Archive for September, 2007

Private home rents jump by 8% to 10%

From Straits Times – September 27, 2007:

“RENTS of private homes continued to rise strongly between July and September.

They jumped 8 per cent to 10 per cent islandwide over the previous three months, estimated property consultancy Knight Frank.

This was on top of a record 10.4 per cent growth in the second quarter, added Mr Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank’s director of research and consultancy.

Rents in the Woodlands and Mandai area saw some of the highest growth rates in the third quarter. They surged between 25 per cent and 30 per cent, largely because of the draw of the Singapore American School in the area, said Mr Mak.

‘This is an indication that although expatriates are concerned with rising housing rentals and costs, they are still willing to pay a premium to stay near international schools in Singapore,’ he added.

For the last three months of the year, Mr Mak expects rents to rise slightly less, by 5 per cent to 10 per cent. This would bring full-year rental growth to between 30 per cent and 40 per cent, he said.

Knight Frank added that market activity is expected to pick up in the last quarter, as developers step up launches to meet year-end targets.

Another 3,500 to 4,500 units are likely to be launched for sale, and home prices for the whole year are expected to grow by up to 25 per cent.”

What to do, where to go

It seems to be another “golden age” of video games for me. Recently I’ve had the fortune to play Bioshock, World in Conflict, Stranglehold, and Halo 3 (which was just released yesterday!). Bioshock is one of the best games I’ve played in over 2 years… immersive storyline, beautiful environments, and the creation of a world that sucks you in. I highly recommend you go get it if you like first-person shooters.

World in Conflict is a strategy game – similar to Command & Conquer, Company of Heroes, and Warcraft 3, except that it does add some novel gameplay. Gone are the standards such as base construction and resource gathering, instead you focus primarily on the fighting. It takes place in 1989 with the premise being that the Cold War never ended and the USSR invaded America and Europe. Let the weapons fly and the cities be destroyed.

Stranglehold is a John Woo movie come to life. If you can remember the action scenes from “Hard Boiled,” you basically know what this game looks like. White doves flying into the air, bullets flying in slo-mo, and furniture and glass shattering all around you. Even better they have Chow-Yun Fat voicing the lead character.

Halo 3 – well… you all have probably heard about this one. Tons of hype about it, they’re expecting the first day sales to exceed USD 150 million! More than Spiderman 3 took in on their opening weekend. It’s fun, fast, furious action (another first-person shooter). Multiplayer is where I think it really shines as being able to play online with others, through all the various match types is great. Even better is yelling insults through the microphone at whomever you’re playing against. (Last night I played against people from Croatia and Taiwan at the same time… I don’t think any of us knew exactly what we were saying to the other person, but the intention and emotion was still conveyed).

Anyway… my birthday is coming up soon! So I had been thinking about what I should do for it. I’ve had parties and gatherings in the past – one memorable year was when we all dressed up as golfers and went on a pub crawl to different bars under the guise of playing “pub golf.” Naturally, as people had drinks any semblance of “pub golf” went out the window and it was just a group of people drinking while dressed in ridiculous outfits. A fun time. Another year I had a barbecue at my apartment.

This year I have decided to run away. It’s pleasant to escape the trappings of urban life once in awhile. The glass and steel skyscrapers of Singapore, the always-on-the-go mentality, the MRT trains roaring beneath the feet, SBS Transit buses plastered with smiling people advertising toothpaste or hair growth formulas… the cascade of e-mails and inquiries, blitzing lights along the waterways, construction sounds, fouled taxis, and crush of people that move you along…

Yes, sometimes it’s nice to go away.

I am going to East Timor for 10 days. On my birthday I hope to be at one of the lazy seaside towns, sipping a beer, laying in a hammock, wearing shorts, flip flops, and feeling the sun streaming down on me. All the while having absolutely nothing I need to do or anywhere to go.

Studies

Two studies were released today that indicate I am going to die young.

From a study by University of Warwick:

“A 17-year analysis of 10,000 government workers showed those who cut their sleep from seven hours a night to five or less faced a 1.7-fold increased risk of death from all causes and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death.”

From Leiden University Medical Centre:

“The absolute risk of getting a blood clot while sitting in a cramped airline seat – one in 4,656.”

