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SoHo, SoVo and SoFo: What's the difference?


Confused about SoHo, SoVo and SoFo properties and how they differ from serviced apartments, apartments, and condominiums? Let us deep-dive into these three terms and take a look at what a SoHo house is and what makes it different from the other two properties. 

soho sovo sofo
© Aleksandr Davydov | 123rf

We’re sure you’ve come across terms like SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo when property hunting. These developments are usually located in prime hotspots, near MRTs, or next to a shopping mall. Best of all, they’re usually sold at attractive prices. All these, plus its condominium-style amenities, appeal to young families and millennials looking to buy their first home.

1. How did the terms SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo come about?

Back in 2007, the government passed the Strata Titles Act to cover stratified landed development under the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) (Amendment) 2007. Basically, this meant developers could build smaller units in high-density areas, resulting in SoHo, SoVo and SoFo units with affordable real estate prices.

Is SoHo commercial or residential?

The biggest difference between SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo units compared to regular residential developments is the commercial land title. All of these developments are built on commercial land. This is the key reason why SoHo, SoVo and SoFo units are situated in prime locations. However, SoHo, SoVo and SoFo aren’t truly official government names – it’s more of a marketing term created by developers.

2. What is a SoHo unit (Small Office Home Office)?

soho sovo sofo
© Edvard Nalbantjan | 123rf

So what is the meaning of SoHo? The Small Office Home Office (SoHo) works as either a home or office, as its name suggests. Because it is normally used for residential purposes, SoHo units have everything a home requires including a living room, bedrooms, and fully fitted bathrooms. However, these units tend to be a little smaller (400 sq ft to 800 sq ft) compared to typical apartments but come with facilities and amenities akin to condominiums.

Is SoHo under the HDA?

Yes, SoHo units are protected by HDA because they have the element of residential property. While you do sign a sales and purchase agreement for SoHo units, it’s not the same case for SoFo and SoVo units as they aren’t regulated under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 (HDA).

Instead, you will sign a non-standard sales and purchase agreement with the property developer, drafted by the developer’s lawyer which is not regulated by the HDA. Check the clauses in this non-standard sales and purchase agreement before signing it, as any dispute relating to your new SoFo and SoVo unit must be settled in court based on this agreement.

As for SoHo units, any disputes can be forwarded to the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims as they are under HDA jurisdiction.

Top SoHo units for sale

Top SoHo units for rent

The property-buying journey is however not everyone’s cup of tea. So if you’re looking to live in a SoHo but prefer to rent instead, take your pick from the top SoHo units for rent in Kuala Lumpur.

  • SOHO @ Empire City, Damansara Perdana, Selangor (462 sq ft; RM1,097 – RM1,715)
  • Trefoil, Setia Alam, Selangor (486 sq ft; RM949 – RM1,500)
  • The Scott Garden SOHO, Jalan Klang Lama (Old Klang Road), Kuala Lumpur (775 – 1,905 sq ft; RM1,300 – RM2,200)
  • Empire Damansara, Damansara Perdana, Selangor (363 – 752 sq ft; RM950 – RM1,800)
  • 3 Towers, Ampang, Kuala Lumpur (399 – 2,045 sq ft; RM1,205 – RM4,455)

3. What is a SoVo unit (Small Office Virtual / Versatile Office)?

soho sovo sofo
© 123rf

The Small Office Virtual / Versatile Office (SoVo) is usually used for commercial purposes. Unlike SoFOs, SoVos are not protected under the HDA. It is also illegal to reside within a SoVo unit, as it is strictly for commercial use only.

As it’s primarily an office space, a SoVo comes equipped with telecommunication and infrastructural facilities for a small company or burgeoning start-up. SoVo developments generally also have fewer lifestyle facilities than SoHo developments do.

