Cover Story: Data-Driven Developments: Lionel Leong Jihn Haur

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 30, 2019 - January 05, 2020.
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Lionel Leong Jihn Haur (31)

Director of group strategy and operations Mah Sing Group Bhd

Started in 2013; Bachelor of Economics and Finance, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

 

Mah Sing Group Bhd ventured into property development in 1994

Presence in Greater Kuala Lumpur, the Klang Valley, Penang, Johor and Sabah with a portfolio of residential, commercial, hospitality and industrial developments and integrated townships.

Total GDV of ongoing and pipeline projects is RM43.5 billion.

 

What is your view of the current property market?

Other than the primary housing market, where buyers’ appetite has leant towards affordable products in the past four years, we need to also monitor the secondary market. Both are crucial to having a healthy property ecosystem and a blip on the secondary market may cause a correction on two aspects. First, it affects new homebuyers’ interest in buying property and secondly, for developers, banks may draw back on providing loans as land values may see a correction in the future. A well-performing secondary market is important to elevate the physiological feel-good factor that will complement market sentiment.

 

What are the issues in the property market that need addressing?

The government could work with the financial institutions to relax lending conditions and introduce friendlier foreign purchase policies. This will help bring more liquidity to the secondary market and stabilise property prices.

I appreciate the government’s latest announcement to improve the Real Property Gains Tax policy after receiving market feedback. The government could also consider further improvements to the RPGT policy as many homebuyers are looking to upgrade. This will continuously attract more activity to the secondary housing market.

 

What new ideas will disrupt the Malaysian property market?

I believe the data-driven economy is finally here for the real estate sector. From the inception of big data and analytics, data has provided incredible insights into the professional real estate industry. The analysis of data collected from external and internal platforms has become an important part of our decision-making process.

Companies need to be more inquisitive about the data points they collect and act from the insights they gather. For instance, being able to listen attentively to what our customers are saying on the ground, compiling the feedback and responding accordingly in a short timeframe will help us strengthen our relationship with our customers.

 

What do millennials want when it comes to property?

Property-buying decisions are usually determined by price, location and concept but at the heart of these parameters, the developer’s track record and its brand values will never lose their importance. Millennials are highly adaptable to the investment learning of their forefathers. In my view, they look for more transparency and authenticity in developers that resonate with their value systems.

In our case, we start from within and focus on the right context from the planning stage. From the time we source our land, we have an end goal in mind before the feasibility study is done. We also start to incorporate design thought into our products and ensure our products’ messaging exemplifies our commitment.

We constantly remind our team that every decision we make will leave trails of authenticity, good or bad. If our colleagues see the management leading with the right motives, they will stay aligned and our customers will benefit from the behavioural outcome that comes with it.

 

What in your opinion is the outlook for the property market in 2020?

I believe the property market will continue to stay resilient as young families and upgraders are still looking to own a home. The property market will continue to adapt and developers are learning to serve the millennial market well. We have seen success when the market embodies themes of ‘urbanised energy, placemaking efforts and conscious developments’ as the lifestyle trends are not showing signs of slowing down.

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