 

Combine the two of those together and I am going to die of a heart attack the next time I get on an airplane.

The life of a vending machine

Ah… odd hobbies.  One must love them.  Trainspotting, airplane watching, duck counting… and tracking the changes in a vending machine.

For 2 years a man in Japan has taken a daily photo of a vending machine.

I find this very inspiring.

Explanation

Saving the world…

Bill Gates on how treatable diseases in developing nations in the world can be prevented.

Saving the World is Within Our Grasp

There will also be a Newsweek article where Bill Gates answers readers’ questions. Submit yours.

More reasons to rent instead of buy a house

When you rent, most people mistakenly assume the decision is made out of necessity, not rationality. But there is a very good reason to rent in today’s bubble-stricken market: median incomes do not support median home prices.”

Read more…

Halo 3 and Wesley Snipes

Halo 3 arrives tomorrow.  One of the first reviews by a major gaming publication gives it a 9.5 out of 10.

I know what I will be doing for the rest of the week… (hint: Multiplayer gaming)

And what else is as bad-assed as Halo 3?  Wesley Snipes!  Check out his words of wisdom.

Boom time Malaysia

Perhaps I should really think about buying in Malaysia instead of Singapore.  Prices there sound dirt-cheap compared to Singapore.  Plus freehold…

Of course if I’m going to buy in Malaysia, I might as well explore what Philippines and other countries around the region have to offer.

From Straits Times, September 23, 2007:

“Buying into booming Malaysia

Foreigners grab residential properties in KL and other hot sites, forcing prices to double in prime districts

By Jessica Cheam

SWANKY PROJECTS IN THE KLCC such as The Troika (above) are fetching as much as RM2,000 (S$874) psf. The boom has spread to surrounding districts, including U-Thant, near where the 9 Madge freehold condominium is located.

JUST a few months ago, the notion that sale prices for residential properties in Malaysia would reach the RM2,000 (S$874) per sq ft (psf) mark would have seemed preposterous.

Today, however, swanky and luxurious high-end projects such as The Troika – designed by world-famous architect Norman Foster – in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) have done just that. Only six months ago, homes at The Troika were available at half that price (RM1,000 psf).

Singapore’s property market is not the only one that has surged forward in recent months. Across the Causeway, KLCC is enjoying its own property boom – spurred by various factors, including the relaxation of foreign ownership rules and the elimination of a property gains tax in April.

As a result, Malaysian properties are increasingly catching the investor’s eye – and are now ‘back on the international radar’, said Mr Tim Murphy, the managing director of Hong-Kong based property investment firm Intellectual Property.

Mr Murphy was speaking to 200 investors here in Singapore as part of a series of educational seminars on emerging markets for property investments that the firm is holding this week.

Malaysia and Vietnam were singled out as good ‘buy to let’ investment markets, as property prices in these two countries, although rising, are still lower than those in mature markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Prices of high-end homes in prime locations in Singapore, for example, have now exceeded $5,000 psf.

Mr Rohan Cavaliero, one of the seminar speakers, said ‘foreign investors are flocking in droves’ to Malaysia now. Until recently, he was the group general manager of Malaysian developer Bandar Raya Developments, which is behind prime freehold projects such as The Troika and The Capsquare Residences.

‘There has been a general capital appreciation across the board for KLCC properties, even for suburban markets in the vicinity,’ said Mr Cavaliero, who has lived in Kuala Lumpur for 14 years.

Prices in areas around KLCC – Bangsar and Mont Kiara, for example – recently reached RM1,000 psf, up from RM400 to RM600 psf in the first half of this year, he said. ‘Those who bought a year ago are really laughing all the way to the bank now,’ he said.

Investors who buy to rent out can achieve high rental yields of 5 per cent to 7 per cent, although at current prices, yields are starting to fall for high-end homes, he added.

Mr K.K. Yap, who manages the prestige homes division of Rahim & Co, a sales associate of property consultancy Savills in Malaysia, said foreign investors are the main driver behind the boom in high-profile properties; local residents buy mainly suburban projects. ‘In the first half, locals were driving the boom. Now, more foreigners are driving it because the market is still very cheap,’ he said.

