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IN FOCUS: How Johor’s residential property market has been hit onerous by COVID-19

JOHOR BAHRU: When Singapore enterprise proprietor Jonathan Gan bought a 4-room condominium at Lovell Nation Backyard in 2018, he thought he had clinched his dream retirement dwelling.

The freehold residence positioned close to Johor Bahru’s metropolis centre was twice the scale of his 3-room HDB flat in Singapore, however the price was solely half of the latter when he purchased it immediately from the builders.

“The perfect factor concerning the unit is the wonderful view. You by no means get something near it at such worth in Singapore,” added the 42-year-old, who lives along with his spouse and two daughters.

The view of the Johor Straits taken from a unit in Lovell Nation Backyard. (Picture: Amir Yusof) 

The residence, like most models within the Lovell improvement, overlooks the Straits of Johor. The balcony opens as much as a picturesque sea view and there’s a sandy seaside beneath. 

“It was the best weekend dwelling,” stated Gan. “However now it’s turning into a bugbear.”

Simply three years after he bought it, Gan who purchased the unit at round RM1 million (US$242,000) is having a tough time attempting to promote it, despite the fact that the asking worth is a fraction of what he paid for it.

For the reason that COVID-19 pandemic hit final 12 months, border closures between Singapore and Malaysia meant that he and his household couldn’t go to his weekend dwelling.

Moreover, Gan’s enterprise in Singapore has been affected by the pandemic, and he now must promote the residence to realize some liquidity.

“All this was by no means a part of the plan. However the home is simply left there, accumulating mud and its worth goes down by the day. We felt it’s higher to chop our losses and attempt to eliminate it,” he informed CNA.

Lovell 4 room prices

Chart showcasing the value per sq. toes for four-rooms condominium properties at Lovell Nation Backyard during the last 5 years. Costs are in Malaysian Ringgit. (Supply: Propertyguru Malaysia)

Regardless of being in the marketplace for over a 12 months, there have been no takers. He has engaged brokers and even marketed the unit on numerous property portals however to no avail.

“There’s not a lot hope. Barely anybody has seen or signalled curiosity,” he stated.

Gan is amongst property house owners in Johor Bahru who’re having points attempting to promote their properties, because the market is within the doldrums as a result of extended results of COVID-19.

Condominium developments round Johor Bahru have been constructed with overseas patrons in thoughts, however the pandemic has closed borders, leaving a lot of them empty. Items owned by these from China, Singapore, Hong Kong have been left unoccupied whereas properties that have been left unsold have stayed empty. Landed property is additionally going through potential depreciation.


Based on statistics compiled by property consultancy agency Henry Butcher, the worth and quantity of residential property transactions in Johor had been climbing “fairly steadily” from 2017 till 2019.

In its report on the outlook of the Malaysian property market in 2021, the agency famous that the quantity of transactions rose 8 per cent in 2018 and seven.5 per cent in 2019, whereas the worth of the transactions elevated by 1.5 per cent in 2018 and 15.9 per cent in 2019.

The report highlighted that the Motion Management Order (MCO) imposed by the Malaysian authorities from Mar 18, 2020 was a key motive that reversed the upward pattern.

It stated that within the first 9 months of 2020, the quantity and worth of transactions declined by nearly 1 / 4 in comparison with the identical interval in 2019.

Johor skyline

The skyline of Johor Bahru, as seen from neighbouring Singapore. (Picture: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

Property analyst Debbie Choy, who’s director of Knight Frank Malaysia’s Johor department, stated the state of affairs is especially unhealthy for condominiums and serviced flats, of which there’s an oversupply within the Iskandar area.

“Many developments have been concentrating on a big proportion of abroad patrons. With the extended results of COVID-19 limiting actions, it has been difficult for builders or buyers to dump both on the market or lease,” stated Choy.

The state of affairs is exacerbated by the truth that foreigners are presently not allowed to buy properties in Malaysia beneath the Malaysia My Second House Program (MM2H) scheme, which has been quickly suspended since July 2020.

MM2H was suspended by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Tradition (MOTAC) consistent with the federal government’s resolution to bar foreigners from coming into enter Malaysia following the outbreak of COVID-19.

MOTAC added that the federal government is presently reviewing the MM2H programme, and that foreigners nonetheless to take part should abide by the newest necessities when it’s reinstated.

MM2H president Anthony Liew was quoted by native media final Sunday (Jun 6) saying that the suspension has curtailed curiosity from Singapore and China patrons in Johor property.

“The three large Chinese language builders, Nation Backyard Pacificview, R&F Improvement and Greenland Group, have seen the demand for his or her developments in Johor from Chinese language patrons drop,” Loke reportedly stated.

Even house owners of the extra premium, newer developments in Johor Bahru are having issues attempting to draw tenants.

Astaka Bukit Senyum

The Astaka at Bukit Senyum is the tallest residential skyscraper in Johor. (Picture: Amir Yusof) 

A Taiwanese girl, who needed to be recognized solely as Ok, informed CNA that she has put up her 3-room condominium unit at The Astaka for lease, after she headed again dwelling when the pandemic hit.

