The return of luxury

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Luxury beach house with sea view swimming pool and terrace in modern design, Lounge chairs on wooden floor deck at vacation home or hotel - 3d illustration of contemporary holiday villa exterior

Malaysia’s affluent continues to fuel steady growth of luxury homes

By: Yip Wai Fong

Money cannot buy everything but it certainly can buy the best of most things such as the most desirable and luxurious properties Malaysia has to offer. After a slowdown in the two years since the Covid-19 pandemic, the luxury homes market is striking a comeback with new launches, higher volume of transactions and upward price movements.

According to Knight Frank, Malaysia is the home to 754 ultra-high-net-worth-individuals (UHNWIs) in 2023, defined as someone with a net worth of at least USD30 mil (RM142.52mil) and more than 85,000 high-net-worth-individuals (HNWI) in 2022 – someone who has a net worth of at least USD1mil (RM4.75mil). In Asia, UHNWIs allocate 30% of their wealth to the ownership of primary and secondary homes, owning three homes on average per individual, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2024. The report also noted the top three reasons for Asian UHNWIs to purchase homes in the future, namely for investment, education and lifestyle. 

Correspondingly, the Knight Frank Prime International Residential Index which tracks movements in luxury prices across the world’s top residential markets has noted a 0.2% price uptick in Kuala Lumpur’s luxury residential properties for year 2023, while in 1Q2024, the prime high rise residential sector capital value grew by 0.1% quarter-on-quarter, according to JLL Malaysia Greater Kuala Lumpur Property Market Monitor. 

“Kuala Lumpur offers upscale residential and commercial properties tailored to the preferences of UHNWI/HNWI individuals,” said CBRE | WTW group managing director Tan Ka Leong.

“Exclusive neighbourhoods such as KLCC, Mont Kiara and Bangsar boast luxury condominiums, penthouses and serviced apartments with top-notch amenities and views. The city provides a high quality of life with excellent healthcare facilities, international schools, recreational amenities, and a diverse culinary scene. These factors contribute to a comfortable lifestyle for UHNWIs and their families,” he added. 

According to Tan, as of 1Q2024, there are a total of 77,014 units of luxury high-rise residences in Kuala Lumpur. 

“Most of these properties are located within the Golden Triangle, Mont Kiara, and Bangsar areas. These luxury high-rise residences consist of projects that were launched with minimum prices starting from RM700 per square foot and above,” he said. 

JLL Malaysia also noted seven submarkets in the prime residential market, including Mid-Valley City-Brickfields-Seputeh, Damansara Heights-Kenny Heights-Bukit Tunku, Ampang Hilir and the vicinity of KLCC, which saw improved asking rents in 1Q2024.  

King of the hill 

The importance of a good location takes on a special meaning in the prime residential market. Top-notch locations have the combination of qualities that build up over time such as prestige, exclusivity and accessibility to high-end amenities as well as features that are either natural or man-made such as greenery and scenic views. When these qualities intertwine at a location, the results are uber-expensive properties. In Malaysia, possibly the highest asking price is RM45mil for a seven-bedroom bungalow at Bukit Tunku, measuring 26,368 sq ft as listed by Rahim and Co. A 17,717 sq ft unit at Pavilion Residences Bukit Bintang, is being listed on Knight Frank for RM42.5 mil. 

IQI senior REN Kimberly Yang, who specialises in Bukit Tunku, Bukit Damansara and Bangsar, said that these locations are highly prominent amongst the wealthy.

“These locations are strategic. These are mature and established areas. Affluent families have lived here for generations. They’re low in density and have hills and greenery to boot, especially in Bukit Tunku. These locations serve well for family homes and also for investments,” said Yang. 

Another IQI senior REN Felicia Lee Choy Fun, who has wealthy clients, concurred with Yang and added Mont Kiara to the list. 

“Besides being prestigious and exclusive locations near the city centre, affluent and with ease of accessibility to high-end shopping, dining and entertainment, being near health-care facilities, the locations must have high investment returns, value appreciation and opportunities for resale or rental in future,” explained Lee. 

“When it comes to a specific neighbourhood, some desirable features are good fengshui, beautiful landscape, a neat and clean environment or a view of the beach, lake, city or golf course,” she added.

The measures of luxury

When it comes to property, Lee and Yang both stressed on the high desirability for large land size and built-up to accommodate many opulent lifestyle features. 

Yang said that the land area must be at least 8,000 sq ft and can be up to one acre while Lee said that it must be at least 30,000 sq ft. 

“The big land area is to accommodate a swimming pool, landscaped garden and outdoor space for recreational facilities and provide multiple parking bays,” said Lee. 

“The property must also have large built-ups with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, big living halls and a dining area. The ideal built-up will be around 20,000 sq ft to 30,000 sq ft with features like home theatres, gyms, spas and private entertainment rooms for guests,” she added.

Lee also said that desirable high-end homes are also built with high-quality materials and interior finishes and designed by well-known architects and interior designers. The properties must also be gated and guarded by advanced security systems to protect the occupants’ privacy and safety. 

ESG conscious

Not forgetting sustainability, the UHNWIs also have been making choices that are pro-environmental, social and governance (ESG) in their real estate acquisitions and uses.

Pointing to the survey in the Wealth Report 2024, Knight Frank Malaysia group managing director Keith Ooi said that a sizable percentage of high-end property investors has made ESG a priority without being required by the laws. 

