as good frontage is needed to attract customers. “Rents for commercial bungalows start from RM2,500 to RM6,000, depending on their location and condition. You can see the attraction; you get the space but at a much lower price than what you would get if you rented a unit in an office building,” says Ng.

As an indicator, a commercial bungalow with a built-up of 2,000 sq ft along the main road can fetch RM5,000 per month, while another of similar size located inside the enclave can be tenanted at a lower RM2,500 per month. The selling price for a limited commercial bungalow ranges from RM1.2 million to RM2.8 million depending on size and location.

“There are limitations imposed on these commercial bungalows. They are restricted to businesses that do not draw traffic, such as legal or accountancy firms, public relations agencies and dental clinics. Also, owners are not allowed to tear down the property and rebuild it from scratch. The only thing owners can do is to redo the façade and renovate the interior,” explains See.

It is not uncommon for people to immediately think of Bukit Gasing when Section 5 is mentioned. Bukit Gasing is well known for two things — a 100ha forest sitting smack in the midst of an urban jungle and the controversial proposed hillside housing development by Gasing Meridian, which saw opposing residents of Bukit Gasing forming a Joint Action Committee (JAC). The JAC has voiced its fears of landslides due to the instability of the land around the area should the project be allowed to proceed. The JAC filed for a judicial review in February 2008 and the case is pending.

There are some freehold bungalow plots around Bukit Gasing. “Bungalow plots here are mostly on elevated land and they are harder to sell because of the size. We’re looking at parcels of 15,000 to 25,000 sq ft that are priced between RM2 million and RM5 million. After buying the land, you would then have to spend another few million ringgit to build the house. Not many people can afford that; it’s for another category of buyers,” says Kim Realty’s Ng.

A testimony to the sustaining value and popularity of Section 5 was the recent announcement by developer Magna Prima Bhd that it was acquiring two pieces of freehold land, measuring 302,982 sq ft (28,148 sq m), from Petaling Garden Sdn Bhd for RM48.48 million. The two pieces of land, along with a row of fifteen 1-storey lock-up shops on Jalan 5/44 in Petaling Garden, are for future development purposes.

Changing profile

The majority of the residents of Section 5 are middle to higher-income families. According to Ng, the average age of the owners is about 40. “There is also a good number of senior residents who have been staying in the area for years. Some of the houses have been in their possession for two to three generations. They are mostly professionals, doctors, lawyers and business people,” says Ng.

He also notes that there is a growing number of young professionals with families looking for properties in Section 5. Again, it is mostly because of the convenience of the location. “For whatever reason you choose to buy a property in Section 5, the value is guaranteed,” says Ng.

Indeed, Section 5 has a knack for garnering a greater cross-section of property buyers, which only highlights its unique qualities and attractions.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 780, Nov 9-15, 2009.

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