As if moving to a new city isn’t hard enough, you will also have to find the perfect apartment to rent while you’re at it. Not only does this apartment have to suit your budget, but it has to suit your geographical needs (whether you are in Austin, Texas, or in Penang, Malaysia), as well. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there that can serve as your guide to finding the perfect place to rent. However, you will also need to stay in control and be very careful when it comes to certain things. Here are some of the most important things that should be on your checklist while searching for a good apartment to rent.

Look at that awesome skyline!

Look at that awesome skyline!

SinglePoint’s Five Tips For The Perfect Apartment Hunt

  1. Set your budget. Even prior to looking for a new place to rent, you have to set your budget and know exactly how much you can spend on rent every month. Even if you see a place that you like, but that is out of your set budget; renting it wouldn’t be a good idea because you won’t get to enjoy it in the long run – remember that. Many of my clients over-estimated how much they could afford to spend on rental, and they asked me if they could get a place like OneKL or Marc Residences or the exquisite Binjai On The Park in the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) area where rentals might go up to RM20,000 per month. Here’s a good news article on the topic – KLCC condo prices are rebounding.
  2. Look at rental posts in newspapers. Newspapers may not be the most popular ways to find apartment rentals anymore, but they are definitely still great sources for them. Most of the time, the landlords will add their phone numbers to the rental posts, as well, so you can contact them with ease and set up an appointment right away.
  3. Look at rental listings online. Since a lot of websites have rental listings on them nowadays, you can look for rental apartments on them, too, if you want. Most of these websites also have good search engine features, so you won’t have any trouble narrowing down your preferences and finding a place in your location of choice that suits your budget at the same time. You can even get in touch with the posters of each ad for free. If you end up liking something after contacting them, you can then set up a viewing appointment as you see fit. If you’re in Malaysia, there’s a good property reviews site at http://propertyreviews.my where you can find comments (good and bad) of real estate developments in Malaysia. Alternatively, go to Google and type in the name of the development directly into the search engine. You’ll find that there are lots of independent reviews of condominiums. For example, when a client of mine wanted a place at the Dua Residency I Googled and came to the writeup by KLCCCondominiums.com.my folks (see that link).
  4. Ask around. Sometimes, your relatives, colleagues or friends might hear of a vacancy within their building or neighborhood, but might not pay much attention to it because they don’t know that you are looking for a new place. If you tell them that you are, though, then they will make sure to keep an eye out on a vacancy. So, make sure you let all of your relatives, colleagues and friends know that you’re searching for an apartment to rent. It would help to let them know what your budget is and what your preferences are when it comes to amenities and utilities, as well. I know this is prevalent among my clients in Penang, Malaysia – they tend to ask around first before engaging real estate brokers.
  5. Ask an agent for help. A lot of people prefer to ask rental agents for help because they don’t like the hassle that comes with finding an apartment for rent on their own. Besides, rental agents get first-hand information on new vacancies that open up; so, if you have the budget for it, you might want to hire a rental agent, too. If you need help, then just get in touch! :)

NOTE: Do you have a home to sell or rent? We can help you get the best deal! Get in touch with us by emailing:- prospects@singlepointerealty.com.

How do I Price My Home?

August 16, 2013

One of the biggest, most important steps to take in selling a home is determining its final selling price. After all, this is the first and oftentimes the biggest deciding factor in a home’s success or failure in the market. Whether you’re selling with a pro realtor or by yourself in FSBO, it is highly important that the house is priced quite accurately not to mention fairly so it has good chances to compete in a highly competitive and fickle market.

But how do you actually determine your home’s price? Here are some tips:

  • Use the original price of the house as your base.

The best place to start when pricing your house is to go back and recall the price you bought the house for. This is a good place to start adjusting your house both for improvements, damages and repairs, as well as the age of the house. If you need more tips, click here to view Yahoo Homes’ article on how to determine home prices and home worth. Remember that each year, your house loses a valuable amount on wear and tear, but any improvement will help counter the deductions.

  • Take account of all the improvements you’ve made on the house since you took over.

Of course, like the total price of the house, adjust it for the age and wear and tear. Your thousand-dollar kitchen makeover didn’t remain untouched over the last five years, you know. So that slashes a significant amount off of the price of the improvement.

  • Check for similar houses within a mile radius.

