NISEKO CUTS THE ICE
PENANG TAKES FLIGHT
BANGKOK’S ONE TO WATCH
NISEKO CUTS THE ICE
PENANG TAKES FLIGHT
BANGKOK’S ONE TO WATCH
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IHI’s technologically sophisticated range of parking and logistics automation solutions
Your bathroom deserves vanities and furnishings fit for a luxury hotel
The spooky season is coming home in a frighteningly delightful way with these ornaments
Connectivity, sustainability and technology coalesce at One Bangkok: an ambitious mixed-use undertaking that is the most far-reaching of Bangkok’s various megaprojects
Coco Liu of advisory and accounting network HLB has resumed her busy travel schedule and is reconnecting with peers around the world
Design Focus: Different beat
As design director of PDW Architects, Mohammad Archica Danisworo is applying a defiant maverick spirit to alter Indonesia’s built environment for the better
w w w hl b. globa l
Home to Penang’s international airport, Bayan Lepas is evolving to become a promising hub for real estate investors
80 Destination: Australia
As Australia lets down its guard post-pandemic, the delicate dance between maintaining economic ascendancy and managing foreign ownership restarts
Confidence has drained from China’s residential market with prices dropping and the central bank slashing rates to 14-year lows. But some shafts of light remain
Blessed with some of the best powder on the planet, Hokkaido—and especially its star winter sports enclave Niseko—is turning investors’ heads due to its burgeoning real estate possibilities
When Sri Lanka’s economy crashed this year, the country’s real estate sector—traditionally regarded as a relatively safe bet for investors—remained surprisingly immune to the devastation
Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia are introducing new long-stay visas as they compete for the increasingly valuable digital nomad demographic
The last few years have been bruising and bloodying for most countries around the world. Yet some have emerged from the pandemic in better shape than others.
In China, the government’s zero-Covid policy means that the virus and its multitude of associated impacts such as snap lockdowns, work-from-home orders and the like are still front of centre of dayto-day life.
The economic impacts of the draconian focus on public health are mounting, with the Chinese economy in ragged shape. This slowdown is having a deleterious effect on a real estate sector that appears to be — at least in some tier-2 cities — nosediving rather than soaring.
We offer an overview of the situation in one of three destination updates in this issue, where we look at some choice markets outside Southeast Asia. In contrast with China’s travails, Australia is fully open again and ready to capitalise on its popularity with Asian investors.
Another investment destination that looks in decent fettle is Hokkaido. The northernmost island in Japan is known for its world-class conditions for winter-sports with key resorts such as Niseko and Furano hitting the mark with investors.
Elsewhere, we head to Jakarta for a chat with Mohammad Archica Danisworo of PDW Architects, get the lowdown on One Bangkok — one of Thailand’s most significant megaprojects — and assess the prospects for Sri Lanka’s real estate sector following recent political upheaval.Enjoy! Duncan Forgan Property Report firstname.lastname@example.org
The global conversation on sustainability in real estate is moving rapidly, especially in terms of the environment. Companies are under greater pressure to demonstrate how they are reducing or eliminating their carbon footprint and designing and constructing buildings in an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way. With the built environment’s contribution to CO2 levels estimated to be up to 40% of global emissions, green buildings are now seen as an imperative to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
Despite this rapid progress on environmental sustainability, social sustainability is lagging behind. Most real estate and construction companies’ social sustainability strategies focus on the impact on surrounding communities during the construction phase but rarely on the predominantly migrant workforce who actually build our homes.
The Thai construction sector is primarily driven by migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia, who often arrive as families or as married couples who tend to have children while in Thailand. This means that tens
of thousands of children throughout Thailand live in temporary worker camps, often in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, where access to key public services is a major challenge due to a combination of lack of information, documentation, and limited ability in the Thai language. While we can see these camps from our luxury condos or see the workers stuck in traffic on the road, we rarely think about the conditions in which they and their families live.
At the height of the pandemic in Bangkok during the summer of 2021, these sites came directly under the spotlight as 600 camps were forced to shut themselves off from society and prevent movement, affecting up to 80,000 workers. During this time, prolonged work stoppages and movement restrictions put families on the brink of crisis. While many companies provided food to their workforce, the children, especially young ones and newborn babies, were often overlooked.
Baan Dek Foundation has been working both with these communities and construction companies for over 10
Unearthing the realities behind the construction industry and how real estate companies can make a difference by James Eckford
years. It has worked crucially with representatives of pioneering companies Visavapat Co. Ltd., MQDC and Syntec Construction PLC., as well as UNICEF Thailand to develop solutions and practical tools to improve these communities’ conditions and access to services. This deep experience and expertise from the ground led to the creation of the Building Social Impact (BSI) Initiative, an innovative and private sector-driven approach to create sustainable social impact in the construction and real estate sector for migrant workers and their families.
At the core of the initiative is the BSI Framework for Action, a set of 12 actionable recommendations for construction companies. These recommendations, when followed, improve the living conditions in construction site camps, as well as workers and children’s access to essential public services, such as healthcare, education and social services. This Framework comes with a toolkit and training to guide companies, from operational to management level, in the process. This initiative represents tangible actions and yields tangible and measurable results, both for people and businesses.
With Thai construction companies facing a labour shortage, and property developers dealing with resulting costs, the business case for improving worker welfare is clear. This need is further compounded by Thailand’s leadership in the field of business and human rights, which is already mandating publicly listed companies to disclose ESG data as well as demonstrate how they are integrating human rights due diligence in their business operations.
At a time when the sustainability landscape in Thailand is rapidly evolving, maturing, and converging with improved regulatory environments, especially in regard to business respect for human rights, it is crucial that the construction and real estate sector do not fall behind. Global Compact Network Thailand, part of a UN global initiative to leverage corporate action for the SDGs and human rights, has over 70 members yet none of them represent the construction sector.
The real estate and construction sectors have the opportunity to not only catch up with this movement but take a leading role. The BSI Initiative presents a model that goes beyond traditional CSR programs, which have been excluded as evidence of social sustainability by the Thai Sustainability Investment Index. Businesses are instead expected to address social issues within their value chain. This means identifying all stakeholders who are impacted by business activities; engaging with those stakeholders; and minimising negative impacts. By joining the BSI Initiative, construction and real estate companies can get ahead of the trend and become leaders in the dynamic field of sustainability by accessing a ready-made and tailored framework which offers low-cost yet high-impact solutions for migrant workers and their families.
James Eckford is the research and program quality coordinator at Baan Dek Foundation. To find out more about the Building Social Impact Initiative, please visit www.buildingsocialimpact.org or send an email to email@example.com
IHI gives the real estate and industrial sectors a lift with a technologically sophisticated range of parking and logistics automation solutions
IHI collaborated with EXOTEC to build the Skypod*, a threedimensional picking system that travels freely: front and back, left and right, up and down. The robot can manoeuvre a rack to pick and transport items to the station. This allows distribution warehouse workers to remain where they are and focus on packing.
A recent addition to IHI’s product line-up, the Super Square Parking System* is a next-generation parking solution that minimises waiting times and waste of space. Bundling IHI’s robust technology in hardware and software, the system can be laid out flexibly according to the building’s shape, letting cars move freely within that layout.
IHI’s Automated Retrieval and Storage System* is all about saving on space and labour, as well as accurate inventory management, reducing human errors. Available for a wide range of applications from cold storage to e-commerce distribution, the unmanned system is suitable for holding dangerous, heavy objects, even hard-to-lift cylindrical items.
The IHI Elevator Parking System* is the company’s flagship parking solution, popularised in Japan and now optimising building sites around the world. With its high space-per-car efficiency, minimal electricity consumption, and long lifecycle design, the system is ideal for high-density cities. IHI has already delivered over 99,000 of these parking spaces worldwide.
*Price upon request
Your bathroom deserves furnishings and vanities fit for a luxury hotel
The Benchwright Single Sink Vanity is made from solid distressed poplar wood with MDF, hand-finished in moistureresistant wax pine or mahogany. A porcelain sink and glossy marble top are included, too. You can store items in the vanity’s six drawers and open bottom shelf.
The Jarrow Wall Cabinet is not what it seems at first. The cabinet door doubles as a mirror fastened flat on the wall, hiding the rest of the cabinet behind the wall. Better yet, the shelves are adjustable and aglow with LED strips.
Shed some light on that visage with Aica Bathrooms’ mirror cabinet, fitted with flattering LED lights and a touch sensor switch. It also features a demister as well as panels of 5-millimetrethick glass with a protective film on the back.
Shower chairs need not look like they come from the hospital. The ToiletTree Wooden Shower Seat and its matching footstool boast a deluxe bamboo construction. With its rubber grip feet and storage shelf, the 21.6-inch-high main seat is a reliable one to use, indeed.
From USD85, amazon.com
Cotswold Company’s Chatsworth Double Open Tall Boy is 180 cm high, with three open shelves in the top half to show off your bougiest toiletries. The lower half with the double cupboard is closed, the better to hide prosaic items like tissue paper.
The spooky season is coming home in a frighteningly delightful way with these décor and ornaments
These pumpkins are made of recycled glass and come in a haunting array of colours, ranging from smoke to amber. As opposed to the more outlandish, seasonal jack-o-lanterns, these minimalist gourds will look good any time of the year.
From USD27 each, westelm.com
Your house may not be stigmatised, but that doesn’t mean you can’t host this miniature haunted house by Cody Foster in your abode. Watch for tiny details like the graveyard, flying bats above the chimneys, and withering trees and leaves.
This dinner plate by Sur La Table is a must-have for spook fest. The earthenware plate depicts a rim of snakes ringing a skeletal figure drinking from a bottle of wine at a cemetery, a macabre reminder that life is fleetingly beautiful.
From USD14 each, surlatable.com
A scarecrow and a jack-olantern make for an unholy matrimony in Halloween heaven, which is why this three-pronged garden stake by Evergreen Enterprises is such a treat. To cap it all off, the figure wears a witch’s hat and tattered drape.
The Hocus Pocus threetiered server does just that: cast a spell over guests with layer upon layer of treats. With its realistic bristles, food-safe rubber wood plates, and cast-iron handle, this piece of (witch) craft truly serves the glamour, in the medieval sense.
Connectivity, sustainability and technology coalesce at One Bangkok: an ambitious mixed-use undertaking that is the most far-reaching of Bangkok’s various megaprojectsBY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ THE PRELUDE ONE BANGKOK
It starts with a circle of white light.
Slowly it traces the outline of a circular, canvas-like surface. Laser beams furtively fan out overhead as “hello” in a multitude of languages reverberates throughout the room. Suddenly the floor lights up, a maelstrom of painterly images whirling on the surface, until two words emerge: “One Bangkok.”
With a flourish of 3D mapping and hydraulics, the experiential show suite known as The Prelude One Bangkok teases the imminent arrival of One Bangkok, the largest private-sector development in the Thai capital’s central business district. Next to the show suite is the subject itself, a THB120-billion (USD3.5 billion) integrated district that literally and economically sits at a crossroads in Bangkok.
The 16.7-hectare development lies at the intersection of hiso Wireless (Witthayu) Road, commercial corridor Sathorn Road, and historic Rama IV Road, the widest
thoroughfare in the CBD. Hopefully, One Bangkok will destress the choked arteries of Sukhumvit and Sathorn roads north and south.
In 2015, the developers held a three-month design competition between four master-planners in which Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) prevailed. “This land is located in the heart of Bangkok City. We had to consider the masterplan carefully, taking into consideration the city masterplan transformation and the commercial requirement,” says Lim Hua Tiong, chief executive officer of One Bangkok, a joint venture of TCC Assets and Frasers Property.
