THERE are innumerable reasons why families move homes, and space constraints is one of the main deciding factors. Customarily, we would see a growing family upgrading from an apartment or a single storey house, to a three or four-bedroom double storey home, or a bungalow, if affordable.
This was a reality 15 years ago, but today, it is very different. The hike in property prices has seen an increase in the number of families living in condominiums compared to landed homes. Although families with an average of two to three children are making 1,200 sq. ft. (minimum) condominiums their preferred home, the general public’s acceptance of condo-living is equivocal.
While condo or apartment living has been the norm for our neighbors in Singapore, Malaysians or at least those up till Generation Y, had the choice of “living on land” when they were growing up. Most condominium occupants in the Klang Valley today will attest to this. It is a process, getting acclimatized towards living in a high-rise.
After two decades or more living in a landed property to be suddenly riding an elevator to get home, takes some getting used to. Yet the demand is there, partly coerced by property prices. Still, there is something about
the self sufficiency of condo living that seems to appeal to families. Property developers discerning the needs and wants of families are establishing self sufficient developments. This is prevalent in landed property i.e. guarded and gated (G&G)communities but more so, condominiums. The luxury of not having to leave home or its proximate surroundings to get groceries or necessities is one of the primary attractions towards a condominium lifestyle. Obviously, the standard of comfort increases based on the location, price and prestige of the condominium. One can expect free daily zumba classes at a luxury condominium but not in a standard high-rise residence. Still, a decent mid-range condominium has all the basic amenities to keep occupants happy, from swimming pools to clubhouses and cafes. If anything, the numbers don’t lie. According to the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association of Malaysia (REHDA), strata residential properties are on the rise and expected to grow further in 2013.
EASING INTO CONDO-LIVING
Space constraints and cheek to jowl living are the main discontent for many condominium residents who transitioned from landed to high-rise homes. A condo owner in Kota Damansara, Alex Ng said, “It was too close for comfort,” and it took more than a year to learn to drown out all the different sounds that come with living in a condo, from neighbour’s footsteps above the unit, muffled conversations on the corridor, radio and television noise. “It’s almost like I developed a resistance or I just got accustomed to these foreign elements until I didn’t notice them anymore.” Juanita Tang
on the other hand, appreciates the property downsize because it means less housework and no garden to tend or lawn to mow.
PROPERTY PRICES VERSUS SPACE CONSTRAINTS
Property prices are one of the main factors that keep young families in condos. Young parents Jason and Alicia Tan moved into a 3 + 1 condominium in Ara Damansara in 2007. Today with a five-year-old daughter, one-month-old baby and a maid, space is their main concern. Although they would love to live in a landed residential area, preferably a G&G one, the current property prices are too steep. Based on the residential selling price in the second half of 2012, 28% of residential property range from RM500,000 to RM1,000,000, followed by 25% between RM350,000 and RM500,000 and only 15% from RM250,000 to RM350,000. In 2013, a major increase in property within the RM250,000 to RM350,000 price range to 26% is positive and reflects the rise in strata properties launched.
Ultimately, residential landed property prices remain relatively high, with well located, spacious G&G residential landed properties easily costing between RM500,000 and RM1,000,000.
FAMILY FRIENDLY CONDOS
The amenities that come with condo living is a major appeal. Family-friendly facilities such as club house privileges, playground, day care centre, outdoor parks, restaurant, sports facilities and gymnasium/fitness centre etc. are the usual premium condominium comforts. Desa Park City which Juanita calls home, comes with a beautiful park where she can go for a walk or a run. There’s also a clubhouse with a gym, pool and a cafe, plus a strip mall with a variety of shops and a supermarket, all within walking distance.
“What I relish after moving into a condominium after years of living in a landed property is definitely the convenience. Not having to leave the vicinity of my home to carry out simple errands or maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a true luxury. Everything is a walk away.”
Condominiums trump the average landed property unquestionably due to the G&G security features. According to the Tans, “Security was the main reason we chose to live in a condo. Once you are within the property and pass the guardhouse, you’re safe. We can take our time to get in and out of the car and don’t have to be wary and apprehensive, with guards patrolling the perimeter.” The G&G feature is one of the major rationales driving the rising condominium property trends, making up 23% after those with ‘green’ features.
Still, landed property is the ideal real estate type that most Malaysians prefer, with condominiums following second, and service apartments third. Are property prices likely to drop to allow the average Malaysian more choice? The rise in construction costs are unlikely to make it so. However, many property developers are focusing on the needs of average Malaysians and launching more developments within the RM250,000 to RM350,000 range, which helps them target a wide segment of market demand. This is reflected by the verity that 62% of the market from January to May 2013 involves strata residence types compared to 38% of landed property.