Economics graduate Chong Yoong Fu returned to the family business in 2011 after a stint in the corporate world because the family had land and expertise that he could bank on, and he had a deep passion for property development.
Last year, the executive director of Winfar Group, which he founded in 2012, launched his first residential development, Serlesa Villas, in Serdang Heights.
At his family business Tulin Development Sdn Bhd, he had been involved in two commercial projects, Tulin 28, which was completed in October 2012, and Seri Gembira Avenue, which was handed over to purchasers in August 2014.
“These two projects were developed on land my grandparents owned in partnership with a relative, who has been in the construction line for over 30 years,” says Chong. “He was my mentor when I joined the property business at the end of 2011 after I left MMC Corp Bhd. While at MMC Corp, I had been partially involved in the two projects, keeping tabs on their progress.”
Chong had worked in Hong Kong and Shenzhen before returning to Malaysia to work at RHB Investment Bank and later, MMC Corp. At 28, the qualified chartered financial analyst with a degree in economics and econometrics realised that his heart was in property development.
He started as project manager for Seri Gembira Avenue, located in Kuchai Lama. The project, which had a gross development value (GDV) of RM234 million, offered 5-storey shopoffices. He put his mind to the task and provided some solutions to issues that were affecting the project’s attractiveness. For instance, he noted that sales were slow during what was considered a bull run in the property market.
“Because of the high price point that purchasers had to pay for the entire 5-storey shopoffices, I persuaded the company’s directors to break up the properties and sell them by floor according to stratified units, as the project was approved as strata-titled,” says Chong.
“The other new thing I proposed was a boulevard roof concept for the commercial buildings. At the time, we were inspired by the success of Sunway Giza Mall, which was pretty popular then, as commercial buildings didn’t have that boulevard concept. So, we resubmitted our plans to revise the development order to cater for this new building design.”
After cutting his teeth on commercial property, he took Winfar into the complementary property businesses of the hospitality and co-working space. B Lot Hotel was opened in December 2016, offering 50 rooms for business travellers. In 2019, he started co-working space, Workie Workie, which was one of the largest in the Kuchai Lama and Seri Petaling area at 10,000 sq ft. The space offers numerous working and meeting facilities as well as a games room and a nursing room. Both businesses are located in Seri Gembira Avenue.
During the development of Seri Gembira Avenue, Chong and his team acquired land in preparation for future projects. One of those parcels was in Serdang Heights, where the RM37 million Serlesa Villas is being developed.
“We completed the purchase of the 3.1-acre freehold land in 2014 for RM7 million, or RM50+ psf. We are currently developing 30 two-storey superlink houses there, which is in the residential area behind Olive Hill Business Park. The parcel is long but not wide enough to build two rows of linked houses … it can take one row,” says Chong.
The Serlesa Villas come with individual titles and two sizes. There are 14 units of 20ft by 80ft with a built-up of 2,456 sq ft and starting prices from RM985,000. The remaining units are 22ft by 148ft with built-ups of 3,227 sq ft to 3,450 sq ft. With prices starting from RM1.35 million, the larger houses come in two designs — Garden Villa and Garden Home.
“Garden Villa has the kitchen at the front of the house and the living hall is at the back, facing the private garden. Garden Home has the conventional design with the living hall at the front and the kitchen at the back,” says Chong.
“We have these two types because we want to play it safe as some people may not be able to accept having the kitchen at the front of the house.”
Interior-wise, the houses will be bare, except for floor tiles, plaster ceilings and water heaters in all bathrooms. The developer will also provide two water tanks and solar photovoltaic panels. The water tanks have a total capacity of 1,200 gallons, or 5,455 litres, which is estimated to provide four days’ worth of water. The solar photovoltaic panels, which will be linked to the Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) programme, will generate 3.5kW to 4kW of energy per house, resulting in savings of about RM200 per month.
“Under the NEM programme, energy produced by the panels will first be used in the house, then any excess energy will be exported to the Tenaga Nasional Bhd grid line, as credit on a one-on-one offset basis,” explains Chong. The credit can be kept for up to 24 months.
In September, the developer appointed Solarvest Holdings Bhd — a listed solar turnkey service provider — to design, supply and install the solar PV system.
Serlesa Villas will also provide a linear park and outdoor gym equipment, which will be managed by the local council when the project has been completed.
Security at the development will be handled by the developer for a year. “We will provide one year of security service for guards to do patrols after the handover [of keys] … We intend to collaborate with the [people behind the] semidee project next door to use the same security guard company to do the patrolling,” says Chong.
Serlesa Villas has access to Maju Expressway, which is linked to Bukit Jalil Highway. Schools and tertiary institutions not too far away include Kingsgate International School, SMK Seri Kembangan, SJK (C) Serdang Baru 1, Alice Smith School, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Asia Pacific University and International Medical University.
Retail outlets and other amenities are available at Olive Hill Business Park, Southcity Plaza, One South and Aeon Equine Park. Public transport includes the upcoming MRT Line 2 UPM Station just under 3km away.
Since the project was soft-launched in August last year, 14 units have been sold. Construction is currently 60% completed and Chong estimates that completion and handover will be in 2Q2021 and early 3Q2021 respectively.
Interestingly, inquiries increased 40% during the Movement Control Order period, mainly from people looking for landed homes. “We notice that customers are looking for bigger terraced homes with a garden,” says Chong.
This corresponds with an international report that says home buyers are going from buying units in cities to looking at the suburbs and for larger houses that can accommodate a home office or a spare room, he adds. He believes this will also happen in Malaysia.
A show unit will be open for viewing from Dec 10 to showcase what a homeowner can do. For instance, one can add a loft to make a home office, says Chong. “For Garden Villas and Garden Homes, the intermediate units have about 2,000 sq ft of open space [within the boundary of the house]. Because of this, we have come up with various ideas and possibilities in our marketing materials on what purchasers can do with their homes.”
Some ideas include a vegetable patch, a cabin that can be used as a quarantine abode, a storage facility or a swimming pool.
As Chong works to ensure that his products meet the needs of his target market, he is cautiously optimistic about the outlook of the property market, which he says depends on the economic and political situation in the country as well as how the Covid-19 pandemic is managed.
In the meantime, he is planning his next project — a gated and guarded development in Bukit Serdang with 33 landed units, 32 three-storey semi-detached houses and a bungalow. There are also plans for projects in Happy Garden in Old Klang Road and Broga in Semenyih.
As for the long-term strategy of the company, Chong says, “We prefer to focus on developments in southern Kuala Lumpur. We notice many property developers and the government are also developing in this part of town, the southern part of KL, where Kuchai Lama and Serdang are. Bandar Malaysia is also there and Malaysia Vision Valley is in Negeri Sembilan.
“We see upside potential with the construction of railway and highway infrastructure by the government, also concentrated in southern KL, and MRT Line 2 as well as the East Coast Rail Link that goes through Putrajaya, KL, then to Singapore. There is also the high-speed rail and double-tracked rail from KL to Gemas and then to Johor Baru. The new highways that will be completed soon are SUKE (Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang
Elevated Expressway), EKVE (East Klang Valley Expressway) and SKIP (Serdang–Kinrara–Putrajaya Expressway).”