For Singapore expats, Johor homes a steal as Malaysians in housing pinch

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — More expatriates are opting to live on this side of the Causeway, drawn by cheaper and bigger homes in Johor, a Singapore paper reported today while Malaysians are grappling to find affordable housing. 

While Singapore’s expatriates eye the relatively cheaper houses in Malaysia, Malaysians especially those who have just joined the workforce complain that they cannot afford to buy houses. The Singapore dollar is worth about 2.5 times more than the Malaysian ringgit. 

“Malaysia offered an affordable alternative,” the Australian wife of a Dutch national, Geert Hulst, working in the island republic, told Singapore’s Sunday Times, in an article published today. 

The Hulsts had bought a five-bedroom mansion in Ledang Heights, Johor which they said is five times bigger than their Singapore condo and are part of a 100-strong expatriate community there which is growing. Their two children are also studying in Johor’s Marlborough College after it opened in August, the weekend edition of the Singapore Straits Times (ST) reported. 

The shift from Singapore to Johor by expatriates looking for “affordable” housing solutions started about five years ago, developers and property agents told Singapore’s Sunday Times

They are increasingly moving to the Nusajaya township, which is part of Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia economic zone that was set up in 2006. 

ST reported that the housing projects of Horizon Hills, Leisure Farm Resort, and Ledang Heights in Nusajaya enjoy warm receptions. 

The houses chalk up a monthly rental between RM8,000 and RM20,000 while bungalows are valued in the range of RM2 million and RM7 million. 

Property agent Jerry Lim commented on the housing trend, saying that “there has been no looking back” since the opening of schools in the Iskandar Educity. 

About half of UEM Land’s properties are sold to non-locals including Singaporeans, the main developer for Nusajaya’s housing projects told ST

“With projects such as Marlborough College, Legoland, Pinewood Studios, and hospitals and universities completed or nearing completion, there is not the same level of risk associated with investing,” said David Bochsler, director of sales and marketing of Exhale, a firm that builds houses in Nusajaya. 

Bochsler, who stays in Johor with his family but works in Singapore, was referring to the various new developments that made the Iskandar Malaysia region more attractive to homebuyers. 

An expatriate from Holland, Geert Hulst, travels 45 minutes daily to work in Singapore, while his two children now study in Johor’s Marlborough College after it opened in August. 

His wife points to the growing expatriate community in Ledang Heights, saying that: “When we first moved in, we were the 10th expat family from Singapore in the estate. Now there are easily more than 100 expat families in the area.” 

Many Malaysians staying in Johor also choose to travel to Singapore daily for work, taking advantage of the strength of the Singaporean dollar. 

Recently, the federal government promised that it will not collect tolls from users of the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) expressway in Johor after a proposed take over from the Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB). 

The proposed move would benefit both Malaysians and expatriates living in Johor and crossing the bridge daily to work in Singapore. 

The EDL bridge reportedly has a daily traffic volume of more than 50,000 vehicles. 

Putrajaya has moved to address the people’s housing woes in its Budget 2013, with the prime minister this week announcing a list of state initiatives through Perumahan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (PR1MA) and government agencies Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Berhad (SPNB) and Jabatan Perumahan Negara. 

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that PR1MA will build 5,000 affordable houses expected to be priced 20 to 30 percent lower than the market rate in Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

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