The Astaka, a premium condominium positioned at Bukit Senyum within the coronary heart of Johor Bahru, noticed 70 per cent of its models snapped up by patrons when it was first launched in 2019.

The 2 towers, standing at 65 and 70 storeys, have 3 or 4 room models of between 2,207 and a couple of,659 sq ft.

Nevertheless, after the pandemic hit, demand has dried up and house owners who will not be in Johor will not be capable of finding tenants. 

Ok informed CNA that she had bought the unit in 2019, with the concept of renting it out for funding returns. Nevertheless, after nearly two years, no tenant has made a “appropriate provide”.

She first listed her 3-room unit at RM5,700 a month. Fifteen months later, she has lowered the rental worth to RM3,800 and there has not been a single provide from potential tenants. She bought the unit for round RM2 million.

“I believe contemplating the circumstances, I’ve no selection however to decrease the rental worth. I discover that there have been no affords. I’m affected person. Hopefully, when the pandemic is over, there will probably be people who find themselves ,” stated Ok.

READ: Johor planning new COVID-19 financial stimulus package deal, says chief minister

The demand from Johoreans has additionally weakened, as they reel from the consequences of the pandemic.  

Khor Yu Leng, a political economist with consultancy agency Segi Enam Advisors, stated that in addition to border closures limiting overseas patrons or tenants, locals are additionally grappling with the financial impression of COVID-19 and their disposable revenue has been restricted.

She famous that locals with extra spending energy have been sometimes Johoreans who commuted every day to Singapore for work. Nevertheless, with borders closed from every day commuting, this group is both out of labor or is now primarily based in Singapore.

“The spending energy of the previous Johor every day commuters and Singapore residents who visited Johor weekly or in any other case has diminished or disappeared from the Johor economic system,” stated Khor.

She famous that the impression on the Johor economic system meant that some Johoreans have turned to the state authorities for monetary help,and shopping for luxurious condominium property will not be reasonable. 

“A 12 months later, with Johor’s financial umbilical nonetheless reduce off from Singapore, and Malaysia struggling an enormous wave of COVID-19, casual social help actions (to assist the lower-income households) have been ongoing,” added Khor. 

Even with the general worth and quantity of transactions rising previous to COVID-19, Khor famous there have been indicators that some condominium developments have been struggling to promote their extra models.

In its report, Henry Butcher Malaysia highlighted that Johor was the state with the best proportion of unsold residential properties within the nation, even earlier than COVID-19.

The report stated that Johor contributes 19.5 per cent of “overhang” residential properties and a whopping 73.7 per cent of all overhang condominium flats within the nation in 2019.

“Of those, roughly 34 per cent of the overhang service flats/sohos are priced over RM1 million which have been believed to have been designed particularly for overseas buyers from Singapore and China,” the report stated.


In addition to condominiums and serviced flats, these with landed properties within the southern state are additionally involved about depreciating values.

Private Homes Johor

The landed property market in Johor Bahru has additionally been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Picture: Amir Yusof) 

A Singaporean who needed to be recognized solely as Mustaqim, who owns a 2-storey 4,000 sq ft terrace dwelling at gated group Horizon Hills, has expressed concern that the worth of his home is depreciating since he bought it in July 2017.

Horizon Hills is widespread amongst overseas patrons, particularly Singaporeans, as it’s a mere 15-minute drive to Tuas Second Hyperlink. The event can be near facilities such because the Sunway Iskandar township, which has hospitals, malls in addition to prestigious worldwide colleges.

Mustaqim purchased the home as a retirement dwelling fairly than an funding, however admitted he was anxious that primarily based on current worth traits within the space, his dwelling has misplaced a few of its worth.

He purchased his dwelling a decade after the event was launched in 2017, for round RM1.8 million.

Horizon Hill 4 room prices

Chart showcasing the value per sq. toes for four-rooms semi indifferent properties at Horizon Hills during the last 5 years. Costs are in Malaysian Ringgit. (Supply: Propertyguru Malaysia) 

“With COVID-19, a few of my neighbours who’re Singaporeans have determined to promote their properties for RM1.1 million to RM1.2 million. It’s spoiling the market a bit however I can perceive why with the borders closed,” stated Mustaqim.

“I’m involved that this downward pattern will proceed and my dwelling’s worth will probably be going decrease and decrease. I might be proudly owning a depreciating asset,” he added.

Nevertheless, Mustaqim, who’s presently in Singapore as a result of borders being closed, is decided to attend out the pandemic.

“The worth will rise once more post-pandemic,” stated Mustaqim.

Property brokers in Johor have additionally seen their livelihoods hit with the decrease quantity and worth of transactions throughout COVID-19.

An agent who needed to be quoted solely as Brian, informed CNA that he has been pressured to take a second mortgage on his own residence because the variety of transactions has dried up because the pandemic.

“Some months I barely make any transactions, so I’ve been wanting round for an additional job to tide by over the subsequent few months,” he stated.  

