THE BELIEF IN NUMBERS
An investor’s formula for property investment results in financial rewards.
Coming from a middle class family, Pang Hiok Boon realised that he wuld not be able to save much if he depended only on monthly salaries. When he graduated college at the age of 24 years old, Pang started working as a computer programmer, and after a lot of efforts working overtime and saving money, he went searching for ways to invest.
Not long after, an opportunity came along that made Pang and his brother jumped into a property investment devoid of specific vision and mission. Without any knowledge in investing nor a decent plan, the two brothers bought a shoplot in Johor Bahru, combining their hard-earned money to buy the commercial property only because of the price.
“The price was too good to resist,” Pang recalled. During launching, the property was worth RM420,000, Pang told Property Insight. “Because the developer couldn’t sell the properties, they dropped the price by almost half. So I bought it at RM260,000.”
When Pang and his brother started receiving a good rental return on the property, more than enough to cover the instalments, the two brothers decided that property investment was a good deal after all. Five years later, they bought another shoplot for RM200,000 in Happy Garden, Kuala Lumpur, again buying without any strategy but mainly because of their growing belief in property investment numbers.
The second investment was another success. The desire to be a better property investor finally persuaded Pang to enroll in a property investment training course in Kuala Lumpur to start honing his skills. The two brothers then decided to part ways due to the distance between them, with Pang’s brother remaining to invest in Johor Bahru properties, and Pang on his own in Kuala Lumpur.
“After the training, the research, and the teamwork, I managed to find my first properties with no money down,” Pang said. “This one is on my own. Starting from 2009, I was full force on my own. Because I already acquired the skills, I believed it’s going to work.”
The course taught him a formula that offered not only purchasing with no money down, but with money returns as well. “I bought my first property at the price of RM250,000 and rent it at RM1,700 per month. The market price was RM285,000, so it’s below market value. Our strategy is that we need to find a property below 20%, and with 8% returns.” This first property of his, a condominium in Subang USJ which he rented out to students, quickly provided him with RM6,500 cash back.
Using that amount as capital, Pang then bought a high-end condominium in Sri Hartamas. “The best deal I ever had during that time,” Pang described proudly. He bought the property at the price of RM430,000, a lot below market value of RM530,000, which gave him cash back of RM47,000 in three months. His target market for the unit was expatriates, hence Pang engaged an interior designer for the condominium, which cost him RM40,000, but the rental yield proved the renovation was worth it.
Pang’s main focus since then has been studio units of condominiums. “Most of my portfolios are studios,” Pang said. “I found that studio’s capital appreciation is much faster and the demand for studio is higher. The demand for rental is also higher.”
Interestingly, Pang also has passion in interior design. He attended a course in interior design, and with the knowledge, Pang now does the interior design of his properties by himself. He also came to know several direct suppliers and hence can lower his renovations budget, and consequently lower his rent to compete for renters.
Pang, whose day job is a manager of software development company, described himself as naturally good in numbers and he found that his knowledge in mathematics and computer science have been very useful in his property investments. He counselled that investors always need to get their numbers right in property investment. “Once you do your maths right, you’ll never go wrong,” Pang said.
With his math expertise, he created a worksheet that eased the calculation tasks in his property investment.
“I came out with my own Excel worksheet with formulas. So I just put in the price and it will generate all the figures: how much the down payment is, how much the rental returns, all the expenses – it will calculate all. That way, it will be very fast and I don’t have to worry. As long as it meets the criteria and the location is good, I’ll buy. So starting from 2009, it’s non-stop buying.”
Yet, Pang sold the two properties in 2013 because of a false alarm that property bubble burst was coming. He waited for a year, and after nothing actually happened, he started to regret his decision to unload his portfolio, and decided to start buying again.
Now, Pang said that regardless of the floating fuel price, GST or other measures announced by the government, he will continue investing in the property business.
“After the lesson learned, I think that all the properties I selected, and why I selected it, they must be good properties. I shouldn’t even sell it. If the location is good, I should keep it since I don’t even need to serve the loan [because of rental], and on top of that I have a good cash flow. The longer I keep them, capital appreciations will be higher.”
Pang thinks that property price is definitely going up in 2015. “It will go up because of the GST. If the [construction] materials go up, prices have to go up and developers have to charge you a higher price.” However, he added, “Property market is always up and down, but I think for a property in a good location, the price will never go down. It goes up all the way.”
Now, Pang owns a number of properties in Johor Bahru, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Klang, focusing more in the southern region with plans to eventually invest abroad. His target markets have been either students or expatriates, and his properties are all for long-term rental yields.
The ‘tough landlord’ and ‘landlord from hell’ are aphorisms jokingly given by Pang’s friends to him for being extremely strict to his tenants. Pang even once had to firmly order a particularly troublesome tenant to vacate the property in the middle of the night.
Tenancy maintenance is the most challenging part and has the most headaches in the property investment, according to Pang. Hence, before he accepts any tenants, he will firstly lay down his rules with them. “These are the rules. If you break the rules, I’m sorry, I have to ask you to leave,” he would forewarn them.
“I have many challenging experiences in tenancy management, and I take it as a learning process. But I managed to solve it and end it quite well. In tenancy maintenance, you need to have the skills. You have to be very firm. You don’t have to be violent, but be very firm,” he explained.
ADVICE ON PROPERTY INVESTMENT
Pang had some experience in stocks investment before he became a property investor.
“When I worked on a project in Bursa Malaysia, we also invested in stocks. We always hear a lot of rumours. So we just followed the rumours to buy, and then we got stuck. My shares, until now, I still cannot sell. I think it’s high risk and it’s based on a lot of rumours,” he described. “I’m more interested in properties because properties can appreciate over time. It’s like an asset that everybody wants to have,” Pang said.
Property investment has changed his life by earning money for savings, he believed, while still being able to work in his chosen field of software development. “Property investment is totally different. To save RM50,000, RM100,000, is not a problem at all. It’s so easy to get RM50,000. I find that property investment, starting from the beginning to the end, you’ll have a lot of money to earn. If I know a property and then I recommend my friend to buy, I’ll earn a commission. If I find a good lawyer and I recommend to my friend, I’ll earn a commission. So, along the way, at every point I can earn money. Even from the interior design, I can also earn money.”
Pang’s advice to the new investors is to go for the small developers who sell reasonable price and at below market value. He also advises the future investors to start early. This is because, according to Pang, the earlier investors start, the longer tenure they will have. As a consequence, longer tenure will give investors smaller instalments in the long run.
“Compared to me, I started very late – in 2009. So my tenure is getting shorter. I need to fight for time. When I started in property investment, age was one of the factors. I have to do it fast. Even after I do it fast, it’s still not fast enough. The government imposed LTV 70%, so I need to be even faster. The later you buy, it’ll get expensive,” Pang said. “So the earlier you buy, the better. That’s why I always encourage people: you should start as early as you can.”
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