Rehda Youth embraces change and foresees an uptick in demand in 2H2020

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 12, 2020 - October 18, 2020.
From left: EAB Consulting Engineers Sdn Bhd M&E Joseph K H Phoon, Timbunan Makmur contractor Wai Yip Chin, Rehda Youth most recent past chairperson Carrie Fong Kah Wai, Timbunan Makmur contractor Wong Loong Mun, Veritas Architects Sdn Bhd architect Chong Wei Li, Timbunan Makmur contractor Heng Song Ann, IJM Land Bhd project coordinator Tan Guan Lee and Rehda Youth organising committee member Teo Chui Ping at the WAO’s child care centre construction site (Photo by Rehda Youth)

From left: EAB Consulting Engineers Sdn Bhd M&E Joseph K H Phoon, Timbunan Makmur contractor Wai Yip Chin, Rehda Youth most recent past chairperson Carrie Fong Kah Wai, Timbunan Makmur contractor Wong Loong Mun, Veritas Architects Sdn Bhd architect Chong Wei Li, Timbunan Makmur contractor Heng Song Ann, IJM Land Bhd project coordinator Tan Guan Lee and Rehda Youth organising committee member Teo Chui Ping at the WAO’s child care centre construction site (Photo by Rehda Youth)

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After hosting vibrant study tours and trips to Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, China and even Dubai in the last few years, ­Rehda Youth has had to review its plans for 2H2020.

In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the youth division of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) has reassessed and postponed its programmes. “As most of the programmes and events under Rehda Youth involve activities such as property study tours and product event presentations, we felt it would be best to put these events on hold for the time being. We are keeping our members abreast of the marketing by sharing as much industry-related information in our possession as we can,” Rehda Youth immediate past chairman Datuk Seri Dr Lee Ville tells City & Country in an email interview.

“In the long term, we may need to move towards virtual meetings and presentations if the pandemic does not end.”

Despite the virus outbreak, he maintains that the organisation’s ongoing project is still taking shape in 2H2020. “Rehda Youth’s ongoing project is the rebuilding of the Women’s Aid Organisation’s (WAO) child care centre, which was destroyed in a fire in 2016. The centre is a safe house for children and, in some cases, women who have witnessed domestic violence. WAO provides therapy and counselling on these premises,” he says.

“The centre is currently under construction. We are in the last phase of our fundraising, which is to raise money for the labour [to build the centre]. The target is RM750,000 and we will be raising the amount via a crowdfunding initiative on simplygiving.com. The house is targeted for completion in January 2021.”

This is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project by Rehda Youth, in collaboration with various partners, says Lee. “Instead of providing monetary donations, Rehda Youth’s unique CSR model garners the collaborative strengths of the property industry, whereby all sponsorships are pro bono services or donations of building materials.”

Changes and challenges

In view of the current global climate, organisations across the board have witnessed radical changes and Rehda Youth is no exception. Young local developers, however, have taken the necessary steps to overcome obstacles and adhere to the new standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“The last few years have been challenging for most developers, coupled with a sluggish economy locally and globally. I feel the market was actually starting to turn around before we were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has definitely turned the world on its head,” says Lee.

“One thing is for sure — it has definitely forced most of us to reinvent our business mode of operations. Chief among them is the wider adoption of digital technology internally (dealing with colleagues) and externally (with customers).

“There has been widespread use of social media via Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as ways to market their products. Being unable to open sales galleries, some have adopted virtual viewings of their show units via a personal guided tour.”

To minimise the spread of the virus on the work front, flexible working hours or working from home (WFH) has been encouraged in companies, he says. “While this is taking place, existing customers should still be kept informed about matters such as the progress of their property transactions, development construction and even defects rectification.

“It was definitely not easy to coordinate such efforts from home and away from the office, so new ways of communication via virtual meetings and other platforms had to come into play. As for those who were required to come into the office, we had to ensure that the government’s SOPs were strictly adhered to and recommended best practices adopted from neighbouring countries.”

Lee: It has definitely forced most of us to reinvent our business mode of operations. Chief among them is the wide adoption of digital technology internally (dealing with colleagues) and externally (with customers).
(Photo by Abdul Ghani Ismail/The Edge)

Pent-up demand and outlook

Meanwhile, Rehda Youth has observed some pent-up demand post-Movement Control Order (MCO) and expects the local market to be quite sanguine in 2H2020.

“You would be surprised to find that the property market has seen a surge of interest post-MCO. I believe there was pent-up demand during the MCO period as there were various restrictions that made property transactions difficult. This was coupled with the liquidity seen in the market due to the various government stimulus packages to boost the local economy and more recently, the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) initiatives,” says Lee.

“By allowing buyers to have a lower incidental cost through the exemption of housing stamp duty on transfers and allowing a higher margin of loan, it will alleviate the financial burden of buyers and move them towards their goal of homeownership. Real Property Gains Tax exemptions until the end of next year will help investors achieve some savings now. However, moving forward, a review of the rates should be considered for both locals and foreigners.

“Now is definitely the best time to purchase a property. Property prices are currently at their most attractive price point in most developments. We also have the lowest housing loan interest rates in the last 16 years. And with the Home Ownership Campaign (HOC), there will be huge savings in the incidental costs involved in property transactions.”

Rehda Youth maintains that continuous efforts should be made by the government to tackle the issue of affordability and lower prices (and cost) of homes. “This is the best time for us to engage our policymakers in reviewing their existing housing guidelines and reduce local council development compliance requirements and cost for property developments. Developers will then be able to pass on this cost savings to their customers or buyers,” Lee points out.

Moving forward, Rehda Youth foresees good market movements and a more digitalised market. “In the short term, the various initiatives by the government for the property market should [encourage] a healthy demand. Whether we are able to sustain this momentum really depends on the ability of governments around the world to handle this global pandemic,” says Lee.

“As for the long term, I believe we will move towards a more digital economy, have a higher adoption of the industrialised building system (IBS) [to reduce the need for less skilled/migrant workers] and see an acceleration of Industry 4.0.”