The agent, who specialises in promoting condominiums within the central Johor Bahru space, stated that almost all developments have the identical drawback – too many models on sale with “nearly zero” demand.

“Some months, we have now to stay with zero accomplished transactions. So, the state of affairs is actually unhealthy for us,” added Brian. 

The tightening of restrictions in the course of the ongoing nationwide MCO 3.0 meant that brokers will not be in a position to legally organize bodily viewings of properties for any patrons or tenants. With digital viewings being the one permissible possibility, it turns into even tougher to make a sale.

CNA has approached the Johor chief minister’s workplace, in addition to the state housing and native authorities committee for feedback on the state of the property market and whether or not measures will probably be taken to help trade gamers.


One other headache for house owners whose properties have been left empty is their susceptibility to break-ins.

Economist Khor stated that properties that aren’t positioned inside gated communities could also be extra susceptible.

Buyers with properties in Johor however can’t be bodily there are actually confronting the sensible issues of the right way to guard, preserve and have a house-sitter, she stated.

“The truth of the extended border closure will certainly crimp some future demand,” she added. 

In September final 12 months, it was reported that police had arrested two males for breaking into homes at Taman Bukit Indah, a suburb the place foreigners have been recognized to put money into property.

Johor police added that the pair had particularly focused vacant properties whose house owners have been in Singapore as a result of border restrictions.

Rahmah Zainolabidin, a Singaporean who selected to stay in Johor Bahru throughout this pandemic, informed CNA that she has been caring for properties belonging to her relations who’ve chosen to return to the city-state.

She informed CNA how her sister’s dwelling, a terrace home positioned in a non-gated group in Taman Bukit Indah, had been robbed in August 2020.

“After I was strolling in the direction of the house from afar, I may see that one thing was flawed. The home windows have been pried open extensive and the gate was ajar,” stated the 65-year-old.

break in

The home grill, which was put in as a safety characteristic, was smashed by robbers. (Picture: Rahmah Zainolabidin) 

“They broke the gate grilles and drilled into the secure, taking 1000’s of {dollars} in money in addition to jewelry,” she added.

Rahmah stated that her sister was contemplating promoting the home, however she needed to first put aside cash to restore the harm inflicted.

“It’s unhappy as a result of she already acquired robbed, however now she has to fork out extra money to attempt to promote it off. And on this market, I’m satisfied there will probably be little curiosity, particularly with the variety of robberies reported within the space,” Rahmah added.

“Crime is a critical situation … I don’t assume individuals would contemplate shopping for properties in areas with excessive incidences of break-ins.”


The secure, which contained 1000’s of ringgit, jewelry and different valuables was additionally drilled open. (Picture supplied: Rahmah Zainolabidin) 

Charmaine Tay, a freelance agent who focuses on property offers in Johor Bahru and the Medini Iskandar Malaysia space, informed CNA that homes positioned in areas with a excessive incidence of break-ins have seen a drop in worth and demand. 

“Many patrons are conscious that landed properties are inclined to break-ins in Johor, so they have a tendency to search for these positioned inside gated areas the place there are safety checks,” stated Tay. 

“However for these homes exterior gated communities, particularly in areas like Taman Bukit Indah the place theft is frequent, they’re tougher to promote, and the worth has depreciated sooner not too long ago,” she added 


These interviewed by CNA stated that there are two teams of patrons who may assist pave the best way in the direction of restoration within the residential property sector.

The primary group is potential patrons from different states. 

Choy of Knight Frank predicted that home tourism will seemingly recuperate first. She famous how within the second half of 2020, the property market noticed a slight rebound when motion restrictions have been lifted domestically earlier than one other wave of infections hit in September.

Choy stated that many Malaysians who’ve been caught in Kuala Lumpur would then take some “leisure time without work” and probably purchase or lease properties within the smaller cities.

Nevertheless, she warned that the high-rise residential sector in Johor would solely see gradual and gradual progress because the models, that are in plentiful oversupply, will not be priced proper for locals.

“Builders have since then restructured and re-looked at planning to focus on extra native purchasers i.e. by lowering unit sizing and thus, the top pricing – this makes the costs extra palatable for the area people,” stated Choy.

READ: ‘The ball is in our court docket’: Johor chief minister on lowering COVID-19 instances and border reopening with Singapore

The return of overseas patrons may present some reduction.

Choy highlighted the reopening of borders will present “a extra optimistic outlook with extra certainty and suppleness on journey preparations”, particularly with the presently low costs. 

She famous that whilst there will probably be cut price hunters from abroad, overseas patrons ought to word the Johor land administration has said that there’s a minimal threshold of RM1 million on residential properties for non-Malaysian residents. 

With borders remaining shut within the brief time period, the state of affairs appears particularly bleak for these determined to promote their properties like Gan, who can’t discover a purchaser regardless of reducing his asking worth for his 4-room residence at Lovell Nation Backyard.

“It’s a sticky state of affairs. Though we had good occasions utilizing it as a weekend dwelling, finally shopping for it was a flawed resolution we now remorse,” he stated.

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