The current riots and unrest in Hong Kong which began about five months ago have definitely driven more Hongkongers to look for a second home overseas at least until calm returns to the ex-British colony. However, that is not the only reason for the greater attention Malaysian properties have been getting from Hong Kong residents, offers Hartamas Real Estate Group managing director Eric Lim.
“Interest towards Malaysian properties was already on the uptrend, especially after the travel show hosted by Hong Kong artist Chapman To called Pick me up to Malaysia went on air end-April,” he adds.
In this 15-episode Cantonese travel show produced by Hong Kong ViuTV, To visits interesting places in Malaysia such as a durian orchard, a fish farm and hipster cafes and bars as well as popular restaurants.
Hong Kong travel show fuelled interest
In one of the episodes, To visited an owner of a bungalow villa in Ipoh and discussed how tough it was to own a property in Hong Kong. This episode resonated with many Hong Kong folks and gained over 1.5 million views and close to 15,000 shares on its Facebook teaser video posting.
Starcity Global managing director Florence Ten concurs that there have been more enquiries on the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) scheme and about living in Malaysia from Hong Kong residents since the travel show.
Starcity Global is a MM2H agency that has an office in Hong Kong to provide information about the scheme and familiarisation tour packages to prospective foreign buyers of property in Malaysia.
“We used to organise MM2H seminars about once a month with a turn-out of around 70 people. But after the show went on air, we have over 100 people coming to the seminar. They even don’t mind standing for two hours to listen to the seminar,” Ten says.
And now, with the prevailing violent protests creating chaos to the economy, the Hong Kong office has been getting non-stop phone calls or social media messages from people enquiring about the MM2H programme.
What’s more, she now has to fly to Hong Kong every two weeks as the seminars have been increased to four sessions on the weekends every two weeks catering to more than 400 participants.
Familiarisation tours getting popular
Ten also notes that the number of people taking up the familiarisation trips to Malaysia has also increased to an average of two families a week, from only a few families over several months previously.
“I have just attended to seven families from Hong Kong in one week, and I just sent off four groups this morning,” she says.
As an MM2H agency, the company is allowed to organise short familiarisation trips (less than a week) for interested overseas residents to visit Malaysia in small groups of not more than 10 people.
Unlike the normal tour packages, the MM2H familiarisation tours are more for the foreigners to envision how their daily lives in Malaysia would be.
For instance, the itinerary will include medical or dentist check-ups, visits to schools, the pasar pagi and pasar malam, the neighbourhood supermarket, some tourist spots, popular foods and experiencing the public transportation or e-hailing services in the country.
“This is to let them have a feel of what it would be like to stay in Malaysia. I have helped more than 30 Hong Kong families settle down in Malaysia. Most of them will start by renting a unit, but eventually a majority of them will choose to purchase a property after they have found their preferred locations,” she adds.
Weakened ringgit an advantage
Lim from Hartamas and Ian Chen, CEO of Jalin Realty International believe Hong Kong people are now looking at countries that offer growth opportunities, not only for property investments but also for business.
“The weakened ringgit has actually made Malaysia more attractive than other countries in the region,” says Chen.
He adds that Malaysia’s well-planned township developments that offer ample amenities including schools and medical centres make Malaysia an ideal second home destination for foreign citizens.
Lim notes that property prices in Malaysia are at least five times less than those in Hong Kong. Coupled with the wide range of property choices and availability of property financing, Malaysia becomes even more appealing.
“Currently, we have more than 150 Hong Kong buyers and lately, there have been more new enquiries for our developments in Kuala Lumpur city centre and other affluent neighbourhoods,” Lim says.
Ten from Starcity Global concludes that Hongkongers who moved to Malaysia mainly have three objectives — to provide a more well-rounded education for their children, as a place to retire and for property investment.
“Many say that the education environment in Hong Kong is too competitive and stressful for their kids. Hence a pleasant living environment with quality education within walking distance or short drive, is often the ideal choice for them,” says Ten.
As for retirees, they will look for places with easy access to public transportation and close to medical centres and daily amenities.
“There are also those who are looking for a vacation home that could also serve as an investment asset — for rental income or capital appreciation. For this group, well-established areas with mature infrastructure development will be their choice,” she adds.