Triple ThreatNew Penang properties show investors why the time to buy is right now

Penang may be small by some standards, but that isn’t stopping the island’s rapid development in the coming years. Buoyed by strong fundamental industries in agriculture and tourism as well as emerging ones in financial services and technology, the preferred holiday destination in Malaysia has a diverse property investment market that appeals to investors. Second and holiday homes are common, but Penang’s relaxed lifestyle, burgeoning infrastructure and high standard of living are attracting buyers considering a retirement location.

A raft of projects have just been completed, among them Hunza’s Gurney Paragon and Ivory Properties’ Moonlight Bay. The 700former, located on Georgetown’s so-called Millionaire’s Row, is a fully loaded condominium development with units ranging between approximately 2,810 and 4,600 square feet with prices starting at HK$5 million. The latter is located in Batu Ferringhi on the island’s north side and is a resort-style community surrounded by picturesque rolling hills, dotted with unassuming villages. The 70 freehold villas and 20 condos sit on six hectares of greenery and started at around HK$3 million for 2,200 square feet; villas began at HK$7 million for 4,200 square feet with a built-in lift. Those are the kinds of numbers that make Hongkongers sit up and take note, particularly when the math shakes out to around HK$1,400 per square foot.

With prices relatively low for the Asia-Pacific region, the ongoing infrastructural and economic transformation, available financing and a favourable capital gains tax of only 5 percent for 5 years — all of which applies to completely freehold property — it’s no wonder Hong Kong and Mainland China investors are increasingly turning to Malaysia. If you missed out on either of the aforementioned properties, there are plenty of options with launches on the horizon, chiefly Ivory’s Island Resort, IJM Land’s Pearl Regency and Mah Sing’s Legenda@Southbay.

If you want to blend into your surroundings, Island Resort may be the ticket. Ivory Properties has been careful to ensure the development blends in seamlessly with its hillside position, reminiscent of the developer’s project at Moonlight Bay. The layouts at Island Resort are contemporary, efficient and wholly liveable — something Hongkongers pine for — and can also be easily customised. The property is near a host of recreational and leisure facilities as well as two international schools in the event you’re not quite retirement age yet. Island Resort properties start from HK$2.9 million.

Over on the island’s east coast is the Pearl Regency, IJM’s luxury condo project a stone’s throw from the Penang Bridge, TESCO and the upcoming waterfront development. Boasting views of the sea the property is billed as a luxury, cosmopolitan address that caters to an international community. Features include complete recreational amenities as well as a shopping centre, full security and lifestyle facilities and programmes. Two- and three-bedroom residences starting in the neighbourhood of 1,400 square feet at Pearl Regency start at $1.9 million. Dr Lau, a doctor from Hong Kong, aged 30, buyer of Pearl Regency, said, “When comparing with other places in Asia, like Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore, Penang is severely undervalued and it leaves plenty of room for appreciation. I like this project as IJM has favourable terms and in a convenient location suitable for rental and resale.”

Perhaps most notable is Legenda@Southbay, part of the massive, billion-dollar Southbay development 15 kilometres southwest of central Georgetown. Comprised of residences, leisure and commercial properties, Southbay will be linked to the mainland by a second bridge expected in 2013. Legenda@Southbay is a complex of 76 (40 remaining) three- and four-storey resort style ultra-modern bungalows that range in size from 6,400 to 7,300 square feet. Units are fitted with private lifts, pools and terraces, and include a few environmental tweaks for those seeking to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum — like glass curtains, solar hot water and rainwater harvesting systems. The residents’ clubhouse is fully equipped with the requisite features but also boasts a natural two-acre park with jungle treks. Prices for homes in the exclusive and gated community start at approximately $10 million, just around $1,500 per square foot.

Island Resort, Pearl Regency and Legenda@Southbay by no means represent the entirety of the development steaming ahead in Penang right now; indeed all three developers alone have multiple projects in various stages of completion. But they do indicate the general direction the island is heading. Is it turning into another Singapore or Hong Kong? It’s probably too early to tell but there’s nothing wrong with hedging one’s bets. After all, no one believed either of those cities had much potential beyond fishing a few years back too.