Go for houses with similar square footage, similar number of bedrooms, and about the same age. This trick is also applicable if you’re hunting for a condominium or an apartment complex to buy. For example, if you are keen on selling your unit at the Ken Bangsar, you must do your research and check other similar condominiums in the Bangsar location so you’d have more information.

  • One or two of the aforementioned factors will do.

Check the average price of at least five of these ‘similar’ homes and compare it with yours. If your price is way too far from theirs, then maybe you need to make some adjustments or see what makes yours a little bit too expensive. Remember, you are targeting the same buyers as with these other homes on the listings so you are practically in direct competition with these other homes.

  • When pricing your home, take into account the landmarks and accessibility of major thoroughfares in your location.

If your house is, say, within a stone’s throw away from the main street of Disneyland or the biggest mall. Or maybe, your home is at walking distance from the school, or right across the block from the bus stop – these factors all take your home price up (or down). Accessibility not only to major streets but to major spots (business, education, or tourism) raises the demand for your home.

  • If you find your house a little too cheap for your taste, make some last minute investments especially in the oft-observed areas (i.e. curb, lawn, walls, floors, ceilings, etc) to help boost your home price.

If you are unsure of how much your home should be sold at, your best option is to hire the services of a professional home appraiser. Who knows, this might even help you save up on closing costs, in the end. Your realtor can only do so much for the price and the final say is always on you – the owner. The safest way to go is always with the help of a pro because their methods are perfectly calculated and accurate.

A random search on Google would tell you that more stuff are being said on the Internet about clients having to deal with agents, or dedicated to tips and guidelines on ‘how to deal with bad real estate agents’. They may even describe ‘bad agent behaviors’ and other things that are solely dedicated to and focused on how evil real estate agents can be.

It’s pretty understandable to encounter first-time property investors and deal with them patiently, but there is hardly anything that talked about the pains of dealing with troublesome, difficult, fickle and sometimes abusive clients! So to make up for this indifference and this seeming injustice for us real estate agents, here is our article that’s dedicated to helping us know how to deal with, yes, bad clients.

What “Bad Clients” Are and How to Deal With Them

There are many faces to the term “bad clients”. They can be anything from extremely passive to overly controlling; from the clueless to the know-it-all. Here’s a quick rundown of the most notorious types of bad clients and how to deal with them.

  • The fickle. This is one client who cannot tell you what she exactly wants. Dealing too long with them is a total waste of time and energy and money on your part. They will go from one home to another and another and another and insist on seeing more because she was not sure she’s seen enough. If it’s taking “too” long, she might even blame you for it! Remember, it’s never your fault if your client, who apparently is oozing with ringgit, cannot decide between the MK10(10 Mont Kiara) condo or that other posh The Troika KLCC condo. The best way to deal with them is to keep them on a schedule and never be too available for them. Strictly spend no more than two hours with them, but go the extra mile of showing her a complete list of houses that are fit for her needs. Outline some pros and cons of each house and let her pick at maybe 4 or 5 houses to see in a day’s meeting.
  • The know-it-all. They’re everywhere and they are pestering someone from another profession on a regular basis. They would insist that either their idea was better or yours is ridiculous. Or both. The only way to deal with these people is to debunk their big real estate myths aka their make-believe knowledge on the subject. Ask and ask and ask about how well they know what they’re talking about – without being offensive! – to show your point: you’re being hired for a reason.
  • The Obsessive and Controlling. They know what they want and they won’t listen to you. You can hardly make suggestions with them and you seem to exist only to give in to every demand of everything they cannot do themselves. It seems like all they did was to read our previous article on how to find the perfect apartment and memorised it by heart, and will insist his or her way is the ONLY highway. Be calm, be composed, ask instead of suggest because they are practically the know-it-all with more guts and with more profanities up their sleeves. If they begin to become abusive and disrespectful, pack up your bags and go. The amount of indignity you get from them is worth more than whatever commission you were bound to get and they’re not the last clients on earth.

A lot of homeowners believe that the closing costs have got to be the most inconvenient part of buying a home. They could go well into the thousands, sometimes in tens of thousands, on top of the price that the house came in. A fairly inexpensive house could cost more than it should on the part of the mortgage applicant because of the commission and the closing costs.

