City&Country: Miramas building affordable luxury

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Do what you know best,” says Ng Chee Hua, managing director of Miramas Group.
What Ng knows best is building homes. An accountant by profession, Ng began his career in property development more than 35 years ago. He was involved in the development of Taman Desa, Faber Union Sdn Bhd’s integrated housing project off Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuala Lumpur, Genting Group’s development of several hotels in Genting Highlands and the development of Sri Hartamas, at Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, by Sri Hartamas Bhd.
“I picked up my passion for property development from there and learned a lot from my years with these companies,” says Ng.
It was not long before Ng embraced his entrepreneurial spirit and set out on his own. Miramas Group was incorporated in 1981, and started off with a small housing project of less than 100 units of link houses in Ng’s hometown of Muar, Johor.
Miramas has come long way since then, amassing a good number of housing projects which include the RM220 million township Taman Yayasan in Segamat, the RM95 million Taman Sri Pulai 1 & 2 in Seremban and the RM20 million Bangi Villa at Bangi, Selangor.
“Since 2005, we have shifted our focus to the Klang Valley. The market here is a lot more exciting and much more suitable for us to do high-end developments,” says Ng.
Positioning itself as a boutique developer of niche high-end products, Miramas launched Casabella @ Bandar Sunway in 2005. Comprising 31 units of 3-storey bungalows, the project has a gross development value (GDV) of RM65 million. It was fully sold and completed in 2007.
Buoyed by the success of the project, Miramas went on to launch another bungalow development under the Casabella banner in Kota Damansara in late 2009. The development, which has a GDV of RM180 million, comprises 72 units of 3-storey bungalows and is expected to be completed by end-2011. It has a take-up of over 90%.
Now, says Ng, Miramas is ready to up the luxury benchmark set in the previous two Casabella developments with Casabella @ GrandVille, USJ One.

Upgrader’s marketPlacing emphasis on space and luxury, the newest Casabella offers 52 bungalows and eight semi-detached homes. The bungalows have built-ups ranging from 4,562 to 9,289 sq ft, while the semidees have a standard built-up of 5,360 sq ft.
The development is a joint venture between Miramas and Koperasi Pendidikan Islam Malaysia and has a GDV of RM170 million.
Much thought has been given to the design, says Ng, ensuring ample space along with practicality and functionality.
For example, anticipating extended families, the project’s signature Type A bungalow features a studio-style wing attached to the main building via the porte-cochere.
Ng believes that in a competitive housing market, the design, built-up and most importantly, the price, can be the deciding factors for most buyers.
“Our selling price of an average of RM420 psf is very reasonable. We have noticed that a lot of similar developments are selling at RM500 to RM600 psf,” says Ng.
The competitive pricing is also to enable Miramas to tap into the upgrader’s market. Ng points out that most properties in USJ are old and owned by longtime residents with grown or growing children, which means there will be residents looking to upgrade.
“That is why our prices need to be more affordable and considering the quality of the product as well as the large size, it will be a value buy,” says Ng.
The development had its soft launch in November 2010, and has achieved a take-up rate of more than 50%. Ng notes that, as expected, the majority of the buyers are from the Subang-USJ enclave looking to upgrade.
Despite expecting a younger group of buyers, Ng was surprised by their ages.
“I’m surprised at how young some of the buyers are, quite a lot of them are in their 30s. This can only happen in big cities like Kuala Lumpur where earnings are much higher,” he observes.
The development will be officially launched on March 5 and Ng is expecting a good response. As with all of Miramas’ projects, construction starts about six months prior to the launch, which ensures a sample house will be ready for viewing.
This approach works well for the developer as it allows buyers to know exactly what they are buying, rather than trying to visualise it from the brochure, says Ng.
“Also, because we started construction earlier, the development will be completed less than a year from now. I think this gives buyers extra confidence in our projects,” he adds.

Staying nicheMiramas intends to focus on niche high-end developments in the Klang Valley, says Ng.
“It is an area that we do well in. Our strategy is to buy ready, approved land in a maturd area, even if it is expensive, because the demand will be there,” says Ng.
Currently, the developer’s landbank in the Klang Valley consists of the 10.2-acre Casabella @ Kota Damansara and the 9.55-acre Casabella @ GrandVille, USJ One.
“We are aggressively looking for small parcels of land at the moment. We have identified a few areas, such as Cheras and Wangsa Maju, but nothing has been finalised yet,” says Ng, adding that the company has about RM300 million worth of ongoing projects.
Miramas has no plans to stop building projects in the smaller towns even though it is moving into the big cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Baru.
“We will continue with developments in places like Muar and Seremban, but it is hard to expand there due to the lack of buying power. The GDV of a 10-acre development in Kuala Lumpur is equivalent to the GDV of a 100-acre development in Muar,” says Ng.
He believes staying competitive in a tough market means that the product must not only be of high quality, the prices must be reasonable as well.
“Even though the profit margin is getting thinner and thinner because of the increasing price of raw materials and land cost, you cannot be too greedy. Keep it affordable and ensure that your products have room for good capital appreciation,” he says.
One thing Ng is not worried about is demand. He believes people will always need a home, especially in the city with its growing population.
And as far as Ng is concerned, about two good projects a year is good enough for his company. “We are a boutique developer and we want to stay that way,” he comments.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 846, Feb 21-27, 2011