Malaysian Housing Market Rebounds from Rough Spell

Economic recovery in Malaysia is helping drive housing prices to their biggest increases in over 10 years. This remarkable turnaround is being fueled by political stability, renewed confidence …

Economic recovery in Malaysia is helping drive housing prices to their biggest increases in over 10 years. This remarkable turnaround is being fueled by political stability, renewed confidence in markets and steady growth in lending. See the following article from Global Property Guide for more on this.

A sustained economic recovery in Malaysia coupled with political stability last year contributed to the strongest house price increases since 2000, a significant comeback from 2009 when house prices fell and sales dwindled
The national house price index rose 6.2% y-o-y to Q3 2010, after annual increases of 6.2% and 5.7% in Q2 and Q1, respectively.

In Kuala Lumpur, the house price index surged by 9.9% y-o-y to Q3 2010, with a rise of 3.6% during the latest quarter.  Increases in the states ranged from more than 10% during the year to Q3 in Sabah and Sarawak, to 1.3% in Melaka.
By property type, nationally:

• Terraced houses rose 6.6% y-o-y to Q3 2010.
• Semi-detached houses rose 6%
• High rises rose 5.9%
• Detached houses rose 3.7% for over the same period.  

The national average price of houses was MYR196, 022 (US$64,158), and in KL the average house price was MYR432, 181 (US$141, 453).

From January to November 2010, transaction volumes rose 12.2% y-o-y while the value of transactions rose 35%, according to Abdullah Thalith, director-general of the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH). 

 “The recovery of the Malaysian economy has reinvigorated the overall property market,” hesaid.
Malaysia’s economy grew by around 7% in 2010, in sharp contrast to the 1.7% contraction in 2009 due to the global economic crisis.

Confidence since then has been boosted by Najib Razak succeeding Abdullah Badawi as Prime Minister on April 3, 2009. Badawi’s last months were marked by public criticism of cronyism, ineptness and corruption. Disaffected members of the ruling party threatened to provide support to the opposition’s Anwar, if Badawi did not resign.

Economic boost, tax cuts

In the wake of the crisis, Malaysia’s budget deficit rose to levels unseen for two decades. The over-all deficit in 2009 was around 7.4%, according to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), an independent think-tank. This followed 2008’s 4.8% of GDP deficit (the deficit averaged 3.4% from 2005 to 2007).

A stimulus package worth MYR60 billion (almost US$17.5 billion) or 3.5% of GDP, was announced in March 2009. Implementation will be spread over two years and includes spending (MYR15 billion), guarantee funds (MYR25 billion), equity investments (MYR10 billion), private finance and off-budget initiatives (MYR7 billion) and tax incentives (MYR3 billion).

There are also tax cuts:

• a tax relief for homebuyers on housing loans interest relief up to MYR10,000 (US$2,900) a year, for 3 years
• deferred housing loan repayments for 1 year for those retrenched.

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The first stimulus package, announced in November 2008, had amounted to only MYR7 billion (US$2 billion) or 1% of GDP, and was allocated to spending on projects with high-multiplier effects like infrastructure. Fuel subsidy savings financed the packages – in April 2004, petrol pump prices were raised by 40%.

Home ownership made easy

Malaysians face low barriers to homeownership, according to Datuk Michael Yam, REHDA’s deputy president:

• Mortgage interest rates can be as low as BLR minus 2.3%
• Financing is available up to 100%
• There is zero lock in period
• There are stamp duty exemptions
• Repayment periods extend to 30 years, or up to age 75.

Outstanding housing loans reached MYR177.5 billion (US$51.6 billion) in 2009, around 24.7% of GDP, up 11% from a year earlier.

A low and steady base lending rate (BLR) has encouraged loan growth. From May 2006 to October 2008, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) pegged its key rate at 6.72% before gradually adjusting it downward to its present 5.51% in August 2009. Average lending rates fell from 6.63% in September 2006 to 4.83% in December 2009.

