The return of the pearl of the Orient

By THE STAR

PENANG’S charm and natural attraction as a heritage island state should be further harnessed and concerted efforts from both the authorities and the private sector are necessary to return the lustre of the “Pearl of the Orient.”

In the real estate sector, Penang is a very interesting and diverse market that offers much untapped potential for local and foreign investors.

Industry players concurred that more need to be done to optimise the state’s potential to attract more tourists and real estate investors to retire or have second homes there.

According to E & O Property Development Bhd marketing and sales director K. C. Chong, much more can be done not only to promote the distinctiveness of Penang’s heritage and assets but also to ensure a quality environment that was on par with other destinations on the world stage.

“There is a growing trend to own second homes, amongst both locals and foreigners. In this respect, Penang has certainly more attractions from say, island locations in Thailand and Indonesia, and may even eclipse more popular destinations such as the Middle East and Europe,” Chong said.

SP Setia Bhd group managing director Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin said Penang’s idyllic charm and leisurely pace of life had turned it into a favourite investment destination among foreigners.

“On a daily basis, there are 14 international flights and 20 domestic flights into Penang, which goes to show its vibrancy as a business-cum-tourist spot,” Liew added.

Sunway City Bhd senior managing director Datuk C. K. Wong said compared with other cities in the region, high-end residential properties in Penang were still relatively cheaper and offered good upside potential.

While prices in Penang hover around RM500 per sq ft (psf), similar properties in Hong Kong have price tags of RM15,000 psf while in Shanghai, they are in the range of RM11,000 psf.

Meanwhile, the rising cost of land and building materials is cited as one of the main challenges faced by industry players.

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Penang chairman Datuk Jerry Chan said the rising cost was pushing property prices upwards.

“When you add in the cost that developers have to contribute towards the building of low-cost housing and other public amenities, property prices will escalate even more. We would like to urge the Government to ease the burden of these social responsibilities on the developers.”

Chan also called on banking institutions to ease up on their credit terms for housing loans.

“Right now the terms are very strict, making it very difficult for purchasers to obtain housing loan,” he said.

Ivory Properties Group general manager Chok Keng Vui agreed that the escalating cost of land and raw materials was the key challenge facing developers.

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