Vicious cycle: High property prices squeeze consumer spending


The other day, The Edge business weekly (10-16 April 2017) carried a frontpage report stating that E & O was in talks to sell Straits Quay Mall, which it described as a “seven-year-old loss-making freehold property”. (How it got freehold status for the reclaimed land of Seri Tanjung Pinang should be the subject of another discussion.)

The report said E & O did not confirm or deny the talks. The mall, a key component of the Seri Tanjung Pinang land reclamation project, has 270,000 sq feet of lettable space and has a net book value of RM233m.

This reminded me of a report I read in the Edge (8-14 August 2016) which suggested it was “crunch time for malls” in Malaysia. At that time, Perda City Mall in Bukit Mertajam had just shut down and a couple of other malls in KL had also closed down for “redevelopment”. The Edge also listed out a dozen malls which had been put up for sale or had been sold in previous months.

I can think of a few factors that would affect business at malls:

Full article on Aliran website

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  1. So, what is so bad about renting a house instead of owning one?

    In the US, for example, households that rent jumped from 36.1 per cent in 2006 to over 42 per cent in 2014 while home ownership continues to decline, according to a report by Trulia, a real estate website that monitors the housing and rental market.

    What is most notable is that the report found that the preference for rent increased especially among middle-class and more affluent Americans:

    “Among the lowest income households, those making US$31,000 (RM136,725) or less, the share of renters grew by 3.7 percentage points, from 61.1 to 64.8 per cent. For lower middle-class Americans (households earning between US$31,000 and US$42,000), the share of renters increased by 4.9 percentage points, from 43.8 to 48.7 per cent,” the report noted.

    In the UK, the Conservative government led by Theresa May is moving away from the Thatcher-era housing policy that favours home ownership to one that emphasises more on rent as a viable option to home ownership.

    In a housing White Paper tabled in February, the Tories proposed measures ranging from rent control, to incentives for private developers to build more properties meant for long-term rental.

    This “built-to-rent” (BTR) system ― where private players, with state financial support, either convert existing buildings or build new units for secured long term tenancy ― has been lauded by critics and observers as vital to solving Britain’s “broken” housing market, among the most unaffordable globally.

    Read on.

    • Rich people buys homes to rent to poor people and use the rental yield collected to buy more homes. It is a vicious cycle, poor people indirectly fund the rich people’s hobby of buying and collecting properties as investment tools. This is how the wealth gap will continue to widen.

  2. Unchecked immigration is a major factor in stagnant wages.
    Removing subsidies is bad when you maintain it for cronies and even rescue them.
    Price rises are related to protected syndicates. This includes allowing cronies to get away with not building low-cost flats. House price of RM 300-500K is now called affordable.
    Useless, giant projects and national debt shooting up are major factors in exchange rate deterioration.

    • Quote: This includes allowing cronies to get away with not building low-cost flats. House price of RM 300-500K is now called affordable.

      This is my suspicion of what is happening in Penang.
      The back-scratching of political-corporate tango for 2-way benefits to make the PTMP a reality. And also to super-inflate the annual state economic development figure via housing + property development.
      But this develop-for-whom question is a ‘choi-nie-gong’ reproach from Komtar.

      Now, they can conveniently sacrifice the tax collection for less from ‘penalty fees on developers’ for not building low-cost housing to help these greedy developers-in-distress! But wait a minute – will there be a housing price reduction?
      Which also means sacrificing the sizeable collection to be used for building low-cost housing by ‘tua-khang-tua-te’ state gomen. What a waste of opportunity costs by allowing further ‘relief’ to cronies / kamcheng developers to get away with not building low-cost flats (in good times & bad times) which is undeniably in greater demand. So, will the state gomen now excuse itself for building less low-cost / medium-cost housing???

      But Penangites-in-distress who cannot afford even low-medium cost housing are left in limbo!
      Don’t ever mention ‘affordable housing’ which is surreal & manipulated in all ill-intentions & purpose.

    • Be careful to check which segment of population the survey is on.

      The survey by The Economists are on expatriates. Naturally expatriates living on companies’ expenses will find Malaysia cheap to live in. The survey is not focus on the general public.

      Najib conveniently use the survey results to his advantage knowing that Malaysians are ignorant about survey mechanism.

