Tag Archives: expats

The Johor Bahru Luxury Condo Market Needs the MRT to Singapore to be Completed Quickly

The massive Country Garden project with tens of thousands of luxury condos in Iskandar is roiling the real estate market in Johor Bahru. The buyers are overwhelmingly mainland Chinese and the Chinese government has restricted outflows of currency reducing the hoped for demand from mainland China for the project.

Troubles in Malaysia’s Forest City ‘paradise’

The Beijing government has recently sharpened its tone on how its citizens are investing in property abroad, and tighten outflows of cash.

Beijing’s move seems to have had an immediate effect. As of January this year, the number of Chinese firms invested in offshore properties had fallen by 84% compared to a year earlier, according to figures from China’s Ministry of Commerce.

The Country Garden condos are now even being given away for free when a luxury condo is bought in mainland China.

For Johor Bahru the massive supply of luxury condos from Country Garden adds to the already very large supplies that continue to be added to the Johor Bahru market.

View of Downtown Johor Bahru looking away from Singapore
Downtown Johor Bahru with Danga City Mall on the left (looking North-West) in 2014.

Some half a million of new apartments are in the pipeline over the coming years and the massive supply has had a negative effect on property prices in the region, according to Bloomberg.

Average resale prices per square foot for high-rise flats in JB fell 10% last year, according to property consultant CH Williams Talhar & Wong. Global property consultancy Knight Frank in Malaysia warns that office and retail markets will continue to be under pressure with rental and occupancy due to oversupply.

This oversupply are not a surprise to sensible investors. It was obvious years ago that the luxury condo market was being flooded with much more supply than Johor Bahru had shown the ability to absorb. The argument has been that an economic boom in Ishkandar would take care of everything. The problem is requiring a boom in order to have demand meet supply is a very risky condition for investors to accept.

Still many did. The prices were low compared to expensive cities which entices investors. And the prospects for an Iskandar boom were not unreasonable. A strong global economy, sensible conditions in Malaysia with a desire to create good economic conditions in Iskandar and especially the proximity to Singapore offered good reasons to hope.

If the building of luxury condos had been more constrained it is likely even today the prospects would be bright in that market. The prospects for Iskandar continue to be good. For real estate investors the main problem is that projects being delivered have exceeded real demand. Having investors speculate on future prospects can take on quite a bit of the extra supply for a while. But it is worrisome to see the current supply and the continued prospect for much more to be delivered very quickly. It is hard to see how enough investors can be willing to buy and hold for years at low rental rates (due to oversupply).

The luxury condo market seems to be the most oversupplied. Other markets such as bungalows, malls and office supply are also areas to be wary. The key for Iskandar is to provide tens of thousands of new high paying jobs every year in order to keep up the demand. It doesn’t appear that those jobs are appearing at the rate the real estate supply is expanding. That, of course, is a risky situation for investors.

One big problem delaying adding many more high paying jobs to Iskandar (and increasing the number of people willing to commute to such jobs in Singapore and live in Johor Bahru) is the transportation problems between Johor Bahru and Singapore.

graphic showing the Singapore JB MRT connection
One proposal for the Singapore-JB MRT connection.

In 2015 the timeline for extending the Singapore MRT to Johor Bahru was extended to 2020. Now, the latest I have read is that it is being delayed further – until 2022. There is likely no other factor more important to reduce the supply demand imbalance for luxury condos than getting a good MRT solution into operation. Next would likely be a 3rd road link. Next is the need for adding many more high paying jobs in Johor Bahru than has been the case so far. These 3 areas should be the main areas of focus. The other issue, though on this things are probably too late to be managed properly, would be to reduce the pipeline of luxury condos being added to the market.

As I said in the 2015 blog post, getting 1 station in JB connected to Singapore will be a huge benefit. For it to provide much greater benefit we should see at least 5 stations in JB and those must reach into the pockets of luxury condos to make those small submarkets in JB prosper.

With a huge push to get the MRT in place as soon as possible and add a 3rd link and refocus on adding high paying jobs to Johor Bahru the prospects for JB and Iskandar remain bright. But the delay on those 3 fronts over the last 5 years along with the approval of far too many luxury condo projects leaves a large oversupply on the market for the foreseeable future. Convincing investors to buy and hold those properties can maintain prices for a while but the underlying economic realities have to be addressed to solve the oversupply problem.

The prospects for Johor Bahru remain bright. But the delays on the improvements on transportation to and from Singapore and on adding high paying jobs have made the prospects less bright than they would have been if those matters had been moved forward more successfully in the last 5 years.