While some new homeowners or first-time investors resort to carrying the costs over to the total amount of the mortgage, the arrears that might build up from it makes it a much heavier burden than actually paying it outright. Not to mention, it helps extend your mortgage terms to a longer time.

While they are inevitable, there are ways that real estate experts advise on how to save on closing costs. Here are the tips:

  • Shop around for the right lender. Some real estate brokerage firms are partners with certain banks and lending institutions. They would tell you to automatically get your mortgage in their partner institutions. But if you don’t know that already, you have the choice. Some lenders offer their other closing services more cheaply or give you the option to get other services outside of their institution and that would help you save more.
  • Get your GFE promptly. Each lender you apply to is required by law to give you the Good Faith Estimates (GFE) for all costs including the closing costs. Don’t hesitate to ask for it because it is rightfully yours and it will help you see which among the inclusive costs you could try working on yourself to save some. Compare GFE’s from different lenders to see which ones best suits your budget.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask. Ask your financial consultant about things that you cannot understand. For example, if you are buying a property or a condominium such as the luxurious Arcoris Mont Kiara, note that here may be costs that are not too familiar to you that are actually easy to bargain on or you can do yourself sans to save up on extra expenses. Knowing what each item on your GFE will greatly help you decrease your costs.
  • Shop around on other services (i.e. title services). There are closing cost services that actually have to be done by you. Title services are one of them among a few others. Other settlement costs are also part of this. Just as when you are looking for the right lender to go to for your mortgage needs, also go shop around for the right institutions to get these services from. Stopping with one can help you lose some valuable savings from your closing costs.
  • Avoid schemes that offer “no closing costs”. A real estate deal can never be without closing costs – getting your home in your name, getting your papers notarized, etc. – these are all part of closing the deal and without them, your whole real estate and mortgage end up in forfeit. That, or they might mask the closing costs as part of the total selling price of the house.

You don’t need to distress over closing costs. Find ways to lessen the costs and you’ll have a fairly better time. Good luck!

Sometimes, a very good holiday and a round or two of some sunset cocktails in a tropical paradise can all lead to regretful financial decisions. Not a few foreigners have been led to buying real estate in some holiday country without giving so much a thought.

Instead of enjoying a vacation home in a mini cottage facing the Pacific somewhere in the Philippines, or looking forward to retiring in your very own home straight out of Mamma Mia! the movie in some island in Greece,  it is replaced with woeful, regretful memories of paying hastily, impulsively and losing valuable savings and possibly get into a really big, bad debt.

Green

The biggest mistake, really, comes from haste, overeagerness, and acting on impulse. Click on this video from South Bay Association of Realtors for its advice on how to buy real estate abroad– lots of good points that you can actually use someday.

It’s not all fun and games– investing abroad takes a lot of courage, as there are risks involved. Point is– don’t let the good things and good words about your dream vacation destination get you carried away into buying real estate property abroad. Apart from this, here are the other most common mistakes people make when buying real estate property overseas. In addition, our previous article might be really helpful to read first before continuing reading this. Take note, you would want to avoid the following:

  • Falling for deals that are too-good-to-be-true. The most attractive deals are those that come with super low rates. They offer shoreline areas at the price of a wine-and-steak dinner back home. Irresistible as it may seem, be wary of these kinds of offers because these sellers know just how much your foreign money can afford. Remember to research–whether online or through the locals. My “go-to” site for real estate news can really help you. What they offer cheaply on the price of the property, they might just take back in hidden and surprise costs.
  • Marrying a local to get the right for a titled property in your country of choice. While there are many countries in the world that are open to foreigners owning properties in their lands, there still are countries that do not allow non-citizens any right for ownership of property. And some, especially the enterprising ones who are looking to buy for investment purposes, take in a local woman to marry just to get those rights by virtue of marriage to a citizen. While we can never judge your relationship, this may not be the best option finance-wise. Find a real estate lawyer to give you proper advice in these situations rather than risk getting scammed and losing your investments to equally enterprising locals.
  • Forgetting the figures. It is really easy to fall in love with a land- and seascape that you may just forget how much it is truly worth and spend all your cash on it. You might end up spending more than what it really is worth, or worse, spend more than what you can actually afford and end up in debt for something that you cannot easily resell or earn from to pay off for debts.

It is so easy to fall in love with something good. But let not your summer romance with your dream destination end up badly and in financial mire by rushing into ‘marriage’ with it. Get to know more about your dream destination and only make a decision when you’ve thought about it over and over and over.