Rather than become approximations of Canary Wharf, Tokyo Midtown, and other SOM commissions, One Bangkok unfolds like a vertical Thai village. “This is a masterplan tailored to Bangkok’s culture and climate and, more specifically, to this neighbourhood,” says Scott Duncan, design partner with SOM.ONE BANGKOK COMMANDS GREAT VIEWS OF LUMPHINI PARK
Through building information modeling (BIM) platforms, the firm quilted its vision of a climate-resilient precinct into the designs of local consultants, led by Architects 49 (A49). The team imagined edifices with Thai rooflines characterised by large eaves, deep overhangs, breezeways, and open-air porches, combining regional and vernacular passive cooling techniques with active design.
“The architectural design of One Bangkok focused on modern contemporary design with Thai heritage influencing some buildings more so than the others,” says Pichai Wongwaisayawan, deputy managing director of A49.
“The result would be a unique precinct that stands out yet fits in well with the Bangkok urban and cultural context.”
With a gross floor area of 1.83 million square metres, the One Bangkok masterplan consists of five luxury and lifestyle hotels including Bangkok’s first Ritz-Carlton and Andaz hotels; four retail precincts with different positionings; three residential towers in progressive states of luxury; five premium grade-A office towers; and The Forum, a 30,000sqm multi-purpose hall.
One Bangkok is built to withstand 500-year flood levels, the gradient of the plot rising to seven metres at the 10,000sqm, car-free civic plaza in the middle of the district. Linear parks set back the edges of One Bangkok by up to 40 metres from the pavements of Rama IV and Wireless roads.
Unlike concrete canyons elsewhere in the city, One Bangkok’s block structures are aerodynamic, tightly spaced to eliminate harsh wind tunnels or pockets of stagnated air. Project architects and engineers iteratively tested the edifices for the best placements and orientations through a combination of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel tests, the latter done in Canada.
“This enabled us to maximise access to daylight for the above-grade structures, staggering the towers to create the most amount of views for all buildings while maintaining a dense pedestrian experience that is well shaded,” says Duncan.
In 2020, the project set the record for the largest continuous concrete pour of a mat foundation in Southeast Asia, withWITH WALKABLE STREETSCAPES AND PLAZAS, ONE BANGKOK IS GROOMED TO BECOME A NEW SOCIAL HUB IN BANGKOK
almost 27,000 cubic metres of concrete poured in 36.5 hours. As building costs, including rebar prices, stabilise, and construction workers return through reopened borders since June 2022, the 896,000-sqm first phase of superstructure work is on track for completion by the fourth quarter of 2023. Six main contractors, namely Thai Obayashi, Italian-Thai Takenaka, Pre-Built Public Co., Ltd., Visavapat Co., Ltd., Koranit Construction Co., Ltd., and T.T.S. Engineering (2004) Co., Ltd., have since last year commenced work on the superstructures.
The land that thrust Thailand into the radio era—the site was once home to the country’s first radio station—is now submerged deep in the Information Age. Over 250,000 sensors, designed for efficient facility management and seamless end-user experience, future-proof the district against uncertainty.
“As technology changes and our devices become smarter and better integrated with urban infrastructure, One Bangkok will be ready,” says Duncan.ALMOST HALF THE ONE BANGKOK SITE IS SET ASIDE FOR GREEN AREAS AND OPEN SPACES, INCLUDING PARKS AND A MASSIVE CIVIC PLAZA
THIS IS A MASTERPLAN TAILORED TO BANGKOK’S CULTURE AND CLIMATE AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, TO THIS NEIGHBOURHOOD
Wireless Road got its name from Thailand’s first broadcast and telegraph station. In the late 1920s, HRH Prince Purachatra, the Prince of Kamphaengphet, established the country’s first radio station on the plot where the integrated district One Bangkok is currently being developed.
Paying homage to the site’s storied past, one of the five office towers onsite sports alternating glass atriums inspired by radio waves. A recreation of the radio station with the original foundation is also being built at the corner of the district.
“The site-specific heritage in the rebuilding of Thailand’s first radio station on the site emphasises the importance given to local heritage,” says Pichai Wongwaisayawan, deputy managing director of A49, one of the development’s consultants. ”The result is a new urban environment that is distinctly Thai in character yet highly international in quality standard, fitting in well with the modern urban community lifestyle.”
Apropos of its technological heritage, One Bangkok has been designated by various organisations, including Chulalongkorn University and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, as an important part of the Rama IV Smart City Corridor.
A residential-office development within the Mall of Asia Complex is the embodiment of coolness in the age of flexible and remote work
The blurring of the home and workplace has been one of the lasting legacies of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even as the Philippines opens its borders to the world at large, the desire to work where one lives remains as strong as ever.
From a workplace experiment, working from home has become the new norm since the pandemic struck. Many companies have employed a combination of work-fromhome, in-office work, and on-the-go work, a phenomenon of flexibility that has come to be called hybrid work. While the labour force dramatically shifted to remote work and telecommuting, consumers discovered the joys and conveniences of e-commerce, telemedicine, online banking, and entertainment streaming.
Leading Filipino real estate developer SM Development Corporation (SMDC) wants property seekers to succeed as the world enters this new era. In 2021, SMDC unveiled ICE Tower Residential-Office (RESO), a development fully integrated into the bayfront complex that contains SM Mall of Asia (MOA), one of the world’s largest shopping malls.
Set to complete at the end of 2024, ICE Tower RESO is
unique in that it combines the best features of a luxury condominium and a Grade-A office building. The project, which stands on a 3,859-square-metre site near Manila Bay, is named after its glistening glass façade, which resembles the smoothness and glossiness of ice.
ICE Tower RESO lets property seekers reimagine any of its 844 units as either a residential property, workspace, or a combination of both. Property seekers can choose from one- to two-bedroom configurations, as well as studios.
ICE Tower RESO houses what SMDC calls “spaces for success.” As video conferencing and digital collaboration become ever more popular, SMDC brings the wonders of quality fiber optics to entrepreneurs and workers. With fiber optic tech, residents get fast Internet speeds, which in turn facilitate important calls, meetings, and even rollouts of digital campaigns. And with a 100% backup power system, ICE Tower RESO ensures business continuity and uninterrupted operations throughout the site.
ICE Tower RESO has facilities comparable to premiumgrade office building. It boasts, for instance, the Business
Hub, where residents can access various office services. Fully equipped meeting rooms and a board room are also available, ideal for training modules, virtual conferences, or just simple brainstorming sessions. The building also contains a spacious function hall, which can easily host an entire seminar, conference, or company event. Comfortable, professionally designed working spaces are designated for residents, too.
With the Business Hub, entrepreneurs and their employees can increase efficiency and lower monthly expenses. In addition to the Business Hub, ICE Tower RESO also houses the Social Hub, an upscale setting where entrepreneurs and workers can network, collaborate, or simply catch up with each other.
Not everything has to be about work. Residents and guests of ICE Tower RESO can set aside time to recharge at the development’s relaxing Central Pool or at the roof deck with the Sky Lounge. The latter offers panoramic views of the bay as well as the 60-hectare Mall of Asia complex.
The health of residents has always been a priority for SMDC. Stressed, harried workers can indulge in physical activity at ICE Tower RESO’s Fitness Hub. Residents in general are blessed with an abundance of natural light and ventilation throughout the building.
These features contribute toward a healthy work environment, thus encouraging productivity and setting the
stage for the next generation of entrepreneurs. The living and working spaces are truly suited to ideating unique startups and enterprises.
The units at ICE Tower RESO are now in the pre-selling phase. Due to its location inside the Mall of Asia complex and proximity to the international airport, ICE Tower RESO will only see its potential increase over the years. The completion of nearby infrastructure projects such as the integrated monorail system will only add to the development’s appreciating capital value.
Greenmist Property Management Corporation, with its comprehensive real estate services, will professionally manage and maintain ICE Tower RESO.
The development’s proximity to SM Mall of Asia will always be a boon to residents. The shopping mall is not only a retail destination but a travel and leisure hub with convention centres, concert venues, entertainment parks, and hotels. Many IT-BPO companies are headquartered in the area, and other residential projects are on the rise.
With ICE Tower RESO, living where you work is truly the coolest thing you can do.
For more information on SMDC Ice Tower RESO, visit smdc.com/smdcs-ice-residential-offices
Coco Liu of advisory and accounting network HLB has resumed her busy travel schedule and is reconnecting with peers around the world in anticipation of seismic shifts in the real estate industryBY BILL CHARLES
Before the pandemic, Coco Liu was constantly on the go. The London-based strategic business development executive for HLB, the global advisory and accounting network, says she boarded a different long-haul flight every month.
Her busy schedule took her not only to Asia, where she serves as HLB’s chief regional officer, but also to far-flung locales in Australia and emerging markets in Africa and Eurasia.
The person-to-person connections Liu developed on those trips were invaluable, she says, especially in places like China, where business is often an outgrowth of personal relationships nurtured over long dinners and social events.
With travel restrictions finally easing, Liu is taking to the skies again. She embarked on a whirlwind 10-day, four-nation trip to Asia in July to meet HLB network members and business partners, and her travel schedule through the end of the year is packed with flights to Germany, Portugal, the Middle East, and back again to Asia.
I’m really focused on growth and collaborations, and I help grow our business ecosystem by recruiting dynamic member firms to the network. Every day I face something new. It’s challenging but also exciting and rewarding
“2022 is really the year of opening up and reconnecting,” Liu says. “For HLB we had our first face-to-face global conference in July. People couldn’t wait to meet again. There are so many opportunities driven by these connections.”
In her 16 years with HLB, Liu has watched the network expand from a traditional accounting, taxation, and audit services provider to more of a holistic business advisory role, working to help clients achieve broader sustainable growth.
In addition to her role as chief regional officer, Liu is also head of HLB’s global business channels. In these twin leadership roles, she’s helped launch two major initiatives.
HLB’s Global China Service promotes and facilitates twoway trade and investment opportunities between greater China and the rest of the world. And the Business Channel Development Initiative, a value-added service, connects HLB clients with outside experts in law firms, government
agencies, multinational banks, and other professional services providers.
“I’m really focused on growth and collaborations, and I help grow our business ecosystem by recruiting dynamic member firms to the network,” Liu says. “Every day I face something new. It’s challenging but also exciting and rewarding.”
What’s been the secret to the Global China Service’s success?
We launched the Global China Service in 2010. At that time, we were the first company in the mid-market to have a global initiative to facilitate two-way trade and investment between China and the rest of the world.
Foreign direct investment in China was handled seamlessly by our member firms in China through their 40 locations. But HLB was also determined to help Chinese outbound initiatives—to help Chinese companies grow globally. And so we set up Chinese-speaking desks in nearly 30 markets around the world.
We try to provide a one-stop-shop experience to these Chinese companies. We offer many services in-house, but for others—like legal services that are normally done by law firms, not CPA firms—we have reliable business channel partners we recommend to Chinese clients. Our service has been quite successful and we won an award for the best Global China Service in 2015, which was a nice recognition of what we have achieved.
Tell us a bit more about HLB’s global network.
HLB is a global network covering 157 markets, and each member firm is different. We respect their independence and their differences and also their local positioning. However, when we come together as a network, we also try our best to identify synergies in areas where we can work together. Typical clientele is very different from region to region. In Europe, typical clients are SMEs or hidden champions. But in Asia-Pacific, typical clientele are large state-owned companies, large corporates and listed companies.HLB’S GLOBAL CHINA SERVICE PROMOTES AND FACILITATES TWOWAY TRADE AND INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES BETWEEN GREATER CHINA AND THE REST OF THE WORLD
Our clients don’t want to shop around, especially those going to a whole new market. They trust us because we’re their auditor or tax advisor, but they don’t know anyone who can do their legal service or evaluation or buy them a property. So we try to bring everything together, which is a win-win arrangement for everyone.