Related: Iskandar: Present and Future (2014)Singapore Market Impacts on the Johor Bahru Real Estate Market (2013)Iskandar Housing Real Estate Investment Considerations (2011)Property Slowdown in Johor (2015)The Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has Risks (2011)Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia (2012)Bloomberg TV Takes a Look at the Iskandar Economy (2016)

Renting Link Houses in Horizon Hills, Johor

Horizon Hills a gated and guarded housing community in Nusajaya (part of Iskandar) that is very popular with expats – learn more about the Horizon Hills housing estate. The housing estate offers bungalows, link houses and condos. Horizon Hills has its own golf course.

Even with the rapid decline in the value of the Malaysian ringitt the rental prices are not rising, if anything they appear to be falling. Given the amount of vacant properties for rent this makes sense. Of course for those with income in dollars (Singaporean, USA or other) this means rental prices have gone down substantially given he 20% decline in the Ringitt to the USA $ (from $1 = 3 ringitt in May 2013 to now $1 = 3.6 ringitt).

photo of Horizon Hill link house

Terrace/Link houses for rent now Horizon Hills, Iskandar, Johor:

  • RM 3,000; 2 story terrace house; 4 bedrooms; 3 bathrooms; fully furnished; land area 22’x 70′.
  • RM 4,000; cluster home; 4 bedrooms; 3 bathrooms; 2,123 square feet; fully furnished.
  • RM 3,000; 2 story link house; 2,556 square feet; 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, partially furnished, the Golf area.
  • RM 3,300/month; 2 story Terrace/Link House; 3,000 square feet; 4 bedrooms; 4 bathrooms; unfurnished; the Hills area.
  • RM 2,800; 2,300 square feet built-up; 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, partially furnished, the Green area.

Bungalows will cost more but there are many of those options available also.

Related: Plenty of Good Rental Options in Horizon HillsBuying or Renting in Horizon HillsLeisure Farm housing estateMalaysian Economy Continues to Expand, Budget Deficits Remain High

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)

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.

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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Sky Executive Suites @ Bukit Indah, Rent 2,000 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.

Rents range from 2,000 MYR/month to 4,500 MYR/month. Purchase prices range from 450,000 to 800,000 MYR (for 1,516 square feet which is about 500 MYR per square foot).

Current listings offer rentals for delivery approximately March to May 2013:

Or you can rent one of the penthouses (south facing) for 8,000 MYR per month which offers: 4 + 1 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms in 2,778 square feet.

Walking distance to Tesco, Giant and Jusco. Hotels nearby include Pariss Hotel, Euro Rich Hotel and Granada Hotel. Approximately 20 minutes to JB city center.

Facilities at The Sky include gated access with 24 hour guards, swimming pool with wading pool, barbecue area, covered parking, gymnasium, jacuzzi, tennis court, sauna and nursery.


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Address: 15 Jalan Indah, Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru, Johor, 81200

Straits View Condos Available: RM 2,500/m to RM 4,000/m

See our overview of the Straits View Condos.

Currently there are numerous condos available at the Straits View condos in the Permas Jaya. The opening of the new highway makes commuting to Singapore much easier now (as well as just getting to the Johor Bahru central business district.

One thing you have to keep in mind when looking for a place to live in Johor Bahru is that many available units are not listed online. A few places, like Straits View and Molek Pine have a larger percentage listed online (given that that are targeting expats and also that they are more expensive, real agents representing them are more experienced and have more tools available, etc.).

iProperty is a good site to find available Straits View Condos, some current listings:

  • RM 2,800/m – 3 + 1 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 1,650 square feet, low floor. Jaccuzi in master bathroom.
  • RM 2,500/m – 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 1,500 square feet.
  • RM 3,300/m – 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 1,650 square feet. Short term rental available (at higher monthly rate).
  • RM 3,500/m – 3 + 1 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 1,650 square feet.
  • RM 8,000/m – penthouse, 4 + 1 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms 2,950 square feet.

Rosmarino Italian Restaurant

photo of front of Rosmarino Italian Restaurant in Johore Bahru
Rosmarino Italian Restaurant, near Plaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru

Rosmarino Italian restaurant is another very good Restaurant in downtown Johor Bahru. It is located a block from Plaza Pelangi. Expats will enjoy a taste of home and others can get a nice example of Italian cooking. The food I have had has been excellent. The restaurant is nicely appointed and has a outdoor seating (though I don’t really see it as a great location – they do have plants but still you are just on the sidewalk facing the parking lot).

photo of pea soup at Rosmarino's
Pea soup (very good). You can also see the apricot juice, which I like, though it is RM 9 for a small bottle, which is expensive.

The set price lunches are really one of the great bargains I have found so far. For just RM 15 you get a nice soup and an entree. The food is excellent and I have been 3 times and enjoyed new dishes each time. The regular prices are quite steep, especially for Johor Bahru. It seems like RM 50 for a dinner would be on the cheap side and easily it could run RM 100 for a drink and meal.