One thing I’ve noticed trending in the real estate business is that there is an apparent growth in the demand for vacation rentals around the world.Especially in Asia, specifically in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It could either be because more and more people are getting richer and can afford those months-long trips elsewhere, or that traveling is so much cheaper these days than it was twenty years back. That, or something else, I don’t know. The bigger deal here is that for whatever reason it’s on the rise, this has set a buzz among the real estate people and basically, the business-minded ones who are looking to get something out of everything they spend on.

People started buying second homes and vacation homes all looking to rent it out as vacation homes. Dilemmas begin to arise only when the location of the vacation home is just as viable a location for long term renters.

What do you do as a homeowner? Would you rent out your home for the long term, or would you opt for it to become a short term, vacation rental place? Should you invest in real estate that primarily involves short-term stays but with long-time benefits? Which earns more and which gives you a better return for your investment more?

Big House

Here is a quick comparison:

  1. Generally, rent-wise, vacation rentals come with a higher price tag than long term rentals. But there are more “amenities” that come with the higher rental too. Electric and other utility bills are also mostly included in the rental fee as compared to the regular long term tenancy where the tenant pays the utility bills separately.
  2.  Vacation rentals, depending on how often the house is occupied in a year require mostly maintenance before and after occupancy. Longer gaps between occupancies usually come with bigger needs for maintenance. After all, some utilities and electronics are prone to damages when they are less frequently used. Long term rentals, on the other hand, requires constant maintenance to keep the home in great condition for the tenant.
  3. Income wise, long term rentals are more secure. I recently invested on a unit in Kuala Lumpur that is exclusively for short-term travelers. I liked it a lot and has become my favorite KLCC condo so much so that I got a unit for myself. For one, you’ll always have the security deposit to back you up for repairs and maintenance. Secondly, long term rentals allow you a more steady income from the monthly rental fees. Because you are likely to have a tenant year-round, the fees will come in more regularly than a vacation rental that would likely be occupied on average for 30 weeks a year.

If you are looking for some serious investment, then a vacation rental might not be for you. Most attractions anywhere around the world are seasonal so chances are, the up times for your vacation rentals are only a few times a year.

But if you’re just looking to make something out of your vacation home while you’re away, putting it up as a vacation rental would be more ideal. After all, putting it up on long term rents makes it impossible for you to use your vacation home whenever you please. It robs you of its “vacation home” appeal.

For whatever purpose you put your house on, the foremost thing to do is define your own intention for it, and to later on determine at which price you are putting it for rent. Whether it’s investing on a landed property or a condominium, it’s always important to set your priorities first to know what you truly want.

In our latest installment of the Real Estate Blogging Series, we investigate the advantages and disadvantages of acquiring landed properties instead of condominiums. Many thanks to Julie Probert, Vincent Chee, Mark Stephens and Muniandy Mahendrarajah for their contributions and insights. :)

Back in the day, a Malaysian homeowner’s question on the type of house that he should purchase is limited to villa, bungalow, cottage, or whatever strikes his fancy. Today, the choice has now been reduced to just two: condominiums or condos vs actual houses. This is especially true in Greater Kuala Lumpur, or places like Penang or the Iskandar Region, Johor.

A homeowner basically has categories or areas of consideration when choosing the type of home to buy (what we call here at SinglePoint as LCSMF factors):

  1. Location
  2. Convenience
  3. Security
  4. Maintenance
  5. Fees.

The prices of homes and condos in Malaysia (especially in the Klang Valley) these days are almost similar and almost the same mortgage loans apply to both. Note that if you want a guide on investing in Malaysian real estate click here instead.

Location

Because of the density in population and the limits in space available for home use, condominiums are more common in the urban areas – especially in the Kuala Lumpur city. That is why they are a popular choice among homeowners who want to live close to the city center where commercial districts are located. We have got clients who insisted on condominiums in the crowded KLCC enclave simple because of these factors, but who could blame them? KLCC apartments are fabulous if you can afford them, and to sample, here are a couple which will blow your mind:-

Homes, on the other hand, are more common in the suburbs (Puchong, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya). Lots here are generally bigger and so houses get more space allotment for bigger yards and a relatively bigger square footage in the interiors of the home. They are a bit farther from the city, but are very popular among families with school-age children.

