Weaker interest in condos

While property developers are in overdrive to push sales in a cautious market, real estate agents are working to crank up the secondary market where transactions have dipped by at least 20% in the last six months.

According to Julie Wong, the newly-appointed Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) president for 2009-2011, the biggest drop in transactions has come from the condominium sub-sector, where sales contracted by some 30%.

The weakened interest in condominiums is more apparent in the higher-price market, such as units in the Golden Triangle, she says.

Has there been any fire sale? Wong, who is the principal of Ju Properties, says she has not heard of any. She expects interest to pick up, given the more active local stock market recently, impact of the government’s stimulus packages and low interest rate regime.

The real estate consultants who spoke at The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2009 with the theme “Residential properties values: How low  can we go?” which took place last month were more optimistic about the property market outlook today than they were a few months ago.

Transactions may be slow and prices for certain types of properties in certain locations have dipped but there is no property slump. Indications are that buyers are returning to the marketplace, motivated by the low lending rates, the more realistic asking prices and the difficult-to-resist investment deals offered by developers.

Wong says tried and tested hotspots like Damansara Heights, Bangsar, Mont’Kiara and Hartamas will continue to draw interest.

“Areas like Happy Garden, near Kuala Lumpur’s Kuchai area, and Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya also command a lot of attention. There are people waiting to buy homes at Happy Garden and Bandar Utama,” she says.

On MIEA, she has mapped out her priority — to gain more recognition, especially in the international arena, and boost membership.

Wong, who often speaks at international real estate conferences, is  frustrated that MIEA is relatively unknown among its peers abroad.

“There is an urgent need to brand MIEA, to get it more recognised, as it will be a boost for our members. We need to attend more international real estate conferences and set up booths at events such as those organised by the National Association of Realtors and Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute,” she says.

MIEA has tied up with Malaysia Property Inc (MPI) to promote local properties at international road shows in the Middle East, UK and Japan. MPI is a joint public and private sector initiative formed last year to promote the country’s real estate abroad.

As at March 20, 2009, MIEA had some 500 members. This, however, pales in comparison with the 1,700-strong membership of the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia.

MIEA, says Wong, needs to organise more membership drive campaigns throughout the country.
More international recognition will also boost interest in the association, adds Wong, who is the second female president in MIEA’s 33-year history. The first was Khatijah Abdullah, principal of City Harta 1, who served as president from 1991 to 1995, and again from 2003 to 2007.

On illegal agents, Wong plans to implement a surveillance programme to weed them out.

“Principals of real estate agencies need to work together to come up with a list of illegal agents operating in their area. We will then forward the list to the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia to conduct investigations and take the necessary action,” she adds.


This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 755, May 18 – 24, 2009.


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