Pros and cons of investing in a gated and guarded community

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians have been bombarded with news reports of break-ins, sexual assaults and road bullies in the last few years. We don’t need news reports to inform us that the crime rate is escalating. Many of us have either fallen victim to criminals in recent times, or know of friends and relatives who have.
Security, it seems, has become a prized commodity. It is for this reason that gated and guarded (G&G) developments are becoming popular with Malaysians even though it comes with a high price tag. “The crime rate in KL is high, despite what the official figures say.
So, when developers come up with a gated and guarded development, there is a premium on the price that buyers are prepared to pay for,” says James Wong, director of VPC Alliance (KL) Sdn Bhd.
Security aside, G&G concepts are being built in response to consumers’ desire for better living standards, says Eric Ooi Yew Hock, managing director of real-estate advisory firm Knight Frank Malaysia. They give middle- and upper-income earners an upgraded lifestyle, he adds.
Wong describes a G&G development as a cluster of houses within a secured and gated residential community. “There are two components to a G&G development.
One, you buy into a ready-made development and two, you buy land and build your own house.” Characteristics of a G&G development would include security in the form of parameter fencing, guard patrols and 24-hour closed-circuit television (CCTV) facilities, adds Wong.
“There is also a guard house and security bar to control access to the community.” Such a development also offers quality living with the provision of recreational facilities and landscaping. “Facilities will include a clubhouse, swimming pool and mini jogging tracks,” he says.
Ooi  adds that G&G developments include condominiums or a phase or parcel of landed residences grouped within a walled area. “The developments may also include a mix of condominiums and landed residences.”
Ooi says some of the earliest G&G projects can be found in Country Heights in Kajang, Mines in Seri Kembangan, Tropicana in Petaling Jaya, and Kelab Golf Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (KGSAAS) and Glenmarie Court in Shah Alam.
“Basically, the earlier ones were incorporated with golf courses and clubhouses and were affordable only for corporate and high-net-worth individuals. They were targeted as luxury homes,” he notes.

The price
The premium for G&G homes can be hefty. Ng Seing Liong, immediate past president of Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda), notes that a G&G property unit can cost almost twice as much as a non-G&G unit. “While a normal terraced house in the Klang area costs RM260,000, a similar unit in a G&G development costs RM500,000.”
Foo Gee Jen, managing director of C H Williams Talhar & Wong, agrees. “Some double-storey terraced houses in Desa ParkCity cost nearly RM1 million.
However, similar units in neighbouring township like Bandar Sri Damansara cost only RM450,000 to RM500,000.”
However, it has been observed that G&G developments register a higher capital appreciation rate. “Generally, for non-G&G properties, the average appreciation rate is only about 5% to 6% a year. At most, it is 10% a year. However, in Lake Edge Puchong, the appreciation for a double-storey terraced house from 2005 to 2010 was 60% to 70% [12% to 14% a year],” says Foo.
Aside from the higher purchase price, monthly maintenance, sinking fund and property management fees are also part and parcel of living in a G&G development. “This cost is shared among owners in proportion to their acreage and the quality of maintenance and security required,” Ooi says. “Some schemes just contain individual homes with perimeter fencing and guarded access, but roads and open spaces are managed by the local authority. Other schemes may have more built-up areas with shared amenities like parking space, walkways and gardens.”
Maintenance charges, 10% of which usually goes into a sinking fund, differ from property to property, and so does the quality of services, says Ooi. Some landed G&G schemes charge lump sums of RM300 to RM500 a month, he says. For projects in Desa ParkCity and other suburban locations, he adds, the charges are between 20 and 30 sen psf.
Wong points out that the monthly fees, inclusive of security, for Casaman in Desa ParkCity ranges from RM800 to RM900 a month, or an average of 25 sen psf.
“Whereas for Sierramas East, monthly maintenance fees, which include security fees, are about RM700 a month for bungalows. For semi-detached and terraced houses, it is about RM660 a month.” Things to look out for
Whether you’re buying a unit for you to live in or for investment, location is an important consideration, notes Knight Frank’s Ooi. “Good locations always ensure that there is capital appreciation [for owners]. But with such properties, the state of maintenance further influences their future value.”
On the other hand, Wong points out that G&G developments are not confined to prime locations. There is demand for such developments even in less-preferred locations like Selayang, Seri Kembangan, Kajang and Sungai Buloh.
“The moment you put a barricade there, it becomes more of living in a secure environment among one’s own peers, and building your own palace there. People can look beyond the location. People stay in G&G developments not just for the sake of security, but also for the environment and the ambience. Some buyers are also looking at the recreational amenities available.”
Foo agrees, adding that some G&G developments “have defied the location factor”. That said, he reckons a G&G development has to be sizeable to attract a big-enough crowd,  like the massive developments in Setia Eco Park in Shah Alam and Sierramas in Sungai Buloh.
Next, it is also important to ensure that the G&G project is developed by a reputable player and managed by competent people, says Ooi. Ng concurs:
“There are many instances where the development is advertised as a G&G but when it is not managed well, the guards just disappear. The place then becomes a non-G&G, and house prices go down substantially.”
Wong stresses the importance of buying from a good developer. “When you’re looking at a development that offers ready-built houses, there are the considerations of branding and quality of finishes.
The latter includes sophisticated kitchen equipment and IT facilities like wireless facilities and fibre optics.” On the other hand, if you’re buying the land and building your own house, the environment is an important consideration, he adds.
More importantly, ensure that you are buying a development with landed strata titles. Desa ParkCity is an example of a “legal G&G community”, says Ng. “People who purchase a property there would have common ownership of the facilities like parks, open space and roads. If you don’t have that and your land is subdivided, you are surrendering your roads to the government, and those would be public roads that belong to everybody.”
Foo agrees, adding that a landed strata unit would give owners better control in terms of management and supervision of units in the development.
“With a strata landed unit, whatever you do, you need approval from the joint management corporation or joint management body,” he says. “If a development claims to be a G&G but it’s not governed [by the Strata Titles (Amendment) Act 2007], there will be a lot of management issues in the future.”
Here, you must be prepared to comply with the terms of the deed of mutual covenant and house rules set by the developers.
“Most G&G developments won’t allow you to have a front gate or fencing. You will be governed by the usual building bylaws. When you buy land in a G&G development, the developer may want to restrict the design of your house. That’s part of communal living in most gated and guarded communities,” says Wong.