What are some advantages for you being based in the UK?
A lot of people I meet assume that I’m based in Hong Kong or Singapore, but I’m in London. I think the advantage is that this is an Alpha++ city. It’s the location of a lot of global headquarters, especially for professional services providers—not only accounting networks, but also legal networks. So the connections are dynamic. London also has an advantage because it’s in the center geographically whether you go to the US or go to Asia.
HLB works with many companies in the real estate sector. What do you think the next decade looks like for global property markets?
With the pandemic, we’ve seen how new technology is playing a very important role in all sectors. There’s a very hot topic right now and that’s the metaverse. I think there will be a big trend for real estate to embrace it. This is a place where people will be able to work, play and socialise in the future. We already see people buying “land” in the metaverse with real money, and many retailers like Gucci and Gap are buying boutiques there to boost their real-world sales.
In our view, the metaverse will be a game-changer for the world of real estate. For instance, virtual tours will reduce hassle and enhance user experience for property buyers. The metaverse will also enhance efficiency and boost sales for real estate agencies. This will lead to new opportunities and business lines for designers and developers because people are buying “land” in the metaverse and they are going to create virtual homes for avatars as well.LIU IS A FIRM BELIEVER OF THE POTENTIAL FOR TECHNOLOGY TO EFFECT POSITIVE CHANGES ON THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY
You and HLB both help oversee judging in the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards. What do you think participants gain from being part of the awards?
Of course, the winners are recognised for their achievements, but in my view the biggest gain for all participants is the connection to the ecosystem that has been created— the connection to your industry peers, judges, and other stakeholders. People can also gain inspiration by observing best practices in the sector and exploring synergies with one another.
You were personally the recipient of the 2018 CEO Today Asia Award. What was this in recognition of?
I was very honoured to win that award, which recognised leadership in Asia-Pacific. It was a very strong personal encouragement for me about what I have achieved. But I also think the award is recognition of HLB’s culture of innovation and collaboration. We are not a loose, club-style association but a true network. Everyone is engaged. We share the same values and we really do things to move.
I think my leadership style is slightly different from a lot of leaders in western markets. Of course, I’m driven to achieve, but I am a strong believer in Asian and Chinese philosophy. There is an old Chinese saying: “The time should be right, the terrain should be favourable, and the people must be unified.” Those are the key elements for success.
I really value synergies for collaborations. I do a lot of research on new trends and my leadership style is very adaptive. I respect cultural dynamics and always consider the value I can bring to collaborations when I’m crafting strategies or creating business cases. I’m very happy whenever I develop good relationships with people in our member firms and clients and business partners.A STRONG BELIEVER IN FORGING SYNERGIES VIA COLLABORATIONS, LIU IS RELISHING OPPORTUNITIES TO TRAVEL FOR BUSINESS AGAIN
As design director of PDW Architects, Mohammad Archica Danisworo is applying a defiant maverick spirit to alter Indonesia’s built environment for the betterBY DIANA HUBBELL
Indonesia may be the largest economy in ASEAN and the fourth most populous nation in the world, but Jakarta—its capital—still lacks the infrastructure associated with powerhouses like Singapore or Bangkok.
The city’s 10-million-plus residents still cope with maddening traffic, pollution, and general chaos daily. Yet where some people might see setbacks to development, PDW Architects—one of the country’s most questing design practices—sees something more.
“In Jakarta, there was never any real city planning. It’s a bit of a mess, which means it’s hard to navigate existing buildings,” says Mohammad Archica Danisworo, design director at PDW Architects. “That’s the challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to have a substantial impact. We see the existing buildings and lack of infrastructure to create something unique.”
As Jakarta races to improve its mass transit system and overall quality of life, Danisworo believes he and his team can make a difference in the city for generations to come. From Hong Kong to Beijing, many of Asia’s most significant metropolises have undergone startling transformations in relatively little time. These building booms are thrilling for ambitious architects and urban planners.
“The urban fabrics are so intertwined in a developing city like Jakarta. It aspires to be the next Tokyo or Shanghai or New York,” Danisworo says. “It still has a lot of energy because it’s still not built up yet.”
He believes in channeling that momentum to create something great. “From that urban energy, we try to create a very enriching environment, not just for our clients, but for the city residents as well.”
When helping to lay the groundwork for Indonesia’s future, Danisworo is careful to steer clear of tired tropes and clichés. Ever since he was a small child sketching out rocket ships and futuristic cities in his notepads, he’s
been drawn to designs that stand out from the milieu.
“In terms of design philosophy, deep down, since I was little, I always tried to be anti-mainstream, a little against the grain,” he says. “I always tried to find something unique in every aspect of life and ways to differentiate myself from others.”
That maverick approach to design has served Danisworo well throughout his career. While many architectural firms in developing markets strive to emulate pre-existing successful designs in other cities, PDW Architects strives to bring a touch of its distinctive flair to every single client brief.
“If a client selects you, they don’t expect a cookiecutter approach,” Danisworo says. “They expect something unique.” Since the firm’s launch nearly two decades ago, PDW Architects has built up a reputation for providing exactly that. Part of that stems from the fact that Danisworo encourages his team to think outside the box.
“Whenever there’s a new brief coming in, we just throw wild ideas around and see what sticks,” he says. “They don’t always work, but it gets the creative juices flowing and we can show this process to the client later. To me, design is about the process, not just the product.”
He acknowledges somewhat ruefully that it would be much easier to stick to tired clichés.
“It’s like self-torture in a way,” he says with a laugh. “We could take the easy way out and take that cookie-cutter approach, but there’s no fun in that, there’s no challenge in that!”
At PDW Architects, Danisworo is particularly conscious of both his and the firm’s Indonesian heritage. With more than 700 distinct languages
and thousands of years of history, the islands have incomparable cultural depth. Danisworo draws on architectural techniques and knowledge from around the world, but he is especially proud to represent his homeland.
“Indonesia has over 17,000 islands. We always try to extract something out of that rich culture and diversity,” he says. This decision to draw on Indonesia’s heritage has profound practical implications, particularly when it comes to sustainability. “I think as an Indonesian architect, we have that in our genes to always be mindful of nature and create designs that are sustainable and conserve energy.”
Danisworo’s ancestors may not have had the phrase “passive design,” but thanks to centuries’ worth of generational wisdom, they developed building techniques that helped keep their homes cool without the use of electricity. From building windows away from the powerful, mid-afternoon sunlight to encouraging natural airflows and ventilation, there are all sorts of tried-and-tested techniques that PDW Architects relies on today to create greener buildings for the future.
“Our ancestors were always taking to nature in dictating how they lived and adapted to their surroundings,” he says. “Deep inside, our culture has always had this knack of living well in nature. I think from that simple design there are a lot of deep practical solutions about how to live in a tropical setting.”
Ultimately, it is that combination of experimental, unconventional thinking combined with meticulous research and a reverence for time-tested traditions that makes PDW Architects’ designs stand out. As Indonesia reimagines what the future of its cities looks like, it’s big ideas and bold approaches like these that will reshape its skylines.
In terms of design philosophy, deep down, since I was little, I always tried to be anti-mainstream, a little against the grain. I always tried to find something unique in every aspect of life and ways to differentiate myself from others
“Jakarta has a lot of glass-box buildings. They’re efficient, but you see them on every corner. We wanted to add our distinctive touch,” says Danisworo. To make Gran Rubina pop against a sea of black, white, and grey concrete, they enrobed the building in an architectural skin. “This building has a different personality depending on which direction you look at it from, since no two sides are the same.” Not only is the architectural skin visually striking, but it also helps reduce sunlight during the hottest parts of the day, reducing the need for airconditioning. “We’re quite proud of this building,” he adds. “We were able to create a unique look, pattern, and shape while conserving energy.”
This project for Federal Oil represents a change of pace from the commercial high-rises that PDW Architects often designs. “We don’t want to limit ourselves. This was a change of scale, which we appreciated very much,” says Danisworo. Several subtle decorative touches enliven the overall design here. “The texture that you see on the wall is the petrol oil symbol that we extracted and turned into a random pattern.” Because all the windows face north and south, the building naturally reduces heat intake during the day. “There are also slits of light from the top of the atrium, so we’re deflecting the heat, but we’re allowing light to enter directly.”
While most clients err on the budget-conscious side, this one was more interested in creating something truly unique than in keeping costs low. “This client said to me, ‘Build me something new, something fresh, no limits,’” Danisworo remembers. The resulting circular hotel is enveloped in an architectural skin. “It’s now one of the top-performing hotels in the area,” says Danisworo. “The iconic shape helps promote this property. It’s easily identifiable and it creates good word of mouth. Good design can create good business for the client. A unique design can help the iconic status and visibility of a building and drive the performance.”
“Since this client wanted something unique and the land was very long and narrow, the building regulation dictated the building,” Danisworo says of this eye-catching skyscraper. “If you were to drive up to this building from several kilometres away, it’s instantly recognisable.” PDW Architects opted to capitalise on the building’s proximity to an MRT station by creating spaces for pedestrians and commuters. “Interconnectivity in Jakarta is generally very poor. We want to break down that stigma and increase walkability. So we raised the building on the ground floor to make it open.”
Public artwork and restaurants encourage gatherings in the space. “We created parks where there were no parks before, so the benefit to the city will be considerable once it’s completed.”
“Jakarta was very late to this mass transportation party,” Danisworo says. “The Duka Atas is quite important because it’s the largest transportation hub in Jakarta and it also happens to be the place where different modes of transportation meet.” By creating pedestrian walkways, this masterplan offered the opportunity to completely revolutionise one of the most crucial connecting points in the developing city. Danisworo hopes that his work will help realise the vision of a more liveable Jakarta in the future. “It’s something to provide a more integrated design approach to that area, which didn’t exist before,” he says. “It’s baby steps, but I’m looking forward to Jakarta having a mass transportation system.”
Developers have high hopes for Batam Island, a Special economic zone hoping to entice Singaporean investors with its beautiful coastline and comparatively affordable property prices. “It’s great for Singaporeans who want a quick getaway or even another home because our real estate prices are cheaper,” Danisworo explains. To make sure the space lives up to its potential, however, it needed a more focused vision. “It was sprawling without a proper city design,” he says. “The developer here wanted to create a landmark that would be visible from Singapore.” PDW Architects proposed using a small natural island as the focal point of essentially a new township, complete with a state-of-the-art harbour to welcome arrivals from the Lion City.Tanjung Uma Masterplan
Independent and financially savvy, today’s generation of income earners in Metro Manila want more than a place to rent—they deserve a place to call their own
Filipinos waste 16 days a year and lose PHP3.5 billion in productivity every day to commuting. When workers have a choice, they would love to live as close as possible to their place of employment and avoid traffic jams.
Many would prefer to live in Ortigas, the commercial heart of the city of Pasig in Metro Manila. The city of 800,000 people is historic but young at heart, filled with entertainment venues, shopping malls, hotels, and even a renowned cathedral. Ortigas itself is home to the headquarters of many major companies, multinationals, and multilateral institutions, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB). One of the largest suppliers of office space in Metro Manila, Ortigas CBD accounted for a bulk of office transactions in the metropolis last year.
To many workers, however, living in the heart of Pasig City seems like a pipe dream that is out of their means. This is why 8990 Holdings Inc., one of the Philippines’ fastestgrowing development companies, is building Urban Deca Homes Ortigas, “The Closest Home You Can Own.“
Named Best Affordable Condo Development (Metro Manila) last year at the PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards, Urban Deca Homes Ortigas is the company’s new residential offering along Ortigas Avenue Extension. Offering more than 19,000 units across 22 medium-rise buildings, Urban Deca Homes Ortigas is designed to help Metro Manila workers get their feet on the property ladder.
