Is This Bonaire Island’s Theme Song?

Take a listen and you’ll know what I mean. :)

I Don’t Like Retirement Homes!

I just got back from the three day property fair BPEX which was pretty rocking! Can you find me in this picture here? ;)

If there’s one thing that preoccupies Malaysians nowadays, it’s the idea of retirement homes. No less than 20 people came up to my agency’s booth and asked me about retirement properties.

Indeed… everyone seems to be into buying a Malaysian retirement home these days. Naturally, who would not want to live comfortably in your senior age, to enjoy what you should actually be enjoying after toiling at work for most of your life? Of course everyone wants to buy a retirement home!

But as with any real estate purchase, it cannot be something you do on a whim. We’re no Betty White’s and Jack Nicholson’s. We’re talking about Malaysian homes like Kiara Designer Suites that we would buy with our hard earned retirement money, where most of your pension funds and old age will be spent on. Indeed, some of our most popular property sites (reviewed here) have dedicated sections on retirement homes. Also, we were also previously featured in this article in the Edge which quoted me as being bullish on retirement homes. I have now changed my mind…

Why retirement homes are crap!

retirement home

Boring.

Only naturally, we want something that will be worth the hardest earned of our hard earned cash. Here are some tips on how to buy the right retirement home for you:

  • Should you rent or buy a retirement home? Or would you be better off in your old home? Weigh in on the odds – which would be convenient and cost efficient? Buying a home may be very convenient but could you really afford it? And what happens to the house should you need to be in hospice care? Would renting be better? Or would you be better off repairing your old house and investing your retirement money in something else instead? These are the real questions that you’d have to face, rather boldly, when the time comes.
  • Decide early on to get a Malaysian retirement home. The sooner the better is the name of the game when buying a retirement home. This is a big investment and you’d like to save for it as much as you can so you still can enjoy a big chunk of your retirement money and not just lose it all to the house. You’re unlikely to get a big, long mortgage loan anyway. And besides, in your old age, you wouldn’t likely to want to think about having to pay for something so big so at least strive towards making a full to almost full payment. So the sooner you decide to get one, at least about two years, the more savings you’ll have for your dream retirement home.
  • Find the right location. Find your happy place – but make sure it is easily accessible to important public facilities. You sure don’t want to drive far for your doctor’s visits anymore! You have to find a home that will keep you happy but will also keep you safe and within comfortable driving distance to the grocers, the hospital, the police station, etc. Also find a place with a lower cost of living and in a neighborhood that’s friendlier to seniors. Maybe somewhere like Segamat, Johor, or Kota Damansara. :)
  • Choose just the right size. When you’re older, you’d likely be alone at home with your partner on most days. You certainly don’t need something the size of a Civil War era mansion. Remember, bigger houses need more cleaning and maintenance – and that’s something you’d rather not want to deal with in your senior years. Get a Malaysian house that has enough space for yourselves and maybe a regular sized guest room to accommodate visiting children.

Mr. B

Ask Ben: Buyers Agent 101

Hello reader: Ben here again. This morning I received this email from our reader Gan Teik Pang (gante@gmail.com) from Segambut, Malaysia:

Buying a Malaysian house can be one overwhelming experience. You see, I’ve been trying to get a unit at the popular Meritz in KLCC, and things have not been going smoothly. Apart from having to deal with all the hassles, pressures, confusion, not to mention costs of house hunting, there’s always the mortgage and other technical stuff to deal with too.

Any advice for me, Ben?

Here’s my answer:-

Hiring a buyer’s agent is almost always necessary, especially if you’re a buying a house for the first time or buying it in a new city/town. They know where the houses are, they know how to talk to seller’s agents, and their services are free – or at least, you don’t carry the burden of paying them.

But before you jump into the first buyer’s agent you find, Mr Gan, there are some important things you need to know about them.

