Singapore-JB Rapid Transit System to make impact on Johor real estate

SINGAPORE: Investor interest in Johor Baru properties will likely pickup with recent news that Singapore and Malaysia are expected to ink a bilateral agreement for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) next year, analysts told Channel NewsAsia.

The system promises an easier time crossing borders, and will link up with the Thomson-East Coast rail network in Singapore. Analysts, however, said it is important for investors to do their homework, before buying a stake in Johor’s developments.

 Mr Peter Ezekiel travels across the causeway daily for work. The 46-year-old lawyer decided to rent a house in Johor Bahru while waiting for his new flat in Singapore to be ready as the former option is cheaper.

But one of the problems Mr Ezekiel faces is the issue of traveling across the Causeway and back. He often has to deal with traffic congestion which could be unbearable.

Mr Ezekiel therefore welcomed news that Singapore and Malaysia are moving ahead with the RTS to enhance connectivity between countries. And having the RTS may influence his decision to continue renting or even buying a Johor property in future.

“I’m looking at safety, convenience and the proximity to Singapore. These three factors are to me, of course comfort – you want a certain. These are the three to four factors that I have in mind when I’m looking at a rental property. However if I’m looking for an investment to buy, then I’ll be looking at potential capital gains,” said Mr Ezekiel.

But he added that the Malaysian Ringgit’s relative weakness has been holding him back from a purchase, even though transport links are set to improve.

The Rapid Transit System will connect Woodlands North station on the Thomson-East Coast Line to Bukit Chagar in Johor. But no firm timeline has been set by Singapore and Malaysian officials on when the system will commence.

Analysts have said major economic activity is needed to buoy Johor’s property scene, particularly around where transport links to Singapore will be improved.

“It’s very close to Bukit Chagar. Just within a kilometre of it we have got some malls, we have got some low density residential,” said Ku Swee Yong, CEO of International Property Advisor. “We haven’t heard of many business investments announcements, such as let’s say, manufacturers within 30 kilometres who are hiring many staff,” he added.

But analysts also cautioned investors to watch closely, before assuming risks associated with sinking money into a development across the Causeway.

“They need to do a lot of due diligence checks,” said Chris Koh, director of estate agency Chris International.

“We’re talking about ensuring that they’re buying a property there – whether the developer is a sound developer, one with a reputation to complete their projects. One has to be also familiar with Malaysia law – the property laws behind buying a property there,” he said.

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