How to tell if an apartment is worth buying
Free Malaysia Today News
22 May 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: A property expert has warned prospective buyers of
apartments and condominium units in the Klang Valley that many such
properties have been poorly maintained.
This would be especially true of units currently owned by people who
bought them between 2012 and 2014, speculating that they could make
money by reselling them after a short period, said Ernest Cheong, a
chartered surveyor with more than 40 years of experience.
Cheong told FMT many apartment complexes were already suffering from a
lack of proper maintenance because the unit owners or residents were
refusing to pay maintenance fees.
“I think this problem will become worse because many people bought
properties on a speculative basis between 2012 to 2014,” he said.
“Now it is a renter’s market and I foresee that many speculative buyers
will have trouble selling the units they thought they could flip for a
quick buck or renting them out due to the oversupply of such
Cheong said those who couldn’t sell or rent their places out might find
it difficult to pay maintenance fees on top of servicing their bank
“People who bought the units on a speculative basis without the
intention of living there may not feel the urgency to honour their
commitment to paying their maintenance fees,” he said.
“As a rule of thumb, if even 30% of owners in an apartment or
condominium complex don’t pay their management fees, the building’s
joint management body (JMB) or joint management committee (JMC) may not
have enough money to properly maintain the property,” he said.
This is a problem that the JMC for four blocks of the Flora Damansara
apartment complex is familiar with. A member of the committee, Amir
Johari Abdullah, said the management had been fighting a losing battle
to maintain the high-rise blocks.
“Many people who bought the units don’t stay here; they rent out their units,” he told FMT.
only 48% of the owners
regularly pay their maintenance fees
His JMC manages more than 2,500 units, and only 48% of the owners
regularly pay their maintenance fees. As a result, facilities and
services have been affected. Amir said the management couldn’t even
repair the now disused swimming pool.
“Before we took over, the collection rate was under 40%. So we resorted to drastic measures to increase the collections.”
The measures included denial of car stickers and water supply.
“When we clamp the water meters, those who haven’t paid up for three to
four months will promptly pay. But there are also those with vacant
units who refuse to pay because it doesn’t affect them.”
In those cases, the management would resort to legal action, but Amir said this was a slow and lengthy process.
According to him, even if the management could achieve a 100%
collection rate today, it still would not be enough to pay for
maintenance expenses because there were outstanding debts.
He said the amount owed to the JMC was more than RM2 million.
“We actually need to raise the maintenance fees to break even, but it’s
hard to ask people to pay more now because some may feel that the
facilities need to be improved first. It’s a chicken and egg situation.”
look out for “maintenance red flags”
Cheong said prospective buyers of apartments and condominium units
should look out for “maintenance red flags” before making their
“It’s best for those interested in buying an apartment or condo to
visit the place a number of times, over a month or two, to get a feel
of the place.”
“Usually, the lift (elevator) will be among the most neglected facility if there
aren’t enough people to pay the maintenance fees. The lift’s journey
should be smooth and not jerky or noisy. The doors must also close
evidence of poor
He said corridors must be clear of any personal belongings such as shoe
racks or bicycles. Cluttered corridors would be evidence of poor
enforcement by the management, he added.
“Also look for water marks on the facade of the building as well as on
the ceilings of the units. Be sure to ask the management how often the
swimming pools are cleaned and, if possible, go and see for yourself if
the pools are cleaned as scheduled.”
For apartments with landscaping and water features, such as fountains
and ponds, Cheong said buyers should look out for weeds, moss and
Other red flags, he said, were loan shark stickers, the poor condition
of playgrounds, notices of foreclosure on the doors, warnings on
maintenance-fee arrears and discussion of issues on the building’s
“You don’t have to rush to buy a home now as it is a renter’s market,”
he said. “There are more sellers than there are buyers. But if you are
inclined to buy a home and can afford one, please do your homework and
take your time doing so.”
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