City & Country: The Edge Property Exellence Awards 2014: A luxuriously green address

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Winner - Phase 1B9, The Golf East, Horizon Hills – Horizon Hills Development Sdn Bhd


Houses in Phase 1B9 of The Golf East (The Golf East-1B9) in Horizon Hills, Johor, have won The Edge-PEPS Value Creation Excellence Award in the Residential category this year.

Situated in Nusajaya in Iskandar Malaysia, Horizon Hills is an integrated gated residential township that spans 1,200 acres and has a gross development value (GDV) of RM6 billion. The freehold development comprises 5,700 units of link houses, cluster homes, semi-detached houses and bungalows. It is located 25km from Johor Baru City Centre and the Causeway, and 20km from the Second Link in Tuas.

Set in a manicured landscape in a resort-style environment, the township offers generous open spaces for recreation such as gardens, parks, lakes and a 30km cycling path.

Developed by Horizon Hills Development Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Gamuda Land Sdn Bhd and UEM Sunrise Bhd, the township also boasts an award-winning 200-acre 18-hole designer golf course and a resort club,  which has facilities such as a gymnasium, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a dance studio, restaurants and lounges.

“We are very glad to have The Edge endorse us as a value creating developer and will keep creating value for our purchasers so that they will continue to have confidence in us,” says Gamuda Land managing director Chow Chee Wah. Gamuda Land is the property arm of Gamuda Bhd.

Prize-winning values

Enfolded in fairways and greens, The Golf East-1B9 is part of The Golf precinct in Horizon Hills. The other precincts in Horizon Hills are The Gateway, The Hills, The Green & The Woodlands, The Peak, The Cove, The Waterfall, The Valley, The Canal Garden, The Canal and The Heart.

The Golf precinct comprises the 36-acre The Golf East and the seven-acre The Golf West. The Golf East offers 606 units of 2-storey terraced houses and cluster homes, while The Golf West offers 47 units of semi-dees and bungalows.

The Golf East-1B9, which has a GDV of RM47 million, consists of 105 units of 24ft by 75ft 2-storey terraced houses with a built-up of 2,556 sq ft. The units were launched in May 2010 and completed two years later.

Five 2-storey terraced house submitted for this year’s competition were sold by the developer at RM439,800 to RM611,800 in 2010. They were later sold on the secondary market at RM899,000 to RM1.35 million in 2013 — an average appreciation of 117% over three years, or an annual appreciation rate of 47%.

“We priced ourselves 15% to 20% higher than our competitors when we first started and that did not set our sales back,” Chow says, adding that he believes the buyers of properties in Horizon Hills are not just looking for “a roof over their heads”.

He believes secondary purchasers are willing to buy at an appreciated price as they are confident that the property’s value will continue to rise. “Primary purchasers would have to take our word for it. However, secondary purchasers would be able to see that the property’s value is sustainable and will continue to appreciate.”

The Golf precinct currently enjoys a healthy occupancy rate of 79%, of whom 82% comprise Malaysians, and 18% Singaporeans and others. Chow says value is added to residential townships when properties are owner-occupied or tenanted.

According to Chow, there were more foreign buyers than locals initially, but over time, the number of locals increased. He says a third were Singaporeans and two thirds were Malaysians.

Horizon Hills attracted Singaporean buyers because of its safe environment, with its security infrastructure, spacious and green surroundings, and low-density, he adds.

The township has also managed to attract people from Tebrau who were initially reluctant to move there.

“This proves that Horizon Hills is the preferred location and we are proud to be the preferred developer. We feel appreciated for the efforts we have put into crafting this township with the address that puts people in a different class,” says Chow.

A tastefully crafted township

Chow attributes the success of The Golf East-1B9 to it being a part of  The Golf precinct within the master-planned community. But further value creation will depend on the community, he says.

“We can only get the integration right. We have already delivered in  crafting the master plan for the township.”

For instance, the houses were built in clusters in order to encourage community interaction, he points out. “We don’t want the various types of properties within the precinct to be segregated from each other as each property is part of The Golf precinct community.”

The houses were built to suit the contours of the land. Due to the hilly terrain, one may find a 3-storey house next to a 2-storey one, but their roofs would align.

“We also added a personal touch for privacy by aligning the windows of each unit differently, so that they do not look directly into one another,” he says.

According to Chow, the developer also places great emphasis on the planning of outdoor spaces.

“The space between the link houses, the pockets of land and greens, and the connectivity of the jogging and walking paths in front of the link houses are all well thought out. This is what distinguishes this township from others,” he says. “The houses are built to match the green environment and not the other way around. We want purchasers to enjoy and benefit from living in the green environment.”

During a site visit to Phase 1B9’s 2-storey terraced homes, the judges commented that the structures have “very clean and neat lines”.

As quality of work is also an important value-adding factor, the development adheres to the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore’s Construction Quality Assessment System standards.

Other features include 24-hour security, wide roads for pedestrian safety and cul-de-sacs to keep traffic from residential precincts, as well as having covered underground utilities.

According to Chow, the value of property is viewed from the perspective of the purchasers in terms of their day-to-day enjoyment of the property with their family, the lifestyle the township offers and the interaction of the township’s community.

He says value lies in the sustainability of the township and rises as the township matures with time. Buyers should be rewarded with higher returns and better value than what the developer profits from the sale of the properties, he adds.

Value creation, according to Chow, can be derived from the distinctive character of the township based on its master plan. “When we craft a township development, we aim to create an address and location that people want to live in, talk about and appreciate.”

Hence, a well-maintained township will ensure its sustainability and value, he says. Things such as the township’s landscape and maintenance can affect the overall character of the place, which in turn affects its value.

As the township was created based on the developer’s vision, it has taken it upon itself to maintain the overall character and landscape by setting up its own maintenance department, rather than relying on subcontractors or residents who may not share its vision.

“The value of a property is often affected by a lack of maintenance, which is a critical factor,” says Chow.

Sustaining consumers’ expectation

Chow remains optimistic about Horizon Hills, although he admits that the market has softened and is seeing an oversupply in certain areas.

“The market may not be as bullish as before because many policies are still uncertain in Johor and people are taking a wait-and-see approach. Once the policies are more certain, people will continue to invest in landed properties, especially well-planned ones,” he says, noting that a majority of new developments in Nusajaya and Iskandar Malaysia are high-rises.

“For every township we develop, we must be able to create a distinction and must always have an enhanced concept compared with previous projects. This is because lifestyles keep changing and the community will always have a higher expectation of quality of life. We must be able to craft something that can sustain those expectations as we are designing for the future, not for yesterday or today.”

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 20 - 26, 2014.