Property in Penang

Updated: 9 Oct 2013

Properties on Penang island have historically commanded some of the highest prices in Malaysia. Relative scarcity of land on the island has always meant that Penang real estate is perceived as particularly attractive as investments, writes Sehra Yeap Zimbulis.

Large new commercial projects planned for the island speak of a long-term confidence in the future of Penang as a major destination. Since 2008, the state government's call to action of establishing George Town as an 'international and intelligent' city has been answered by multinational developers and several large-scale commercial projects have recently been launched here.

These projects include the Penang Waterfront Convention Centre (PWCC) – a 102-acre commercial precinct comprising four hotels, a mall, a convention centre and a business district near the Penang Bridge, with a projected 2017 completion date, as well as the Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition (SPICE) Centre, part of a 'Penang People's Park' which will include a 7-acre public park on the rooftop of the convention centre, scheduled for completion in 2014.

Knock-on effects
These projects will doubtless have important effects on the rest of the real estate market in Penang, especially in residential properties as people move to the island with the increased job opportunities here. A substantial number of new residential developments have recently been launched by the major players – industry heavyweights like IJM Land, SP Setia, Eastern & Oriental Berhad, Hunza Properties Berhad and Ivory Properties Group Berhad are among the developers undertaking new projects as well as commercial ones on the island. Many of these projects are also marketed to buyers in Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

The appeal of Penang
One element which has always made Penang so attractive as a place to live and work in, is the fact that this is also an island resort. The residential suburbs in the northern coastal districts with their idyllic beaches, scenic sea views and low-density communities are thought as some of the best neighbourhoods to live in on the island. The idea of owning a home on a resort island is an intrinsically appealing one – it combines urban living with the agreeable setting of a holiday resort.

George Town has consistently been ranked as one of Asia's most liveable cities. The February 2013 issue of Asia Pacific Business Traveller magazine lists George Town as the 8th most liveable city in Asia, after Singapore, Kobe, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Yokohama, Taipei and Macau.

This is impressive for relatively small George Town, a delightful bijou of a place compared to the major cities among which it finds itself on the list, with much larger populations and, by comparison, more sophisticated facilities and infrastructures. For the survey, consultancy firm ECA International determined a city's liveability by the following factors: climate and natural disasters, health risks and facilities, air pollution, goods and services, infrastructure, recreation, housing and utilities, education, personal security and socio-political tensions. The survey looks at 400 cities around the world, of which 49 are located in the Asia-Pacific region.

Type of properties
Only a couple of decades ago real estate options available here were limited to detached, semi-detached or terrace houses, as well as a few no-frills apartment buildings. Now it has expanded to include condominiums with almost every imaginable facility (one of the latest projects, Quayside, even features a 4.5 acre private waterpark), town houses with traditional indoor courtyards, duplexes, triplexes, serviced apartments (in front of your yacht berth, if you wish, at The Suites at Waterside) and, for good measure, modern villas with private swimming pools designed to look like old West Indies plantation houses (Martinique Villas-By-The-Sea). In addition to these new properties, the pre-World War Two shophouses of George Town are now also very popular amongst buyers looking to own a piece of Penang's history.

Martinique Villas by the sea (Eastern & Oriental Bhd.)

Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong
One of Penang's newest and most upscale precincts, Seri Tanjung Pinang, is located on a strip of reclaimed land along the Tanjung Tokong coastal area, overlooking the Straits of Malacca and Andaman Sea. Developed by the E&O Group of E&O Hotel in Penang, there’s an extensive range of properties here, ranging from luxury condo units to townhouses to villas. With a marina, retail mall, performing arts centre and restaurants, bars and bistros, this area is one of the most comprehensive residential enclaves in Penang.

Other properties around the Tanjung Tokong area include the older Marina Bay and Tanjung Park Condominiums as well as the new Fettes Residences, with an average sale price of RM619 per square foot (psf) in January 2013. A recent development in this area is the unique One One Eight @ Island Plaza, with its s.o.h.o. (small office/home office) concept of small apartments of between 500 to just under 800 square feet, which also double as home offices. Prices start at about RM400,000.

Gurney Drive
Another area which has seen a lot of change in recent years is Gurney Drive. The first high-rise luxury apartment buildings began to be built here around the late 1980s. 1 Persiaran Gurney was one of the first such developments, located on the eastern end of Gurney Drive, with a 29-storey tower. Since then, the topography of Gurney Drive has been soaring ever skyward, with more than a dozen high-rise condominium complexes here.

One of most recent projects here is Gurney Paragon (RM641 psf, January 2013), an 'integrated development' of apartments, mall with more than 1 million square feet of retail space, and restaurant precinct. Gurney Paragon is unique in that it was built around the historic St Joseph's Novitiate building, former home to the International School of Penang.

Gurney Paragon

Tanjung Bungah
This historic seaside neighbourhood has its share of established, older bungalows and semi-detached houses, but in recent years high rise luxury condominiums have also appeared here, despite reservations by residents about these tower blocks marring the once-pristine strip of coastline.

One of these is The Cove (RM442 psf, Jan 2013), comprising four 32-storey blocks, with one 6,000 square foot apartment per floor. Another luxury development here is Infinity (RM716 psf, Jan 2013), comprising two blocks of 35 and 36 storeys each. Nearby, Harmony Residence (RM565 psf, Jan 2013), with its retro-inspired 35-storey single block, is unmissable. Boasting only one unit per floor, built up areas range from 5,000 – 8,000 square feet. Next to the Chinese Swimming Club, Skyhome (RM532 psf, Jan 2013) is another brand new condominium here, a 32-story single condo block with apartments of 6,300 square feet each and five 12,300 square foot penthouses. Another development here is Springtide Residences (RM764 psf, Jan 2013), comprising a 39-storey condominium block and three 6,500 square foot villas, each with its own 22-meter lap pool and private lift.

