Targeting the well-heeled of Klang Valley

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DATUK Teo Chiang Hong, managing director of Bandar Utama Development Sdn Bhd, is having a busy day with back-to-back interviews with various members of the press when City & Country drops by his office.

There is a flurry of activity at the sales office in Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya as the developer is about to launch the first phase of the township's most luxurious landed homes. Known as The Effingham, the phase comprises 3-storey zero-lot bungalows that cater for the well-heeled in the Klang Valley. With a GDV of RM458 million, it covers about 32.28 acres.

After Teo settles down for the interview with us, one of his first topic is the origin of the project's name. "I'm sure everyone is wondering why we picked such a curious name," he chuckles. Clearly, he has been asked the question more than once.

He relates that the 1,000-acre tract on which Bandar Utama sits was acquired in the 1970s by parent company See Hoy Chan Holdings Group, and was previously an oil palm and rubber plantation called the Effingham Estate.

The late Datuk Teo Hang Sam, founder of See Hoy Chan, had built the group up from a simple sundry shop in 1938. He dabbled in the import and export business before venturing into rubber plantations, insurance and property development.

Currently, some of the companies parked under the group are See Hoy Chan (M) Sdn Bhd, See Hoy Chan (Plantation) Sdn Bhd, See Hoy Chan Plantations (Sabah) Sdn Bhd, Bandar Utama City Corp Sdn Bhd, Bandar Utama Development Sdn Bhd, 1 Utama Shopping Centre Sdn Bhd, One World Hotel Sdn Bhd, First Nationwide Capital Sdn Bhd, First City Capital Sdn Bhd, Mortgage Corp Sdn Bhd and KBU International College.

Says Chiang Hong: "Because they are the only bungalow units for sale in Bandar Utama, we named them after the original name of the place. It is our way of preserving the name and remembering the roots of this place."

Nevertheless, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And like the previous homes launched by the developer in the township, the bungalows have received overwhelming response — a few thousand registrants for the 212 units in the project. The developer launched only 90 completed units in the first phase on Jan 19 via a ballot.

The EffinghamSited along Persiaran Bukit Utama at the border of Bandar Utama and Mutiara Damansara, the development stands out as one of the group's most luxurious projects. High brick walls surround the gated and guarded development, which boasts its own clubhouse — complete with a swimming pool and indoor and outdoor gyms.

The Effingham is also located opposite the township's clubhouse and a nine-hole golf course in Bukit Utama. It is adjacent to the neighbourhoods of BU 4 and BU 6, which consist mostly of 2-storey terraced links. Across the road from it is the IPC shopping centre in Mutiara Damansara's shopping strip.

There are nine types of units in the phase. The villa-inspired homes have an average built-up of 6,000 sq ft and prices start at RM800 psf. Maintenance cost is RM600 per month regardless of the size of the bungalow. Each unit comes with water features and landscaping. There is also a barbecue pit on the balcony of the third floor.

A preview of the homes was held from Jan 12 to 18 at which potential buyers could pick the units they were interested in.

A 10% deposit has to be paid at the signing of the sales and purchase agreement and the rest of the amount will have to be settled in 3+1 months.

"We have the support of all the major banks," says Chiang Hong. "As long as the unit is fully paid for, buyers can move in by Chinese New Year."

Following the launch of the homes, it is back to work on the next phase for the team. "The next two phases of The Effingham will be launched in batches of 50 or 60. These will only be available in another two to three years though," Chiang Hong remarks, referring to the company's build-then-sell strategy.

So, what kind of buyers are they targeting? "Considering that the prices start at RM4.5 million, we are looking at high-income professionals and entrepreneurs who will be buying for their own occupation," says Chiang Hong.

Based on Bandar Utama's track record of strong capital appreciation and because of the lack of new landed home launches in the vicinity, he believes prices will rise in the future.

Bandar UtamaThe township has blossomed in the past 20 years while the developer has won many coveted awards locally and internationally for transforming the former plantation into a successful integrated development with various amenities and landmarks such as 1 Utama Shopping Centre and One World Hotel. Capital values have also shot up, making the address one of the most sought after in the Petaling Jaya area.

According to Chiang Hong, Bandar Utama's very first phase of 2-storey terraced houses, called BU 1, were launched at RM178,000 in the 1990s, but today, they are going for more than RM1 million on the secondary market.

The secret of the developer's success has to be its unconventional and gutsy decision to build then sell. While other developers chose to achieve quick turnover on their investments, the Bandar Utama developer opted to take it slow and steady — building and launching its township phase by phase.

"No one who bought our property has lost money. We are careful about our reputation
This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of Jan 21-27, 2013.