So you want to buy a house

At some point in your married life, you will want to buy a house. If you have purchased a house early in your working career then lucky for you. Many people however will usually choose to get a car first as their main priority, you know to get around especially with their new family. Houses only come later when they are more stable financially. I was no different than the norm. We got our first car on our second year of marriage and our first home 5 years later. Back then we didn’t earn much so owning a house although important, was not really a priority until the later years when we have improved ourselves financially. Even then getting the 5% deposit for our RM115,000 home was a real chore. We had to some of it from my Dad and then get the rest from our EPF savings. After much difficulties and multiple appointments with real estate agents and lawyers we finally got our quaint little home in Taman Puncak Jalil. It was only a small 3 bedroom apartment but it was a home to call our own.

Fast forward 7 years later. We were happily settled in our small apartment. 2 of my kids are enrolled at a primary school nearby while the other one started her first year at kindergarten. If we were to spend our lives there for the next 2 decades or so it would be fine by me. The location is strategic, tucked in the middle of Taman Puncak Jalil. Very near to my wife’s workplace and only 30 minutes ride to mine. We had a good neighbourhood, crime and break-ins were once a problem in the early days but almost completely gone by now thanks to improved security measures. And for as long as I can remember we haven’t had a single water cut ever since we lived there. Not even during the severe drought a few years back where there were water rationing in a few districts around Klang Valley.

My wife however had a different idea of an ideal home. It should be a landed property in a nice neighbourhood. I was not totally opposed to the idea, I mean who doesn’t like living in a nice terrace house with lawns or at least a front porch to park your car and bike right? However have you looked at the price of landed properties recently? They usually start from 500K onwards and even if you’re lucky enough to get that price, the property would be in some far away secluded area, far from your workplace or civilization. Ideally you will want a new home not too far away from work with good amenities from a trusted developer. In reality, those homes do exist but they will cost you a lot. Like triple my current house price a lot.

I managed to convince my wife otherwise a few times every time she brought up the idea but there’s only so much excuse one can give. Especially when you realize that house prices will continue their upward trend for the foreseeable future despite the occasional talk of property bubble bursting (they will never, people will buy houses all the time). Therefore if we don’t start looking for our dream home now, we might not be able to afford them in the future when they start going above the 1 million ringgit threshold. I kid you not, many new and even old houses are going at that price rate already at the moment. So you see our choice and time are pretty limited. Buy our new home now at a slightly high price or content to live in our current place forever because we can’t possibly afford them in the future. So we did the former and started to seriously look for our new home.

Since we are currently living in Seri Kembangan, some 20 kilometers south of KL, it is only naturally that we went looking southward for our next property. Our main recommendation come from the numerous billboards lining the north-south highway that we regularly take. We took note of the name of the housing project and did a research on each and every one of them. We had a few criterias to look for our new home; it has to be accessible with easy access from any of the main highways, has a nice design from a trustworthy developer, located not too far away from Seri Kembangan (40 KM max) and most importantly not too expensive (550K was our initial target). We found a few houses in Kajang and Semenyih. Many were way above our budget. Some were not really accessible, tucked too far away from the main road. But as we were about to go home from a house-finding mission one weekend, we stumbled upon this billboard promoting Serene Heights in Semenyih. It was from UEM Sunrise, a well-established developer alright. Since the project site is not so far away from where we were, we decided to have a look.

About 15 minutes drive away from Semenyih town we arrived at Serene Height at Jalan Bangi Lama. There’s another exit to the Lekas highway about 5 kilometers away so that’s a tick on accessibility. We met the salesperson/marketing people at the show gallery. Khairul Nizam was very warm and friendly and after the initial introduction about the project, he took us to see the show house next door. As you can see from the pictures below, it is a really nice house in a green township surrounded by parks, ponds, gardens, playgrounds and other amenities. Sure they furnished the house well and the show house is in fact a corner lot but I’m sure if our future home will look just as nice if we bought it of course. It has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms which is more than enough space for all of us plus guests which was one of the main drawback of our current small home. My wife and kids were obviously excited and keen to live there. The project is expected to finish in 3 years time and in the meantime we can save some money for the furniture, kitchen and minor renovation works. Did I tell you how much the house costs? Oh only RM641,800, after bumiputra discount. Yes it was somewhat above our budget but my wife was already sold with the idea of living in it. And you know how my wife is, once she sets her mind on something, she would do everything in her power to get it.

To be honest, it didn’t much to convince us to fill up the application form and sign our names on the dotted line. The house is indeed going to be in a nice neighbourhood, another box ticked and Semenyih is only 28 kilometers away (or 28 minutes drive in clear traffic) from my wife’s workplace. Plus the salesperson did a really good job in convincing us to buy the house. So in like an hour later we signed up to buy the house there and then. That escalated quickly. Now looking at houses and filling up the application form are the easy part. The hard part is to look for the money to pay the 10 percent deposit from the 642K price. Last time we had to borrow money from family members and took out a personal loan to pay for the deposit. This time around however, my wife had already saved enough to pay around 5,000 ringgit and the remaining will come from my EPF account 2 savings. Unlike 7 years ago, I actually have some money to spare in my EPF account so that’s the deposit settled.

As for the housing loan, we are lucky that my wife worked at a bank and her company provides housing loan packages for staffs at a generously low interest rate. In hindsight we were lucky she didn’t apply for a staff loan for our first home because else we couldn’t take another for this new home. Still we had to anxiously wait a few weeks before our housing loan is finally approved and I had to visit the bank’s HQ a few times to submit documents and stuff. Even better, this time all the legal fees are including in the loan so we didn’t have to pay a penny for those sleazy lawyers. We don’t think we’d be so lucky with conventional loans at other banks since our monthly commitment were rather high at the moment. So about a month later when all the S&P agreement are signed and loan approved, we are now a proud owner of a terrace unit in Serene Heights.

There’s a huge difference between buying our first home and this second one. Back then we had to wait way longer and fork out about 13,000 ringgit of our own money for the deposit, legal fees and what not. This time we were ready with our savings in cash and EPF money and our lawyers and bank are far more efficient than last time. Are we excited to finally be able to live in a landed house in a nice neighbourhood? You bet! That said, we are still slightly worried on the amount of installment we have to pay every month which is roughly RM2,700, six times our current monthly installment. Sure we can sell our current house which could easily fetch RM300K and more since our unit is partially furnished with complete kitchen cabinets and all. Or we can rent it out for the going rate of 1,000 a month which should cover part of the new monthly installment. Either way we are not rushed to make a decision since 3 years is still a long way to go and we need time to think it through. Hopefully by then both of us have achieved considerable increase in our salaries to cope with the high installment.

So you see buying a house in Malaysia is not that hard to be honest. You just need to be prepared with money, lots of them. For me my dream home need to be accessible, has to has a nice design, build by trustworthy developer and has a strategic location from our workplaces. I’m sure different people will have different criterias for their ideal home but whatever it is, make sure you think things through before making such an important decision. It is a big commitment that could potentially span your entire working career and even way into your retirement.

Finding your dream home and finding the one you can actually afford is a delicate thing to achieve. The key is to find the right balance between those two and making concessions. I want to advise you to find a home as soon as you start working but I know that not everybody can afford to do that. Just make it your priority target because those houses are not going to get any cheaper in the future and without some drastic intervention from the government, the property developers are just going to get their way and make houses in accessible for the common people.

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