“An acquaintance of mine owns five properties in Kuala Lumpur and rents them out through Airbnb. She personally attends to the rental properties, the customers and turndown service,” Previndran says. “I have also heard through the industry’s grapevine that a investor from Belgium bought 24 units en bloc with the intention of renting them out through Airbnb.”
“Income from holiday rentals may be uncertain, but it is certainly higher, if calculated on a per day basis. But the success of a property as an Airbnb rental – its demand and rental rate – is highly dependent on location and tied to the tourism industry,” he adds.
The sharing economy will also influence the number of car park spaces in future developments. Presently, local building regulations require multiple car park spaces to one residential unit. “Moving forward, though, with car-sharing becoming a norm, there will be more residential units to a single car park space, ideally four to one,” says Kam. “We see it happening in other countries and it will happen here. It’s inevitable.”
Airbnb and car-sharing are but a few of the global trends that are changing the way local investors and homebuyers choose their properties. “The young are more widely travelled and tastes are getting more sophisticated and discerning. They see through gimmicks and look for actual value for their money,” Kam says.
He elaborates, “They will appreciate the subtle details that the developer puts into the building that one might not even realise, like the way the car parks, driveways and guardhouse are designed; the way the unit is built; how the door feels when you open or close it, how the hinges move with the weight of the solid wood; the position of light switches at the entrance, bedrooms and bathrooms; the proportions of the foyer as well as the way spaces are used effectively. Only external aesthetics won’t do anymore.
“High ceilings do not necessarily feel good, by the way, but the proportion of the space is more important.” Kam’s last observation leads back to the fundamentals of good design, which should remain unchanged even as other trends come and go. “Architects now use software and technology to help design a building and layout and it is certainly much faster, but I still subscribe to the good old-fashion method of pencil and paper,” says Kam. “There is nothing like drawing layer and layer of a building, from the ground up, to get a feel of the final outcome, and then the machine can take over!”
Previndran concurs that property buyers will also become more conscientious of design and believes that they will become more fastidious towards details when making a purchasing decision. “The word that best describes this new trend is cognoscenti. People will choose very specialised architects, interior designer, and brands and material that cater for niche clients, not the mass market,” he says.
By inferring from these upcoming and unchanging trends in the property industry, this is how we imagine Isabella Bird might describe a Malaysian home today:
“Each dwelling is of designer wood, fittings and high-tech toilets, the entire building is fronted by a façade fashioned from trees to keep the heat out, the roof is more than 40 storeys high, and the whole rests on floors of shared facilities, from leisure spaces to luxurious gardens, and approached by a magnificent entrance in the richer.”