Appearing to be relatively insulated from global financial troubles, the appeal of properties in Southeast Asia has been rising, thanks to international real estate investors.
Malaysia is a good example. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has just returned from Kuala Lumpur, where he met Prime Minister Najib Razak. Tsang says Malaysia is a large market and bilateral trade could top last year's US$15billion.
Foreigners can buy all types of property in Malaysia, but in terms of top-end investment, house and land deals are perhaps the 'hottest'. Historically, values of luxury properties in Kuala Lumpur 'at least double every 10 years', according to CB Richard Ellis. The sector showed the most resilience during the downturn, with properties in prime locations rising by as much as 25 per cent post-2008.
Malaysian property offers the luxury of space, notes Christopher Boyd, executive chairman of CB Richard Ellis Malaysia. 'Those buying for owner/occupation take advantage of KL's low prices to buy spacious units of 2,500 sq ft or above,' he says.
As a result of courting foreign investors, through the Malaysia My Second Home campaign, the authorities are now considering cooling things down by doubling the market entry price for foreigners to 1 million ringgit (HK$2.56 million). This is unlikely to worry luxury buyers, who are perhaps more attracted by Goldman Sachs' recent assessment of Malaysia as a safe haven in an uncertain global economic environment.
As far as regional hubs go, Malaysia has retained its relative affordability, according to Tim Murphy, founder and CEO of IP Global. 'Market access is also relatively easy,' he says. 'Foreign nationals are able to own property in their own name in Malaysia, and mortgage rates averaging 4.4 per cent are freely available. Land title is freehold and there is no tax for gains made on properties for at least five years.'
One mainland investor snapped up 10 units in the capital in one transaction in April, Murphy says. 'There is a massive amount of Chinese money heading into Malaysia,' he says.
Upscale projects under development include Rimbun, a luxury freehold condominium on prestigious Embassy Row, minutes from the city centre. Exclusivity is assured in 56 units of 3,500 sq ft and up. This is the first project of developer Amphil Corporation.
In the upmarket suburb of Mont Kiara along Jalan Kiara 3, The Richmond is taking shape. Its 94 luxury apartments offer views of Mont Kiara and Kuala Lumpur city. Developed by HR Group, it is due for completion next year.