    • Cheaper in Thailand, Mynmar, Vietnam and Laos (all ASEAN) for sure.
      Malaysia not really cheap when income level is not high.
      Remember Ringgit is very low.

    • Malaysia’s low cost of living, relative to other Asean countries, is due to the weakening ringgit and stable inflation levels, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said.

      According to EIU analyst Jon Copestake, the ringgit has weakened significantly against the US dollar over the past five years.

      “Other currencies in the region may have remained stable or strengthened,” said Copestake, EIU’s chief retail and consumer goods analyst, and lead analyst for data and research.

      – So the survey is suggesting that cost of living in Malaysia is the lowest since expatriates paid in USD get favourable exchange in the weakened Ringgit.

      • MTUC Sarawak says the cost of living in the state is 15% to 25% higher than in the peninsula, but the minimum wage for its people is lower.

        “Since the prime minister has claimed that the cost of living in Malaysia is the lowest in Asean as measured in USD, MTUC demands that wages in Malaysia must be paid in USD as well,” its secretary Andrew Lo said.

        Prime Minister Najib Razak had on April 21 cited a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit that compared prices of goods and services in 133 cities worldwide.

  3. Latest news, Penang’s JJPTR has (allegedly) just closed down and their founder Johnson Lee has (allegedly) also vanished into the thin air ! The same old trick of Bitcoin Exchange center Mt. Gox is again being utilized – Hackers hack out all their moneys !
    Ironically, Johnson Lee has just “donated a cool million ringgits” to his old school Penang Heng Ee high school last year !

  4. Think about this:
    If every income earner has to bear a hefty home loan for a sky-hai property price, which is too-good for the property industry, what is there left for spending?
    It’s a no brainer to foretell the spiral-effect on other industries of consumer products & services.
    Yeah, just go to SingLand to work, earn & save just to own a sky-hai priced home in Penang at the end of one’s life. Penang industries truly depend on them to survive at the very end of their business life cycle!!!
    As for others, you are financial slaves for life.
    308 Dreams? Dream on for the next 8 life cycles. This 1st one (life) is a reality check.

    • Perhaps SP Setia could SEAL your broken 308 heart to realise your home purchase with Setia Express Advance Loan (SEAL).

      SEAL is a differential sum loan scheme that offers interest rates as low as 5.5% per annum and up to 30% of the intended property purchase price.

      The scheme enables eligible purchasers of completed SP Setia properties to bridge the financing gap between the purchase price and the purchaser’s end financing loan amount. This provides them with a convenient and hassle-free solution while buyers can confidently secure their desired dream home.

      • And how much do you have to pay every month to service these loans? What percentage of your income?

    • Easy to complain. What suggestions? No suggestions? built tree top houses like experiece in belum valley but do it in Penang? What taxes you pay to state?

      • They are the ones who should be realistic – nobody wants to buy expensive homes!
        Pay unbearable home loans & chiah-sua?

        Until the day they sell homes like pasar-malam’s, they can wait till the moon turns blue!

        Pls hold your breath!

  5. Again show your grudge at the state authorities and continue to pursue them? If shopping malls can close shop, why not food court? Why blame the state?…

  6. Q: Need Rosy Chan-Chan to help revive New World Park’s retail & hawker centre?

    Once it was crowded with diners esp during lunch-time & weekends, but now?
    Once relocated hawkers had to press fish-balls to dish out hard-earned incomes for high-rentals, but now where are they?
    Once it was a business rendezvous of yuppies with laptops & smart phones socialising @ Starry-Eyed Bucks.
    Fewer customers but due to what?
    Why the need to redevelop this rendezvous into a mixed-development (alleged)???

    But one undeniable consequence is the 1st death (via relocation) of some heavenly street hawker cuisine @ the roadside of once ‘waterhole of Penang Tham Chiah Kuis’. A now, a 2nd death @ New World Park Hawker Centre is too much for these hawkers. This I called no individualistic vision from the state planning authorities fixated on SingLand’s prototype of ‘slippery’ cosmo development. Don’t cry for no Ori Iced Kacang or Bak Chang @ Swallow Lane.