Given its strategic location at Ortigas Avenue Extension, Urban Deca Homes Ortigas is suitable for those who need daily access to not only the business districts of Pasig City but also Makati and Bonifacio Global City (BGC), two of the country’s major financial hubs. The development’s strategic address also puts it within easy reach of Eastwood, Libis, Cubao, Cainta, and major commercial centres in and around Metro Manila.
Urban Deca Homes Ortigas offers the opportunity to not only save on the commute but also the rent. Convinced they are priced out of the market, many workers tend to settle for just renting properties in these areas. But Urban Deca Homes Ortigas gives renters the opportunity to upgrade to their own home.
Instead of squandering their hard-earned income on rentals, workers now have the power to spend those sums on downpayments for their very own units at Urban Deca Homes Ortigas. The developer offers in-house and bank financing, as well as financing through Pag-Ibig Fund, the Philippines’ national savings and affordable shelter program.
The units of Urban Deca Homes Ortigas are available at reasonable price points. For relatively little capital, upgraders will be able to live close to their offices and schools, as well as shopping centres and other essentials of urban life. The units are very comfortable and liveable, with the independent panel of judges at the PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards impressed with their quality interiors and good proportions.
Those working in IT-BPO (information technology and business process outsourcing), one of the Philippines’ biggest industries, will appreciate the homes on offer at Urban Deca Homes Ortigas because of its proximity to many contact centres in Metro Manila. The homes are also ideal for those working in the fields of finance, manufacturing and medicine.
Location is everything when living and working in Metro Manila, so a property like Urban Deca Homes Ortigas is a truly enviable address for commuters and motorists alike. For residents who drive to work, Urban Deca Homes Ortigas offers more than 3,330 car parking slots.
Home buyers can depend on 8990 Holdings Inc., which has built a reputation for building a wide range of properties that focus on the low-cost residential sector. In fact, PagIbig Fund has named 8990 Holdings Inc. as the Top 1 property developer in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.
As the capital attracts workers from all over the Philippines, property seekers discover that affordable but well-designed residential developments in Metro Manila truly make for solid investments. For that, Urban Deca Homes Ortigas will surely be desired by many for years to come.
Home to Penang’s international airport, Bayan Lepas is evolving to become a promising hub for real estate investors
Ideal Property Group’s sprawling resortstyle development draws on a bright palette inspired by Cuba’s Spanish colonial architecture, and comprises a central 50-storey building, with an impressive 1,342 units in total targeted at young families. Offering both communal spaces and private zones, with balcony views throughout and large windows, it promotes good ventilation and natural lighting. Design prowess aside, Havana’s principal draw is its proximity to (super)markets, malls, and facilities serving work, leisure, and living needs. These include multiple schools, the LRT, a free trade zone, an airport, and Asia’s longest sea bridge (connecting the island to mainland Malaysia). A playground, clubhouse, gym, infinity pool, and golfing green enhance the tropical-holiday allure of this city-centre locale.
This ambitious, twin-tower waterfront condominium complex in the Queens Bay area from award-winning developers Asia Green Group houses 1,235 units. It caters to affluent young Penangites with its easy access to key transport hubs, local business areas, educational institutions, and F&B/ retail hubs. Akin to a five-star hotel, QuayWest offers imperious views with a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the sea. Towards its centre lies a lush, landscaped garden area filled with amenities such as private cabanas, hot tubs, a gym, and a children’s playground. Units are ready to occupy for those wishing to luxuriate at this project.
Housed in a greenhouse-like structure with a small garden at its entrance, 2F+ is a decade-old franchise with two Penang cafés and an international branch in Bangkok. Its contemporary interior makes a conducive setting for a young crowd to sample the eclectic range of coffees on offer. Beans hail from South/Central America (Costa Rica, Colombia) and Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya). A venue for serious coffee aficionados, there’s a huge range of superior paraphernalia on sale, while on-site workshops cover subjects ranging from latte art to barista skills for aspiring service staff. But 2F+ also doubles as an all-day eatery with an impressive array of locally inspired comfort food, along with sumptuous waffles and desserts. Pop-up events and flea markets have helped make this the number-one café in Bayan Lepas on TripAdvisor.
This scenic seafront town near George Town first landed on the map in the late19th century when a wealthy family arrived by sea from Sumatra and lost their pet bird. The mishap—according to urban folklore—gave name to the nascent settlement. Bayan Lepas translates as “escaped parakeet”. It had been a rural ricefarming village until the founding of a free industrial zone in 1972 transformed its fortunes. Now a bustling place with by far the largest population in southwestern Penang, the town’s economic activity ranges from tech and manufacturing to insurance and MICE conventions. In addition, plentiful retail options, schools, and a top sports arena ensure that it’s become a magnet for both investors and house-seeking families.
With a name playing on the colour foremost in its décor, this seafood eatery and steakhouse was established in 2019. French in spirit but more cosmopolitan in reality, Spink is a true original to Bayan Lepas’ otherwise formulaic restaurant scene. The eclectic menu—sample dishes include oyster sashimi, multiple lobster iterations, and pumpkin spaghetti—demonstrates real creativity, along with a sense of fun injected into the branding (party bookings are common). Aside from a bespoke cocktail area, the owners have installed a “spinning machine” where MYR20 gives diners a potluck gamble on an extra side dish, a novelty designed to lure jaded visitors or guests on a first date. A new hot-pot spinoff is set inside a series of scenic domes at nearby Air Itam.
Spread over two-and-a-half million square feet, Queensbay Mall—equidistant from Bayan Lepas and George Town—is the largest retail space in Penang. Operated by Singapore-based CapitaLand Retail, this shopping behemoth opened in 2006 and runs across five floors. An all-underone-roof lifestyle space, it houses a comprehensive range of more than 400 stores (including a supermarket), as well as an eight-screen Golden Screen Cinema, plentiful cafés, and restaurants—even a top-floor karaoke joint and a laser-tag facility. Attracting a sizeable number of big-name international brands, the bestknown tenants in Queensbay are Borders bookstore, fashion retailers Gap, British India, Timberland, Starbucks, and HäagenDazs. The mega mall’s seaside location adds to its appeal as the pre-eminent family shopping destination on the island.
Reportedly the world’s only Chinese temple to be inhabited by snakes, Hock Hin Keong is a unique attraction built in 1805 as a monument to benevolent Buddhist monk Chor Soo Kong, known for his numerous good deeds including healing the sick. Now a pilgrimage site for visitors from across the Chinese diaspora, over the years it’s become notable for attracting species of poisonous pit vipers, who are rendered harmless by the constant burning of incense (as a precaution, the resident serpents have their venom removed anyway). Aside from numerous incense coils and shrines, two brick wells and two giant brass bells hold court, while a snakebreeding centre has also been established there. The temple was also featured on the reality adventure series The Amazing Race
As Australia lets down its guard post-pandemic, the delicate dance between maintaining economic ascendancy and managing foreign ownership restarts
Chairattanamanokorn, 24, came to Australia more than a decade ago for studies. But like scores of Asians before her, she has since opted to stay.
Real estate, among others, was a pull factor. “When I graduated from university, the property market was experiencing a boom period,” says the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University alumna. “Property growth was great, and it drew my attention into investing in properties.”
Asian property seekers return this year to a country which only months ago cast itself as “Fortress Australia” against a global contagion. International migration is making a resurgence, stabilising the Australian residential market just as it enters a correction period.
Offshore searches for homes to buy or rent on realestate.com.au, a REA Group portal, rose 23% in the year to June. Searches by mainland Chinese soared almost 432% year-on-year, followed by those from India (up 196.7%), Hong Kong (100.4%), and Singapore (35%). The rising demand is consistent with the flurry of arrivals, including 29,480 international students in June, since borders fully reopened in February.
Close enough to Asia but also far enough away culturally, Australia offers neighbours the geographical equivalent of white adjacency. Othered by poverty, inequality and autocracy in their home countries, many Asians find sanctuary in an outwardly privileged society where Mandarin is the largest language spoken after English and over 710,000 Indian-born people live. More than half of the Australian populace now are born overseas or have immigrant parents: the first migrant-majority western nation.
Since formally ending its infamous White Australia policies in 1970s, the nation has learned to navigate race relations more deftly than some other western countries. “If you see the crazy news from America, that stopped a lot of wealthy Chinese, especially in recent years, from going there,” says Benson Zhou, director for Melbourne CBD and metropolitan sales at Savills.
Australia’s economy wields a certain crossborder appeal to Asia. The country recorded in June an unemployment rate of 3.5%, the lowest since 1974, helping downplay talks of stagflation that dogged western countries after the Ukraine invasion.
But the current inflation rate, which at 6.1% is the highest in the country since 1990, worried the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) enough to hike the interest rate for four
During the pandemic, we saw Australia emerging as a haven market where residential property prices have continued to grow. This has given confidence to Asian buyers who are looking for a second home especially when children’s education is concerned
The appetite for property investment in Australia from a walled-off China is still scaled back.
Singapore has overtaken China as the top source Asian country for investment in Australian property, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Real estate investments from Singapore hit AUD13.8 billion in 2020-21, compared with AUD6.3 billion from China.
“The slowdown of Chinese purchasers in the market is primarily due to the border being closed more than anything,” says Ivan Lam, head of international business at Charter Keck Cramer. “The gradual return of Chinese students back into Australia recently has benefited the student accommodation sector as well as the rental market in general, and it will continue to improve once China’s border restriction eases.”
Post-pandemic Asian investors overall are coming up against a wall of restrictions on real estate acquisitions in Australia. Since 2020, FIRB has reduced the monetary threshold on investments in residential, national security, and vacant commercial lands from AUD55 million to literally nothing: AUD0.
“Australian governments were afraid a lot of offshore capital were coming to Australia, and they were snapping up all those financially stressed companies and assets,” says Benson Zhou, director for Melbourne CBD and metropolitan sales at Savills.GEOGRAPHICALLY CLOSE TO ASIA, BUT WITH DIFFERENT CULTURAL VALUES, AUSTRALIA HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN SEEN AS A SANCTUARY FOR ASIAN INVESTORS
consecutive months into August. They mark Australia’s first interest rate hikes since 2010.
As mortgagers began souring on the market, Australian house prices fell by 0.43% in July, with prices in Sydney and Melbourne down more than 3% from their peak, according to PropTrack, a REA Group company. The decline in home prices will likely persist into 2023, with the RBA unleashing more hikes this year alone, analysts say.
On the flipside, property prices in Australia soared 20% on average last year on the back of lockdown-era interest rates, reports property advisor Charter Keck Cramer. “Essentially, Australia just doesn’t have enough homes to sell to keep up with our rising population and demand,” says Ivan Lam, the firm’s head of international business. “This year, values are
still broadly rising but nowhere near as fast as they were in early 2021.”
Knight Frank noted that mainstream home prices in Sydney and Melbourne still grew by 16.1% and 9.1% year-on-year, respectively, in the first half of 2022. “During the pandemic, we saw Australia emerging as a safe haven market where residential property prices have continued to grow,” says Christine Li, head of research and consultancy at Knight Frank APAC. “This has given confidence to Asian buyers who are looking for a second home especially when children’s education is concerned.”
As Australia’s third-largest export, education buttresses the economy. Traditions now resume: Well-off parent buys apartment for child, child graduates and returns to homeMAINSTREAM HOME PRICES IN MELBOURNE GREW BY 9.1% IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2022
country, and apartment becomes investment property. Or apartment becomes starter home, the graduate working toward Australian citizenship or permanent residency.