Buyers Agent 101

Here’s a simple but accurate walk through about everything you need to know about real estate buyer’s agents:

home buying 101

  • You don’t have to pay them. The burden of payment or the commission lies in the hands of the seller’s agent (or the seller if the house is sold on a For-Sale-By-Owner or FSBO basis).
  • They almost always make you sign a contract before they start working for you. Ideally, the contract is nothing more than a mutual and signed agreement that you would stick to them until you find a Malaysian house. It also states what happens and what your responsibilities are should you ‘break up’ with them mid-contract. This is their way of making sure that they aren’t spending time, money and effort on something futile. Like any contract, read this thoroughly before inking; consult a real estate lawyer if the need arises.
  • Yes, you can break up with an agent. But not without consequences. That is why it is important and essential for you to take the time to make a mutually agreeable contract on exclusivity, clauses on breaking up and guarantees. The contract should be ‘bilateral’ in that it takes to the welfare of both the buyer and the buyer’s agent should the ‘relationship’ fail to work.
  • And yes, your agent can initiate a break up too. So you had better get yourself protected too!
  • A non-exclusive contract allows you to look at and consider homes suggested by different agents.
  • They help you find the right home for you by going over the listings. They take you to the houses for actual ocular inspections – yes, driving you to the houses themselves – and can even advise you for or against certain properties.
  • They can also give you advice on how to better prepare for a home purchase, how to make an offer, as well as how to get a good Malaysian mortgage loan.
  • They can give you advice on which mortgage lender, inspector, real estate attorney, etc to go to. However, you don’t have to follow their advice on these things; you can always go to whom you are most comfortable with.
  • Take time to interview several agents before signing up with anyone. It is best to consider a ‘trial period’ with a potential agent to test the waters between the two of you.

Also see my previous article about Tips in Buying a Retirement Home. Alternatively, also check out my friend Gary DiMauro’s article on agents here – it’s a good read.

Hope that helps!

-Benjamin (the specialist Bonaire Island Malaysia property agent)

Your Offer For Kirana Residence Rejected? Here’s Why…

Hi readers! Ben here yet again.

Here’s a another update from me this week. First of all, I want to thank you for loving my last blog post. It inspire me to write again :)

If you think your house hunting or deal comes to an end as soon as you make that final offer, then you are wrong. Malaysian home owners, even when they have already agreed verbally about ‘getting the deal closed’ with you does not necessarily mean that they will have the deal closed for your benefit.

Recently I have been getting emails from our buyers who invested in Kirana Residence offer the other day (if you have missed the flyer, then send us an empty email at special_offers@bonaireislandrealestate.com and we will put you in our special list). It seems that the rejection rate is kinda high for that property…

You see, as long as that final offer for has yet been signed, they can always reject your offer. That is why it is extremely important for you to make certain that your offer is rejection-proof. For one, you have to make sure that everything that you’ve talked about in the preliminary talks would be incorporated in the written offer.

Also, you have to make sure that your offer contains everything that they need to know about your offer – how much you’re willing to pay for their house, when you intend to pay up for the house, what conditions you have for paying for the house as well as, and more importantly, how you intend to pay the house. And since you are likely to pay up the house via a mortgage loan, it would be best that your offer comes with the necessary documents about your mortgage loan (as an assurance of sorts of your capacity to pay).

Reasons Why Your Offer Would Be Rejected

Two, you have to make certain that your offer does not fall to any of these rejection situations:

