By Gunaprasath Bupalan (YouTube – Emjay Communications / www.newshubasia.com / www.ihaus.com.my / www.property360digest.com / www.malaysiaglobalbusinessforum.com
As property media, our job at Emjay Communications is mainly to look out for newsworthy property developers, developments, projects and game changers in the industry. Year on year, we come across many of the above said, but it is very rare that we stumble upon something spectacular.
This year, we actually did. It was some months back that a friend of mine told me about Meta_city by Villamas Group. Having heard the name Villamas that was indeed a household name in the property arena some years back, I needed to find out more about their new project that was said to be a game changer for the ever-growing Seri Kembangan.
I was also told that Meta_city is Villamas Groups first unique and integrated lifestyle-mixed development in Seri Kembangan with serviced apartments, branded suites, an iconic tower, shopping mall as well as an international hotel.
Soon after, I was told that there was to be a media briefing and tour of the development at their show gallery that was close to the development site just two days after. Eagerly, I reserved to attend the event as I needed to find out who were these smart people who actually forecasted an area growth potential so accurately, as Seri Kembangan has already progressed over the years and is set to progress even further in in the next few years.
You see, I am not a fan of units that are smaller than 1,000sq ft, so when I was told (while I was on the way to the event) that units at Meta_City’s first phase (LUX SOHO) were only 450sq ft while the LUX serviced apartments range between 659sq ft and 864sq ft, I was quite disappointed. However, I was already around the corner so I decided to attend the event either way.
After the opening speech by Mr. Gan Teck Seong, Villamas Group CEO and the media Q&A that took place shortly after, we were ushered to walk through the show units to get a feel of the home types.
To my surprise and astonishment, the layout of even the 450 sq ft units didn’t actually feel so small. Instead, they felt more spacious than many 800sq ft units that I have walked through lately.
It was quite clear what this developer was doing here. Villamas Group, with the introduction of these units depict the true meaning of giving back to the Rakyat. By designing smaller units that were affordable, they decided not to be stingy on the layout and make use of the available space to make every nook and corner count with usage – indirectly, making the units at this development shine out with a spacious ambiance.
So, to get into the psyche of the person behind this design concept, we decided to have a coffee discussion with the man himself – Mr. Gan Teck Seong, where we touched base on Meta_city, Villamas Group, Seri Kembangan, as well as the property market in general.
Please tell us about Villamas and where is Villamas headed in the next 5 years? What is the total land bank Villamas owns at the moment – developed and non-developed? Acquiring any more land in the near future?
Having this Meta-city project, our concentration at this moment is to make sure this development lives up to its potential. Being our biggest project under the group, Meta_city is unlike all our previous projects where we built strata units and sold them. Here, our blueprint speaks volumes as we are developing residential units, commercial units, a hotel as well as a mall within an exclusive township. You will notice that our business model is very unique too.
In the next five years, we would like to diversify to reach more needs and wants of the public. We believe in helping people acquire their homes, not squeeze them for everything they own just to buy a house.
We do not have much land bank left, but we are always on the lookout for more land at strategic locations and do hope to acquire more in the near future. We will stick to concentrating in Klang Valley as we know the market best ‘here’ as compared to other parts of Malaysia. Best to stick to the things you are more familiar with.
With regards to Meta-city on the other hand, we will be concentrating a lot on property management – meaning to say that we will look into the possibility of recurring income by managing the components of the development, not just sell and move on. This is our biggest project, we are very proud of it and would not want to see it mismanaged.
Such a noble way of looking at things. Most developers that we have come across, wash their hands after five years and hand over responsibility to the Joint Management Body (JMB), then they move on to their new project. By managing the property themselves, residents and investors could rest assure that quality maintenance will be of top priority when it comes to Meta-city.
People tend to think that it is easy work being a developer as perception has it that most of the hard work is subbed out to the architect, construction experts and others. As a developer yourself, what are the main challenges that you have faced in your career?
Well, initially it was all about building a good reputation amongst our peers, our competitors, authorities and most importantly buyers. We needed to be known as a reputable company and that we have achieved with our many success stories. Then we faced many difficulties with authorities as well as regulations. You should note that property developers are slapped with the most regulations compared to other sectors of the economy. However, the most challenging part of property development is coming out with the initial idea – something new, innovative, practical and much needed by the people, then making it a reality. This is where many developers fail. We on the other hand, can proudly say that we have lived up to the expectation of buyers and investors with our array of successfully launched products.
Mr. Gan, here is a topic that I would very much like to get your opinion on. For more than two decades now there has been various discussions, opinions, forums and even suggestions to curb the ever-famous issue of affordable housing. Unfortunately, till now we haven’t found a concrete solution for this problem. How do you define affordable housing? If you were to put a price-tag on affordable homes, what would it be? What has Villamas done in in the past, current and will be doing in the future to assist the Government in assuring every Rakyat of Malaysia owns a home?
