City & Country: Beneton’s commitment to long-term relationships

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Irama Wangsa brings residents closer to nature

WE’VE faced some of the most demanding markets and we’ve tapped into this experience to give customers more,” says CEO of Beneton Properties Sdn Bhd, Chan Kin-Meng.

Buildings are generally the same, but dealing with the devil in the details makes the winning difference, says Kin-Meng. This is the case for Beneton’s latest project, Irama Wangsa condominium.

Chief operating officer of Henry Butcher Marketing, Tang Chee Meng, was present during the project’s initial stages and remembers how each little detail was scrutinised. “The architect may have wanted sliding windows because they look nice but affixing curtains on them may be a problem. And when Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai (Beneton founder and executive chairman) joined us for the meetings, he would notice details that we missed. So the plans were confirmed many times only to be changed again. The poor architect,” he laughs. Henry Butcher is the exclusive marketing agent for the project.

Buying your first piece of property is probably one of the most important decisions someone makes in a lifetime. As with choosing a life partner, a certain rapport needs to be established between developer and buyer. This is what Beneton has strived to achieve with Irama Wangsa.

“We try to design a place that we ourselves don’t mind staying in, then it would probably work for others too,” says Kin-Meng. “It’s not like selling cakes; this is an important investment. People make their house a home; they grow in them.”

Irama Wangsa is a 25-storey condominium development with a gross development value (GDV) of RM400 million. It is located near Section 10, Wangsa Maju and the housing area of Taman Setapak Jaya and Taman Sri Rampai. The land was bought about three years ago for around RM100 psf.

Kin-Meng was taken with the location from the very beginning. “It is in the countryside yet still close to the centre of KL. And the best part, it’s freehold while other parcels around it are leasehold,” he says.

He recalls that when the land was first procured accessibility was an issue but the DUKE highway now makes it very convenient to reach. It is also close to the Sri Rampai and Jelatek light rail transit stations and Wangsa Walk mall.

According to Avtar Singh of Carey Real Estate (Ampang) Sdn Bhd, Wangsa Maju is a good area for development being both vibrant and close to the city centre. He adds that there is a large number of locals and professionals in the area.

“There’s a good mix of population there and ample amenities such as schools and hospitals that are close by.”

Avtar says developments in the area would do well as demand is strong particularly for mid-end residences of RM500,000 to RM600,000. He foresees that a new development in the area could easily reach a 30% appreciation in value in the next few years.

Beneton envisages the Irama Wangsa as a gated and guarded community. Sitting on nine acres of freehold land, it has two phases; phase one comprises Tower A (222 units) and Tower B (232 units), and phase two comprises Tower C (200 units).

The built-up area for units in Blocks A and B ranges from 991 sq ft to 1,400 sq ft and Block C from 1,206 sq ft to 1,637 sq ft. For Tower A, the number of units per floor is 11; Tower B, 12 units; and Tower C, 10 units. There are seven different types of layout to accommodate different individual preferences and requirements.  

Prices start from RM535,000 (about RM500 to 600 psf for blocks A and B and from RM600 psf for block C).

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The development will be a gated and guarded community

The hills are alive

Irama Wangsa is built around a hill. “Instead of cutting down the hill to flatten the land, we thought why not leave it there and build around it. This way, residents can enjoy a park in the vicinity of their homes,” Kin-Meng says.

He adds that more and more people are moving into condominiums out of lifestyle preference. “When we were growing up, we lived in houses and we could run out and play on the grass anytime we wanted to. But children of the future may not even know what it’s like to go out and play,” he frets. “So I wanted to create a place where it’s safe for children to run around and look forward to going back to.”

A recreational area will be made available and link to the hill through a pathway. Residents will be able to enjoy five acres of greenery and a wide range of facilities.

These will include a 10,000 sq ft clubhouse featuring an outdoor recreational deck. There will also be a free-form resort swimming pool, a 25m lap pool with “infinity edge overflow”, and a 50m Jungle Island pool with sunken seats.

There will also be a shallow pool area for older children and a child pool with a slide. Nature lovers get a 500m Natural Jungle Walk. Two playgrounds will be available; one for children seven years and above and the other for children aged two to six years.

The main challenge in building this development, according to Kin-Meng is to maintain the existing land features. “We had to design the project so that it would go around the hill and not over it.  We did not want to demolish the hill as other residents in the area would get upset. Whatever you build needs to take into consideration the area,” he stresses.

It was also to incorporate green features into the building and obtain a green rating from Malaysia’s Green Building Index.

“If you want a big pool, according to the green building regulators you will be using a lot of water resources. So how do you mitigate that? In our case, we planted trees around the area so that their shade reduces water evaporation.”

Developers need to be different, yet relevant to the times, he adds. “For example, people possess more gadgets and more sockets are required in a home. For Irama Wangsa, we installed inclusive sockets so that if you ever need to add wiring all you have to do is string through the socket instead of hacking at the wall and patching it up.”

In tough times, buyers want to feel the quality

While many developers lament the current soft market conditions, Kin-Meng is unperturbed.

“Property buyers will be more discerning and real quality will come out of these challenging times,” he says, adding that the property market in Malaysia is of high quality, with its many new ideas being driven by the strong national need for housing.

He says the slowdown in sales is seen across the industry. “Good projects are still selling well, just not as well as before. Despite all that is happening, a good quality project that is in a great location is something that people will stretch to get,” explains Kin-Meng.

According to Kin-Meng, there was no advertising for the first phase, launched in July. “We’ve only had a soft launch for the first phase. We sold 50% to 60% and these were repeat buyers who have bought from Henry Butcher and Beneton. Launch for phase two for Irama Wangsa will be in early November this year. Apart from that, leasing for Rhombus is still ongoing.”  

Rhombus Bangsar is a high-rise residential development comprising 25 units of about 4,000 sq ft each. They are only available for lease, from RM18,000 to RM24,000 a month.

Tang explains that some projects experience a larger drop in sales than others because most of their investors are speculators. “These investors would already have existing loans and when they try to apply for a new one, won’t qualify or get as much as they need. It is much easier for owner-occupiers to get a loan since most are first-time buyers,” says Tang.

Kin-Meng does not foresee a property bubble as he believes that the demand for homes is not yet met: “According to statistics, the supply of homes in the Klang Valley as of last year was satisfied by two-thirds of completed buildings, so developers will only be able to supply one-third of the market. And words like bubble are sometimes too easily used.”

Tang opines that while property prices have been severely hiked up in the last four years, the recent cooling measures by the government have removed speculators from the market.

Going by gut

Interestingly, Beneton does not keep landbank. “We usually scout around for suitable land and if it fits  [our project requirements] and the feeling is right, we buy it and then plan the development. It’s a nice, interesting challenge to build something that suits that particular area,” says Kin-Meng.

For now, Irama Wangsa is the main focus for Beneton being its “flagship”. “In a year’s time, if we find suitable land, then we’ll come up with something new,” he says.  

That said, it is looking to expand in the Klang Valley as this is where most of its resources are invested. Beneton has also been developing projects in London for the past five years.

His target for the next five? “I am hoping that the completion of the MRT and LRT lines will allow me to take public transport like in other countries where it is so efficient. It would also mean less need to carve out land to make parking spaces and fewer cars on the road. Seriously, that would be great.”

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 06-12, 2014.