  1. The Malaysian home seller ended up  changing his mind about the final price. You and the home seller may have agreed on a bargained final selling price of the house, but he somehow changed his mind overnight and forgot (intentionally and unintentionally both) to notify you or your agent about it. So when he gets your offer with the lower final price, he decides on it with a no. Make sure that you’ve convinced your seller that the price is not bad enough and convince him enough for him not to change his mind. (It would be best that you talk to both owners and not just the husband *Wink*)
  2. Someone else came up with a higher offer. This is a very common scenario in a hot house. You’ll have to compete with tons of other buyers and if one of them happens to be willing to go the distance on the final price, there is really nothing you can do about it. You can either give up and look for another Malaysian house, or compete with the bigger offer which isn’t always the wisest thing to do anyway.
  3. Your contingencies are not satisfactory for them. The contingencies are the conditions that need to happen/be fulfilled before the final sale of the house takes place. If you have listed contingencies that are too difficult for the owner to achieve, or at least too costly (i.e. roof repair), or your end of the conditions (i.e. present a complete set of papers for mortgage) do not meet their requirements, they may reject it until you give them something more satisfactory.
  4. Your offer lacks some very important requirements. You may have forgotten to indicate any of the essential details of the sale and thus it seemed unsatisfactory for the home seller. Until you fulfill that, they may have to say no to your offer.
  5. There is something that they don’t agree on. Maybe your down payment amount was too small for them, or your promised pay date is a little too late for their preference. It could be anything on your offer that they don’t agree on. In these cases, it is best to resume talks and renegotiate on the whole offer.

Keep those emails coming in! And if you are going to MAPEX, remember to come over to say hi! Details on that expo can be found here.

-Benjamin

Website Review – PropertyReviews.my

We have long been raving about the impact that the Internet has got on real estate – no matter if we are in Bonaire in Florida or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We also follow closely Simon Baker’s PropertyPortalWatch website – being a seasoned property portal executive he knows a thing or two about this business!

We have recently stumbled upon this rather fabulous property reviews site which focuses on opinions of Malaysia property called PropertyReviews.my – the database is small, but the articles are rather fabulous… and truthful. Our agents go to the site as part of their research to collect information for their respective clients. It is now focused on Mont Kiara and Bangsar properties for some reason – we hope it will expand its coverage soon.

By the way, if you have not heard from us in awhile, well, we have been closing some rather big real estate deals in Malaysia recently – from Sentul to KLCC. Our article on foreclosure (see here) has attracted some controversy – we will write a follow up blog post soon.

BonaireIslandRealEstate is committed to your success in Malaysia property. For a free white paper on Malaysia Property Trends 2014, email whitepaper@bonaireislandrealestate.com or call 03-56899991 (ask for Sally Lee or Richard Craig).

Ben’s Guide To Condo Living – Updated For 2014

NOTE: This is the excerpt from Benjamin Dover’s upcoming book, Ben’s Guide To Downtown Apartments In Kuala Lumpur, to be published by Sentinel Publications come January 2015.

Everyone is into condo living these days. Serviced rooms, maintenance, exclusive amenities, close security, prime city location – ahh, the perks and wonders of urban living. :) For every urbanite out there, living in a condominium is the only way to go.

But that’s the thing residents say. What about real estate investors? What benefits does it have to investors’ money? And how do you make the most out of it?

Condo

Ben’s place in Ampang!

First off, there are only two ways you can max out your condominium unit investment – to sell it or to rent it out. Both ideas are, if you play your cards well, very beneficial and have good returns for your money.

Reselling Your Condo Unit

The thing about reselling/subselling a condo unit is that you can hardly make any adjustments to the price but only solely base it on the market and the whole condominium complex’s market value. The market value of your unit depends largely on the market value of the complex itself – so age, location, and condition of the whole building plays a role in your unit’s marketability and value (that’s where house investments ace these high end living spaces). This Wall Street Journal article states that in New York, high-end condos are selling like pancakes– well, simply because it’s New York! Apart from that, any personal improvement made on the house can do very little to your market (if that is even allowed since some developers disallow any alterations made to the unit. If it is allowed, you are very limited to a few adjustments anyway. So when you are reselling/subselling your condo unit, you are selling the whole complex itself – flaws and all.

