Cautious 2013 property market outlook

Market to change this year with more transactions of affordable homes

Watch this space by Chee Su-Lin | sulin.chee@thestar.com.my

The last week saw two major property reports come out. The first was from the Ministry of Finance’s Property and Valuation Department (JPPH), which collects data in the process of imposing tax on property transactions.

The second was from established property consultancy CH Williams Talhar & Wong Sdn Bhd (WTW) which every year releases a property market report to a room full of journalists.

While JPPH’s sentiment was imaginably hopeful, it did state that the number of property transactions dropped for the first time since 2009, albeit by a small number–0.7%.

This can be mainly attributed to a drop of transactions in the commercial (offices and retail shops), agricultural and industrial sub-sectors, by about 5% on average. What balanced these out were an increase in transactions in development land and homes.

Foo: “2013 is going to be a flat year overall for the property market.”

Makes sense given the last few year’s ravenous hunger for homes, be it to flip, rent out or live in, and for land by property developers. Just check out the listings of land parcels asking for hundreds of million Ringgit on our StarProperty.my portal nearly everyday!

This hunger abated somewhat since the year before last, however. The increases of 1% and 6% were nowhere close to 2011’s growths of 19% for homes and almost 15% for development land.

JPPH’s outlook was nevertheless optimistic, citing the various economic transformation projects and a GDP growth rate which is forecast between 5% to 6% in 2013 (quite mirroring 2012’s growth rate of 5.6%).

WTW’s outlook, while also wishing for the best, perhaps pulled less punches, describing its sentiment to be cautious. “2013 is going to be a flat year overall,” said managing director Foo Gee Jen.

Potential oversupply of office space

The main vulnerable sub-sector to watch out for is office supply in the Klang Valley, according to Foo.

The main vulnerable sub-sector to watch out for, it said, was office supply in the Klang Valley

“Overall, office space is going to have a very challenging year, especially for old buildings in secondary locations,” said Foo, citing this year’s increase in supply with about about 6.7mil sq ft of new space coming into the market. Only slightly above 3mil sq ft, however, is forecast to be taken up. “There will be a pressure concern on occupancies and rents.”

Foo is concerned especially about the huge amounts of office space to come on stream after 2014 and 2015, from various mega projects such as Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), Bandar Malaysia, KL Metropolis, KL Eco City and PJ Sentral Garden City.

“Of course if we are able to bring in a lot more financial players to the market, then TRX will be able to sustain that level of supply,” he said. “TRX is almost equal in size to KLCC and like KLCC, it might also take over 20 years to fully develop.”

The success of KL Metropolis, located off Jalan Duta, meanwhile, would hinge on the support of the various MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) players while requiring complete connectivity by road and rail, he said.

An artist’s impression of the Tun Razak Exchange project, previously known as KLIFD.

Only two thirds of high-end condos occupied and rentals still dropping

With regard to high-end condominiums, 2012 has seen supply slow down after a big surge in 2011. “Despite that, occupancy rates and rentals have generally lowered,” said Foo. “We have an occupancy of high end condos of about about 67% and in some areas like Mont’Kiara and Ampang, occupancies of less than 60% have been reported in some condos which have been completed for more than three years. It’s not very healthy. It means that there are a lot of empty units all over town.”

This somehow hasn’t dampened the demand for these properties however. “On the developer side, generally, sales have surprisingly been very strong,” said Foo. In fact, locations such as Kota Damansara, Puchong, Sunway, Subang Jaya, and Ara Damansara have seen new projects launched at around RM600 to RM700 per sq ft. “Do these prices reflect their locations?” he asked.

Given these factors, Foo believed that prices may drop between 5% to 10% this year.

“Prices of luxury condominiums with average built-up area of over 3,000 sq ft showed signs of a softening market,” echoed JPPH, citing 2012 prices for the Pearl and the Avare condominiums near KLCC which had remained at 2011 levels. Apartments of about 3,800 sq ft in the former transacted at between RM4.5mil to RM4.79 mil (about RM1,174 to RM1,250 per sq ft) last year, while an apartment in the latter of about 3,800 sq ft transacted at around RM3.5mil (around RM920 per sq ft).

Secondary property prices in popular areas still to rise

The largest price increase last year was documented in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

For those waiting for prices of existing secondary properties to drop, don’t hold your breath, Foo contended. “Overall, these won’t lag behind developer prices much which have a cost push on prices, especially from higher costs of labour.”

Looking at price trends, he expressed that prices of secondary properties, especially landed properties in popular areas, may increase by about 10% to 15% this year.

In Kuala Lumpur, average transacted house prices increased by about 7% from about RM489,000 to about RM457,000 in 2012. Limited supply of landed properties in certain locations saw prices increase substantially, noted JPPH’s report. Leading the pack was Taman Tun Dr Ismail, for which prices for double storey semi-detached homes increased by 26% to transact between RM1.9mil and RM2.9mil.

Just north of TTDI, prices of double storey terrace houses in Bandar Manjalara grew at 19% to achieve RM650,000 to RM745,000. Price growth for double storey terrace houses in Bangsar Baru was not far behind at about 18% to achieve prices of between RM1.3mil and RM1.6mil per unit.

Houses close to upcoming MRT stations in Cheras recorded price increases of up to 19% last year.

Properties next to upcoming MRT and LRT stations also saw significant increases. Houses close to the proposed Phoenix Plaza MRT station in Cheras such as in Taman Bukit Anggerik and Taman Taynton View recorded increases of around 19% and 11% respectively, with prices ranging between RM236,000 and RM398,000.

In Selangor, average transacted home prices increased by about 10% from RM307,000 to about RM339,000. Single and double storey terraced houses in Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Damansara and Shah Alam registered double digit growths of between 11% and 33%. The highest price for a double storey terraced house was recorded in Bandar Utama at RM1.18mil.

Even for Penang, where number of transactions dropped by 24%, prices stayed strong with average prices increasing by about 21% from RM252,000 to RM305,000.

Affordable housing schemes

You can of course look forward to the various affordable housing programmes offered by the two main political sides in the run up to this year’s elections.

“Looking at the manifestos by both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, they are aware of what the rakyat want,” said Foo. Pakatan Rakyat in its manifesto promised to build 150,000 units of affordable houses, while the Prime Minister announced in the last Budget that the government would build 123,000 affordable houses. In its manifesto, Barisan Nasional in fact promised one million affordable houses, through public or private initiatives.

“Both sides of the fence are aware of this, so whoever wins, affordable housing will be focused on,” added Foo.

At the same time, developers are building smaller SOHO-type units, especially near upcoming MRT and LRT stations, or further out of the city, to achieve homes priced under RM500,000.

So what does that mean for the property market this year? It sounds like the market may still be active with lower priced homes, but the total value of transactions this year may drop, reckoned Foo.

He doesn’t see a bubble bursting however. So unless it’s a high end condo that isn’t seeing much demand, don’t expect the house around your corner to drop its price anytime soon this year!

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