Top SoVo units for sale

SoVo units are great for start-up businesses and SMEs. They are versatile and easily configurable. If you are looking to get your own SoVo unit, check out these top picks below:

4. What is a SoFo unit (Small Office Flexible Office)?

soho sovo sofo
© Katarzyna Białasiewicz | 123rf

The Small Office Flexible Office (SoFo) offers enhanced flexibility when it comes to your space whether as a place to stay or an office SoFo. SoFo units usually offer different types of layouts or come with internal partitions for buyers to customise the space according to their preferences (spaces for extra beds, for instance). Also, some SoFo developments allow you to enlarge a space by combining two adjoining units together. SoFo units also generally come with the facilities and amenities you’d expect from a condominium.

Top SoFo Units for Sale

SoFo units are unique developments which can make for great office spaces for SMEs and new businesses. If you’re looking to get started on your SoFo property-buying journey, check out the top five SoFo developments in Kuala Lumpur below:

5. What do I need to know before purchasing a SoHo, SoVo, or SoFo?

Loan Terms

soho sovo sofo
© Chaiyawat Sripimonwan | 123rf

In general, SoHo, SoVo or SoFo are commercial properties. This means that the maximum loan eligibility under your personal name is only 85% as opposed to the 90% for residential loans.

But on the bright side, as opposed to residential properties where you can get only a 70% loan on your third property and thereafter, commercial property buyers can continue to get a loan margin of between 80% to 85% for all commercial property purchases.

Due to the lower loan margin afforded to them, commercial property buyers will typically need to fork out a minimum of 15% to 20% of the property’s price as a downpayment. The amount will depend on the agreement between the buyer, the property developer, and their agreement with the bank.

Utility bills

soho sovo sofo
© Aekkarak Thongjiew | 123rf

As SoHo, SoVo or SoFo are commercial properties, the utility bills, commercial assessments, and quit rent are higher than residential units.

Why Do Commercial Developments Have Higher Utility Bills

If you have ever resided in a commercial-titled property before, you will notice that your utility bills are higher than if you were to reside in a residential property. This is because commercial developments’ utility bills are on average 30% higher than residential developments.

Take your electricity bill, for example, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) charges RM 21.80 for the first 200 kWh per month, but commercial properties pay 43.5 sen/kWH for the first 200 kWh (1 -200 kWh) monthly or RM 87 for 200 kWh of use.

If you were to put it in layman’s terms, the average cost per month for electricity is between RM70 to RM100 for residential developments. But as the tariff rates for commercial developments are more than double, should you reside in a commercial titled development, you can expect to pay between RM140 to RM200 for your electricity bills every month.

As for water bills, take a look at the chart below to get an idea of the tariff rate differences between residential and commercial developments.

 Rate (RM)Min. Payment (RM)
Domestic Usage  
0-20 m³0.576
21-35 m³1.03
35 m³ & above2
Commercial (Inclusive of Public Swimming Pool)  
35 m³2.0736
35 m³ & above        2.28         

The above numbers mean that if you were to reside in a commercial property, you would automatically be paying a minimum of RM36 per month for your water whether you use that much or not.

To give you an idea of how much more you would be paying, a family of four with normal water usage generally does not pay more than RM15.40 per month for their water. But in a commercial property, you would automatically be paying a minimum of RM36 monthly.

Do take note that TNB and Indah Water Konsortium utility bills for some SoHo houses can be converted from commercial rates to residential rates, but this is on a case-by-case basis. You will have to apply individually or as part of a joint management body (JMB) or management corporation (MC).

While SoHo, SoVo, or SoFo units are attractive for their great location and price, it’s important to consider the property’s loan terms and utility rates (commercial or residential). Do check with the property developer before considering to purchase a SoHo, SoVo, or SoFo unit, especially the clauses in the non-standard SPA signed for SoFo and SoVo units.

Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information only. Malaysia Sdn Bhd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information, including but not limited to any representation or warranty as to the fitness for any particular purpose of the information to the fullest extent permitted by law. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate, reliable, and complete as of the time of writing, the information provided in this article should not be relied upon to make any financial, investment, real estate or legal decisions. Additionally, the information should not substitute advice from a trained professional who can take into account your personal facts and circumstances, and we accept no liability if you use the information to form decisions.

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