Also, to make the most profit, the time of purchasing a unit matters greatly too. Units bought at the launching price will have a better chance and lien space for repricing for profit. However, should you experience selling your home in a down market, you have to consider other options. Buying it second hand or further makes it a less than ideal item for reselling and would be better off for rental.

Renting Out Your Condo Unit

If you live in a city that’s big on tourism and gets a high population of tourists on a monthly average, you have the prime option and opportunity to put your property out as a rental property. Compared to renting out your vacation home, renting out your condo unit for short-term rentals are ideal because maintenance fees are covered by your condo developer, plus the location and accessibility of your condo gives you the chance to jack up your rental rate. Condo living is actually very ideal for people who are into a more posh backpacking experience.

You may also want to rent out your property on long term lease a la apartments. For example, if you want to rent out your Peak @Iskandar, Nadayu or Pavilion Residences unit, try to set out a contract, put up a rental rate and set up some house rules. It would also be necessary to inform the administration for formality’s sake.

The only problem with renting out your property is that you can hardly go further in pricing with your neighbors in the same complex. And like selling a unit, you’d have to market the entire complex. The only clear advantage to renting out is the fact that you can still rent it out even if you are the third, fourth, umpteenth owner as long as you have maintained your unit to an ideal condition.

ADDENDUM: Want a preview copy of the book? Send a cheque of RM99 payable to BARE S/B (our contact details are in the sidebar on the right) and we will send you an advanced copy!

Foreclosure Homes Can Be Downright Scammy!

Foreclosure homes are always popular among those who are looking for an ‘easy’ buy. But foreclosed homes can be downright scammy! And here’s why – normally, because these houses have been ‘out there’ for far too long, the banks that have repossessed them sell them very cheaply.

And who would say no to a cheap home anyway? Who wouldn’t want the best value for their Ringgit (or to our Singaporean clients – Singapore dollars)?

However, there is a catch. Just like most anything in business, if it’s too good to be true, it can never be true. There will always be pitfalls to buying foreclosed or bank-owned homes. That’s what ol’ Ben is gonna tell ya :)

Before making a purchase, it is especially important for prospective home buyers to get a good look at what lies ahead of them – the good, the bad, and sometimes in these cases – THE UGLY.

Beware!

One of the biggest, most predominant issues with foreclosed homes lies on the general upkeep. These homes are ill-maintained for so many reasons and oftentimes, the money that buyers save on the price of the house all go to restoration. You see, not all foreclosed homes come in tip top shape like, say, a brand new One Surin unit! :)

Not a few of these houses require tens of thousands of dollars in cash to get it into tiptop shape – and the banks do not have the time and the energy to do it.

But how did these homes ended up so badly?

One common reason is vandalism. Former owners, with building anger and frustration over the foreclosure, tend to make the most damage to the house. They have nothing to lose on the property anymore anyway.

Another reason is the lack of financial capacity of the previous owner. The fact that they could hardly keep up with the mortgage bills makes it seem logical as to why they were unable to make money to keep the house in its best condition.

Aside from that, most of these foreclosed houses have been abandoned for so long. Left out usually unsecured and vulnerable to vandalism, intrusion, and maybe even criminal activities, these foreclosed houses get the worst of wear and tear.

Apart from the fact that these houses lack the standard maintenance and are almost literally aching for badly needed repairs, these houses are not necessarily easy off the hook – financially.

Because of the history of the foreclosed homes, money-wise, the houses have a longer story to tell. So sometimes it’s better to spend a little extra, say on a condominium unit at Kiaramas Cendana, than spend so little at first then spend a fortune on rehabilitation of the property later on (for example, on a property like Suria Residence). And the prospective buyer/s will have to be in the midst of that just the same. For one, banks are more difficult to deal with if the odds are on their side, in comparison with regular homeowners. They are looking to make the most out of this investment and they are not necessarily in need of the money. Because of that, they may not really share in your sense of urgency; or at least not on the same level. This problem is very common among non-cash buyers and is the exact same reason why foreclosed homes and properties are more popular and more easily sold to real property investors over regular homeowners.