Convenience and Security

Because condos are in urban areas, they are generally closer to where businesses and jobs are more abundant. It has more choices for public transportation (MRT and LRT) and as is the case in most condos, it has a doorman/receptionist and sometimes even a security guard.

When you buy a condominium, you only pay for the living space, and pay in part for the shared amenities. Common facilities found in condominium units include swimming pools and fitness centers, and that makes it very attractive to homeowners. Some of the best condominiums in Malaysia are found in Mont Kiara – for example, Kiara Designer Suites, Lumina Kiara, MK10, and MK28.

Safety in homes is generally relative to the safety of the community it belongs to. Public transportation in Kuala Lumpur is really not up to par to be honest; so you may need to have your own car for transportation.

Maintenance and Fees

Because of the ‘community’ like atmosphere in condominiums, owning one means the builder or the contractor would be responsible for maintaining your fixtures, etc. But because you become a part of the condo’s ‘association’, you will have to pay your association fees to remain a member, as well as pay for maintenance fees of the shared condo facilities. That is, on top of the monthly mortgage you pay to your lender. Don’t forget that!

You are also not allowed to make any changes to your condominium unit without getting permit from the association and the condo management. Some have got very strict guidelines – for example, Setiawalk in Puchong (developed by SP Setia – a very reputable real estate developer in Malaysia).

Having a house, on the other hand, allows you to do pretty much whatever you please with it. You can add or remove anything without getting necessary permissions from anyone. You also do not have to pay association fees. But, because houses are generally bigger and the land surrounding your property is still your responsibility, you will have to solely shoulder the maintenance and repair costs it incurs.

The decision on whether to get a house or a condominium rests solely on your needs, your capacity to pay off the costs of living of either choice, and the lifestyle you live.

Hope that helps! :)

And so, you find yourself asking one question: How do I get started in real estate investments?

One of the most common questions that I get asked over all these years as a real estate consultant is the question of getting started in real estate investments in Malaysia. You see, lots of people want to make money, and they see the property market as a method for them to attain super riches. This is a misguided view. While the property market is relatively stable compared to, say, the stock market, there is absolutely no guarantee that there is a return – even in the longer term. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that it’s easy to make money in the Malaysian property market.

Also, another pitfall you must be aware of is the existence of real estate gurus who are out there to make a quick buck by selling real estate investment advice. If they are so good, then why are they making money by selling advice rather than doing investments on their own? Points to ponder…

How To Get Started In Malaysia Real Estate

The best way to get started in the Malaysia real estate market is to go ahead and do the research yourself. It’s easy to get started now since a lot of information can be found online. Good sites to check out are iproperty (a site founded by Patrick Grove, who is a friend of a friend of a friend, and he is a really handsome entrepreneur who lives a good life), metrosherpa.com (a rather different property portal which features a map interface) the star property (newly revamp which looks good but somewhat cluttered), propertyreviews.my (an informational site with lots of reviews of Malaysia property) and others. Be careful that these are time sinks and it’s always better to be out there to view properties first-hand.

Agent

My personal favorite areas in Kuala Lumpur are Puchong and Subang Jaya. These are middle class establishments with properties for sale or rent. In Puchong, new retail developments such as Setiawalk (built by SP Setia which is a reputable developer) resulted in rising asking and transacted prices in surrounding areas such as Pusat Bandar Puchong and Bandar Puteri Puchong. Bandar Puteri, on the other hand, is also boosted by new developments such as The Cube, St. Mary Residences, and also the upcoming five star retail development Puchong Vivocity. It’s going to be interesting to see further developments in this area as a new LRT stop is being built here as well – near where IOI Mall is now.

Subang Jaya is also a hot area, with the launch of the Empire Shopping Gallery a couple of years back – opposite where Wisma Consplant is now. Wisma Consplant is showing its age, and there has been a minor exodus of tenants for the last couple of years. Procter & Gamble, for example, moved out a couple of years ago, which means that a sizable population of pretty brand marketers are no longer there. It’s a shame.

All in all, if you want to make money in the Malaysian real estate market, then read up as much as you want and go view as many properties as you can. Information is power, and knowledge is gold. Always be on the lookout for good property deals, and to do this, get in touch with your real estate adviser. If you need more help, give me a call (+603-58829912) and I will assist you as much as I can. :)