Pathways to both are manifold. The 188C visa, for example, offers a five-year stay for an investment of AUD5 million (USD3.4 million), according to research from Charter Keck Cramer. This includes, to an extent, indirect investment in residential property through managed funds.
Apissara, who continued her studies at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, found that rental returns can go as high as 8% a year for lucky investors. Borrowers may also access equity built in the home by cash-out refinancing. “To own an Australian property is an asset to foreigners,” she says. “It would be very useful if they are thinking of migrating to
Higher dwelling construction costs have driven the rate of household inflation in Australia, which increased to 6.1% in the June quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Costs swelled as the government paid fewer construction grants, which would have reduced outof-pocket expenses for new dwelling purchases, while labour and building materials grew scarce and freight costs rose. New dwelling prices recorded their largest annual rise since the June 1999 quarter as a result.
“The current developers’ market is not very easy, to be honest,” says Benson Zhou, director for Melbourne CBD and metropolitan sales at Savills. “The rise of construction costs, the rise of interest rates, and the fact that offshore investment has not fully returned yet—all these elements will slow down the development market dramatically. At the moment, it’s very challenging.”
Developers based out of Southeast Asia continue to cast their nets further afield into Australia. Frasers Property Australia, part of Singapore-based multinational Frasers Property, for example is developing a coastal project, The Waterfront Shell Cove, in the city of Shellharbour. Kuala Lumpur-based KHK Group and Melbourne’s Beulah International are collaborating on STH BNK By Beulah, one of Australia’s tallest buildings.
“What I recently see from a lot of offshore developers and even local developers is that they are refining their design,” says Zhou. “So far, Asian developers are keen to build an apartment or townhouse project rather than a commercial development like a shopping centre or multi-tenant commercial assets, like drive-through fastfood restaurants, petrol stations, and aged care homes. Those are more like what local developers are doing.”
Western companies like the UK’s Scape still dominate the student accommodation sector. Student accommodation projects also tend to be moved through capital transactions, sold as entire buidings rather than strata titles.
“Student accommodations are generally quite small in size,” says Apissara Chairattanamanokorn, 24, an alumna at RMIT University in Melbourne. “Hopefully the rooms will be larger which can give students better comfortability.”
Gains for those who have been naturalised or obtained residency are especially rewarding since they can purchase freehold landed homes and secondhand apartments, as per current Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) rules. Offshore buyers such as students’ parents are generally only allowed purchase of off-plan or new apartments.
In Melbourne and Sydney, the compounding rate of capital growth for landed homes is about 5% per annum, excluding rental returns, reports Lam. “Residential real estate in Australia is more of a long-term, stable-growth asset class in general. Capital growth is associated with land, and the residential category that therefore experiences strongest capital growth over time are established houses, followed by townhouses and apartments.”
But with open borders comes more gatekeeping of Australian real estate. Following a dramatic reduction of monetary thresholds on land acquisitions in 2020, FIRB in July doubled fees on foreign investment applications to anywhere from AUD4,000 to AUD1.045 million.
“The cost of buying has definitely increased. It’s not that
friendly to foreign investors,” says Zhou. “That’s not going to help the current property developers because it’s all about the margin.”
Like their counterparts in Canada and New Zealand, Asians in Australia are—sometimes unfairly—linked to eroding housing affordability. Foreign buyers account for 5.9% of new home sales, according to recent National Australia Bank figures.
“You have to draw the line,” says Zhou, who has lived in Australia for over two decades. “Otherwise, our housing price is going to go up to the roof.”
But with Asia delivering over 50% of the global GDP by 2030, Australia will always be tethered to its neighbours.
Having lived in Australia almost half her life, Apissara has come to understand the inextricable ties binding the continents she has called home. “Real estate is an important part of the economy,” she says. “Australia needs this sort of foreign investment to boost the economy.”BYRON BAY IN NORTHERN NEW SOUTH WALES IS EVOLVING INTO A HOTSPOT FOR ULTRA-WEALTHY HOME SEEKERS
Demand for Australian property has remained relatively robust over the past two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane now commanding a median house price above AUD1 million.
Byron Bay, a hotspot for ultra-wealthy home seekers in New South Wales, will see price growth of up to 35% over the next five years, predicts Knight Frank. Many of the sales will come from Australia’s own: 32% of the wealth of the country’s richest people are now available as their first and second homes.
In 2021, 29.1% of Australia’s population were born overseas, with India overtaking China as the biggest overseas-born populace after England, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. There are now over 710,000 Indian-born residents, up 111% since 2011, with China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka rounding out the six biggest Asian-born groups.
Property seekers from China, India, and Hong Kong recently drove most of the search activity for rental properties on portals monitored by market insight provider PropTrack. Those from mainland China and Hong Kong mostly conducted their searches in apartment-rich areas like Box Hill and Glen Waverley in Victoria, also the favourites of Southeast Asian populations.
“The rental market is extremely strong at the moment,” says Benson Zhou, director for Melbourne CBD and Metropolitan sales at Savills. “The weekly rental has kept on going up. So, if you want to lease an apartment here, you’ll be sort of competing with 20 or 30 other people.”
Searchers from India mostly eyed properties around Tarneit and Point Cook in Victoria and The Ponds in New South Wales where house and land estates tend to be concentrated.SET CLOSE TO THE VICTORIAN COAST, THE AWARD-WINNING RESIDENCES OF WILLOW BRIGHTON HAVE EXQUISITELY LANDSCAPED SURROUNDS, WITH RESIDENTS JOURNEYING THROUGH TREE-LINED STREETS TO REACH THEIR UNITS
Confidence has drained from China’s residential market with prices dropping and the central bank slashing rates to 14-year lows. But signs of recovery can be spotted in Beijing and a handful of large cities in the countryBY STEVE FINCH
Thesecond phase of Juiyu Dragon City, a residential development in Zhengzhou, was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2019. That was the date developer Henan Jiuyu Real Estate Development Company Limited told new residents they could move in. Most had made substantial down payments to the developer, and many secured mortgages with banks.
In July 2020, after more than half a year of delays, a prospective resident noticed workers dismantling scaffolding at the site of the seven 20-storey buildings and filed an online complaint with the city government in a bid to ascertain when the project would be completed. After numerous similar complaints, and despite local government
reassurances, two years later the project has still not been finished, leaving residents unable to move into their new homes for nearly three years.
In July, stranded buyers of apartments at Juiyu Dragon City joined forces to issue a warning that they would begin a boycott of their mortgage repayments the following month.
“The owners of Juiyu Dragon City have defended their rights many times,” it read. “But no substantial progress has been made so far.”
Juiyu Dragon City is among at least 44 housing projects in Zhengzhou to have witnessed mortgage boycotts by angry
China witnessed a drop of more than 40% in land sales revenue transfers in July compared to a year earlier, a sign that developers are spending less on adding to their land banks in a bid to shore up liquidity, according to Fitch Ratings.
The continued sharp drop in land sales across China is among the strongest indicators that the number of new projects and overall supply are likely to recede sharply in the short to medium term amid the ongoing slump in the real estate market.
Among the worst performers on new land sales were Shenyang and Changchun, two of the largest cities in northeastern China, which saw land sales revenue transfers plunge 90% in July compared to a year earlier, according to central government data.
The best performers were China’s largest city Shanghai, and the province of Sichuan whose capital Chengdu ranks as the fifthlargest city in China in terms of population, a further sign that the biggest tier-1 cities are riding out the ongoing downturn better than smaller provincial cities classed as tier 3 and tier 4.
Market confidence has remained more resilient in Chengdu and Shenzhen, large cities which have held land auctions more frequently than most amid a new land sales format introduced by the central government last year which caps the number of such events to just three per year.
The new policy was launched originally to curb last year’s runaway prices amid what appeared to be a stronger-than-expected post-pandemic rebound which has since reversed into China’s worst housing market crisis in years.
SCORES OF DELAYED NEW PROJECTS IN THE CITY OF ZHENGZHOU HAVE WITNESSED MORTGAGE BOYCOTTS
BY ANGRY PROSPECTIVE RESIDENTS
residents, more than any other city in China. More than 330 residential developments have seen similar protests across the nation as the economic downturn has impacted millions of ordinary Chinese.
Mortgage boycotts represent the most visible sign yet of a property crisis in China as developers fail to complete projects paid for in part by ordinary buyers, causing a drain on confidence across the sector — and increasingly the national economy.
House prices in China’s largest cities fell for the tenth straight month in July, including in Zhengzhou where new homes fell 3.6% compared to a year earlier, according to central government data. Smaller cities have fared worst. Beihai, a beachside city in Guangxi province close to China’s border with Vietnam, has been the worst performer among the country’s largest cities with 8.8% wiped off new home prices in a year.
“In the past decade it could not be imagined that so many projects in tier-one cities or provincial cities would be so delayed,” says Regina Yang, head of research at Knight Frank in Shanghai. “The imbalance in supply and demand in many cities has pushed the market to reduce inventory—and prices continue to drop.”
Almost every indicator of China’s property sector has sounded the alarm in recent
weeks. The National Real Estate Climate Index, a composite of indicators including investment, capital, and sales published by the National Bureau of Statistics in Beijing, fell off a cliff in January and has since fallen well below 100 points at 95.26. Any reading below 100 points to negative sentiment trending across the sector.
In the first half of this year, sales for China’s 100 largest property developers fell 50%, according to data from China Real Estate Information Corporation. In August, China’s largest developer by sales, Country Garden, warned that profits in the first half of the year fell by up to 70%, “caused by the downturn in the market and slowdown in construction progress”. Sharply falling sales indicate that ordinary Chinese buyers have grown wary of paying upfront for properties before they are completed amid growing delays, thereby starving developers of new funds with which to acquire land and build new homes.
After the number of projects facing mortgage boycotts across the country surpassed 300 in late July, China’s main policymaking body, the Politburo, urged local governments to take responsibility for completing delayed developments. Since then, Beijing’s response has been swift. A RMB-300 billion (USD44 billion) rescue fund led by the Construction Bank of China was created in late July. And in mid-August, banks announced a RMB 200-billion (USD29
Sharply falling sales indicate that ordinary Chinese buyers have grown wary of paying upfront for properties before completion, thereby starving developers of new funds with which to acquire land and build new homes
Developers in China are attempting to spur home sales by offering special new discounts for groups of buyers, among the more innovative attempts to boost sales amid ongoing difficult market conditions.
This new sales technique was first seen in Taiyuan in early June and has since been copied in Zhongshan, Shenyang, Tonglu, Tongling, and then Pu’er, the small Yunnan province city famous for its tea. The practice has become particularly popular in smaller cities which have borne the brunt of the recent property downturn. Developers in these cities have typically offered discounts of at least 3% on the sales prices of real estate units by groups of more than 20 people.
Some of these special discounts also offer reductions for purchases of multiple properties, including 5% on more than 20 units in the same development. It remains unclear whether these innovative new sales promotions have had any bearing on sales, and some cities have expressly prohibited such practices.
Among those are Sanmexia City and Zhengzhou, both in Henan province which has witnessed the largest number of mortgage repayment boycotts in the country. The municipal governments of the two cities both said they opposed stateowned organisations or companies organising group purchases of apartments. In other cities, developers have specifically targeted state institutions, including university staff, in the hope of boosting unit sales.THE BEACHSIDE CITY OF BEIHAI IN GUANGXI PROVINCE HAS BEEN THE WORST PERFORMER AMONG CHINA’S LARGEST CITIES WITH 8.8% WIPED OFF NEW HOME PRICES IN A YEAR
billion) fund for distressed construction projects which could be turned into social or rental housing. A few days later the central bank slashed minimum mortgage rates to just 4.1%, the lowest in 14 years. Analysts including ING said they expect more rate cuts by the end of the year if China’s housing market continues to struggle.