    The answer: Karma Law has a way to deal with those greedy.
    Never mind that some may insist it’s economic law of demand & supply.
    Except that we lost some of our Penang heavenly street hawker cuisine as collateral damage of slippery Cosmopolitan Penang Frenzied.
    Now I know why the state gomen is not interested in a Penang Street Food Museum.

    • No street food museum? There is one at Beach St. with a chendol replica to pull in Selfie fans.
      But I won’t pay to see replicas.

      As for New World Park, Sugar King to unleash new plan to revive thamchiakkuis interest?

    • Hawkers in Penang must have conscience at heart. Don’t treat locals as if they earn foreign currencies. Also they should not adhere to “Penang Dream” (aka owning lifestyle condo) to simply charge with small portions less ingredients to make fast money.

      I don’t eat roti canai at mamak stall. Too small a piece and not filling. I better buy the ready-to-cook frozen roti canai, can be as cheap as RM0.60 a piece more fulfilling.

      Today i am not happy to note the Bayan Baru market selling a vegetarian vadai (no onion) for RM1 a small piece. Fried Ubi Keladi RM1.40 to RM1.70 a piece. I am saying this as Bayan Baru now can be expensive as Pulau Tikus these days with many young professionals living in the vicinity (just look at the number of condos from airport to Relau).

      High property prices, high food prices, then high medical cost on the way. So what to do ? Be complacently productive to earn a decent living to cope with forever Barang Naik era !!!!

    • “Once it was crowded with diners esp during lunch-time & weekends, but now?”

      Starbucks could afford high rental, but must have realised that the place has lost its strategic position (shift of office crowd or feng shui?), leading to the exodus of customers?

      I was there many years ago and have predicted such consequence because the food is not that great yet overpriced with small portion.

  7. High property price is not a sole factor in reducing our purchasing power.

    Do not forget other factors:
    1) depreciating Ringgit (high import costs)
    2) stagnant wage growth (due to poor productivity)
    3) expenditure on ‘wants’: foot reflexology, car accessories…
    4) removal of subsidies: fuel, cooking oil, sugar, flour
    5) 6% GST
    6) frequent upgrading of trendy gadgets: smartphones

    1-5 above are caused by poor government policies.

    • If you go overseas, northbound to Thai, southbound to Spore, then you will realise ringgit has lost its value thanks to BN!
      Go further more you will feel worse eg to Korea Japan Australia.

    • Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor has been told to step down after his “nonsensical” theory that the opposition parties are behind price increases at restaurants.

      Tengku Adnan claimed the opposition was to be blamed for driving prices up through collusion of its members in food traders’ associations.

  8. financial squeezes has driven many to go for get rich fast schemes.

    my favourite food sellers, many of them at times not open stalls, as they instead opt to get fast bucks recruiting members to join the so-called rewarding money schees like JJ Poor To Rich, MBI, Barrel To U etc. one of them even treat me FOC to fine dining with vouchers (not exchangeable for cash so he needed to use it up).

    this is a social menace probably Anil too engrossed in penang forum agenda that he has failed to call it justice until many get burnt like Geneva gold venture

    thank for the notice from kind reader, and i shall be at Little Inidia today to witness Ambiga in person.

    • Aware of these get rich quick schemes and have been doing a little research on this. Unfortunately, I cant do so many things at the same time!

      • Anil,
        Here are the list of many ponzi schemes actively pursuit in Penang alone ! Reported by the Chinese media as follow: –

        JJPTR- 20% monthly
        O2 ONLY ONE- 15% monthly
        GD INCOME BUILDER- 20% monthly
        WMS CAPITAL- 20% monthly
        GMFX- 25% monthly
        CYL- 7.5% weekly or 30% monthly
        RGV- 10% every10 days or 30% monthly
        IGOFX 10%-30% monthly with reinvestment stages

        It seems more and more new one are coming on stream day by day ! With some backings of local politicians ?

      • Get rich projects to get cash fundings for GE14 now that many access being frozen? Why PDRM no action? Something cooking can smell it?

      • Pyramid scheme: many fail to realise that they could be way too far below the apex tip of the pyramid and would eventually lose their all their initial capital outlay.

        Such MLM schemes prey on greedy ‘investors’.

