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Tips to avoid bad property investments
Source: The Sun Daily 28.03.2008

INVESTING in real estate has always been a popular choice by many to hedge against inflation or as an alternative to the more volatile equity market. For the aspiring lot who want to make money this way, the most common goal is to buy cheap and sell high, but like every other investment, there are risks.

Being straddled by high mortgage payments for a home that has little capital appreciation or having to let go of an investment at a price lower than the developer's initial launch are real life situations. However, one can often avoid getting burnt by a bad property investment by taking note of some common do's and don'ts in real estate investing.

The things to look into before inking a deal would differ, depending on whether one buys from the primary or secondary market, but the most common factor to consider for both is, of course, the location of the property.

Propertyplus speaks to Raine & Horne International Zaki and Partners Sdn Bhd associate director James Tan who says that those keen on investing in the primary market should not buy units without making a visit to the actual site.

He says that negative factors to be noted are proximity to rivers, graveyards, places of worship, hill slopes, power substations, highways, open spaces, hawker centre and markets, as these places could affect the resale prices.

"Investment properties in secondary locations generally do not fare well. It is better to have a prime spot. For example, shop houses in the front row facing the main road fetch far greater values than a similar unit at the back. The difference in value and rental can be between 20 to 40%," says Tan.

AIM Realty principal Amy Tey agrees, saying that many buyers today are unwilling to pay more for a unit with an unfavorable location as they know that for the same price they could get a similar unit in a more appealing spot. "Accessibility is also vital.

A project with a good concept, design and pricing will not appreciate much if it is a hassle to get in and out of the area," she says.

More points to consider before sealing a deal:

1. Know the developer:
A lot of Malaysians, according to Tey, still prefer to buy properties from the developer. "The most important thing is to first do some research on the background of the developer to avoid having to deal with problems such as abandoned projects," she says. Tan adds that a simple search with the Housebuyers' Association or the Real Estate Developers' Association would help identify a fly-by-night company.

2. Land tenure:
Do look into the land tenure before a purchase as some leasehold properties may be sold with terms that are shorter than the 99 years. "Although leasehold condominiums are a popular choice because developers sometimes price them lower than a similar freehold condo, many purchasers still prefer to own a freehold home as it gives them peace of mind and security knowing it is truly theirs," says Tey.

3. Project density:
Tan says it is good to note the number of units in a scheme, as it is a factor in determining the potential for capital appreciation. "A project with less than 100 units has better opportunity for appreciation compared with a project with 1,000 units. The higher the density, the lower its potential for capital appreciation," he adds.

4. Property check:
When searching for a potential real estate to buy, it is good to look beyond the exterior. Tan feels that no one should buy a property without first doing a thorough check of the whole house and keeping a lookout for things such as roof leakage, termite attack, flooding and so on.

5. Keep a cool head:
Real estate agents are good at selling their products and that is why they do it for a living. It is easy to get carried away with the marketing talk, but regardless of how sincere an agent appears, always seek advice from lawyers or consultants before signing a contract.

6. Economic environment:
Investing in real estate requires some basic knowledge of the property cycle. Some are able to predict the boom time and make money for their investment, while others are unable to gather income from a rental property purchased at the peak of the cycle. Tey cited an example: "A client purchased office suites near the Taman Jaya LRT station in the early 1990s for a high price when the market was good, but when the recession hit, he was stuck with low rental rates and was unable to sell the unit for a good price as the secondary prices were nowhere near the developer's price."

These are but some of the guidelines for property investment hunting but there are many other things to take note of, says Tan.

One is to check on the transferability of the property title; whether the property can be sold while it is under construction. The other, he warns, is to avoid buying property which does not have the necessary approvals from the authorities. "Buyers should not buy a property that do not have the approval of the authorities as they can tear down illegal extensions and alterations," says Tan. At the end of the day, it takes a little bit of luck as well to find your perfect home or investment property.