360 Degree View of Downtown Johor Bahru in 2014

Here is a webcast showing a 360 degree view of downtown Johor Bahru in 2014. You can see the sky scrapers in the central business district (CBD) of Johor Bahru and Iskandar and in 5 years this will show many more high rise luxury condos. The beginnings of numerous (more than the total completed high rises) are visible in the video.

The CIQ, the causeway to Singapore, the Straits and Singapore beyond are visible. Even Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, located at the far southern edge of Singapore, can be seen in the background.

Related: Setia Sky 88 Construction Progressing QuicklyIndah Samudra Condo Rentals: 2,800 to 3,500Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple in CBDD’esplanade Residence @ KSL Mall

Singapore Sprawl Fueled by Cheap Housing Resulting in Long Delays at Border

As I have written previously the potential for Johor Bahru, Malaysia is great. The proximity to Singapore give JB the extra boost that moves the potential above that of dozens of similar locations throughout South East Asia. But potential has to be managed properly or it is wasted. The inability of Singapore and Malaysia to cope with the demand for cross border traffic has to be a huge concern for investors.

The backups have become progressively worse throughout the last year and especially bad the last few months. As I have also written previously the massive supply of luxury housing in JB without a visible source of equally high paying jobs in Johor that will allow people to afford those houses is a worrisome sign.

The failure to complete a 3rd link by last year and the huge delays experienced all this year create strong headwinds for realizing the potential of Iskandar. Obviously cross border transportation was going to be bad before the MRT was finally extended given the huge volume of luxury condos being build in JB. But things are tremendously bad already when only a few of the new luxury condos are completed.

The potential is still great but the huge problems with the borders already calls into question the ability to plan, execute and grow to meet that potential. More high paying jobs need to be created in Johor Bahru itself. I don’t see how the number of luxury condos being built will be workable in the next few years. 10 years from now all may be well, but from 2015 to 2018 (or whenever the border gets fixed so the median border delay is under 15 minutes, likely the extension of the MRT to JB will have to play a role in fixing the problem) I see big risks countering the big potential.

Johor Bahru street with KSL in the background

Houses on Johor Bahru street with KSL in the background (D’esplanade Residence @ KSL, KSL mall, KSL hotel and more condos are being build across the street).

People are willing to envision themselves putting up with huge commutes. but as they live with them year after year and miss their children, spouses and lives sitting at a border waiting to move forward many will decide it isn’t worth it.

Cut-Price Luxury Homes Fuel Singapore-Johor Bahru Sprawl

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Stulang Villa Condos – Rentals from MYR 2,200 to 2,500

Stulang Villa Condos offer large units in a small building near the Cyberport building (walkable to CIQ, though a long walk). It is an older building close to downtown but in a residential area.

exterior view of Stulang Villa Condo building

Exterior view of the condo building, see more photos.

Given the small size finding units available online may not be easy. Though will all the new condo units going online recently and soon it would not surprise me to see more vacancies here so more chance of finding units available.

See our overview of the Stulang Villa Condos. I personally think the rates are a bit high and would try and negotiate a better rate, they are large units so maybe the rate is reasonable. Units available now include:

These condos don’t have a pool or such amenities that larger condos offer.

Related: Aster Court Condos: Rent 1,800 to 2,200Orchid View Condos Rentals (2,500 to 3,000 MYR)Wadihana Condo (RM 2,000 to RM 2,500)

Pangsapuri Sri Samudera, Seaview Residence Suites Rentals MYR 2,000 to 3,000

The second tower for next to the Pangsapuri Sri Samudera, Seaview Residence Suites is nearing completion. Current rental options for the existing tower run from MYR 1,700 to 2,500+ per month.

photo of great view from Sri Samudera

Great view of the straits, clock tower and Thistle Hotel (looking west)

The Sri Samudera is in the neighborhood of the Thistle hotel and Indah Samudra Condos. It offers great views for a few units, but the units looking north seem like they are going to be looking directly into the second tower which is very close.

See our overview of the Sri Samudera Condo. Units available now include:

Given the overall market the prices seem a bit high to me; maybe the demand from hospital workers is high enough to justify the prices. The more expensive units are also much more likely to be shown online (the less expensive units are often not put online – low level, not updated, etc.).

Related: Aster Court Condos: Rent 1,800 to 2,200 MYR per monthIndah Samudra Condo Rentals: 2,800 to 3,500Danga View and Adamai Condos: RM 2,000 to RM 4,000 per month


View Pangsapuri Sri Samudera in a larger map

Sky Executive Suites @ Bukit Indah, 2,300 to 4,500+ MYR a Month

The Sky Executive Suites @ Bukit Indah, by Setia, is also known as The Sky. Two 25-story towers hold 364 units with built-up areas ranging from 751 – 2,778 square feet.

Poolside at Sky Executive Suites

Poolside at Sky Executive Suites

In my opinion the pool is the best part of the project. The units are ok but the pool is amazing. The location is actually pretty good too – there are quite a few shops surrounding the area (and with a Giant and Tesco right across the street).

Rents range from 2,300 MYR/month to 4,500 MYR/month (for 820 to 1,500 square feet). Purchase prices range from 800,000 to 900,000 MYR (for 1,516 square feet which is about 600 MYR per square foot).

