SINGAPORE, December 28— Malaysia can maintain its reputation as one of Asia’s safe havens for property investments, given its strong economic growth and transparency, says REA Group Ltd, a global online real estate advertising company headquartered in Melbourne.
In an interview with Bernama, its Group Chief Economist, Nerida Conisbee said investors generally considered and wanted ‘three things’ when investing in a country — strong economic growth, low political risk and high levels of transparency.
“Political risk, (however), continues to be somewhat of a challenge in Malaysia,” she said.
Conisbee was asked to dwell into Malaysia’s reputation as one of Asia’s safe havens for property investments.
Conisbee noted that the traditional safe-haven markets such as the US and the UK were no longer looking safe following Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) and the recent US presidential election result.
“What this means is that the traditional view of what is a safe market is likely to change in 2017 as investors look for other opportunities,” said Conisbee, who was appointed to the newly created role of Chief Economist at REA Group on April 4, 2016.
As Malaysia has a low-interest rate environment, Conisbee said it would help attract more foreign buyers amid weak economic outlook regionally and globally.
“Provided funds are easily accessible, low cost of borrowing can be a factor in attracting foreign buyers.
“Similarly, provided economic growth continues to be strong in Malaysia, this will also attract investment from overseas,” she said.
Bank Negara Malaysia has reduced the Overnight Policy Rate by 25 basis points to 3.0% in July this year, citing rising risks from Brexit.
The move could see banks lowering their lending rates, making it cheaper for eligible consumers and companies to take loans.
On affordability and stability of property prices in Malaysia, Conisbee said that it is crucial that Malaysia remains affordable to spur economic growth.
“Low levels of affordability mean it is difficult and expensive for people to live in a country and that leads to economic stagnation.
“Malaysia remains relatively affordable compared to other countries at present,” said Conisbee who has more than 20 years of property research experience across Asia Pacific.
Should Malaysia replicate the Singapore Housing Development Board’s (HDB) concept to cater to its people, especially in urban areas, Conisbee said:
“Singapore HDB has been successful in allowing for both affordability and a high level of home ownership.
“For this reason, it is certainly worth considering a similar system in Malaysia,” she said.
Singapore HDB flats are home to over 80 per cent of Singapore’s resident population.
Listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, REA Group operates Australian, European, and Chinese residential, commercial and share property websites, as well as iProperty Group which owns a number of leading property portals in Asia.