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Friday, June 23, 2017

Don’t relax guidelines on foreigners buying property, says HBA

National House Buyers Association says speculators who bought properties they couldn't afford should get no sympathy and deserve to be 'burnt'.
Chang-Kim-Loong-hbaPETALING JAYA: The National House Buyers Association (HBA) says the government must not relax guidelines on foreigners buying property in Malaysia, amid concerns that the luxury home glut could affect the economy.
Speaking to FMT, HBA honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said although there was a link between housing bubbles and banking collapse, relaxing guidelines on foreign ownership of property wasn’t the right way to go.
He was commenting on the concerns of veteran property expert Ernest Cheong regarding the oversupply of luxury homes.
Earlier this year, a Malay Mail Online report noted that data from the National Property Information Centre showed an increase in unsold residential homes in Kuala Lumpur valued at above RM1 million in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the year before.
Cheong had called for the introduction of measures to encourage foreigners to buy up luxury houses in the secondary market, that is, houses that had been completed, to prevent a collapse of the property market, which could in turn ruin banks and trigger a financial crisis.
Cheong said there were many homes costing above RM1 million owned by speculators or developers which were unsold. He said the failure to sell them could see banks being unable to recover loans taken on them.
He reasoned that a majority of locals couldn’t afford such homes and that only foreigners could afford them.
Housing bubbles and the banking industry
But Chang noted that the type of properties which usually caused a property bubble to burst were those meant for the lower to middle income groups who comprised the majority of house buyers and borrowers, rather than higher income groups which bought luxury homes.
Chang said: “There has always been a direct correlation between a housing bubble leading to a banking collapse, which further leads to collapse of the overall economy, which ultimately leads to a recession.”
Chang said this was proven as recently as 2008, when the United States experienced a financial crisis sparked by the sub-prime crisis in which banks lent heavily to “less than credit worthy” customers for overvalued properties.
“When these customers defaulted, this caused a domino effect which led to the collapse of many banks and eventually led to the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
However, he said, only when more lower and middle income borrowers started defaulting on their housing loans, would the economy be in trouble.
He said the HBA believed that the majority of housing loans by the banks were still within the RM150,000 to RM300,000 range, followed by loans in the RM300,000 to RM500,000 range.
Bank Negara figures show that in 2016, 56% of outstanding home loans were for houses costing less than RM250,000, while another 25% of loans were for homes valued between RM250,000 and RM500,000.
“The housing loans for properties above RM1 million are the minority. Even then, for anyone to secure a housing loan above RM1 million, they must have a very high credit rating.”
Help only genuine borrowers, not speculators
Chang said those who could secure loans to invest in million-ringgit properties should not need special assistance if they ran into financial difficulty as a result of not being able to repay their loans.
“In addition, any property speculator and those who participate in those ‘Investors Clubs’ who have difficulty in servicing their RM1 million housing loan deserve no sympathy or assistance and deserve to get burnt.”
Additionally, Chang said, with the weakening of the ringgit, guidelines for foreign ownership of property should be tightened rather than relaxed, and increased from the minimum RM1 million to RM2 million to prevent too many properties from being owned by foreigners.
Presently, only Penang and Selangor impose higher minimum purchase prices for foreigners seeking homes.
Both states have set the minimum price at RM2 million for landed properties or properties with individual titles. States such as Penang also impose a state levy of 3% on properties, while Melaka and Johor charge a 2% state levy.
Chang noted, however, that there would be genuine house buyers who might have been laid off and who faced serious problems with their housing loans.
“HBA believes that such borrowers should approach their banks to try to restructure their loans, or even approach the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) for assistance.”
According to the human resources ministry, a total of 37,699 workers – some 86.3% of whom are locals – lost their jobs last year, while in 2015, some 44,000 Malaysians were retrenched, according to the Malaysian Employers Federation.
Lower crude oil prices have hit even those earning “big bucks” in the oil and gas industry, with one local bank going as far as to issue an internal memo to its staff to reject any loan applications from oil and gas employees.
Chang said looking at the property market, the biggest gap in terms of demand and supply lay in the affordable properties sector for homes priced between RM150,000 and RM300,000.
Last month, The Star Online reported Bank Negara governor Muhammad Ibrahim as saying the shortage in affordable homes was expected to reach the one million units mark by 2020.
“If there are many defaulters in this category, then perhaps a property bubble burst will finally take place in Malaysia.” -FMT

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