He said local residents will continue to invest in good-quality projects in KLCC’s suburbs priced at RM600 to RM900 psf as ‘most are undervalued and have big potential upside’.

Knight Frank Malaysia said in a recent report that it expects an exciting second half for KLCC, with more than 10 launches likely, including Hampshire Place, Icon Kuala Lumpur and Seni Mont’Kiara.

Singapore investor Chan Ye-Pan, a 40-year-old sales manager who was at the seminar, said his interest in Malaysian properties had been revived. But he said he would tread cautiously as he was wary of the nation’s ‘changing laws’.

However, Mr Murphy pointed to Malaysia’s commitment to deregulating the property market. Also, it is pushing its Malaysia, My Second Home programme to entice foreigners.

Mr Murphy said Penang, Langkawi and the Iskandar Development Region in Johor Baru are also potential sites for good investment properties.

Mr Cavaliero is already investing in Langkawi. He is a founding director of 99 East Langkawi, a property developer currently constructing a low-density, high-end residential oceanfront project on Bukit Malut, where the Langkawi Golf Club is located.

Property investments in such areas, however, can take three to five years or more to mature, said Mr Murphy. ‘These are not suitable for short-term gains. But ultimately, if you do your due diligence and are patient, the potential is enormous.’

Some tips for property investors

  • It may sound simple, but be sure to do your research. Take time to understand the dynamics of the market and don’t be a ‘sheep investor’, buying impetuously without first checking out the financial viability of the investment.
  • Six words to remember when researching a market: Legals, borrowing, liquidity, yields, tax and currency.
  • Look for properties built by established developers with good track records, especially if you’re investing in a developing market.
  • Choose properties that can be supported by the local market – homes that will attract locals to rent.
  • Always engage a lawyer to read all the legal documents, for example, the sales purchase agreement and deed of mutual covenant, which contains terms that are binding on all flat owners of a multi-unit building.”
  • Buy property in Langkawi?

    Hmm… I was at the seminar where there was a presentation on how attractive it is to buy land in Malaysia – especially in Langkawi.  But… Langkawi is already pretty developed… and the presentation was done by a high-end property developer who is constructing luxury homes on Langkawi.

    From Straits Times, September 23:

    “Langkawi – island retreat now in vogue

    HIGH-END LUXURY HOMES are in short supply on the island, so developers are snapping up sites in prime areas such as Bukit Malut, which offers fabulous ocean views.

    LANGKAWI has just been quietly rebranded as ‘Langkawi GeoPark’ – after it was bestowed World GeoPark status by the United Nations body Unesco in June.

    This means the archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, about 30km off north-western Malaysia, has provided a plan for environmentally sustainable development.

    The main island is already one of Malaysia’s hottest tourist spots with its white sand beaches set against lush, tropical jungle foliage and mountain peaks.

    Despite this allure, there is a ‘massive undersupply’ of high- end residential accommodation, said Mr Rohan Cavaliero, a director of property developer 99 East Langkawi.

    His company is one of the few developers currently building low-density luxury homes, which Mr Cavaliero expects to be snapped up quickly by well- heeled foreign investors.

    The development, 99 East, is located on Bukit Malut and will offer 120 units in its first phase – mainly villas. The company is hoping to launch the units for sale by the end of the year, with prices starting at between RM600 and RM800 (S$262 and S$350) per sq ft (psf). The project has started construction.

    Other projects under way on the island include a residential one for luxury villas called The Westin Residences by property developer Langkawi Island Resort, which is also behind The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa.

    Dubai-based developer Kingdom Hotel Investments, of the Four Seasons brand, is planning a similar project in Langkawi.

    Mr K.K. Yap, of Rahim & Co, a sales associate of property consultancy Savills in Malaysia, said there is demand for high-quality, well-managed developments in Langkawi.

    The island offers good road infrastructure and easy access to an international airport. These make it an ideal location, said Mr Yap, for tourists and investors alike.:”

    Go Burma!

    10,000 Myanmar monks in protest against the military regime.

    “A day earlier, about 1,500 barefoot Buddhist monks marched more than 16 kilometers (10 miles) through Yangon’s flooded streets, sometimes in knee-deep water, in a raging tropical downpour.”

    Perhaps one day soon we will see the removal of Burma’s military government.