Price and Prestige

When it comes to the best places to live in the Klang Valley, the high cost of the property may not be the defining factor nor the relative prestige of the neighbourhood.

It is a combination of factors that elite property buyers such as the super-rich, will consider when deciding on the best home that money can buy.

Thus, prestigious residential enclaves like Bukit Tunku - formerly Kenny Hills - may still appeal to the “New Money” class who want to be associated with upscale properties linked to the elite of yesteryear or, at least, real estate favoured by the top income-earners of the professional class or business tycoons.

But these days, the celebrated status of Bukit Tunku has been superseded by more exciting and hip residential enclaves like the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) in Ampang and Mont’ Kiara in what is geographically, Segambut.

According to Henry Butcher Marketing Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Tang Chee Meng - whose company deals in local residential properties (condominiums, serviced apartments and landed properties) as well as overseas properties - the preferred residential locations still relate to high-priced and elite neighbourhoods, namely:

- Damansara Heights

- Bukit Tunku


- Ampang Hilir / U Thant

- Bangsar

- Mont’ Kiara

However, the transacted and comparative property values today, reveal a different order of ranking, as opposed to the popular notion of what are considered the top places.

Snob appeal
“Besides pricing, I would consider other factors such as quality of the residential environment, security of the neighbourhood and availability of amenities such as schools, shops, eateries and entertainment outlets as well as accessibility,” pointed out Tang, who has been in the real estate business since 1979 and specialises in marketing projects for developers.

“The areas mentioned are prestigious locations which have snob appeal,” he said.

“They are close to office locations in the Kuala Lumpur city centre and Petaling Jaya, as well as amenities such as shopping, dining and entertainment outlets and international schools. Certain places even have facilities such as golf and recreational clubs. They are popular with expatriates and can command good rental yields.

Is it too expensive now to buy properties in areas like Bukit Tunku, Damansara Heights or even, Bangsar?

“Properties in Bukit Tunku, Damansara Heights and Bangsar are probably beyond the budget of the average Malaysian buyer but well-heeled locals are still keen on properties in these areas. They are prestigious addresses which command good rentals and enjoy strong potential for capital appreciation due to the scarcity of land for the development of new homes.

“Foreigners too, tend to buy in established locations and as such, will still consider these areas.”

However, living in an elitist neighbourhood is not without its share of negative factors. For one thing, the residents here are mainly well-connected and powerful personalities. Some would not hesitate to be litigatious should their property rights be infringed by neighbours, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Besides the wrath of aggrieved residents to safeguard the prestige of a residential locality, the more established neighbourhoods have certain height restrictions in terms of property re-development to limit population density such as in Bukit Tunku and U Thant in Ampang. But such regulations don’t seem to exist in relatively newer areas.

Mont’ Kiara paradox
For instance, the newer residential enclaves such as Mont’ Kiara are viewed by certain property investors and agents as being over-developed in terms of building and population density. Despite that, the price level here keeps going up.

“People have been talking about an oversupply situation in Mont’ Kiara for years but new projects have continued to enjoy a good take-up rate in terms of sales. This is due to the perception that Mont’ Kiara properties enjoy good capital appreciation. And units can easily be rented out due to its popularity with the expatriate community.

“However, with recent project launches - which have large units and are priced at around the RM1,000 per square foot threshold - sales have been sluggish.

“As most Mont’ Kiara developments are high-rise condominium projects, population density is much higher than other residential areas such as Ampang, Bangsar and Bandar Utama.

“Vehicle ownership in Mont’ Kiara is also high and the area can be congested during peak hours. Occupancy and rental rates have come under some pressure due to the large number of units completed over the last few years.”

Apparently, it may take some time for the market to “digest” such units available, provided economic factors remain stable and government regulations do not affect demand adversely.

High potential areas
And for those with not-so-deep pockets, Tang the industry veteran - who has witnessed his fair share of property ups and downs in the market - picked certain upcoming and promising residential areas as having high potential for property investment.

The “good” areas include: - Setia Ecopark which offers a great residential environment. It is easily accessible from KL or PJ via a direct link to the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE)

- The residential belt of Bandar Utama-Mutiara Damansara-Desa Parkcity. It is close to shopping outlets and other urban amenities and enjoy fast capital appreciation

Kemensah Heights which is also easily accessibile via the Kuala Lumpur Middle Ring Road II (MRR2), Ampang Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (AKLEH) and the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE). The development site is surrounded by a forest reserve and is close to shopping centres and other amenities.

Similar positive factors also apply to other established residential developments in Tropicana in Petaling Jaya, Sierramas in Sungai Buloh and Country Heights in Kajang.

Investment strategy

“For wealthy buyers seeking a property for their own occupation, the most important consideration will be to choose a property which best meets their requirements and budget,’ advised Tang.

“Since they have the money, they will have plenty of choices and they should carefully consider their own special needs and criteria when selecting a property.

“Buying into an established and prestigious location cannot go wrong as prices will hold better during a downturn and recover faster.

“For those who are investors, property is a long term investment and for someone who takes that view and is prepared to hold, he does not need to worry too much about the ups and downs of the property cycle as the property market will certainly pick up after every downturn.

“Property value in good locations will usually recover faster when the market picks up again. One can never predict when the property market will hit the very bottom or touch the peak.

“So, the strategy is to go in when the market has started to move up and sell when the price has gone up to a level which will give the investor an attractive gain. Never regret having made less if the prices go up higher as the market could have turned the other way.”