Like the stealth interceptors of the Cold War era, Gabungan AQRS Bhd has flown under the radar to decisively strike its mark. While other industry players pay lip service to affordability issues while continuing to price their portfolios out of reach of home seekers, this Kota Damansara-based developer is walking the talk.

This is most clearly seen in the DNA of its most recent projects, with E’island Lake Haven Residence in Puchong and The Peak in Johor Bahru City Centre offering prices per square foot from just RM334 and RM487 respectively despite compelling value propositions in supremely strategic locations.

It is also evident in the packages Gabungan AQRS has put together to assist home seekers, including its “Reside Before You Decide” rent-to-own initiative, as well as its cashback programme, underlining the developer’s view of property as a means to wealth creation for the rakyat.

Residences with waterfront views

“Our development approach is based on facts and research, because we believe in building what homebuyers really want, and what will really benefit them,” says Gabungan AQRS executive director and group CEO Dato’ Azizan Jaafar.

Purchasers must consider locational factors as well as pricing when assessing properties, says Azizan.

E’island Lake Haven Residence is an apartment project sited on 19 leasehold acres adjacent to D’Island Puchong, a neighbourhood composed primarily of luxury houses surrounded by lakes sitting off the junction of the North-South Expressway Central Link (ELITE) and South Klang Valley Expressway (SKVE) in Puchong.

Prospective property purchasers should take note that E’island Lake Haven Residence is the perfect choice for those relying on public transport to gain access to mature areas in the Klang Valley. This is because the existing Putrajaya Sentral station in Putrajaya is located just 20-minutes from the aforementioned property.

Putrajaya Sentral comprises various transportation options which include the ERL, a taxi centre as well as a bus hub. In the near future, the said station will be integrated with the MRT Sungai Buloh Serdang Putrajaya (SSP) Line, MRL East Coast Rail Link and the proposed Putrajaya Rail Link to Kajang.

With a gross development value (GDV) of RM501 mil, the project features 1,140 units with built-ups from 881 sq ft to 1,263 sq ft, with prices from an affordable RM295,000. A variety of three-bedroom layouts are available, following garden, lakeview and family suite concepts.

These units are spread across four 19-storey residential towers lined along the lakefront, with north-south orientations to minimise direct sun exposure for units while providing shading for the project’s facilities, which include a lakefront gym, 500m boardwalk and jogging track, and play pool for children.

E’island Lake Haven features 1,140 units with built-ups from 881 sq ft to 1,263 sq ft.

Residents can also access a central five-storey carpark block through four dedicated link bridges. Each unit is entitled to at least two carpark bays, with some receiving three. The project’s most striking pull factors include the 360° lakeview it offers purchasers, the range of furnishings provided, and the attention to detail the developer has invested into each aspect of its design.

Despite its competitive price points, E’island Lake Haven Residence units come semi-furnished with an impressive range of fittings rarely seen in the affordable tier, including four air conditioners, signature brand kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, along with a wet kitchen for selected units.

Garden, lakeview and family suites address the needs of purchasers, with garden suites offering, for example, comprising 32 ground-level units with private yards for residents to grow their own decorative flowers or edible herbs.

Garden suites offer purchasers a space to hone their green thumbs.

Meanwhile, lakeview units offer the best views of the water features surrounding E’island Lake Haven Residence, while family suites feature practical, open-plan layouts with every room and furnishing meticulously measured to accommodate spacious living arrangements for up to six residents.

“There is a misconception that properties in the area are built on reclaimed land. However, the E’island Lake Haven Residence site utilises existing land, which means purchasers don’t need to worry about land subsidence or other issues,” says Azizan.

“We target both home seekers and investors, so we want to build proper homes for our purchasers to live in with their families, with good appreciation prospects. At the same time, they fulfil the national goal of creating wealth for the rakyat, which property ownership is a step towards.”

On the top of the world

Gabungan AQRS’ development philosophy is also very much evident in The Peak, its upscale RM600 mil freehold apartment sited on a 5.5-acre site in the northeast of the Johor Bahru City Centre, at the nexus of the toll-free Eastern Dispersal Link, North-South Expressway, Tebrau Highway and Pasir Gudang Highway.

“Some have raised concerns as to the state of the market in the Johor Bahru City Centre. However, property is deeply affected by locality; even with oversupply in Klang Valley, there are some suburbs where demand is still very high. You need to look into the specifics of a given area and product and its pricing,” says Azizan.

