Saturday March 9, 2013
Property investment sentiment
Power Lunch by MARINA SUWENDY
Malaysians like to buy overseas residential property where their children are studying
LAST week, we managed to catch up with Jazmine Goh, chief operating officer of International Real Estate Marketing at Henry Butcher Marketing Consultancy Sdn Bhd, at Lai Po Heen Restaurant (Mandarin Oriental) for a Power Lunch session.
Over dim sum, I managed to catch up with Goh to find out a little about herself, the industry she's in and what to expect when attending an exhibition put together by the Henry Butcher team.
As our food was served, Goh graciously consented to share a little about her journey.
“I've been with the company for 11 years. I schooled in England for real estate (BSc in Real Estate Management at Oxford Brookes University) and worked in Singapore with other consultancy firms. I came to Malaysia 11 years ago to work with Henry Butcher. The long and short of it is that I didn't want to study the mainstream subjects. I thought it was quite boring to go into law or accounting. So, the field of real estate cropped up and I thought why not study something that not so many people were studying. I went home and told my dad that all the tycoons in the world were real estate people. So I just went into it, not knowing very much. However, I found it an interesting field of study.”
Upon graduation, Goh focused on compulsory acquisitions representing individuals and asset management, before joining Henry Butcher as a business development executive, before eventually making the transition towards international marketing.
Goh says that at Henry Butcher, specialisation is an important key to its operations. “We're very specialised in what we do. International marketing comes to me. But we work together, so it depends on what the client requires. It could be about investment opportunities in London or Melbourne. I will run the initial investment appraisal, including the feasibility studies. Then, it might involve the architect or the town planner coming in, etc. Then, we put together a team, and because it's overseas, it would be done within our network that is based overseas as well. From there, if they would like to launch their project, we could also act as their marketing consultant. We'd advise them on marketing strategy, pricing strategy and marketing campaigns, including the sales part. It's quite full-fledged, what we can offer.”
Due to time constraints, we briefly discussed the different departments and touched lightly on the Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H), so that we would have time to include a walk-through of the ongoing Henry Butcher exhibition.
As a company, it has focused extensively on not only introducing foreign projects to Malaysians, but also in drawing foreign investors to our country through the MM2H programme. Goh explains that foreigners have begun to realise that Malaysia is a very attractive option to consider with regards to the country still developing extensively, with the MM2H's 10-year stay visa akin to the icing on the cake, especially since some countries have made migration a fairly difficult process.
She shares that they've seen huge interest, especially from Singaporeans, and steadily growing interest from the Middle East, the UK, Japan and South Korea. Without going into details, she hints at Henry Butcher working to target investors from China, the difference in approach that is needed when marketing to Chinese nationals and how a dedicated department had been set up to specialise in bringing Chinese investors to Malaysia.
With a quick savouring of the restaurant's signature Durian Crepes, Goh gave me a rundown of the next two exhibitions that Henry Butcher would be launching in Malaysia, as we walked towards the function room where an exhibition was in progress.
The first on the company's list of upcoming exhibitions is The Hamptons, scheduled to launch on March 16 at One World Hotel KL. The Hamptons is an award-winning harbour front community at Breakfast Point (Sydney), and Goh informs me that Malaysia has been targeted to be the first launch internationally for the new development.
She says that apart from looking to just diversify their investment portfolios, Malaysians do have a tendency to be drawn to overseas projects for personal reasons. “It's about family ties as well. Australia, for instance ... a lot of Malaysians have families there. Before the British pound depreciated, it was cheaper to send their children for further education there. Malaysians believe the educational system is better overseas, such as in Singapore, Australia or the UK. So, that's one of the key reasons why people want to invest there. It makes sense for them to buy a house or apartment so that their children can use it. Or they can also rent out their property at a fairly decent yield. And when the property appreciates, they can sell it for a profit and that would pay for the next kid's tuition fees,” she says.
Although this may seem like a pretty sentimental reason to buy into a foreign investment, as someone recently put it to me, there's great interest and weight to be given to the concept of future-proofing. Having recently handled the launch of the MY80 and securing 70%-80% sales, of which a large percentage was bought by Malaysian investors, Goh is certain that the launch of international properties in Malaysia is likely to continue to escalate.
As we look through an ongoing London exhibit, Goh demonstrates how the touch screen computer system they've incorporated into the building works. With a touch of a button, the selected unit lights up, and detailed floor plans, etc are all made available to the buyer.
“We provide as much material and literature as possible. We work with the developer to provide help and convenience to our overseas buyers. We arrange for private appointments to travel to view since most of our customers prefer to remain low-profile. Some private investors will buy en bloc. There are a lot of these kinds of investors,” she shares while presenting me with the brochure of CityScape London, which they will be launching on March 29. She tells me that although London is the latest city to be added to Henry Butcher's portfolio of international properties, they have made it somewhat of a priority as they've noticed a continually growing interest in their investors. “London has attracted a larger number of commercial investors. I think that now that London is on the table, and people see how they've gone through the experience fairly positively, in the long run, they would value London as part of their established investment portfolio. They may shift around, but this is a more established basket that they value.”
Henry Butcher was recently involved in securing the sale of Lancer square to Bellworth Developments at the price of £40mil.
As I flipped through the brochures that I had been handed, and looked through the busy line-up of exhibitions that Henry Butcher is scheduled to host within Malaysia and South-East Asia, one can't help but wonder just how successful these launches are, and whether the economy has impacted the interest in international investment.
Of this, Goh takes a positive view of the coming year, explaining that there are always two sides to looking at economic stability when it comes to international property investment.
“We had a bit of a slowdown in terms of sales activities during the second quarter of 2012. But it picked up again. Overall, it's not too bad for us because whatever that goes on politically here in terms of uncertainty, also drives sales up because people feel it's a good time to diversify now. So, there is that other factor that is very subtle in the background for why people invest overseas as well,” she shares, while telling me of how the success of their Fulton Lane first launch could attest to this.
“Asians are very acceptable to buying properties off-plan (three years earlier). They see it as an investment that's not too heavy on the cash flow as well. Usually, the payment terms are quite easy. London properties launched here may launch up to a year later in London. They start selling overseas first,” she explains, highlighting that there have been instances where overseas developments have been fully sold to foreign investors during these international exhibitions.
With that, I thanked Goh for her time, as the exhibition geared up to welcome the afternoon crowd.