The healthcare industry has boomed since the onset of the pandemic. Its growth has also created opportunities for medical real estate. While the focus of Malaysian property investors has primarily been on residential and commercial properties, medical real estate is the next property type to look out for.
KL Wellness City (KLWC), which offers holistic facilities and services that encompass healthcare, wellness and fitness involving both Western and alternative medicine, is billed as the first-of-its-kind development in Southeast Asia. It strives to establish a comprehensive, fully integrated and interconnected system of medical care, wellness and fitness.
According to KL Wellness City Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Dr Colin Lee, KLWC is a 26.5-acre, healthcare-themed development in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. Spread across seven parcels, the components will include a 624-bed tertiary hospital (with capacity of up to 1,000 beds), 379 medical specialist suites, retirement resorts for independent and assisted living, a healthcare mall, residential units, commercial shoplots offering health and fitness-centric retail as well as food and beverage outlets, a Multimedia Super Corridor-designated office space, and a central park with cycling and jogging tracks.
Medical real estate
The first phase consists of the hospital and The Nobel Healthcare Park, both of which will be connected by a link bridge. Launched in April, The Nobel Healthcare Park - which has a gross development value of RM1 billion - will comprise 379 medical suites in two blocks, 512 wellness suites in one block, and office space and retail shops on the ground floor of these blocks. The whole phase will be completed by end-2025.
The medical suites, which range from 248 to 1,500 sq ft, will be sold at an average price of RM1,500 psf. Meanwhile, the wheelchair-friendly, healthcare-focused wellness suites will have built-ups of 268 and 386 sq ft, and will be sold from RM1,300 psf. Lee says these two real estate properties present a good investment opportunity for investors.
"Being a medical specialist myself, I know what is required. Many specialists want their own clinic where they are able to prescribe medicine, charge the fees they want, and perform small procedures and laboratory tests. They can also do corporate planning, and engage junior doctors as they get older and become more established," he explains.
Lee adds that under the system in Malaysia, medical specialists get to rent clinic space in a hospital while everything else is controlled by the hospital. They are bound by various regulations for the procedures, charges, lab tests, drugs and hiring.
"Many specialist doctors would like to have their own clinic, but the current situation is that if they do own one, it will be located far away from the private hospital. Whenever they have patients in the hospital, and quite often these are emergency cases, they have to travel back and forth. This is very inconvenient for both doctors and patients."
The medical suites in The Nobel Healthcare Park cater for such demand. Specialists can acquire and operate their own clinic, thus giving them the freedom to run it as they wish. They are able to see patients in their clinic and then walk over to the hospital to check on other patients. The medical suites can also be used by other medical and wellness-related businesses such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, medical device supplies, pharmaceutical and spa.
The upcoming KL International Hospital is a benchmark against top hospitals in the region and is set to leverage on Malaysia's position as the top world destination for medical tourism, says Lee. He notes that Malaysia has been receiving medical tourists from various countries, including Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and China, for its affordable and good healthcare. Travelling with them are their families, who will need accommodation. The wellness suites in The Nobel Healthcare Park may thus be ideal.
Healthcare-focused wellness suites; high rental return
"There are doctors and healthcare workers who want to live there. When the hospital is fully operational, we expect 8,000 units of accommodation will be needed per night due to the demand from medical tourists. The whole KLWC won't have that many number of units, so we expect the wellness suites to be fully occupied," he says.
The suites also cater for patients who are in step-down care - those who have been discharged from hospital but are still recovering and may require some assistance such as daily physiotherapy or rehabilitation.
Property investors can rent out the hotel-like wellness suites to the families of medical tourists. The suites are even equipped with a kitchenette and fridge, which is convenient should they prefer to cook their own food.
As doctors can also acquire the wellness suites for their own use, coupled with the anticipated demand, Lee expects these suites to be fully occupied.
"The wellness suites could see a high rental return… The yield for a wellness suite could be 15% to 18% [if one manages the unit himself]. Aside from doctors, other buyers include property investors," he says.
Lee observes that people have become more health-conscious since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, realising the need to live healthily. It so happens KLWC was conceptualised based on the fact that people want to live well.
"We have made an effort to design and build to enable wellness living. We have increased the ratio of green, thus allowing more sunlight and ventilation, which can increase the value of the property," he says.
"It is a healthcare city where all kinds of medical facilities and services are available. For The Nobel Healthcare Park, however, it is not just about the services - it is part of an ecosystem that covers all aspects of healthcare, including acute medical care, emergency care, wellness and fitness. It is designed and built for medical professionals and seekers, both local and abroad."
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