“At present, though policy support is increasing, follow-up mainly needs to repair market confidence,” says Lu Ming, northern China director of research at Colliers.
Although Beijing has shown a growing willingness to intervene, there are few signs of a market recovery, and bright spots are limited. Only the country’s very largest cities have bucked the downward trend.
Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou all recorded modest price growth in July compared to both the previous month and a year earlier, according to central government data. Beijing saw prices increase more than 4% in the year before July 2022. The very top of the market performed poorly with high-
end apartment volume decreasing in the second quarter by more than 17% compared to the period January to March as prices fell slightly, according to Savills China.
Yet new residential supply volume overall soared 164%, and transactions also increased nearly 20% in Beijing during the second quarter of this year. The capital has remained relatively untouched by mortgage boycotts with just three impacted developments reported so far, and only one in central Beijing. A recovery was already underway in the Beijing residential market in the second quarter, according to Savills in its market update for the capital released in July.
“Despite the resurgence of the epidemic that continued to dampen the economy, the first-hand residential market performed better than the last quarter,” says Vincent Li, a director of research for North China at Savills. “Both supply and demand [were] seen to be improving.”CONSTRUCTION HAS BEEN HALTED AT PROJECTS AROUND CHINA
The world’s largest insurance company, Ping An Insurance, has announced it plans to continue to build its property portfolio despite the problems afflicting the sector. In an announcement to investors at the end of August, Ping An said it would seek out high-quality real estate assets including commercial property in logistics and data centers.
“Property is a comprehensive reflection of the macro economy at this moment and as long as we speak with the principle that property is for living, not for speculation, I believe that our property market in China will have a bright future,” says Benjamin says Deng, chief investment officer at Ping An, echoing Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Although Ping An is classified as a civilian-owned rather than state-owned enterprise under Chinese
law, among its largest shareholders is the Shenzhen city government, and the company is steered in part by the central government.
Nonetheless, the company is listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong and remains beholden to its shareholders, meaning any endorsement represents good news for the beleaguered property sector. Following impairments related to indebted developer China Fortune Land which cost Ping A RMB18.2 billion (USD2.8 billion), the insurer announced in late August that it had not recorded any write-downs related to the real estate sector in the first half of 2022. “All of the risks are well under control,” said Deng.BEIJING HAS BEEN AMONG THE FEW LOCATIONS IN CHINA TO AVOID THE REAL ESTATE SLUMP WITH PRICES INCREASING THIS YEAR, ALBEIT LESS IMPRESSIVELY THAN BEFORE
Blessed with some of the best powder on the planet, Hokkaido—especially its star wintersports enclave Niseko— is turning investors’ heads due to its burgeoning real estate possibilities
For centuries, Hokkaido was an isolated Narnia of myths and legends. The animist Ainu— who populated the northern island until its occupation and annexation by Japan in the late 1800 —believe every aspect of nature is enchanted by kamuy (spirits or gods), with a particular reverence for Kim-un-kamuy, the god of bears and mountains.
Even today, it is easy to see why the indigenous people worshipped Mother Nature. Hokkaido remains a largely unspoiled landscape of enigmatic peaks, forests, and coastlines where emerald summers ease into brilliant white winter months. And then there’s Niseko. Nestled in the foothills of the eponymous mountain range, the town is also something of an enigma. Over the last decade, this melting pot of high-octane activity and après-ski has gone from “undiscovered” to Asia’s undisputed premier ski resort.
“There aren’t many better examples of successful leisure property markets in recent years than Niseko,” says Bill Barnett, founder and managing director of Asia-based consultancy C9 Hotelworks and the chairperson of the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Greater Niseko) judging panel.
The municipal area—technically a cluster of ski resorts also encompassing Hokkaido’s Mount Y ō tei and Annupuri ranges—still lacks the reputation and connectivity of established winter resorts in Europe and North America, as well as permanent residency opportunities and world-class infrastructure. But the emergence of increasingly upscale communities, consistent snowfall, and easy access for Asian tourists and second-home buyers continue to contribute to Niseko’s ascent.
Asia-based investors have been the driving force behind the town’s real estate growth, starting with wealthy Hong Kong professionals and gradually shifting towards Southeast Asian and mainland Chinese buyers
“Asia-based investors have been the driving force behind the town’s real estate growth, starting with wealthy Hong Kong professionals and gradually shifting towards Southeast Asian and mainland Chinese buyers in recent years,” says Eddie Guillemette, CEO of property management company Midori no Ki (MnK) and another Niseko Awards judge. “The typical demographic has stayed fairly consistent over time: foreign families and individual investors are the primary property buyers.
“Having said that, we are seeing more interest from Japanese individual and corporate buyers, which is encouraging.”
For a destination that has traditionally relied on converting tourism into property transactions, the pandemic hit Niseko’s market hard. And with overseas arrivals still severely restricted, many developers and agents have welcomed the uptick in domestic demand. Unlike international buyers who seek the conveniences of Niseko’s high-end Hirafu district, Japanese investors are often drawn to Niseko’s emerging enclaves, where plots, according to Guillemette, are up to 500% cheaper than comparable parcels closer to the slopes.
“Soaring real estate values in terms of percentage growth in Niseko have exceeded Tokyo’s glittering Ginza district,”
Barnett says. “The result for developers has been that enormous underlying land values that raise risk and cut into profit have reached such heights that the inevitable geographic spread into peripheral Greater Niseko, in areas such as Hanazono, Annupuri Niseko Village, Minowa, and even to outlying Rusutsu.”
About 30 minutes from Niseko, Rusutsu is famed for its three impressive peaks, powder snow, and clear skies. Until recently, the resort and almost all the surrounding land were owned by Kamori Kanko, Hokkaido’s largest tourism and hospitality company. As such, investment opportunities have been sparse. But this is changing with the arrival of Vale Rusutsu, a luxury ski-in ski-out residence comprising one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and four penthouses starting from about USD 460,000.
Many observers expect Rusutsu to follow a similar development trajectory to Kabayama. Located to the north of Niseko, the village remains a low-key alternative to the relative bustle of neighbouring Hirafu. “We branched out to Kabayama 15 years ago when we started our business,” MnK’s Guillemette explains. “The land prices are cheaper, the views are wonderful, and it is still within easy reach of the mountain and amenities.”FOREIGN FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUAL INVESTORS ARE THE PRIMARY PROPERTY BUYERS IN NISEKO
MkN’s flagship properties, Niseko Country Resort and The Orchards Niseko, are two of the main residential clusters that make up Kabayama. Both communities— which feature facilities on par with Niseko’s high-end hotel, including restaurants, a summer camp for kids, a playground, barbecue facilities, and a nature path—were developed with local architects and project managers rather than the usual large-scale construction companies.
“The rationale is straightforward,” Guillemette adds. “There is a premium charged by integrated construction firms and developers, which, in some cases, can be 20% to 30% more expensive.
“For savvy buyers, there is no need to pay that when alternatives provide better value.”
The trend has also caught on with individual homeowners, especially those struggling to find homes that meet their requirements. According to Niseko Tourism, approval was granted for 132 new residential buildings—including apartments, houses, and hotels—in and around Niseko in 2019 and 2020, with a further 12 launched during the pandemic. Local agent Nisade estimates that about 40 of these were detached homes exceeding 200 square metres, typically costing at least USD2million.
Early resort closures and strict travel restrictions in the 2019/20 season led to the worst global ski visitor numbers in the past 20 years. According to Savills’ The Ski Report, just under 300 million people hit the slopes in 2020. In addition to the abrupt end to the 2019/20 season, the 2020/21 season failed to commence for many ski resorts, including Niseko. But there were notable exceptions elsewhere.
The National Ski Areas Association recorded 59 million visitors to US ski resorts for the 2020/21 season. Much more reliant on domestic skiers, this was the fifth-highest volume since season records began in 1979. Similarly, resorts in Switzerland opened with few restrictions and did not fare as poorly as some of their neighbours in terms of ski numbers. But with most restrictions now eased, there is a rising hope that the world’s ski resorts will rebound in the coming years.REAL ESTATE IN NISEKO REMAINS A RELATIVE BARGAIN COMPARED WITH ASPEN IN THE US WHERE PRIME PROPERTY PRICES STAND AT AROUND USD33,300 PER SQUARE METRE
“Building costs in this area have gone up so much over the past few years, not to mention the price surge of building materials throughout the world caused by the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine,” says Shigeru Uehara, architect and director of local firm Niseko Home Design. “Many high-end developments in Niseko are led by companies from the cities because of the unique design, uncommon facilities, and materials. But these projects involve more people between the clients and the builder, which adds to the overheads and overall costs.”
Still, properties in Niseko remain a relative bargain compared to established winter resort destinations in Europe and North America. In Aspen, prime property prices stand at around USD33,300 per square metre, with Vail not far behind at USD28,200, according to Savills Ski Prime Price League. Meanwhile, launch prices at the ultraluxury Park Hyatt Niseko, which opened last winter on the slopes of Hanazono, started from roughly USD20,000 per
sqm. The USD500-million property features 100 hotel rooms and 114 condo units—about half of which were purchased by Japanese buyers.
The upcoming Capella project looks set to further cement Hanazono’s reputation as an upscale enclave. It is the latest branded residence from a luxury global hospitality brand to debut in Niseko. Slated for completion in 2024, it will comprise two hotels and three condo hotels in a threestorey building with 540 rooms. In addition, 33 detached villas will be built for sale. Exclusive wellness resort brand Aman is also set to complete a property boasting 30 guest rooms and 31 residences on an expansive 187-hectare site next year.
“One has to imagine that the spread will create new opportunities but also flatten pricing in certain locations or products,” Barnett says. “As hotels come into the market, what will happen to resort condominiums thatPANORAMA NISEKO’S AWARD-WINNING VILLAS AND TOWNHOMES FEATURE TIMBER-LADEN INTERIORS WITH HIGH VAULTED CEILINGS, PLUS MANY WINDOWS TO THE COOL OUTDOOR VIEWS
have represented the hospitality market for more than two decades? Can rental rates be matched with purpose-built all-season hotels?
“It’s a good storyline to watch.”
With significant infrastructure developments in the pipeline – including a sub-five-hour bullet train trip from Tokyo and a new regional highway – and a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics under consideration, Niseko isn’t short of compelling storylines. And while the resort’s next chapter may not be as mythical as the ancient Ainu legends, its fortunes remain inextricably linked to the sublime landscape and kamuy that possess it.
Located in a town best known for its picture-perfect lavender fields and television dramas, Furano is arguably Hokkaido’s most underrated winter resort destination. It may not yet boast the infrastructure and upscale investment opportunities available in Niseko—220 kilometres to the south—but this looks set to change in the coming years.
One reason for Furano’s relative obscurity was the strict pisteonly rules that limited the resort’s appeal beyond dedicated skiers. The destination has, however, flourished since the laws were relaxed a few years ago, allowing the emergence of more tourist-orientated pursuits and greater potential for real estate development.
The town, which retains an authentic ‘non-resort-style’ flavour, is already being tipped as the next Niseko. And while it is still in the early stages of its investment cycle, Furano has the potential to ride the wave of capital appreciation. Savvy investors, and those seeking an all-year-round lifestyle destination, have been quick to see the value on offer when compared to other Hokkaido resorts. Between 2009 and 2019, overnight stays by foreign guests increased by 400%. In total, the region recorded around 2 million visitors a year before the pandemic, with approximately two-thirds of that total in the summer “green season.”
