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Tuesday April 10, 2012

Govt may double minimum price of houses foreigners can buy

By DANIEL KHOO
danielkhoo@thestar.com.my


RM1mil floor price?

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government is considering raising the minimum floor prices of houses foreigners are allowed to buy to RM1mil from the current RM500,000 in an effort to control the rise in property prices, sources said.

They said such a decision was “in the pipeline” and the implementation would be made by the economic planning unit (EPU) under the Prime Minister's Department currently headed by Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

“From what I understand, these revised guidelines have been discussed at the ministerial level and should this be enforced, it will mean that foreigners will only be allowed to buy properties priced above RM1mil. For now, the base price is set at RM500,000 for foreigners. This base price is a bit low looking at present circumstances,” a government source who requested anonymity said.

“The current trend in the property market indicates that prices are still continuing to climb despite measures by Bank Negara to curb property prices from spiralling out of control. We need to act before it goes further out of hand,” the Putrajaya source added.

Another source said the revised guidelines would also consider a slightly lower base price threshold of RM800,000 for residential properties in selected economic corridors such as Johor's Iskandar Malaysia to ensure the development and success of these corridor hotspots.

“This base price will also be subject to reviews by the Government from time to time depending on the inflationary situation of the economy and to keep overall inflation in check,” the source said.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim had recently told the press that the Government would take “strict measures” to avoid a US subprime mortgage financial crisis after average house prices jumped almost 7% in the fourth quarter of last year despite measures announced by Bank Negara to rein in property prices.

“The Government is worried about property prices causing a bubble and we don't want banks to overlend to the property sector,” Lim said.

Industry sources surveyed by StarBiz said foreigners that tend to buy properties in Malaysia were those from South Korea, Japan, China and Singapore.

“This move will give an advantage to locals, especially those in the middle-income category as locals will not need to compete with foreigners. I am not surprised by this move, but our agency has so far seen mostly people from China and Singapore buying properties above RM1mil anyway,” a KL-based licensed real estate negotiator who did not want to be named said.

“However, we may see fewer transactions from the Koreans and Japanese. Westerners such as those from the United States and Europe won't usually buy. They prefer to rent instead,” the real estate negotiator added.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the higher floor price is expected to have a minimal impact on the property market in Malaysia as official statistics show that only 2.4% (worth RM1.45bil) of transactions conducted in the residential sector last year were worth RM1mil and more.

The Finance Ministry's Valuation and Property Services Department Property Market Report 2011 released last week showed there were 269,789 residential property transactions worth RM61.83bil transacted last year, the highest recorded in the last five years.

“Both volume and value recorded double-digit growth of 18.9% and 22.1% respectively. The All House Price Index surged to 156.9 points in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2011 against 147.2 points registered in Q4 2010,” the report said.

The report said that landed housing was on a “general upward trend” in Malaysia and also attributed the rise in property prices to the Sungai Buloh-Kajang My Rapid Transit project.

“Across the board, terraced houses in KL recorded increases of 8%-13%. Increased prices of landed houses on Penang island were apparent. The highest transacted price of two- and three-storey detached (houses) were at RM2.05mil and RM5.15mil respectively,” the report said.

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