This affordable housing issue has actually been going on for more than a decade actually. This is a big question, but placing a price tag on affordable housing is not the correct way in identifying this issue. Our society has been very narrow minded to pin point house prices when it comes to affordable housing. Do you really think that dropping house prices would solve this issue? I believe that that will just open up a can of worms on a larger scale as that would affect the economy drastically.
Personally, I feel that this responsibility needs to be shared amongst all parties. Sometimes the economic circumstances do not allow developers to build affordable housing. This needs to be driven by an entity that has the available land, resources and the power of authority. Basically, this needs to be driven by the Government. How can a private entity like a developer solve such a big scale issue like this? It’s almost impossible.
There have also been suggestions for people to buy houses in the suburbs as prices there seem more affordable compared to closer to the city centre. Even though this is not a bad suggestion, in order for this to work to the benefit of buyers, infrastructure and public transportation needs to be at its best. There are many people who have taken this route only to realise that over time it isn’t very practical, then they end up moving to a rented home closer to the city. So maybe people need to do their calculations well. Would it make more sense to buy a home that is RM800,000 in the suburbs and suffer with transportation issues or would it be better to buy a home that is priced at RM1.2mil close to city centre where you have hardly any issues with transportation? Which solution is actually more affordable? This, is a very subjective matter. This is one of the reason why putting a price tag on affordable housing isn’t justifiable.
Well to be honest, the issue here is way beyond just affordable pricing. It has also become a burden for most people in obtaining bank loans with high financing margins. What could the Government / Developers / Associations / Banks do to curb the financing issue that Malaysian property buyers are currently facing? Why do you think we have come to this situation at the moment?
Recently, there has been some encouraging signs. The new Government seems to want to help the property sector with programmes such as Home Ownership Campaign (HOC) in a way to encourage home purchase. This has been very encouraging. We really hope for more initiatives from the Government to boost the property sector with much more targeted benefits to the property sector.
It has been challenging times for developers, with compliance cost being the biggest issue. Developers need to incur lots of costs every time we want to launch a project. It would be great if the Government could look into this. If compliance cost is reduced, probably developers could lower their selling price as well. Aside from this, there must be serious look also into increasing peoples’ income, there must also be serious look into more business-friendly environments, and ways to increase purchasing power.
Tell us a little bit about your new face changing development at Seri Kembangan – Meta_city.
Before we talk about Meta-city, people need to understand why we chose Seri Kembangan as out location for this face changing development. Have you realised that Seri Kembanagan is in the midst of merging with Puchong, Sepang as well as Putrajaya. One minute you are in KL and the next minute you are in Selangor.
I believe that Seri Kembangan is quite a special location. One’s first impression however is always that it is not in the 1st tier for location, some even say it is far away – but actually it is not. Due to the rapid changes over the years, connectivity to and from Seri Kembangan has grown tremendously, especially with the introduction of the MEX highway. This has opened doors not just for travelling to KL City Centre but since KLIA and Putrajaya have ample of employment, the spill-over of residents have come into Seri Kembangan. This is evident that there is strong economy in the area as well as amenities such as Universities, SMIs and much more, allowing the city to expand.
With regards to Meta-city, our pride and joy – will be the FIRST unique and integrated lifestyle-driven mixed development in Seri Kembangan with serviced apartments, branded suites, iconic tower, shopping mall and international hotel – META_residence, META_tower, META_mall and META_loft.
Meta_city’s vision is to bring together a lifestyle of enhanced living – a city away from the city where business and leisure thrive; purchasers, clientele and investors are set to indulge in the finest of architectural advancements and lucrative investment returns. Meta_city is set to change the landscape of Seri Kembangan with its tagline, INSPIRE, INFUSE, CREATE that transcends the norm with the perception that life is never ordinary.
Meta_city will be at the centre of the “Golden triangle” with international schools and colleges, businesses scattered around the area and excellent connectivity with an MRT station right at the doorstep, with a proposed link bridge to Meta_city. Bringing convenience to use the public transportation to a whole new level.
What is your investment growth prediction for buyers of units at meta_city?
It’s hard for me to predict but In relative terms, it is priced at an advantage to buyers as compared to similar properties in Cheras or Old Klang Road. Once completed, it should match prices of projects that are in the said areas. Rental yield based on our internal research is higher than other developments in the area mainly because of our creative unit layout. The smart layout allows for more rooms within the development despite the smaller square footage, hence unlike other projects of a similar nature, buyers of these residences could accommodate more tenants for each unit as there are more rooms available.
That was indeed a very insightful discussion with Mr. Gan. As a journalist, he kept me very entertained with his views and opinions. As a potential buyer, he has ignited my personal investment juices – should I get a unit there? Would Villamas consider a special discount?
For further details / inquiries regarding Meta_city, please visit www.metacity.my
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