“In Malaysia, (based on) our recent Attitudes Survey, 33% exclusively target the most environmentally friendly assets, and 30% invest in renewable energy projects. 

"Another 28% is focusing on improving the sustainability of existing properties, while 25% is seizing opportunities in carbon sequestration through land acquisition. Additionally, 24% are repositioning underperforming assets to enhance their sustainability, and 21% are divesting from properties with poor environmental credentials. These trends highlight a growing commitment among wealthy investors to environmentally conscious real estate investments in Malaysia,” said Ooi. 

Anchored by the country’s stable economic performance and Kuala Lumpur’s strength as a developed but relatively inexpensive city, the luxury property market is expected to continue its expansion as the UHNWI/HNWI population grows, giving diversified offerings and added appeal to the local property landscape. 

Bukit Tunku, Bukit Damansara and Bangsar are coveted locations where generations of the wealthy have lived, Yang said.

Bukit Tunku, Bukit Damansara and Bangsar are coveted locations where generations of the wealthy have lived, Yang said.

“Kuala Lumpur offers upscale residential and commercial properties tailored to the preferences of UHNWI/HNWI individuals,” Tan said.

“Kuala Lumpur offers upscale residential and commercial properties tailored to the preferences of UHNWI/HNWI individuals,” Tan said.

Lee said luxury home buyers prefer locations that offer high investment returns, value appreciation and opportunities for resale or rental in future.

Lee said luxury home buyers prefer locations that offer high investment returns, value appreciation and opportunities for resale or rental in future.

ESG has become a priority when it comes to purchasing high-end properties, Ooi said.

ESG has become a priority when it comes to purchasing high-end properties, Ooi said.

(Sidebar 1)

Other luxury enclaves 

Malaysia’s prime residential properties span different localities across different states and are not confined to the capital cities, which augur well for investors and end users.

Knight Frank Malaysia group managing director Keith Ooi said that in Selangor, the state hosts affluent townships like Damansara, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, and Shah Alam. These areas have upscale residential developments catering to the upper echelon. 

In the north, the island of Penang, particularly areas like Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi, and Georgetown, offer high-end waterfront properties and exclusive condominiums, attracting both locals and expatriates seeking luxury living. 

In the south, Iskandar Malaysia is a rapidly developing economic zone. Luxury residential properties can be found in areas like Puteri Harbour, Iskandar Puteri, and Johor Bahru, offering waterfront living and proximity to Singapore.

In East Malaysia, the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, features high-end condominiums and villas, particularly along the coastline and in exclusive neighbourhoods such as Tanjung Aru and Likas. 

The largest state of Sarawak, particularly in its capital city Kuching is seeing upscale residential developments emerging in areas like Damai and Santubong, offering serene surroundings and luxurious amenities.

(Sidebar 2)

Award-worthy luxury developments 

The upcoming StarProperty Award 2024 Real Estate Developer edition has received entries from several luxury residential developments, underscoring the health of the property sector in both the wealth as well as the qualities of the offerings. The entries consist of high-rise and landed developments and with many noteworthy features. 

High-rise developments

Bon Kiara

Bon Kiara’s interior features a lanai to facilitate an outdoor-like setting.

Bon Kiara’s interior features a lanai to facilitate an outdoor-like setting.

Comprising two 43-storey towers with units ranging from 2,081 sq ft to 3,075 sq ft, with three to five bedrooms, the development is located at the coveted Mont Kiara with excellent amenities and an affluent community. 

The units are inspired by Mediterranean designs and have a column-free interior environment and a lanai for an expansive, laid-back feel. Bon Kiara offers a pet park and pet-friendly facilities among others.

Talisa @ Bangsar Hill Park

Talisa offers urban resort living at the prestigious Bangsar address.

Talisa offers urban resort living at the prestigious Bangsar address.

Located at Bangsar, the development offers urban resort living with facilities such as a central garden, a 1km jogging path, a pet-friendly rooftop garden and a variety of top-class indoor facilities. 

With units sizing up to 1,478 sq ft, the units’ configuration comes with a balcony, lanai and bathtub for some. The development is secured with an advanced three-tier security system with a visitor management system. 

Landed developments

Vio Banj’ran @S2 Heights

Vio Banj’ran is an exclusive hilltop development in Seremban.

Vio Banj’ran is an exclusive hilltop development in Seremban.

Located on the hilltop of a mountain range, the exclusive development features 40 units of three-storey and two-storey bungalows on a 13-acre plot, ensuring ample space and privacy. More than 30% of the development area is allocated for green space where plants and trees are curated for an evergreen landscape. 

Spaciousness is ensured at each unit, starting from a built-up of 5,867 sq ft for the three-storey bungalow and  4,793 sq ft for the two-storey. Branded fittings including from Niro Granite, American Standards and Roca. 

Trilia Bukit Jelutong

An artist impression of the Trilia Bukit Jelutong three-storey homes.

An artist impression of the Trilia Bukit Jelutong three-storey homes.

Featuring 46 semi-detached homes on the highest terrain in Bukit Jelutong, the development offers a nature-embracing neighbourhood with proximity to forest reserve while being near the various amenities of an established township. Unit size starts from 4,158 sq ft with three-storey and two-storey configurations and spaces are designed for lifestyle versatility, sustainability and comfort. 


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