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Unless you’ve just emerged from an underground bunker, you probably already know something about the viral pandemic the world is dealing with right now. And whether you are a renter, a prospective homebuyer, or a veteran investor, you must be wondering what this unprecedented situation spells for the property market.

Just the property market. We’re still trying to process the rest – like that thing about everybody hoarding toilet paper.

You’ve probably spent too much time consuming the news already and you’re probably feeling very certain that there’s nothing but dark clouds ahead for you. So we gathered statements from a few real estate stakeholders such as yourselves (remotely, of course) and collated their statements to assemble what we believe might be an informative depiction of what is in store for the property market post-quarantine.

The Renter: Sajia

The Movement Control Order (MCO) is tough on everybody, perhaps more so for renters than for those of you lucky enough to be reading this in your own homes. With so many cut off from their sole sources of income now, and young adults being chronically a single pay-check away from being late on rent, renters can count themselves among the least-equipped to handle a prolonged stint of sheltering in place.

Sajia is one of the more fortunate: she was already in a lengthy tenancy when the MCO began, so she has a place to stay; her home is equipped with basic amenities, so she can continue working from home; and perhaps most importantly, she has an understanding landlady.

“I had just moved in last year but I guess I am lucky. I made resolutions to save money at the start of 2020 so I still have enough for a couple months’ rent and groceries. There’s a small grocery store down the road and a decent hospital nearby. I have the internet, my own bathroom, and a balcony for fresh air here. My landlady even offered to waive my rent this month. But I can continue working from home – which is something I’ve always wanted. Just not like this, you know?

“During the MCO, I relearnt how to cook (with my mother supervising via video call). I also learnt the value of having a big fridge. My apartment is tiny overall, so the kitchen is just a hallway. I bought one of those small fridges online (got my measurements wrong) and now I’m basically playing Tetris with my fridge. I can’t fit enough food in there for more than a week before I have to put on my PPE and take the risk of going out for groceries again.

“This time has got me thinking more about what I want in a home, and more seriously, about whether I actually want one of my own. If I do, it will be at a time when my career is more or less on track, and maybe it will also be closer to family and the other things I’m beginning to realise that I really need. In the meantime, as long as I can afford it, I will be staying on here.”

The Prospective Buyer: Daniel

For people who see paying rent as a means of saving for their once-in-a-lifetime purchase of a home, the MCO has had a galvanising effect on priorities. For some, this time has necessitated or reignited a yearning for, the return to the family home. But for people like Daniel, a self-described prospective buyer, this is a time of clear ambitions and the opportunity to realise them.

“Wow, what a time. What can I say? I wish I started the process of buying a home sooner. I could have taken advantage of all the help homeowners are getting now. But no matter, you know what they say: ‘Buy in times of crisis and maintain a longer time horizon’.

“I’ve been surveying the market and keeping an eye out for signals to buy. But I think I can wait just a bit longer and keep looking out for better deals. I hope to put what I save into quality-of-life improvements: landscaping, a bathtub, and the other kind of amenities that, when you have them, make life at home that much nicer.

“What am I looking for? Lots of space obviously. All this small-space living is driving me nuts. I’m very fond of my condo, which I’ve been renting for years, but I’ve taken a liking to gardening lately. All this, being stuck at home and trying to grow things on my balcony, has made me miss nature. It doesn’t have to be near the city anymore. I don’t think driving to the office every day is going to be a norm for much longer either. Plus, I’m getting spoilt from all the fresh air I’m getting now.

“Maybe buying a home will be my biggest mistake yet. Or maybe it won’t. I wasn’t born well insulated and diversified in my holdings. I’ve made plenty of big mistakes that nearly broke me: specifically, in 1997, in 2001, and again in 2008. All I know is, I’m sick of travelling, I want to settle down, and I know I will need to have more space for working from home and the ten new hobbies I’ve picked up in this time.”

The Property Owner: Ivy

Property owners like Ivy are surprisingly upbeat about their prospects post-MCO. The outlook seems positive – just as it should for anyone who already owns property. Whether selling or renting, there will always be people in need of a home. Understanding owners believe that with long-term views kept in mind, they will still benefit when everything eventually normalises.

“I was very much invested in the stock market. COVID-19 confirms it was a good decision to get out of it. Both of the properties I own are currently tenanted. If I didn’t have good tenants like these I will probably look to sell. If I need to, I am willing to reduce my price but I hope not to have to resort to that.

“The other property I own is always easy to rent out as it is within walking distance of the basic necessities, but being flexible on the rental helps me keep it almost always tenanted. I have already agreed to two months rent-free and we’ll review again end-May.

