Written by Charles Tan from kopiandproperty.com
With land growing more scarce and prices climbing steadily, is it any surprise that buying a high-rise unit is all the rage nowadays?
Apart from the fact that a majority of these developments offer adequately spacious units, there are also plenty of top-notch facilities provided for the enjoyment of all residents.
So, if you’re browsing the market for a suitable unit (whether it be a subsale or brand new one), what are some of the important factors to look out for when it comes to choosing the ‘right’ one?
For this topic, we’ve got kopiandproperty founder and executive editor Charles Tan onboard to share some of his valuable wisdom!
I purchased my first high-rise home in 2004. It was a small apartment in a secondary area, but located close enough to the offices of my wife and I.
Both of our careers were in different locations, so it was essential to find somewhere ‘in the middle’.
Since that time, I have purchased many more high-rise homes, and today I own high-rise properties in 4 different states in Malaysia.
After 15 years in Penang, I moved to Klang Valley about 6 years ago. I’m still staying in a high-rise home today!
Perhaps this isn’t the best choice for landed home lovers, but assuming you’re thinking of buying a high-rise unit for investment purposes, here are 13 tried-and-tested tips I have personally used over the years:
1) External paint
It’s not common for a well-managed high-rise development to have worn out paint on its facade.
Most of the time, when the development needs to be repainted after 10-15 years for example, the management would have had enough funds to do so.
Look at the management accounts to understand if they are healthy or in the red.
2) Working Facilities
In good high-rise developments, the facilities should be in satisfactory running condition.
It’ll not look new because of the wear and tear, but it should not have the ‘ROSAK’ signs for nearly all the facilities in the development!
If we visit in the evening after 8pm for example, then we’re also able to see if the lights are spoilt and have not replaced.
3) Comfortable Environment
This has nothing to do with feeling luxurious! A 15-year old condominium definitely will not give off the contemporary feel of a newer one.
However, do we feel comfortable? Is the guard house in proper condition? Do the guards look old and frail whereas their uniform is not even tucked in?
Are the common dustbins full to the brim and some rubbish has now spilled over on to the floor?
If we don’t feel comfortable with all these, it will be hard to be comfortable with it for the next few years. Even if we intend to rent it out, would our tenants be comfortable?
If the high-rise itself does not pass the first three qualifiers (Point #1 to #3), then I will skip the viewing of the actual unit. If it passed, then the following are the next 10 things we would evaluate.
4) The Dark Corridors
Stepping out of the lift and walking to the unit, is it dark or are there ample lighting? It WILL get scary/creepy if the sun isn’t able to penetrate into the corridors and there are insufficient lighting. What more when night has fallen!
View one level up and one level lower to see if the conditions are similar. Remember, if it’s dark all the time, are we sure we want our loved ones to walk back to the unit through the dark corridors everyday?
5) The Corridor Width
There should be enough width for both units that are facing one another to be able to have their doors open at the same time!
Okay, that’s a minimum of 5 feet, if you were unsure. The wider, the better, as it will be more comfortable.
If we’re viewing an apartment, it’s possible that the width could be 5 feet or less. If we are viewing a condominium, then the width must be at least 5 feet or more.
6) The Ceiling Height
Ceilings should be 10 feet high for a condominium. Anything lesser than that may not be proper for a condominium.
For apartments or flats, ceilings with a height of 9 feet (or sometimes lower) isn’t uncommon.
Remember, every foot saved means that for every 10 levels, the developer gets to build one extra level (more money – kaching)!
7) The Flooring
Look for signs of cracks. Usually, the bigger the tiles, the more expensive it will be. Are the tiles still gleaming or already faded?
If the tiles are to our liking, then we are saving a few thousand Ringgit already.
If there are cracks, we must ask for discounts because we will have to redo the flooring. If it’s wood based, look for signs of termites too.
8) The Piping, Leaking, and Water Pressure
Check for any signs of water leakage on all the ceilings, especially the ones in the bathroom(s). These can be fixed, but it will not be easy or even cheap.
Yes, I have personally fixed 2 different condo units for which the ceiling was showing water leakage signs.
Somehow, I managed to talk nicely to the two different owners upstairs by asking the building management’s officer to be an intermediary.
Check the water pressure too. Turn on the pipes and the water flow should be smooth and strong.
9) Other Plumbing Issues
High-rise units may also come with a host of other common issues with regards to the plumbing, since each unit will be sharing the drainage system with other units of the building.
Thus, as you’d have no control over how your neighbours treat their drains (they may be washing waste and debris down), you might be facing recurring problems such as clogged toilets and/or drains.
If this happens and isn’t addressed immediately, it will lead to a more serious problem of bathroom flooding. Imagine trying to take a bath and realising that the floor has suddenly become a mini swimming pool!
If it was your upstairs neighbour who faces the flooding issue and doesn’t do anything about it, be prepared to find ceiling and water damage in your own unit.
As such, it’s very important to do a thorough check for the presence of any of these issues so that you can avoid the unpleasant surprise of a waterfall coming through your ceiling in the middle of the night!
10) Built-In Kitchen Cabinets/Closets
Are they in good condition? If it’s in a bad condition (i.e. mould, cracks, massive discolouration, etc), better ask for a discount as you’d need to redo them.
Even if they’re in a good condition, decide if we like the design or not. Preference is a subjective matter.
11) Clothes Drying Area
We could buy a clothes dryer and we can skip this step. However, if not, then look for a unit where there will be plenty of direct sunlight shining into the clothes drying area.
It’s NOT advisable to dry your clothes in one of the rooms because this will damage the paint job very quickly, in addition to creating unpleasant smells.
As for a dryer, it is not the best option for some of our clothes’ materials.
12) Views Are Everything
The view from the balcony, I mean, if there is one. If the balcony is facing the wall of another block, it is likely to affect our emotions in the long run. And how would you (and your loved ones, too) feel if it faces a cemetery?
Now, if it’s facing a bald hill (deforestation), there may be potential safety hazards when it rains heavily. But if it has the KLCC Twin Tower view, then be prepared to pay a VERY hefty premium!
13) Room Layout/Arrangement
Large rooms will usually mean a smaller living room, kitchen and even bathrooms. All these are very individual considerations.
However, if we are thinking of renting the rooms out, then the rooms must be big and the living room is allowed to be small.
If it’s for own use and we have kids, then a bigger living room helps tremendously for daily family time in the evenings, for example.
Remember, we would be using this common area almost every single day.
14) Daily Cookouts
If we love to cook (Malaysians and their food!), then the kitchen plays a very important part. For those intending to cook, could we cook freely without making our home oily, smelly, and dirty?
Are there separate wet and dry kitchen areas? Could we build a door to separate the kitchen from the living area?
The advantage of buying from the secondary market is that we can already see the actual unit before buying.
There are usually far fewer surprises here, compared to buying from the auction market or from a beautified brochure from the developer’s office.
However, there are still disadvantages. The design will usually be slightly outdated. The facilities will not have the chic, modern feel to it.
We may have far more issues with an older home compared to a new home where it doesn’t come with warranties for example. The choice is ours to make.
By the way, the above tips all assume that we have already decided on the area to buy a property in.
If we hate the area but the condo and unit meets all these objectives, then please do not proceed to buy and then suffer everyday anyway!
Charles Tan is the founder-cum-executive editor of kopiandproperty.com. He writes from the perspective of a working professional, and views property investment as a long-term decision.
His articles and views have appeared in many national newspapers, magazines and property listing portals.
He has also appeared in TV shows speaking about property investments, and has spoken regularly at various property events.