Stuck at home again but all is not lost

MCO’s return can be a saving grace

Contributed by Sulaiman Saheh

The return of another MCO environment brought despair to many as the market saw again a period of temporary closures for many business outlets except those handling, distributing and selling necessity goods and services. For the property market, experts took it as another dampening effect on a struggling market and forecasted the recovery turning point to be postponed to 2022 as opposed to 2021.

For prospective homebuyers previously thwarted in their buying plans, MCO 2.0 can be made productive to helping you buy the right home and it only takes a change in perspective to see how a lockdown period can be utilised in your home buying research. Here are several ways to shift that perspective and realise what being stuck at home had meant for you.

A buyer’s market but beware

During the MCO periods, buyers may find advertisements and articles on opportunities to buy a home and take advantage of the current low interest rate, discounts and rebates by developers, and the environment being a buyer’s market. As much as these offers may entice you to finally consider making the big move, the big-ticket item being a house is no such item to purchase on simply a good-deals whim.
Not only will you be saddled up with a 30-year long financial commitment, but quick turnarounds are also no longer as easy as before. Sustainability in property investments is key as it is a long-term investment. Cashing out the asset may not be as quick and as profitable as you might think if you happen to be saddled with an unpopular product or in a non-strategic location or worse, situated in an extremely competitive and high-density location with loads of choices and substitutes.

In a pandemic environment where things are already precarious and on the edge, the last thing one would want to do is take up a mortgage with no solid preparation beforehand or with a reliable back-up plan to fall on should things take an unexpected turn. For those who have been waiting for the right moment, have the necessary funds on hand and is mentally prepared to be tied up to a house for the long-run, then this is the right time for you when the right product at the right place at a bargain price is in your line of sight. There are certainly good buys out there for own-occupation uses, upgrading and investment but do your homework first and measure your risks before signing on the dotted line.

Opportunity to re-assess needs

The two-month-long MCO 1.0 had taken people by storm with the sudden culture shock of being stuck at home and only able to go out for necessity purchases. While some have adapted relatively well, others had a harder time with the isolation from loved ones and minimal physical interactions within their social circle. Mental health took a hit and people realised how important it was to have a home suited to their preference.

Now in the midst of MCO 2.0, homebuyers who are still on the fence to signing the deal can reflect on their experience when being stuck at home. Look back to what difficulty you had faced back when MCO 1.0 took place and what had been done to your immediate surroundings to help you cope with home confinement and make your place of residence a better home.

Different people will have different needs and preferences when it comes to home design and size and it can take something as life-changing as a lockdown situation to make one realise it. As you are stuck at home most of the time, more so for those who practice work-from-home (WFH), take note of what makes you feel comfortable and relax in your current place of residence.

Sulaiman Saheh is the director of research for global real estate consultancy Rahim
& Co International Sdn Bhd.

Also, pay attention to what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressful in your everyday living. This includes interior decorations, spatial designs, overall size of the residence and immediate surroundings. For those looking at WFH as the new norm, even once the pandemic has ended, a long-term workspace with sufficient internet infrastructure must be included when identifying ideal residential candidates.

Not forgetting other non-corporate WFH jobs that require other home spaces such as the kitchen, a working garage or a sound-proof studio. Not only is this to ensure your own comfort when working from home, but also ensure your neighbours, who are also working from home, are not unintentionally disturbed with some form of pollution or disturbance. Once you’ve identified the necessary and desirable elements, apply it to your choice of new homes and see if it matches your lifestyle and daily spatial needs.

Despite the general consensus on landed homes to be the ideal choice, it does not necessarily apply to all and some may instead find it inconvenient and ill-suited to their lifestyle. For individuals and smaller families who prefer a more compact and facilitated living situation, high-rise residential developments equipped with swimming pools, gyms and common leisure areas would be more suited for them and are typically located closer to or within commercial areas.

This is in comparison to landed homes that are bigger and commonly situated further from town centres. As much as having your own piece of land under your name provides a sense of security or life’s achievement, the required maintenance and upkeep of such property may prove to be more of a hindrance in the long run, especially for those who already have a hectic lifestyle outside of the home

Construction halts mean completion delays

This applies to homebuyers who are looking to buy housing units that are still under construction or even yet to be constructed on the reason of future occupation and not immediate. During MCO 1.0, almost all economic activities were halted for more than a month and this includes property developments and construction process. As some developers have publicly acknowledged inevitable delays in completion targets, homebuyers are highly advised to check-in and confirm whether their home of choice has been delayed or not. Failure to do so may result in homeowners unable to move in as planned due to the housing units having not received the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC).

Furthermore, several new launches had been pushed back in response to the unprecedented market situation developers found themselves in during the pandemic. Statistics for the first nine months of 2020 revealed the number of newly launched residential units had dropped by 50.3% to just 24,853 units from the first nine months of 2019. For buyers who had targeted newly launched developments pre-Covid-19, it is worth checking again if the new development is still on track or has been shelved for the time being.

This will save you time from experiencing your hopes dashed and doing a last-minute change upon discovering your first choice is no longer up for purchasing until further notified. To conclude, a time of crisis such as a pandemic may not be all doom and gloom with spots of opportunities hiding amidst the cloud. One should only grab such opportunity when terms and conditions are in his or her favour and that they are prepared for any unexpected changes in the short-run be it in employment, health or household situation.

Put a shift to your perspective and look at how the MCO period can be used to your benefit aside from exploring new hobbies and crafts on your long to-do list or catching up on the latest Netflix release. Be up-to-date on the recent status of new offerings in the market and weigh your rush to achieving homeownership against sustaining your current lifestyle cost.

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