When Sri Lanka’s economy crashed this year, the country’s real estate sector—traditionally regarded as a relatively safe bet for investors—remained surprisingly immune to the devastationBy George Styllis
In August, Sri Lanka announced an import ban on 300 non-essential items, including shampoo and chocolates. It was among the latest desperate measures to protect its scant foreign currency reserves and prevent an economic meltdown following the collapse of its previous government.
It exemplified the scale of a crisis that has engulfed the small island nation and served as a reminder that months on from peak pain when Sri Lankans were enduring all-day power cuts and lengthy queues for petrol, the country is still not out of the woods.
Yet one of the industries looking to the future with optimism is property.
SINCE THE DECADES-LONG CIVIL WAR IN SRI LANKA ENDED, REAL ESTATE HAS BEEN SEEN AS A HAVEN FOR INVESTORS
Since the decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka ended, real estate has been seen as a haven for investors. As tourism boomed, keen-eyed buyers snapped up cheap properties from the cities to the coast.
During the pandemic, that trend continued as interest rates fell to historic lows and credit to the private sector expanded.
“That was a shot in the arm for the property market,” says Roshan Madawela, CEO of market intelligence firm RIU. “Lots of people dashed their fixed deposits and switched to property investment.”
The timing of the cut in interest rates was particularly vital as construction costs began
to rocket amid the global energy crunch. As economies began to wake up from the malaise induced by the pandemic and gas prices rose to record highs amid a strain on supply, the focus on property “seemed like a great idea”.
However, it wasn’t long before the cracks of the crisis started to become apparent. The supply chain scarcity caused by the pandemic was being exacerbated by dwindling foreign currency reserves. Cement had become scarce by the fourth quarter last year as were cooking gas and other everyday supplies. In October, the price of cooking gas shot up by almost 90% as the Sri Lankan government abandoned its strategy of price controls on essential goods.
Despite pleas from the IMF for it to be allowed to step in, Sri Lanka remained defiant.
“Even if we die, we will not seek assistance from the IMF. This is the final thing I have to say. Even if this government gets destroyed, we are not prepared to reach out to the IMF and destroy the lives of our people,” says government minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara.
Many observers took the government’s refusal of assistance as a sign they had secretly struck some deal for a bailout— possibly with India or China. But by April it was clear that no one was steering the ship and the country was facing one of the world’s worst economic crises, owing over USD24.5 billion to international debtors, including China, while it has just over USD1.9 billion in reserve.
Shops were bereft of customers, and many lost their jobs. Stories abounded of people who once enjoyed lavish lifestyles, staying in luxury hotels and jet-setting around the world, finding themselves poor, their businesses decimated.
Chamri Silva, who rose from a working-class background to run a luxury dress boutique on one of Colombo’s most expensive shopping streets, saw a 60% drop in customers.
“I can no longer purchase materials to make my dresses because of the ban on imports. Anyway, people in Colombo can’t afford to shop anymore and no one comes from abroad to buy my dresses,” she said.
By July the central bank hiked interest rates to a 21-year high to reverse soaring inflation of 54.6% year-on-year and food inflation of 80.1% in June.
The change prompted some return to fixed deposits, while developers held back from building new projects as buying construction materials remained difficult to obtain, and due to the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February, even more expensive.
Among those most affected were developers who enjoyed early success with off-plan sales and were now having to build their projects at a hugely inflated cost or delay them entirely.
However, overall demand for property remains strong.
“We’ve seen stagnation in property development, but absorption in everything that’s built. The primary absorption levels
WE’VE SEEN STAGNATION IN PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT, BUT ABSORPTION OF EVERYTHING THAT’S BUILT. PRIMARY ABSORPTION LEVELS ARE AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH
are at an all-time high,” Madawela says, adding that the few exceptions are the super luxury projects that go for around USD2 million to USD3 million upwards.
The continued buoyancy in demand is a testament to Sri Lankans’ trust in the property market, with prices remaining largely stable in Colombo and secondary markets, and even going up.
“One thing about Sri Lanka is it has learned to be resilient following the war and terror attacks. And the property market has been something of a haven during these times,” adds Madawela.
Yet the threat of a crisis still looms large as the August import ban on non-essential items would suggest. The country now has a new president following the ousting of brothers Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, president and prime minister respectively, while the introduction of a QR-code system for rationing fuel has largely quelled unrest and allowed people to get on with their lives. Foreign exchange reserves were also said to be replenishing. However, the economy remains fragile.
PROTESTERS THRONGED THE STREETS OF SRI LANKA’S CITIES EARLIER THIS YEAR AS THE NATION’S ECONOMIC WOES REACHED CRISIS POINT
Runaway inflation could peak as early as September and the economy is likely to contract 8% this year, said the central bank governor. Growth, he added, is not likely until the second half of 2023.
Yet the general feeling among analysts is that the worst is over. The new administration have been in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a possible USD3billion deal while politicians have started to back the restructuring of state-owned enterprises along with their foreign debts.
Nirmal De Silva, CEO of advisory Paramount Realty, says that Sri Lanka’s residential real estate market remains attractive. New properties might have to be made smaller or more compact to save on building costs, but with the Sri Lankan rupee having fallen sharply against the dollar, many foreign investors will be eager to get a bargain.
“There is a general sense that stability is coming in, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” he concluded.
Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia are introducing new long-stay visas as they compete for the increasingly valuable digital nomad demographicBy Liam Aran Barnes
The global pandemic spurred a rapid and substantial shift in working practices, as millions worldwide began working from home. Technological advances already allowed people with jobs not tied to a specific location to work remotely, mainly in high-income countries with robust technological infrastructure.
But the widespread adoption of social distancing and lockdown measures, starting in early 2020, accelerated the trend, sparking a surge in the number of international digital nomads.
BALI IS LIKELY TO BE A CHIEF BENEFICIARY OF INDONESIA’S SLATED NEW DIGITAL NOMAD VISA
From Argentina to Croatia to the United Arab Emirates, more than 25 countries and territories currently offer remote work or digital nomad visas. They usually admit foreign nationals working independently or for an employer outside the country, allowing them to enter, stay, and work remotely for a defined period. Most schemes last for one year with an option to renew. But few are as generous as Indonesia’s slated Digital Nomad Visa.
According to Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno, it will be valid for five years—making it
the longest such visa in the world—and permits remote workers to live in the country tax-free, if their income derives from businesses based outside of Indonesia.
Guidelines on the application process have yet to be announced. Still, analysts expect the visa to be an immediate success and a muchneeded boost for an economy that was hit hard by the absence of tourism during the pandemic.
Given the long-term nature of the scheme, it is also expected to positively impact rental markets, particularly in Bali, which is already a favoured destination for remote workers, although current visa rules don’t legally facilitate long-term stays.
“The rental market in Bali will not only see more long-term rental agreements but also allows digital nomads to make more quality choices due to the tax incentive on their personal income,” says leading real estate consultant Marciano Birjmohun. “As there is no entry threshold, nomads with different income levels can enjoy the island, creating a broader rental market demand for different price points.”
That said, many digital nomads, especially freelancers and part-time workers, tend to lead efficient and economically sound lives. They prioritise affordable accommodation with access to high-speed tech, workspaces, and wellness amenities. Community engagement and a sense of belonging are also major drawcards.
“Although digital nomads usually travel by themselves, this doesn’t imply that they want to be by themselves,” explains Roberto Abusada, strategy and tech manager at HOMA, a Thailand-based developer focused on co-living
spaces. “We’ve discovered that community is a central pillar for engagement with our company and within the nomad community. As such, we host networking events, off-site outings, movie nights, and many curated fitness options.”
HOMA is one of a growing pool of developers now catering to the nascent market. Launched in 2018, the firm’s debut property in Phuket Town features a co-working space with highspeed WiFi, individual pods and meeting rooms, a fitness centre, a kids club, and a games room. It also provides additional services for long-stay guests, such as visa application support.
HOMA is set to launch another Phuket property in the island’s Laguna district next year and one in Si Racha on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand in late 2022. And the timing of the company’s expansion couldn’t be better.
Earlier this year, Thailand announced plans to lure wealthy foreigners to refill its coffers. The new scheme, which started taking applications on 1 September, offers work visas to foreigners across four categories. The basic requirement is at least USD1 million in assets and an annual income of USD80,000, although the rules change slightly across the groups.
Applicants for the Highly Skilled Professional category will have to work in a sector deemed essential by the Thai government, while those in the Work-From-Thailand Professionals category, aimed mainly at employees of the tech sector, must be employed by a firm with at least USD150 million in revenue over three years. Those applying for the Wealthy Global Citizens category must invest at least USD500,000 in the local economy, including bonds and property.
THAILAND RELIES HEAVILY ON TOURISM. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, THEREFORE, HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO BOOST THE ECONOMY THROUGH INVESTMENT AND JOB CREATION IN THIS SECTOR
“We made this bet in 2018, banking on the thesis that we would have a first-mover advantage in servicing young professionals, and now have the largest digital nomad community in Phuket,” Abusada says.
So far, the response to the scheme has been lukewarm. Many analysts believe that the Thai government’s forecasts are optimistic. It expects 1 million applicants by 2027, and if each contributes USD8,000 to the local economy, the scheme will be worth USD27.6 billion, according to estimates by the Thailand Board of Investment.
In comparison, only 1,200 visas have been issued under the Smart Visa—a precursor program offering incentives to wealthy foreign investors—since its launch in February 2018.
Digital nomads have also taken advantage of Thailand’s Elite Visa in recent years, which permits stays ranging from five to 20 years. But, again, the high fees—starting from THB600,000 for five years—mean it’s off limits for many people.
“There’s too much red tape,” says Bill Barnett, hospitality, tourism, and real estate advisor and managing director of
WITH ITS BEACHES AND WORLD-CLASS INFRASTRUCTURE, PHUKET IN THAILAND IS ANOTHER APPEALING DRAW FOR REMOTE WORKERS
Asia-based consultancy C9 Hotelworks of the newest scheme. “I think it’s overhyped and will underdeliver on the numbers. To be successful, it has to be simpler with fewer barriers to entry.”
Only time will tell if Thailand is willing to cater to the many digital nomads who currently don’t meet the prohibitive criteria. Officials will also no doubt be keeping one eye on how Indonesia’s less byzantine-seeming attempt to accommodate remote workers once it officially launches.
But with more countries in the region and worldwide welcoming digital nomads, Thailand could soon find that the tourism and real estate sectors aren’t too happy about these missed opportunities.
“Like many other countries in the region, Thailand relies heavily on tourism. Government officials, therefore, have a responsibility to boost the economy through investment and job creation [in this sector],” Abusada says. “Making the visa acquisition process less bureaucratic and more appealing is a great way in which they can achieve both goals.
“They better get on the train.”
The Magnolia Residences is a four-tower condominium complex strategically located within the Robinsons Magnolia complex in New Manila, a wealthy enclave in Quezon City that is home to many exclusive villages and upscale homes.
As such, the high-rise development provides residents a prestigious address as well as the ultimate convenience: immediate access to an expansive shopping centre (Robinsons Magnolia mall), well-appointed offices (Cybergate Magnolia building), and comfortable accommodation (Summit Hotel Magnolia). Accessible to major thoroughfares and transport hubs, the site is within convenient reach of the Ortigas Central Business District as well as top schools, hospitals, and offices.
The Magnolia Residences offers ample living spaces in its ready-for-occupancy units, which come in one-bedroom, executive
one-bedroom, two-bedroom, executive two-bedroom, three-bedroom, and fourbedroom types, with sizes ranging from 36 sqm to 156 sqm.
The Magnolia Residences has a full range of amenities that blend with the well-designed landscaping to create a relaxing ambiance for all. Each nook is designed to improve the mood of residents and make them comfortable in their own home.
