After more than six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become painfully clear that many industries have been severely affected by the outbreak.

The property industry is no exception. In fact, it has taken a hard hit, with consumption sentiment wearying and regional tourism experiencing a considerable slowdown.

But one hotspot that has maintained its momentum in attracting foreign property buyers is Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).

According to the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA), foreign ownership of property in Malaysia is about 5% to 7% in the KLCC vicinity and 3% in Selangor.

“We often get inquiries from Hong Kong, China and other countries about the situation in Malaysia, the living conditions and other matters. It shows that foreign investors and property buyers are still showing interest in coming to Malaysia.”

Sai noted that the anticipated demand from China and Hong Kong buyers, as well as investors who do not buy or own property overseas, would improve tremendously for Malaysian properties, due to bad experiences in their own country.

“The political turbulence in China and Hong Kong has led residents to look towards Malaysia as a second home due to the lower prices here.

Sai conceded that previous calamities such as the SARS pandemic, the 1998 Asian financial crisis and even the Nipah virus outbreak, negatively impacted the country’s economy.

However, he was optimistic that despite the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia’s economy would rebound strongly. “The real estate market has taken a hit, but we are not entirely down. It will be back stronger than ever.”

International Monetary Fund data shows property buying investors from Hong Kong, Macau, China and many more are still looking at Malaysia’s long-term growth potential, and the country is on track to achieving high-income status by 2024.

This is because Malaysia has one of the highest standards of living in Southeast Asia coupled with a low unemployment rate of 3.3%.

“While the local consumer is having their ups and downs, foreign interest in Malaysian real estate has not been dampened,” said Sai.

Property in the KLCC vicinity depends heavily on foreign buyers because of its price points and amenities.

At this juncture of the pandemic, he said, local consumer sentiment is being diverted mostly towards daily necessities like food.

What’s more, most potential home buyers and tenants are either still too fearful or unable to conduct home viewings, thus the sales of properties are understandably taking a hit.

Sai noted however that the reintroduction of the Home Ownership Campaign and the exemption of Real Property Gains Tax has helped the property industry considerably.

Real estate players have started using different methods such as social media postings, videos and live-stream seminars to stay in touch with potential customers and buyers.

Metro Homes Realty Bhd executive director See Kok Loong meanwhile foresees that rentals and purchases of property in the KLCC area is bound to slow down due to the lockdown as foreign investors cannot come in.

“As it did prior to the pandemic, KLCC will continue to depend heavily on foreign buyers due to its price points and amenities while Malaysians continue to live on the fringes of the KL City area.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, See said there was a downward trend in property sales, made worse by the cancellation of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. “This further weakened the market.

But not all is bad news. Recently the UOA Group auctioned several units of Four Seasons residences that were sold at higher than the reserve price.

“It means Malaysians are still looking for good deals. With the right product, there are still buyers.”

See foresees that the property market will improve in the middle of next year. For the time being, he said, the market needs to focus on rentals and work closely with high-net-worth individuals to assist them with good investments.

“Interest rates are at record lows and money sitting in the bank will not bring high returns. The best thing to do is put it in a good asset if the price is right.”