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Malaysia: Attractive Environment, Recession in Real Estate Market | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Bungalow for sale in Seputeh Heights, a gated residential enclave in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia

This contemporary house with five bedrooms and four and a half baths is in Seputeh Heights, a gated residential enclave in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Built in 2010, the house was designed by the current owner, Greg Dall, the director of Pentago, a local architecture firm.

The house, which is called Penta Cinque, covers 10,122 square feet and has an infinity lap pool and views of the city. There are three levels: the top floor, with four of the bedrooms; the ground floor, with the living areas; and the basement, with the main entry, the covered parking area and the driveway.

The garage-level entry leads to a glass-enclosed elevator to the upper levels. The house has an open-style layout, with steel and glass walls. The floors are a mix of black marble, black terrazzo and hardwood. The wood throughout the house is Malaysian teak, merbau and chengal, and many of the beams and pillars have been recycled from older homes, Mr. Dall said.

On the ground level, there are a large open-air dining area, a covered terrace and a guest bedroom with an en-suite bathroom. The dining area and living room overlook a fish pond and the walled garden, decorated with large urns. The furniture is included in the price, except for select antique pieces, the owner said.

There are two kitchens in the house, which is typical of modern Malaysian homes, said Jeffri Rahim, the vice president of project marketing for Savills Malaysia, the agency listing the property. There is an indoor kitchen used for large tasks and a smaller, outdoor, lanai-style kitchen for everyday meals. The Bosch kitchen appliances are all new, and there is a serving counter for casual meals in the indoor kitchen.

The master bedroom includes an en-suite bathroom and a walk-in dressing room, as well as a lounging area. One of the other top-floor bedrooms has an en-suite bathroom; the other two bedrooms share a bath. There is also a separate family room/sitting area on the top floor.

Current renovation work is focused on redesigning the fish pond and adding a new lounging deck in the garden.

The infinity pool is off the terrace next to the main living area. The enclosed and private garden has a manicured lawn, native trees and a large gazebo. The land parcel is a little over a quarter-acre. The property is freehold, which means a buyer will own the property (not lease it, which is common in many parts of the city).

There is 24-hour security in the gated development, which is a little over a mile from the Mid Valley Megamall, one of the largest shopping centers in the city. It is also close to Bangsar, a popular neighborhood for Kuala Lumpur’s expatriate community, with shopping and restaurants, Mr. Rahim said. Kuala Lumpur International Airport is about a 50-minute drive from the house.


Sales in the Kuala Lumpur market are “subdued,” said Christopher Boyd, the executive chairman of Savills Malaysia. The number of residential sales dropped 16 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016, he said.

Political uncertainty, limits imposed on bank financing in 2013 and the year-old scandal over Prime Minister Najib Razak’s involvement in 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government investment fund, have dampened buying activity in Malaysia, agents say.

“The political developments surrounding the 1MDB saga have had a profound impact on investors’ sentiment,” said Khalil Adis, a Singapore-based consultant.

Prospective buyers are taking a “wait and see” attitude, according to a recent report from Knight Frank, the real estate company. As of March, prices in Kuala Lumpur were down 1.8 percent from a year earlier, according to Knight Frank’s Prime Global Cities Index. In contrast, overall prices in the 35 cities tracked by Knight Frank recorded a 3.6 percent increase in the same period.

The recent “challenging” market is a contrast to steady growth in recent years, said Sarkunan Subramaniam, the managing director of the Malaysia office of Knight Frank, the real estate company.

“Malaysia has a very investor-friendly climate,” Mr. Subramaniam said. Initiatives such as the Malaysia My Second Home program, which offers a 10-year renewable visa for people who meet financial requirements, give the country “an edge over many other overseas investment destinations,” he said.

Most of the sales activity in Kuala Lumpur in recent years is centered on new apartments in the city center, agents said. In a competitive market, developers have started offering rebates, furniture vouchers and other incentives to woo buyers, Mr. Adis said.

“The resale market is where most of the buying activity is occurring,” he said, with prices often as much as 30 percent below those for new developments.


International buyers account for less than 10 percent of sales in Malaysia, agents say. “The majority of buyers are owner-occupiers, but sales for investment are also prevalent, particularly in the upmarket condo sector,” Mr. Boyd said.

Singaporeans are the largest group of foreign buyers, although there has been an increase in activity in recent years from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and Korea, local agents said.

While the Malaysia My Second Home program has attracted international interest, its effect on sales has been relatively small, agents said. Since 2002, about 30,000 applications have been approved, Mr. Subramaniam said.


Foreigners can buy only property worth more than 1 million ringgit, or about $250,000, in most areas of Malaysia, although the threshold varies in different states. The government must approve any property purchase by a nonresident, but that is often little more than a formality, agents said.

“The process itself is quite seamless and quick compared to many other countries,” Mr. Subramaniam said.

Property is offered as freehold or leasehold, usually with a 99-year lease. There are generally no restrictions on what kind of property foreigners can buy, but some states have their own restrictions. Buyers usually hire a lawyer to oversee the transaction.

“There is local bank financing available for foreigners, and the market is far more open than in most other Southeast Asian countries,” Mr. Boyd said.


There is a stamp duty on property purchases ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent, depending on the value. Legal fees can be as much as 1 percent of the purchase price.

For foreigners, the real property gains tax, the Malaysian form of capital gains tax, is 30 percent of the profit from the sale, if the home is sold within five years. The tax falls to 5 percent if the property is owned for more than five years.

(The New York Times)