Places like the whimsical tree house, game room, jogging path, barbeque pit, and swimming pool give residents opportunities for fun. Various indoor amenities let friends and family unwind together, with function rooms huge enough for intimate gatherings. Residents can also enjoy quiet time at the library and Wi-Fi lounges or play at the table tennis and badminton courts, among many other amenities.The Magnolia Residences by RLC Residences
Product type: Condominium
Architect: ASYA Design Partners
Launch date: April 2009 (starting with Tower B)
Completion date: October 2021 (Tower D)
Total land area: 15,075 sqm
Number of units: 1,650
Average unit size: 39.63-54.35 sqm
Facilities: Private theatre, sundeck, gazebos, pools, jacuzzi, multi-purpose and function rooms, library with WiFi lounge, game room, table tennis room, children’s playground and playroom, gym, aerobics/yoga room, badminton court, rock garden, jogging path, tree house, and more
Price range: PHP235,000 per sqm (Tower A to C units); PHP240,000 per sqm (Tower D units)
Contact: Tel: +63 925 800 0000, +63 2 8636 0888
Address: N. Domingo Street corner Doña Hemady St., New Manila, Quezon City, 1112 Metro Manila, Philippines
SMDC’s Sail Residences is a luxury, bespoke residential development along Sunrise Drive in the massive SM Mall of Asia business and lifestyle complex.
This bayside residential development is inspired architecturally by the mega-luxury cruise ships that navigate the open waters around the Philippines and beyond. This design inspiration takes the form of glass balconies and three viewing platforms that overlook Manila Bay and the rest of the Mall of Asia Complex.
The overall atmosphere of the interior design is consistent with the theme of the development. The lobby is decked with nautical sculptures and other artworks reminiscent of sailboats. The sun’s reflection on water also inspired the naval lighting, wall cladding, and ceiling design in hues of shimmery gold.
Many amenities are found at the heart of Sail Residences. The amenity area is landscaped to have a slight curvature, following the S-shaped layout of the pools. The landscaping is lush and lavish with a palette of tropical plants, shrubs and trees. Serving as the pièce de resistance of the central amenity area is a two- storey clubhouse that houses function rooms at the ground floor and a well-appointed fitness centre on the second floor.
The professional property management team of Sail Residences is committed to providing a luxurious living experience to residents. The team ensures the safety, security and proper upkeep of the development. Meanwhile, professional staff attend to residents’ needs with a range of concierge services, complementing the hotel-like ambiance of Sail Residences.BEST
Product type: Mixed-use condominium
Architect: Asya Design
Launch date: March 2019
Completion date: May 2023
Total land area: 2.2 hectares
Number of units: 2,829
Average unit size: 38.75 sqm
Facilities: Commercial strip, three-level viewing deck, gazebo, play area, seating area, wood deck, trellis, outdoor clubhouse, adult pool, kiddie pool, lap pool, water feature, gym, paved area, centre island, bubblers, pool bridge, lawn, pool deck, jacuzzi, al fresco walkway, and more
Monthly maintenance fees: PHP92 per sqm
Price range: PHP8.9-25.6 million
Contact: Tel: + 632 8858-0300
Address: 15/F Tower B, Two E-com Center, Bayshore Avenue, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, Metro Manila 1300, Philippines
Urban Deca Homes Ortigas is a 22-block condominium development along Ortigas Avenue Extension. The project is accessible to and from the city of Makati and Bonifacio Global City (BGC), two of the Philippines’ financial hubs, as well as major commercial centres in and around Metro Manila like Eastwood, Libis, Cubao, and Cainta.
With its coveted location and reasonable price points, the development is geared toward young renters who aspire to own a home near their workplaces. The development offers 19,000 wellproportioned units, many of which are available through financing from Pag-Ibig Fund and select banks, as well as through 8990 Holdings Inc. itself.
Urban Deca Homes Ortigas is close to the offices of many IT-BPO (information
technology and business process outsourcing) companies, which employ many young workers in the Philippines. The surrounding area is also home to many top employers in the fields of finance, manufacturing, and medicine.
Such proximity to business hubs translates to plenty of savings for residents who commute to work. For residents who drive to work, Urban Deca Homes Ortigas offers more than 3,330 car parking slots.
The area around Urban Deca Homes Ortigas presents many opportunities for leisure and recreation, but the project offers some of those onsite. The development has a 1.3-hectare open space, including basketball courts, a lagoon, playground, adult activity area, and clubhouse.Urban Deca Homes Ortigas by 8990 Holdings, Inc. BEST AFFORDABLE CONDO DEVELOPMENT (METRO MANILA) 114 ADVERTISEMENT WINNER
Developer: 8990 Housing Development Corporation
Product type: Condominium
Launch date: 2019
Total land area: 13.2 ha
Number of units: 19,046
Average unit size: 30.6 sqm
Facilities: Open spaces, basketball courts, lagoon, playground, adult activity area, clubhouse, and more
Monthly maintenance fees: PHP55 per sqm
Price range: PHP2.6-3.4 million
Contact: Tel: +63-08-898-2811, +63-17-818-025, +63-18-985-3385, +63-17-869-6993
Address: 2nd Flr. PGMC Bldg., 76 Calbayog cor.
DM Guevarra St., Mandaluyong City, Philippine
Urban Deca Homes Banilad is a threetower condominium development also known as the first high-rise project of 8990 Holdings Inc. in Metro Cebu. The development is strategically located across Oakridge Business Park, a hub of retail destinations, offices, event spaces, and meeting venues in the bustling Banilad area of Mandaue City.
Urban Deca Homes Banilad consists of 3,264 condominium units with a choice of two-bedroom and three-bedroom configurations. Located along Elias V. Espina St. in Sitio Orel, Urban Deca Homes Banilad is accessible to major
thoroughfares such as H. Cortes and A.S. Fortuna where public transport is easily available.
Shopping centres, healthcare facilities, and other landmarks in Metro Cebu are within proximity of Urban Deca Homes Banilad. Set adjacent to the Pink Sisters Adoration chapel, the development is only 1.3 kilometres from Gaisano Country Mall. It is also just 1.6 km from Vicente Gullas hospital and 2.5 km from the University of San Carlos, one of the premier higher education institutions in the Visayas region.BEST AFFORDABLE CONDO DEVELOPMENT (METRO CEBU) HIGHLY COMMENDED Urban Deca Homes Banilad by 8990 Holdings, Inc.
Developer: 8990 Housing Development Corporation
Product type: Condominium
Architect: Scheirman Construction
Launch date: October 2022
Completion date: December 2026
Total land area: 18,880 sqm
Number of units: 3,264
Average unit size: 30.60 sqm
Facilities: Children’s playground, clubhouse, covered basketball court and fitness area, swimming pool, entrance gate with guard house, CCTV (indoor and outdoor), perimetre fence, and more
Monthly maintenance fees: PHP50 per sqm
Price range: From PHP98,000 per sqm
Address: 8990 Bldg., Negros St., Cebu Business Park, Cebu City, Philippines
King Crown Infinity is a commercial and retail complex with high-class apartments being developed by BCG Land in Binh Tho Ward of Thu Duc City. The mixed-use site is strategically located at the “central point of coordinate” frontage forming the backbone road at the corner of Vo Van Ngan and Nguyen Ba Luat Streets.
King Crown Infinity is designed to change the skyline of Thu Duc City, a new urban unit within Ho Chi Minh City. The development is mainly composed of two 30-storey towers called Artemis and Apollo, home to a wide selection of apartments, shophouses, and officetel units. Both buildings utilise glass fibre reinforced concrete (GFRC), creating curvaceous blocks with outstanding durability and stability.
The project also includes a five-storey podium that serves as an all-in-one, multiutility complex that responds to the dining, shopping, and entertainment needs of residents at their doorstep. In addition, the development boasts more than 25 international-standard internal facilities envisioned to redefine the standards of luxury living in the city and cater to the tastes of elite investors.
The project is managed and operated under five-star international hospitality brand The Ascott Limited. Living up to The Ascott Limited’s sophisticated, classy service standards, King Crown Infinity is one of the most compelling residential projects rising in the downtown core of Thu Duc City.KING CROWN INFINITY by BCG LAND BEST HIGH END CONDO DEVELOPMENT (HCMC) WINNER
Developer: BCG Land, a member of Bamboo Capital Group
Product type: Commercial complex and luxury apartments
Architect: The Five & Partners
Completion date: Q2 2024 (expected)
Total land area: 12,652 sqm
Number of units: 28 (officetel), 26 (shophouse), 724 (apartment)
Average unit size: 51-155 sqm
Facilities: Infinity pool, podium commercial centre, children’s playground, internal park, restaurant, café, gym, spa, BBQ, pool bar, jacuzzi, and elevated jogging path
Monthly maintenance fees: USD29,000 per sqm
Price range: From USD4,500 per sqm
Contact: Tel: +84 28222 16868
Address: 22A Road 7, An Phu Ward, Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
MIDORI PARK The GLORY is the first homeresort project in Binh Duong New City (BDNC), an environmentally protected and green lifestyle development that has been praised by the ICF (Intelligent Centre Forum) as one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities in the world. The project, located along Bui Thi Xuan Street, is a hot spot for the two biggest industrial parks in Binh Duong: VSIP II and VSIP III, with many educational, entertainment, financial, and sports facilities, among others.
Jointly developed by Becamex Tokyu and NTT UD Asia, MIDORI PARK The GLORY is built to Japanese standards. The development is located in MIDORI PARK where greenery and water features cover up to 56% of the site. All 992 units in the project stand in harmony with nature, where families can enjoy fresh air and children can play in wide open spaces.
This luxurious resort residence project features the largest man-made waterfall in Vietnam, with a 12-metre-high, 43-metrewide connection to the green way secluded in the heart of the city. Another highlight is the sky deck on the building’s 22nd floor, looking out to magnificent views of BDNC. More than 20 facilities cater to residents’ health, fitness, and spirituality such as the meditation garden, gym, yoga area, and tennis courts.
MIDORI PARK The GLORY is the first condominium property in BDNC to provide a co-working space, in accordance with the working-from-home trend. The project also offers a cloud WiFi system, accommodating the diverse working demands of residents.BEST by BECAMEX TOKYU
Developer: H9BC Investment Company Limited
Product type: Condominium
Architect: FUJINAMI (Japan)
Launch date: 2022
Completion date: 2024
Total land area: 19,196 sqm
Number of units: 992
Average unit size: 48.03 sqm (one-bedroom), 61.26 sqm (two-bedroom), 107.72 sqm (three-bedroom)
Facilities: Gym, infinity swimming pool, meditation yard, tennis courts, BBQ garden, and more total 20 one
Monthly maintenance fees: USD 0.77 per sqm (VAT excluded)
Price range: From USD1,400-1,600 per sqm
Contact: Tel: +84 942 119 109
Address: SORA Gardens II Building, Lot C17, Hung Vuong Boulevard, Hoa Phu Ward, Thu Dau Mot City, Binh Duong Province, Vietnam
PEDESTRIANS PEER DOWN CONSTRUCTION WORKS FOR MELBOURNE’S METRO TUNNEL, ON TRACK FOR COMPLETION IN 2025. PATTERNED AFTER TRAIN SERVICES IN ASIAN CITIES LIKE HONG KONG AND SINGAPORE AS WELL AS THOSE IN LONDON AND NEW YORK, THE TUNNEL WILL ENABLE 504,000 MORE PASSENGERS TO RIDE THE MELBURNIAN RAIL SYSTEM DURING PEAK PERIODS EVERY WEEK. MR ADI/SHUTTERSTOCK