Capital gains taxes are back?

In mid-2009 the cash-strapped government announced it would restore the 5% real property gains tax on all transactions, abolished in April 2007. But the real estate community reacted strongly, and the government backed down and restricted the 5% real property gains tax to properties sold within five years of acquisition.

The government also added some exemptions:

• The level of exemption is increased from MYR5,000 (US$1,454) to MYR10,000 (US$2,908) or 10% of the chargeable gains, whichever is higher
• Gifts between parent and child, husband and wife, grandparent and grandchild are exempt
• One residential property in a lifetime is exempt

Foreign buyers more discriminated against!

The Malaysian government has partly retreated from its December 2006 liberalization of foreign property purchases. Effective January 2010, the price floor below which foreign buyers can buy is hiked to MYR500,000 (US$145,383), twice the previous level.

Foreign purchases above MYR500,000 (US$145,383) are placed under the “purview of the State Authorities” under the new regulations. Approval is expected to take one to two months.

The REHDA opposed the new restrictions, arguing that “the restriction might impact residential property acquisition by foreigners in the country, as the number of properties priced above MYR500,000, especially outside the Klang Valley areas, are limited.

“The ruling may be applicable to properties in Kuala Lumpur areas, but we should also consider other states with lesser price ranges,” said Datuk Ng, president of REHDA in a statement.

“This is definitely not the right time to restrict the property value to be purchased by foreigners.”

Serious over-supply

The over-supply of high-end condominiums is a concern. There were 66,328 units unsold at end-2010, though this was lower than 2004’s peak level of 83,888 units unsold.

The take-up rate has however improved says James Wong, president of the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector (PEPS). He added that many developers scaled back or postponed projects in the first half of 2009. The resale market for luxury condominium will remain soft until 2H of 2010, Wong adds.

The secondary market for landed residential properties is strong.

There is a constant flow of new supply of mass housing, as a result of the government’s attempt to make housing more affordable. From 2004 to 2008, more than 100,000 low cost housing units were built by government agencies nationwide.
In October 2009, the government announced the construction of 44,000 low cost housing units priced between MYR21,500 and MYR 35,000 (US$6,250 – US$10,176). It also ordered the construction of 74,000 low-cost rental housing units by the end of 2010.

Weak house price growth

The house price index rose 4.7% in 2008, but actually fell slightly (-0.66%) when adjusted for inflation.
In 2007, the house price index rose 4.8% (2.6 % in real terms)
In 2006, house prices rose 2.1% (a fall of 1.4% in real terms)
In 2005, house price rose 2.3% (a fall of 0.7% in real terms).

In Kuala Lumpur:
2008: house prices rose 4.5% (-0.9% in real terms)
2007: house prices rose 7.9% (5.7% in real terms)
2006: house prices rose5.3% (1.7% in real terms)
2005: house prices rose 6.5% (3.35% in real terms)
2004: house price rose 6.5% (5% in real terms).

House prices in Malaysia are still below their pre-Asian Crisis levels. House prices rose rapidly in the early 1990s with two particularly dramatic upward surges – in 1991, when 25.5% (20.3% in real terms) price rises were achieved, and in 1995 which saw 18.4% price growth (14.7% in real terms).

After the Asian Crisis, prices of luxury detached Kuala Lumpur houses fell by no less than 39%, between 1997 and 1999.
 
Small rental market

Malaysia’s rental market is small. Only 6% of the housing stock is in the private rental sector. About 85% of the total stock is owner-occupied, while government-provided housing accounts for 7% of the housing stock.

The active luxury rental market caters mainly to expatriates, centered on Kuala Lumpur. Rental yields in Kuala Lumpur are relatively good, ranging from 5.5% to 8.7% in October 2009. Smaller units generally earn higher yields. On the other hand, yields on KL bungalows are relatively poor at around 3% – 4%.

This article was republished with permission by Global Property Guide.

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