According to the developer, The Peak sits on the highest point in the Johor Bahru City Centre off Jalan Temenggong 1, giving clear vantage points of the city centre and Singapore visible to the south on a clear day.

The Peak leverages on breathtaking views of the city centre and Singapore.

Despite the panoramic view it commands, the project is priced comparably to similar offerings in the area, such as Suasana Suites at RM1,150 psf and TriTower Residence at RM1,061 psf.

The Peak itself is an ultra-low density development with two to four units per floor. Offering 668 units with built-ups from 947 sq ft to 2,200 sq ft in two 39-storey linked towers, with each unit designed as a corner unit. Layouts come in two-bedroom to four-bedroom options.

These range from two-bedroom suites with built-ups of 947 sq ft, and executive and panorama suites from 1,130 sq ft to 1,217 sq ft, to Sky Villas and Sky Garden Villas from 1,948 sq ft to 2,184 sq ft.

Its crowning glory, however, are 54 exclusive dual-key sky villa units with built-ups up to 2,200 sq ft. Unlike many other dual-key arrangements on the market, both the main unit and attached suite feature hefty individual built-ups with two bedrooms and two bathrooms each, underlining Gabungan AQRS’ commitment to well-thought-out living spaces.

The project caters for both home seekers and investors.

“Some have asked how we can offer so much value at these price points. This is because we have close to zero borrowings for these projects, which means we don’t need to service interest on loans. These savings are transferred to our purchasers,” says Azizan.

Like E’island Lake Haven Residence, the project is semi-furnished for hassle-free occupation, with fully-built dry kitchens by Signature Kitchen as well as wardrobes for each designated bedroom, along with washroom fixtures by Kohler. Each unit also comes with a smart-home system, with access for specific areas in the development controlled by a mobile phone app.

Capitalising on market trends

Azizan also notes that both The Peak and E’island Lake Haven Residence are located in areas which have seen some of the highest interest among purchasers, according to a recent Buyers’ Sentiment Survey.

Respondents cited Johor Bahru (50%) as their most popular pick for residential properties, followed by Kuala Lumpur (19%), Puchong (18%) and Petaling Jaya (17%). Property information consultancy Ho Chin Soon Research Sdn Bhd has also noted that Puchong is an emerging centre of locational gravity for Klang Valley moving forward, as development trends southward towards Singapore.

“We tackle the affordability issue from two different angles. Reside Before You Decide targets the large number of purchasers who don’t qualify for 90% or 85% margins of financing from banks, bringing this down to around 70% by offsetting monthly rental payments against your loan amount,” says Azizan.

For example, for a list price of RM860,800, participants pay monthly rental of RM2,900 for 36 months. After a down payment of 10% and further rebate of up to 10% (RM688,640) the total rental payment (RM104,400) goes towards the remaining balance for a loan amount of RM584,240, or 68% of the list and SPA price.

Gabungan AQRS takes a multi-pronged approach to the housing affordability issue, says Azizan.

“In addition, since participants can move in immediately, it gives upgraders up to three years to dispose of existing properties, affording them capital while allowing them to evaluate their chosen units with Gabungan AQRS,” says Azizan.

“Meanwhile, our cashback programme was developed because The Peak is a freehold commercial project, giving it Airbnb potential due to the lack of affordable short-term accommodations in the Johor Bahru City Centre. Both programmes are available until handover, around September this year.”

The cashback initiative gives participants up to RM2,500 a month for 36 months in addition to rebates of up to 16% on the property’s SPA price. Coupled with Airbnb rentals, which Azizan shares can yield up to RM200 per day for fully furnished two-bedroom units in Johor Bahru City Centre, it presents a potentially lucrative option for investors.

He also notes that federal Airbnb guidelines, which formerly varied from state to state but which now require all homes to register Airbnb operations, only apply to residential properties, and not commercial properties such as The Peak.

E’island Lake Haven Residence and The Peak, with a combined GDV of RM1.1 bil, are core pillars of Gabungan AQRS’ transformation plan launched in 2016, which seeks to position its property arm as a key revenue generator for the group moving forward with a target net operating cashflow of RM646 mil over the next five years from the two projects alone.

(By Aliff Yusri, 1 March 2019)