Current listings offer rentals:

  • MYR 4,500/month – 3 + 1 bedrooms, 4 bathroom, 1,500 square feet, high floor, corner unit, looking South.
  • MYR 3,500/month – 2 + 1 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 1,168 square feet, unfurnished.
  • MYR 2,300/month – 1 + 1 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 820 square feet, unfurnished.

Sky Executive Suites @ Bukit Indah opened to tenants last year and there are still many units available. The location is quite nice, but it does seem to me the price of the units tends to a bit higher than the market (room to negotiate, especially with so many units available). See more details on our Setia Sky Executive Suites information page.

Construction Status of Setia Sky 88 and Twin Galaxy In JB

Setia Sky 88 and Twin Galaxy are located right next to each other near KSL Mall and Plaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru CBD. Here are a few photos of the progress so far. The Setia Sky 88 site had nothing going on for months but lately has had some activity.

view of Twin Galaxy and Setia Sky 88 sites as of Feb 2014

KSL mall and resort is partially visible on the upper left, Plaza Pelangi is just off the screen on the right.

See our post from February 2013 on the Construction Progress for Setia Sky 88 and Twin Galaxy, one year ago.

Photo of Twin Galaxy progress as of Feb 2014-closeup

Twin Galaxy has been making quick progress.

Twin Galaxy has been nearly continuously busy and is rising quickly.

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Cluster House For Sale in Taman Pelangi

Taman Pelangi House photos

See more details, status and contact information.

Related: Plaza Pelangi MallBuying or Renting in Horizon HillsTwin Galaxy Condos

Sweetwater Mediterranean Restaurant

Sweetwater Mediterranean Restaurant is another excellent restaurant in Taman Pelangi, Johor Bahru. The food is excellent as are the furnishings. It is a bit expensive but worth it if you are looking to splurge.

photo of a stone oven

Even the bread is worthy of mention, it is excellent and warmed in this stone oven before serving. The fixed price lunches are a great way to experience this wonderful restaurant for a very reasonable price (around 40 MYR, about US$13). They come with wonderful bread, a salad, entree, tea, and desert.

photo of wonderful desert

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Singapore Market Impacts on the Johor Bahru Real Estate Market

Singapore Property Boom Fuels Malaysia Spillover Bubble, Bloomberg

Malaysia is seeing the spillover from Singapore’s four-year property boom and its subsequent efforts to cool the market.

Now Malaysia is taking steps to prevent its own real estate inflation from emerging and appeasing locals who say they can no longer afford to own a home. In last month’s budget, Prime Minister Najib Razak doubled the minimum amount foreigners must spend on property and raised the capital gains tax to 30 percent on homes they sell within five years. The local governments of southern Johor state, where Iskandar is based, and Penang to the north, are considering additional tariffs on overseas buyers.

Malaysia’s central bank shortened the maximum length on mortgages in July, saying household indebtedness had risen by an average 12 percent per annum in the past five years. Last month, the government barred developers from helping home buyers by absorbing some interest payments on loans.
Malaysians have accumulated Southeast Asia’s highest level of household borrowings at 80.5 percent of gross domestic product, according to Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit.

Johor is planning to impose an additional 2 percent tariff on buyers from overseas across all segments of the property market from May, Singapore’s Business Times reported Nov. 13, citing Koh Moo Hing, chairman of the Johor branch of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association.
Penang is seeking public feedback on proposals to introduce a 3 percent levy on foreigners purchasing homes next year, Lim Guan Eng, the state’s chief minister, said last month.

It is wise for the governments in Singapore and Malaysia to institute measures to react to the bubbles in the markets. In general, I think they are taking wise measures. Increasing the tax on foreigners is wise (it is always nice as a government to tax those who don’t vote for you). The trouble you run into with this strategy is making investors look elsewhere.

My belief is a 2% tax on real estate purchases isn’t going to have much of an impact (investors will still invest). Even an additional 2-3% by the states is likely ok, now, but that might get to be an issue at some point. Right now the appeal of Malaysian real estate is such that I don’t really see much impact.

The biggest risk is if other factors increase Malaysia’s need for foreign currency (government debt, consumer debt, less investment in manufacturing, lower oil and gas sales, lower tourism revenue) then the appeal of getting foreign currency puts pressure to make it as appealing as possible for foreign investors.

The other serious issue, that I have mentioned before, is the Johor real estate market is pricing in very good ties with Singapore. And the infrastructure right now is not sufficient and since no 3rd link was put in place in the last few years the problem is growing. Once the MRT is extended (and I am assuming a 3rd link will be in place years before that) things will be in much better shape. But there are maybe 6 years before that with huge numbers of condos being delivered that can only be afforded with Singapore jobs (creating huge capacity problems for the transportation infrastructure – especially adding that to theme parks in JB seeking to draw Singapore visitors).

Related: Singapore and Iskandar MalaysiaAbsolute nightmare at the Tuas continues for 2nd week (delays of 2 hours)The Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has RisksIskandar Housing Real Estate Investment ConsiderationsSingapore Taxes Increase In Attempt to Cool Condo PricesTransportation from Singapore to Johor Bahru Malaysia