Apart from these newer developments, Tanjung Bungah has many older apartment buildings nestled into its still-green hillside and environs: Diamond Villa, Horizon Tower and Sri Golden Bay. Despite their age (most are between 20-30 years old), many are these are very well maintained and are p opular with expatriates and locals alike.

Batu Feringghi
Apartment buildings have existed in this legendary resort area for decades, and almost all of these places enjoy spectacular sea views. Older apartment buildings like Miami Green (RM498 psf, Jan 2013), built in 1999, are still beautifully maintained, and offer wide spaces and resort facilities. The Reef (RM483 psf, Jan 2013) is another older condominium unit, completed in 1987.

Brand new developments in the area include Moonlight Bay (RM557 psf, Jan 2013), a luxury gated villa and condo complex perched on the hillside with panoramic views of the sea. Island Resort (RM614 psf, Feb 2013) is one of the latest developments along the Batu Feringghi coastline, set to be completed around 2014. Further up the coast, a unique low density luxury condominium, By The Sea (RM1,182 psf, June 2012), has recently been completed. With only 138 units, this low-rise development is situated near the heart of the Batu Feringghi tourist belt and the Hard Rock Hotel.

Batu Ferringhi

Pulau Tikus
Closer to George Town, this is an established residential area known for its bustling, lively market. One notable new development here is the Y Cantonment luxury townhouse project, featuring a master bedroom with a private plunge pool, designed by renowned Malaysian architect Dato' Dr Ken Yeang. The asking price for a 4,300 square feet unit is approximately RM3.5 million, or about RM813 psf. There is no shortage of residential properties in this neighbourhood, with older developments like Bellisa Court (RM719 psf, Jan 2013), Sri Pangkor (RM569 psf, October 2012) and Cascadia (RM423 psf, May 2012) among the many available options.

George Town
This area encompasses the former Millionaire's Row of Northam Road (now Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah), the heritage core zone of the inner city and inland towards Scotland Road. Newer properties include The Mayfair (RM545 psf, Dec 2012), completed in 2007, with a unique heritage front façade and Birch Plaza (RM660 psf, Jan 2013) in the Times Square shopping precinct. Another major mixed residential and retail development, the luxury Rice Miller Residences, is underway on the historic Weld Quay district, which aims to rehabilitate the magnificent 19th century waterfront buildings in the neighbourhood.

'Heritage' is the buzzword in George Town properties at the moment. The 19th and 20th century pre-war shophouses of George Town are currently being snapped up by investors and restored into private homes, boutique hotels and restaurants. Prices per square foot for these old terraces hit the RM2,000 mark in March 2012, making them some of the most expensive in Penang real estate.

Bayan Indah / Bayan Baru / Bayan Lepas / Sungai Ara
These are the districts near the Penang Bridge, airport and industrial areas of Penang, on the South-Eastern quarter of the island. This area has seen rapid development in the past few years. Among the newest projects here is Gold Coast Resort Condominium (RM553 psf, Feb 2013), on the picturesque strip of coastline facing the former prison island of Pulau Jerejak. Near the entrance to the Penang Bridge, The Light is a major mixed development that will include residential, retail, hotel and office units when its final phase is completed in 2016.

Queensbay Mall is the largest shopping precinct in this area, and there are many residential developments in this neighbourhood. Part of the Queensbay development project, BayGarden (RM663 psf, Jan 2013) is a gated property of 19 bungalow and 46 semi-detached houses.

Near the industrial area of Bayan Lepas, The One is an integrated township project comprising different developments with retail, serviced residence and commercial units, within a convenient distance to the airport, the second Penang Bridge and shopping malls. The average sale price for residential units is around RM430 psf (Jan 2013).

Another notable project in this vicinity is Setia Pearl Island (average for sale price RM469 psf, Feb 2013), a large residential development that has been popular with buyers. Once the site of the former Pearl Island Country Club, this is now an enclave of upmarket houses and condominium units.

Balik Pulau
The idyllic district of Balik Pulau, better known for its durian, clove and nutmeg plantations on the southwestern corner of Penang island, has also seen recent developments in the form of a 300-acre township called Botanica.ct (RM320 psf, Sept 2012), which comprises bungalows, a retirement resort, commercial village, medical centre, spa, and international school, located about 23 kilometres from the airport. Another residential development in this district is Palmyra Residences (RM321 psf, Jan 2013), with 227 double-storey terraced and semi-detached houses.

Botanica ct. Tropical Hiilside Villa (MTT Properties & Development Sdn. Bhd.)

Property Boom
The real estate market is booming in Penang: the sheer number of transactions attest to this. According to the Penang Institute, the state government's public policy think tank, the average house price in Penang rose by almost 54 per cent in the years between 2005 and 2011. It warned: 'a skewed developer-driven market to address the demands of wealthy buyers has contributed to the rise in house price inflation and recommends that a more equitable and sustainable approach is taken. There are still many affordable developments on the island, but, as in anywhere in the world, these tend to be located in less-popular areas. For now, the basic economic fundamentals of demand and supply are driving the buoyant property market on Penang island.

This is one of the features from the latest Time Out Penang annual guide 2013/14. You can purchase the guide here.

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