      • In the 70s – 90s, there was this ‘tontin’ (hoi-ya) which was also illegal.
        But the payout interest was not as dizzy high as some scams.
        But those who subscribed to tontin (usually 6 months to 1 – 2 yrs) are a patient lot who treated it as a form of side saving or emergency ready cash like but better than pawn shops. And they never dreamt of ‘wonderful lifestyle condos’ but a ‘eng-eng koe-jit’ lifestyle as tenants (not home owners) in George Town.

        Simple lifestyle never arouse the materialistic ego of bin-chui (of ‘Keeping up with the Joneses or Ah Kow’) when one is not ‘tua-khang’

  9. The analysis is simplistic and disconnected in many places. Properties are investments largely and there is no proof that rising prices substitute consumption. Historically, it’s the reverse i.e. higher asset prices lead to higher consumption.

    Higher inflation leads to lower consumption but just because rental goes up in certain location, it’s not necessarily inflation. It could simply be structural change, that location no longer economic for that particular business model.

    Retail problem we see is due to e- commerce and structural economic change. That ais kacang fellow problem is business model is too labour intensive and out moded, not the rental.

    But consumption is subdued due to inflation – weak MYR, GST, too much govt spending to win votes.

    However, higher property prices should actually help with consumption. So the question is why not? Well, for one thing, property prices are NOT going up, in fact falling a little. So consumption is down for lack of confidence. Second, inflation is up while investment is down means there is a lot of waste going on, policies are fake, political and not working. They really do not know what they are doing and swinging in the wind, wasting money.

    The real danger is if policies continue to fail, property prices will fall further, confidence fall even further and no jobs and no or no increase in income and runaway inflation – stagnation, stagflation or worst deflation.

  10. For those tight on budget to spend on food due to barang naik pressure, can spend time at High Tea event with Ambiga at Heritage Little India ( market street) tomorrow Saturday 4pm.
    Info sharing to awaken the community with or without kopi o!

  11. Malay paper Kosmos recently on cover story mentioned good grades fruits and vegetables from Cameron Highlands daily go to Singapore (enroute to Japan some air shipments).
    Those day 1kg of bananas ~RM3 nowadays RM6 is common.

  12. For those who want to keep up with the Jones (may be in Msia context keep up with JhoLow?), many already invested big sum mortgage loan to live in lifestyle condo as defined by those developers. Deducting the loans from monthly income, then nothing significantly left to indulge in more lifestyle events/food/drinks/clothing/gadgets ?
    More important, don’t forget to put aside some $ for elderly parents, ok?

  13. Another major factor is online shopping. This has really affected traditional retailers, in fact a lot of retailers are going to e-commerce themselves.
    With regards to the ice kacang, it is not a basic necessity but more of a snack. When times are hard, people focus on necessary things and drop the extras. For example, hair cut is necessary while colouring is not, eating a balanced meal with rice, meat and vege is necessary while ice cream or ice kacang can be dropped….,

    • Likewise, honourary titles bestowed upon a person may not be necessity but rather burdens to uphold one morality to lead by example to the ordinary folks?
      Beware self syiok fake title to boost own bin chui !

    • “Ice kacang, it is not a basic necessity but more of a snack” could possibly explain why consumers shun Penang chendol to buy extra portion of main meal since the hawker food in Penang has seen reduction in food portion, as purchasing power is reduced with depreciating ringgit?

      Price of new homes may not go down as Regime BN has imposed higher tax on steel? Concrete not reinforced with the right amount of steel could be a safety hazard if developers cut corners?

      • I stop eating Penang Chendol because it is full of sugar. These Penang hawkers are so evil, poisoning Penang lang with sugar. Some more got Bangla waiers.
        Hockien mee pulak are full of msg. Make me drink lots of Coke and get Pepsi.
        Hawkers are so evil because they pakat with private hospital doctor to make us sick.

  14. Last time many Malaysians ridiculed Singaporeans living in pigeon home HDB flats. Today they will envy at the success of modern day HDB apartments that are even better that most of the commercial condominiums in Malaysia, with better estate management. Go Singapore and see for yourself, its citizens get subsidised housing and will appreciate in price for them to upgrade to private homes after 5 years of living. This reflects the failure of BN since 1965 – more than 50 years of flawed blueprint. So you want to be deceived another 50 years by TN50?


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