“I will do whatever it takes because looking for new tenants means loss of income anyway during down-time. Also, I need to repaint and repair it for a new tenant. I don’t intend to sell it except maybe many years from now. It is never a problem to sell and buying that house was such good luck and good timing.

“I may not be so relaxed if I had a big loan to pay on that property. But I would not take the banks’ deferment offer even if I had a loan. The interest on the loan is lower than I have ever seen. I intend to keep paying.

“As to where prices and rental rates will be? The Market decides. If others are asking for less, then landlords should be prepared for total loss of income with an empty unit. I would use this time to pick a good tenant and hope they stay on and pay up on recovery.”

The Negotiator: Jin Ooi

For licensed real estate negotiators like Jin Ooi, the MCO doesn’t mean an end to everything. The work goes on, just differently. Among many other changes to come, advances in virtualisation and remote viewing technology have been waiting on the sidelines of real estate and may finally get some time to shine as marketeers look for new ways to extend their digital reach – simply because, in any climate, there will always be people with a need for a home.

“For those owners whose funds are limited, they have engaged us to sell off at even 30% below market value. For the SME business owners, particularly those who are renting a property to operate the business (i.e. hotel and tourism industries), these renters are facing low vacancy rates because the business nature relies on mainly the traffic from tourism.

“These SME businesses where their cash flows are tight, may have resorted to their company’s, or even personal, reserves in order to pay the bills and employee wages. I have seen a few businesses, i.e. Airbnb Operators, pull out because they are not able to pay rent for 10 vacant units.

“In the small scale, this has caused a ‘chicken-and-egg’ question: ‘How am I supposed to pay your rent when I don’t have the income’ on the side of the tenants, and ‘Who is going to pay my home mortgages if you are using the premise without paying the rent?’ on the other. Luckily, Bank Negara Malaysia has enacted a moratorium on debt to ease the burden for the time being.

“Property developers, the established ones, should be able to cope with this as they faced something similar 10 years ago. It is important to make sure they handle their deliverables as promised, customers will then have trust in the investment, and their brand image is future-proof.

“Everybody is processing what is going on in the world right now, there is a lot of variance out there in terms of how to deal with all this – between ‘sell now because we need the funds’ to ‘buy now because it is the perfect time’, all the way to ‘just relax and don’t do anything’.

“This might actually be a good time to seize good deals for the investors who have already prepared for this moment, while on the other hand there are urgent sellers in the market. Warren Buffett once said, ‘Be greedy when others are fearful.’ I think the key is to look at things positively – after all, real estate never sleeps. In the meantime, transactions can still be done virtually. Every crisis comes with an opportunity.”

We hope these thoughts from people going through what you’re going through right now have provided you with some reassurance and hope for a brighter post-MCO future. Feel free to share your lockdown/quarantine story with us.

(Written by Kevin Eichenberger, 7th April 2020)


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Covid-19 affects all walks of life and to hurdle through this pandemic, everyone need to be strong mentally, physically etc. 

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Although it is too early (Just about 3 weeks of MCO) to project what will be the actual impact on the rental and prices of properties, the general feel is that is can't be better than the last few years which has already slowed down.

My personal encounters during this MCO period. Some customers are already financially affected while others may just be opportunists:-

1. An Airbnb operator who had been a prompt paymaster, had requested for a rental reduction by 25% but Landlord agreed to only 15% until July 2020 and delay in rental payments towards end of the month instead of mid of the month. The tenant is using their own coffers to cover the lost of income to pay for the rent. The service apartment management issued a notice not to allow AirBNB to conduct their business. Some guests are still stuck in their units while waiting for the right time and flights out.

2.  A house tenant who has a record being behind on rent prior to MCO has requested for a 50% discount on March 2020 rental. The Landlord allowed 37% reduction on March 2020 rental and 26% discounts for April and May 2020 rentals on compassionate grounds. The tenant is cited the reasons that her employer is cutting her salary by 50% for March 2020 and perhaps April 2020 until the MCO is over. Her husband who is a Grab driver has lost his income too. The Landlord who is a retiree, said she has expenses to pay every month too.

3. A condominium tenant who is a prompt paymaster had requested for a 50% reduction on the May 2020 rental citing that his business is badly affected with no income yet having to maintain staff salaries etc.  He also quoted the 6 months moratorium by banks that will help Landlord. The Landlord initially allowed a deferment of 2 to 3 months rental payment but was not well received by the tenant. Finally agreed to 50% discount on the May 2020 rental.  I offered the tenant to apply for a SME loan guaranteed by CGC but he said does not want to be burdened by the loan repayments during these trying times but rather relying on his current healthy cashflow first.            


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@davidwong ya, some people make take advantages during this opportunity, hopefully they wont take for granted.