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If there is something to like about the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is that it led to significantly less traffic and air pollution. But we can’t cover up the fact that the pandemic has negatively affected us economically.

Nevertheless, life never gives us a problem that we cannot surely overcome. In this article, we will look at how Malaysia’s real estate industry is coping with the problem, and how the crisis may affect the future of property viewing and design.

COVID-19’s Impact on Property Viewing

The dreaded disease has adversely affected Malaysia’s real estate market. Property developers were forced to close their sales gallery or show flats, while construction of residential developments have come to a screeching halt.

But business must go on amidst the government’s Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), which aims to curtail the spread of the disease. To stay afloat, property developers have turned to the internet and focused on creating high-resolution videos and images to continue selling homes.

If you want to experience a realistic virtual tour, check out Mah Sing Group’s M Oscar in Old Klang Road.

The developer’s group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum told The Star that they have implemented a fully digital sales process. The entire process end-to-end from viewing, booking, communication, and payment can be done on the internet.

Homebuyers not Fond of VR Headsets

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It seems that clients don’t like putting on cumbersome VR headsets. While Mah Sing Group has rolled out virtual reality (VR) show units, Leong revealed that they tried VR headsets years ago but it was not warmly received by home buyers.

Another developer leveraging on the internet is Trinity Group. Its chief marketing officer CY Ng said they have initiated virtual reality tours that do not require VR headsets prior to the MCO period as the company wanted a round-the-clock online presence.

During the MCO, the company ramped this up in a bid to keep up with the competition, he said, adding that some home buyers prefer using WhatsApp to contact them, before transitioning to a Zoom meeting, where a sales staff can discuss a project.

Currently, the developer has two on-going projects, namely Trinity Lemanja in Kepong, and Trinity Pentamont at Mont’Kiara. To check the virtual tours, click on the above links.

VR Not That Costly

Although sales galleries are shuttered, developers have slashed their expenses. According to JETK Innovative, a digital solutions provider, the advantage of the high-tech solutions that developers are employing to sell homes amidst COVID-19 is that these are easier to set-up and less costly.

“They can market their projects even while the real show gallery or show unit is being built. VR and augmented reality (AR) solutions are a fraction of the cost of bricks-and-mortar show units,” said its partner Justin Chang.

He estimates that the aforementioned digital solutions cost at least RM30,000 and RM50,000, while an actual sales gallery can set a developer back by RM300,000 and RM400,000, or more.

Agents Turn to Zoom

If developers are struggling, what more for property agents and home sellers, who are also taking advantage of existing technologies in order to make a sale? Agents usually hold a video conference call on platforms like Zoom, Cisco Webex Meetings, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts Meet.

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At the video conference, the seller showcases the property in real-time to the buyer, while the agent discusses the selling points of the home. Alternatively, home sellers can film themselves touring the residence and send it to a would-be purchaser.

Sing Tien Foo, a professor & director at the Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies at National University of Singapore (NUS) believes that use of these digital solutions will likely continue even after the pandemic has ended, although property viewings could return to normal, particularly for resale houses.

“Real estate agents may find it more effective through face-to-face interaction to persuade potential buyers in making their housing purchasing decisions, and the personal touch is hard to be replaced by the virtual tool,” he added.

COVID-19’s Impact on Property Design

MCO has forced property developers, agents, and home sellers to undertake a paradigm shift in order to survive. Now let’s explore how the crisis is shaping the design of our homes and our communities.

According to Hud Abu Bakar, the principal of RSP Architects who designed the gorgeous Menara Felda tower and the sleek exhibition hall of the Malaysian International Trade and Exchange Centre (MITEC), the COVID-19 pandemic and the possible emergence of other deadly diseases in the future is expected to change the way planners and architects conceive a master plan.

More Hospitals, Smaller Malls

One positive effect of the pandemic could be the rise of more healthcare facilities, but the trade-off is that humongous shopping centres that were previously teeming with people could downsize and depopulate, depressing shopaholics and mall rats (aww).

In an interview with Prestige Online, Hud Abu Bakar said that although the fundamentals of planning remain, master planning at micro and macro levels must adapt to prevent the spread of a contagion. At a larger overview, planners need to make sure there is ample pre-planned medical infrastructure, like hospitals, health facilities, and disease control centres, as well as convertible public buildings and schools for emergency use.

At a micro level, the design of a residential district or a township could shift towards smaller autonomous clusters to limit mass public interaction and facilitate contact tracing. Instead of a high-density commercial centre, we could see scattered business zones, while green spaces and public parks could serve as buffer zones between residential areas.

Space to Beat High-End Finishes

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It is amusing seeing someone show off their luxury condo but we later learned that it is actually a shoebox apartment (Did you also get a feeling of schadenfreude?). With the Movement Control Order forcing our families to stay at home, the importance of having more space and having our own room becomes more evident.

Having a room means you can escape from the ‘aroma’ of your sibling who hasn’t taken a bath for days, while the walls could muffle the uneasy sounds of farts and belches. But families who chose to sate their hubris and settled for a 1-room condo or studio have no choice but to get used to these ‘minor inconveniences’.

Hud Abu Bakar revealed that after the COVID-19 crisis is over, home buyers are more likely to choose a larger floor area rather than posh finishes. Low-density developments with wider corridors and fewer units per floor could also become more sought-after by house hunters, likewise for residences with extra space for a home office.

Goodbye Icky Surfaces

Remember the viral video of a man spitting on the elevator button panels that prompted people to don gloves so as not to get infected? If Hud Abu Bakar’s prediction holds true, then the Germaphobia (fear of germs) we got after watching that sicko could be a thing of the past.

He said equipment manufacturers are expected to favour contactless sensors, app-based buttons, facial recognition, or voice control rather than the traditional analogue buttons for lifts. This means we no longer have to fear running our fingers on surfaces commonly used by other people, and touched by hands that could have come into contact with who knows where.

When we were children and even now that we are adults, we still feel squeamish when putting up the toilet lid. In the future, we could feel less disgust as property developers could incorporate nano coatings that automatically kill bacteria and virus at commonly-touched surfaces. Architectural products with similar properties, like lift buttons, doorknobs, toilet ware, fittings, and paint could also become available in the market.

More Fresh Air!

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The deadly coronavirus disease has reminded us that health is wealth, and we should not forget to take into account our well-being when purchasing a home. So dwellings that foster a healthy lifestyle are anticipated to see higher demand, particularly those where your family can breathe lots of fresh air free from pathogens.

For instance, Hud Abu Bakar believes that upcoming developments could feature more terraces, balconies, or elevated gardens on the building’s exterior that not only functions as break spaces but also as entryways for the healthy and colourless stuff we call air.

Home with balconies could also become more desirable as balconies serve as breezy havens and help residents cool off amid the tropical climate of Malaysia. As such, the highly regarded architect thinks that towers punctuated with balconies and open terraces could become the fad rather than glass-clad buildings.

To address the sick building syndrome, designers and planners are anticipated to equip their buildings with a better air filtration system that can eliminate bacteria and viruses, such as those with ultraviolet sterilisers. Similarly, the water distribution system needs to be enhanced as well to prevent the spread of the fatal Legionnaires disease, which is caused by Legionella bacteria.

For more articles like this, visit PropSocial’s discussion page.

(Written by G. Zizan, 25th June 2020)


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Virtual tour is a new trend in hospitality, food and tourism sector. It is also applicable  to other industries as well.