Conclusion

These aforementioned pitfalls are just some of a number of clear disadvantages of getting foreclosed properties. But then again, most every type of real estate transaction or any other business deal for the matter comes with risks and pitfalls. It is our job, as partakers of business dealings, to find the right reasons to invest in something that is worth taking all the risks for.

If you’re still interested in foreclosed properties in Malaysia, speak to Johnson Park, our specialist at the agency (call him directly at +6012-3689910) and he shall be able to give you a couple of pointers.

The Winter Is Here…

So I just came back from having tea with Reginald Lee from Expansure Realtors here in Kuala Lumpur (TWG Pavilion is kinda awesome!), and we had an hour long talk on the current state of Malaysia property, and indeed, it wasn’t pretty to say the least.

Reggie Lee

“The success (or failure) of a home sale here in Malaysia depends on a lot of things,” Reginald told me. But one of the most predominant factors affecting the outcome of selling a home is on the market. “You’re lucky if you happened to sell when the market is good, but you’ll need all sorts of miracles and help to get you to sell during a down market,” I replied back.

The thing about the real estate market (here in Malaysia or anywhere else) is that it always takes time. The market does not change rapidly; and this is always a bad time for when you’re selling during the down days. This is true even for condominiums, and sometimes selling a full suite at Damansara Sentral or Cendana or an exquisite Pangaea unit is going to be a pain because it gets too expensive for buyers. Sales made during these discouraging times would almost always fall 10% lesser than the price the houses were originally offered. Sometimes even lower (cough… …cough)

So what do you do when the market is down but you need to sell your home? Here are some tips:

  • Lower your expectations. You cannot be selling a house without any idea about the current state of the real estate market. And you cannot be possibly expecting to sell your home at a high price during a down period. So lower your expectations. Offer your house in a fair price, but expect the lowest bids. You’d feel less badly if you weren’t expecting anything grand from your home.
  • Do not sell your home by yourself. This is the worst time to try to do it yourself. Professional buyers will try to haggle their way around you, and an inexperienced home seller would easily be swayed by the pro negotiators. Get a reliable real estate agent to work with you on the deal; they’ll know better on how to keep a fair, reasonable price for your home. But that is not to say you leave everything to your agent’s care. Give a hand.
  • Exert extra effort on staging. Make your home stand out from all the houses on sale in your area. GO the extra mile on improving the curb appeal of your house and stage your home like a pro. Make sure your house is ready to move in to – this always makes it more appealing to buyers.
  • Help your agent on the advertising. There are tons of online portals that you can utilize to advertise your home. Facebook is one. Like I said, don’t expect your agent to do everything for you. Be of help by helping on advertising. Likewise, make your friends know that you’re selling the house. Word-of-mouth advertising has been history’s best, most cost-efficient form of advertising so make the most out of it.
  • Have a contingency plan. In a down market, expect your home to be on the list for months and for the prices to get lower. Invest on local property if it helps you pull through. If your house does not sell as soon as you want it to, what do you do? How do you avoid having to sell your house cheaply? Is renting out the home an option for you? A winner always has a backup plan, and so should you especially in these trying times.

A down market is not the end of the world for you. Beat the odds, in the face! :)

Notice: We will be throwing a seminar with Reginald soon in the KLCC convention centre. To get advanced notification, please email our Events Coordinator Sarah Small at sarah.small@bonaireislandrealestate.com – thank you!

Ben’s Thoughts On Home Improvement

Alright, I am going to talk about this little home improvement project that I have been working on a few weekends now…

What ya think? :)

What ya think? :)

Nothing beats the comfort and feeling of spending a sunny summer or rainy spring afternoon than with some drink of choice, some music and a feel-good book lounging in some outdoor room area of your house. This is usually one of my favorite things to do while relaxing in the sun deck of my favorite KLCC condo. Just one of the perks I’m thankful for ever since I got here in sunny Malaysia. This is one scenario that will definitely make you say “ahh this is the life”.

