City centre living getting more popular?


IN the old days, the only people who lived in the centre of towns and cities were traders and businessmen who had their shops on the ground floor of shophouse units, and lived with their families on the upper floor. Besides them, the only other city centre inhabitants were the poor, who lived mainly in squatter colonies or in public housing flats.

The iconic Pekeliling Flats was a good example. Hundreds of units, all clustered close to one another, dotted the landscape of Jalan Pekeliling. Many families, comprising mostly the poorer strata of society, lived there. Dirty surroundings, rubbish thrown from balconies and malfunctioning lifts were the order of the day.

In the Masjid India area, there was the iconic Malayan Mansion and Selangor Mansion. I wonder which bright spark decided to name them mansions, because they could not be further from those.

In the last 20 years or so, many of these squatter colonies have disappeared from our city landscape.

Most of the old flats and public housing have also been torn down. In their place are spanking new high-rise condominiums and service apartments.

What used to be the domain of the poor and lower-middle class has now become the preferred choice of the upper middle class and the super-rich. People who traditionally chose to live in the suburbs have now decided that they preferred to live in the city.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).

The iconic Twin Towers is flanked on all sides by high-end, high-rise condominiums, occupied mostly by expatriates and the super-rich. On the other side of town, KL Sentral and Mid Valley also boast their own high-end condominiums. Closer to the city, Bukit Bintang has become the bustling residence of many.

As property prices keep increasing, people will have no choice but to live further away from the city. It goes to logic that the further away you are from the city, the cheaper it is going to be to purchase your house. As such, the middle class majority will have little choice but to move not just to the established suburbs, but even further away.

Places like Semenyih are starting to do very well, in spite of the distance from the city. Cheras and Kajang have largely become unaffordable as prices have gone up considerably in the last few years. Soon, Nilai and Seremban will seem like they are located just “down the road”.

In the north, places like Rawang have seen their property values and popularity going up. New launches have attracted many potential purchasers, as people come to terms with the fact that they will never be able to own houses close to the city anymore.

As city centre living continues to gain popularity and becomes vogue, prices of these high-end condominiums and serviced apartments will continue to rise. Those who complain about high prices today will surely look back some day in the future and say these words I have heard a hundred times in my life... “if only I had bought something there when it was cheaper”.

Many people seem to be playing a wait-and-see game, hoping that property prices will come crashing down. I, for one, do not believe this will ever happen. If you don’t expect the price of any goods to come down in the future, why do you expect the price of properties to come down? What logic are you driven by?

The old mantra rings true till today, “don’t wait to buy property. Buy property and wait”.

Till then, happy hunting and may the force be with you.