I highly recommend the lunch deals. And for those with plenty of money the dinners (or just ordering off the normal menu at lunch) I am sure would be excellent. The service I would say is good even very good. Still it isn’t quite as warm or somehow seems something is not quite there for the best fine dining. Overall, I like it and think it provides another great option for fine dining in Johor Bahru.

Related: Chez Papa French BistroVillage Briyani Cafe, Indian RestaurantJumbo Seafood Restaurant in Singapore

photo of Steak with salad and mashed potatoes entree
Steak with salad and mashed potatoes set lunch (along with the soup above). The food was very good, as it has been every time I visited. All photos by John Hunter.

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Chez Papa French Bistro, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Chez Papa is an institution in downtown Johor Bahru. The French restaurant is an expat favorite and attracts many from Singapore as it is a quick trip over the causeway for fine food at a great price.

photo of Chez Papa dining room
Main Chez Papa dining room

The downtown location (near Plaza Pelangi) is very convenient to those living in JB town, as well as visitors from Singapore. As you enter the restaurant your step into an oasis of calm and feel you have entered a small restaurant in rural france. The service is also remisent of rural France (rather than the brusk service found in Paris). Though the stereotype of difficult service in France, is quite overblow, in my opinion.

Chez Papa French Bistro is an excellent fine dining restaurant and a great bargin when compared to other fine dining options. It has a cozy, warm atmosphere which provides a nice respite from the bustle of daily life.

photo of bar and second dining room for Chez Papa
Bar, as well as a second dining room for Chez Papa

The menu at Chez Papa offers plenty of options to chose from. I have twice ordred the Salade Nicoise which was excellent each time. I am not someone that orders salads normally. But, I have noticed, one of the things that the best restaurants offer is great salads. They use great ingredients and know the importance of doing the relatively simple things well. A good salad is often an indication of a well run kitchen.

photo of my wonderful steak dinner at Chez Papa
Wonderful steak dinner at Chez Papa

On my first visit, my main course, the Lamb Stew, was excellent. It was hot and scrumptious with large pieces of lamb and vegetables that we just right (not overcooked, which is so easy to do) and just the right amount of seasoning. It was also huge: I could finish it. The other time I ordered the salad I couldn’t finish the mean either as it was too much. I can’t remember what it was, but I remember it was great. The photo, above, shows my 3rd meal, steak, which again was excellent.

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The Investment Potential for Iskandar is Attracting Interest from Great Britain

Article from the Telegraph (UK) on British investors interested in Iskandar real estate: British expats and investors drawn to Malaysian metropolis

A huge development three times the size of Singapore is taking shape across the border in Malaysia, bringing with it hundreds of thousands of jobs, new homes and international schools.

Foreign investors are not just being encouraged but expat families and students too. Along with Marlborough College, Raffles American School, Newcastle University and the University of Southampton will all open campuses.
It is expected that when Iskandar Malaysia reaches maturity in 2025, the region will employ 1.4 million people. This involves the creation of 800,000 new jobs.

Both the [Legoland] theme park and Marlborough College are due to open in the autumn of 2012.

The article is certainly written like a publicity piece, talking about all the possibilities without any questioning of potentially issues. I do agree the potential is great. On the ground in Johor Bahru the key I feel is new jobs. Currently there are many real estate resources that are greatly underutilized: malls with many empty stores or completely shut down, condos with high vacancy rates, skyscrapers downtown that are just empty shells. The potential is great.

Care has to be taken to develop that potential into real success. Brining in jobs that will then create income to spend at malls, renting higher end condos, paying for more services which in turn create more jobs is the key. The critical jobs it seems to me are office jobs (economically these are high paying and can be added quickly without too much difficulty). And many of those can most easily be created quickly by providing support for businesses in Singapore. So the second key is continuing to build the cooperative relationship with Singapore.

Health care and education are good industries to target for Iskandar and that seems to be part of the plan.

There are, of course, many other important factors. Qualified people are needed to fill the jobs created. There is a need to continue to improve the safety in JB and reduce crime. There is a need to build the infrastructure toward world standards (better public transportation, more walkable areas [improved sidewalks], intelligent land use planning… Getting the residence pass for talented expats so that it can be used by those that are not yet in Malaysia. The program is meant to attract foreign talent yet 6 months after they started the process by accepting only applications from those that have been in Malaysia for 3 years on a work visa the program still only accepts applications for this small group of people.

Related: Penang’s Economic SuccessPenang Condo MarketMalaysian Residence Pass for Skilled ProfessionalsHow Walkable is Your Prospective Neighborhood