Now look at this wonderful piece of carpentry…

I spent some 100 hours on this!

I spent some 100 hours on this!

But for homeowners are a little tight on the budget, or space, or even time for construction, which outdoor home extension should you have made in your house? What should you consider when starting on this project? Some quick ideas:

Patio – if you’re a little tight money-wise, and your outdoor space is not all that big anyway, then a patio may be the best choice for you. You don’t need so much as to invest on hardwood or roofing. You can opt for some outdoor patio umbrella (which can be really cheap from secondhand stores and thrift stores) or just totally ditch it altogether.

Deck – Decks are commonly one of the perks you may get if you invest in a luxury apartment. However, for houses, this outdoor extension needs a lot of money and a lot of space. Decks require an elevation off the ground, and are usually made of some expensive hardwood. You need quite a lot of space to get this going too. But done right, this is a very pretty addition to your home – one where you can lounge by yourself or with friends over cocktails.

Porch – this is low maintenance, inexpensive and does not need too much space either. This is also a very common addition to homes, needing nothing more than a few feet away from your main wall. You can also much easily attach the roofing to your main wall to save on additional expenses on building. Add some railings and you’re good to go. However, since it comes in a small space, you can’t do so much with it. You can add a rattan hammock and some cushions and romantic lights, then everything will look just awesome. SIDENOTE: Here are some great porch ideas from the DIY Network – it’s my favorite! :)

Sun room – this is one of UK’s most popular home extensions. It is a closed room extension, usually with huge glass windows and sun roof. What makes it very ideal is the fact that it is roofed and so you can put even your most expensive piece of furniture in it without worrying about sun or rain, but still get your dose of the outdoors thanks to the big clear glass windows. But then again, with all this privileges also come the expense and need for space. There are contractors and ready-to-build kits but you may have to check on durability and again, pricing.

Balcony – if you don’t have all that much space on the ground, then maybe you can build a huge balcony on your second floor space. You might just have to double check on your foundations whether or not it can handle the additional weight of the extension.

Luxury apartments (I have talked about this here previously) might have all these features and amenities, but not everyone is lucky to have them. Luckily, you can do some improvisation. Keep in mind that whatever type of extension you are putting in your house, they will always need their own furniture and its own costs for maintenance.

Hope you like this little home improvement rant on a Sunday afternoon! :)

-Benjamin D

Ben’s Killer Tip Of The Day – GO LOCAL!

Hello, fellow real estate fanatics.

The previous days had me thinking about investing locally here in Malaysia. It can be a condominium unit, or an apartment unit– I haven’t really made up my mind yet :( However,  I’ve learned a thing or two by doing some quick researching on Youtube– hey, everyone needs all the help they can get, right? Found this gem of a video by property bigwig and self-made millionaire Joe Weston of American Property Management, and I think it can be really helpful for those of you who’d want to start investing on apartments or condominiums. Here’s a link– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh6w_Uu6snk.

The best part of my job is having to travel both locally and internationally, and lately I’ve been doing a lot of condominium and property hopping in an effort to find the best investment for my hard-earned money :D KLCC was my first destination, and this is not a surprise as many of you know that I’ve written an article about KLCC’s luxury condominiums– read it here.

After a lot of conversations and a lot of discussions with my colleagues and such, I’ve shortlisted my choices to OneKL and the Four Seasons Place. Seems like a great investment opportunity, but I’ve yet to ask other opinions first. Also, I need to talk to my lawyer LOL :D But yes, KLCC offers a lot of condominiums and they’re everywhere, and choosing one can really be difficult. I’d update you more on this on my next post.

Just passing by to give you a quick update– maybe you can give me a quick suggestion on which property to invest in the KL area? Email me! I’d love to hear from you :)

Ben