The 5 Best Places to Live & Invest in Malaysia Real Estate

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Malaysia continues to attract foreigners and expats who wish to either settle down or finding a retreat in Southeast Asia. Snapping the first place in our property index, it’s hard to talk badly about Malaysia as a real estate investment destination.

Thankfully, Malaysia has a lot of interesting destinations to choose among, all with different benefits and temptations. So the big question is: Where should you buy?

I’ve been to Malaysia numerous times and decided to write this article where I list the 5 best places to buy real estate in Malaysia.

1. Kuala Lumpur

kuala-lumpur

Kuala Lumpur tops the list of the places to buy real estate in Malaysia for several reasons.

Firstly, the biggest expat community lives in Kuala Lumpur. According to a survey by Internations, Kuala Lumpur was ranked as the fourth most expat-friendly city in the world. It was also listed as the second most liveable city in Southeast Asia, right after Singapore.

Kuala Lumpur is not only the biggest, and one of the most culturally diverse cities in Malaysia, it also ranks among the most advanced cities in the world.

Being less developed during the 80’s, the population has tripled since, and is currently more more than 7.2 million people. The region is the fastest growing in Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur continues to be an attractive place for overseas buyers.

Retiring in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia is known as one of the best places to retire., To lure more expats, many Malaysian cities offer several incentives as well.

Comparing to other tourist hubs in the world, this capital makes one of the most affordable cities, with surprisingly cheap property. Comparing living standards with property prices can make one amazed. Kuala Lumpur is, lo and behold, the second most prosperous city in Southeast Asia after Singapore with a GDP per capita of USD 23,900.

The city has thousands of shopping malls, restaurants, prosperous business districts, international schools, tourist spots, along with Southeast Asia’s largest bird park, and the tallest twin buildings in the world.

Worth mentioning is that it was the 10th most visited cities in the world in 2017, when more than 25.9 million tourists arrived in Malaysia in 2017.

Some other Kuala Lumpur rankings are listed below:

a. According to the Global Liveability Ranking 2017, Kuala Lumpur is the second most liveable city in Malaysia, after Georgetown

b. The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route is ranked as the busiest international flight route in the world

c. According to Nestpick’s 2018 Millennial Cities Rankings, Kuala Lumpur was ranked the second best Asian city for Millennials, after Beijing

Property prices

kuala-lumpur

As mentioned, real estate is surprisingly cheap in KL, comparing to living standards and development.

But the price increase in the real estate sector is slowing down, following the national trend. The annual price rise was more than 10% a few years ago, but has now dropped to 5%. Still, it’s higher than other regions.

Experts predict that there will be a higher price growth in the coming years, as the Malaysian economy is recovering from a previous downward trend.

There’s also a slightly less demand for expensive properties, after the Malaysian government increased the stamp duty from 3% to 4% for properties worth more than RM 1 million, as of 1st January 2018 (applicable to all Malaysian cities).

Areas of Interest

Below I’ve included the most popular areas among foreigners, where you should consider making real estate investments.

KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center)

KLCC is famous for having Petronas Twin towers and serves as a business hub. The prices here are highest in the entire country, the area makes a good option to buy residential or commercial property.

Mont Kiara

Mont Kiara is a modern and high-end township based in the North West outskirts of the city. The area consists of many high-rise condominium projects, mixed-use buildings, and commercial towers. Mont Kiara is one of the most popular areas among foreigners and expats.

Bangsar

Bangsar is a modern suburb popular among expats due to its peaceful environment, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. It’s located four kilometers North West of Kuala Lumpur, with many recently established high-end housing projects.

KL Sentral

KL Sentral is a neighboring district of KLCC, with numerous hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls. Being a bit more busy, KL Sentral is more central compared to the above mentioned areas.

Other popular areas

Other interesting areas include Ampang, which is also known as an expatriate hub, Ampang Hill, Taman Duta, Kenny Hills, and Ukay Heights.

Property prices

Property prices in Kuala Lumpur are the highest in Malaysia. On average, the price of a housing unit is RM 785,000 (USD 200,000).

Minimum investment requirement

You can buy freehold property in the city for minimum of RM 1 million (USD 245,000) and get a 10 year multi-entry visa, through the MM2H visa program.

2. Johor

johor-bahru

Johor is a state located at the Southernmost end of the country, with proximity to Singapore. Only a bridge separates them. The total population of the state is around 3 million people.

Johor has comparatively more affordable options than Kuala Lumpur, along with a lower cost of living.

The tourism industry is the primary contributor to the state’s economy, as many people from Singapore visit the area on weekends, while they also make a significant proportion of expats living in Johor.

The price rise for the last few years has been around 4.5%, which is slightly below the national average of 5.1%. However, the region is still doing better compared to the other regions like Kedah, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, and Kelantan, where the increase is less than 4%.

Areas of interest

Below I’ve included areas that should be of interest in Johor.

Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru is the state capital and the third largest city in the country. It has a fast-growing economy and population, thanks to its proximity to Singapore. The current population of the metropolitan area is more than 1.6 million.

In addition, the city is also a center of commercial and retail business, as well as a financial and industrial hub. It’s also based at the center of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia triangle trade route, that helped in a recent economic boost.

Many Singaporeans own their weekend homes in the city, increasing the demand and prices of real estate. In addition, many people from Singapore also visit the city to go shopping, thanks to comparatively low retail prices.

Iskandar Malaysia

Iskandar Malaysia is a recent major development project by the Sultan of Johor, who’s putting an effort to urbanize most of Johor.

The development started in 2006, which means that infrastructure and housing projects are at most only a decade old. The current population of the town is 1.8 million.

Pasir Gudang

Pasir Gudang has been a recently developed area, with a lot of future projects already in the pipeline. The prices here are expected to rise in the coming years, thanks to heavy investment in this area.

Property prices

Prices vary depending on districts, of course. On average, you can buy a two bedroom apartment in Johor for around RM 400,000.

Minimum investment requirement

If you’re buying property to get an MM2H visa, the minimum investment requirement is RM 1 million (USD 245,000). However, Johor is divided into two zones, an international and a non-international zone.

If you’re buying property in the international zone, the minimum requirement is RM 2 million, while the non-international zone has a minimum requirement of RM 1 million.

3. Penang

penang

Penang is the most urbanized and one of the most densely populated states in Malaysia. The population exceeds more than 1.75 million.

It’s home to a big expatriate community, the second largest after Kuala Lumpur,Areas of interest

Below I’ve included some interesting and popular areas in Penang.

Georgetown

Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, Georgetown has been ranked as the most liveable city in Malaysia. It’s also the capital city of the Penang and the second largest city in the country.

Butterworth

Butterworth is the main city of Seberang Perai, which is the mainland part of Penang. The real estate is comparatively cheap here compared to the island, especially Georgetown.

Batu Ferringhi

Batu Ferringhi is the Northern coastal region of Penang and popular among Japanese and British expatriates. Here, you can find many newly established high-end condominium projects and residential neighborhoods.

Property prices

You can easily find a three bedroom condo in Georgetown for RM 1.5 million, while the same condo can set you off around RM 400,000 in Batu Ferringhi, and around 500,000 in Butterworth.

Minimum investment requirement

Penang is divided into two regions with different minimum investment requirements.

The minimum investment requirement one the island is RM 3 million for villas, while the minimum requirement is RM 1 million for the mainland.

To obtain an MM2H visa, the minimum requirement of investment is RM 350,000.

If you want to know more about new interesting property projects in Penang, I recommend you to read this article.

4. Ipoh

Ipoh

Ipoh is the capital city of the state of Perak, located in the Northwestern parts of Malaysia. This growing city is the third biggest with a population of more than 650,000 people.

It’s also one of the most visited cities, mainly due to its attractive tourist locations, and with an effort to conserve the British era architecture. The city is well-known for its beautiful limestone hills.

Living standards

According to a recent survey, Ipoh was also ranked as the cleanest city in Malaysia, while in another ranking, it was ranked as one of the friendliest places on earth (!).

Despite not being as popular as other cities among expats, the expat community is growing steadily, mainly because you can find a mix of modern amenities and a laid back riverside lifestyle. It’s also been ranked as one of the best cities to retire by several international publications.

Thanks to a strategic location between Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur, it’s also a major transportation.

Property prices

In comparison with Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown, real estate prices here are low. But with recent interest by foreigners, combined with a revival of Malaysia’s economy, the prices are on the rise.

Areas of interest

Ipoh is divided into two main parts:

The Old Town

The old town is the commercial hub, located West of Kinta River. You can find most of the historic buildings in this part of the town, with comparatively high prices, due to easy access to transportation and commercial areas.

The most well-known area in this part of the town is Menglembu, which is also the oldest and having the highest real estate prices.

Some popular places in Menglembu are Ipoh’s Railway station, Ipoh Town Hall, Birch Memorial Clock Tower, and Sultan Idris Shah II Mosque.

The New Town

Despite being called The New Town, this area was developed almost a century ago.

Still, the buildings and infrastructure are comparatively developed, you can find modern restaurants, high-end shopping malls, and several new condominium projects in this area.

Some notable places are Ipoh City Hall, the Coronation Park, and Perak Medical University.

The New Town is more popular among tourists, due to its recreational facilities and scenic views.

Newly Developed Suburbs

The newly developed suburbs offers a good opportunity to invest in the affordable real estate in Ipoh.

For example, suburbs like Bercham and Bandar Meru Raya offers great growth potential.

Property prices

As Ipoh is ranked among the most affordable cities in the world, real estate prices are also surprisingly low.

You can easily find a double-story three bedroom house for RM 250,000 – 300,000 (USD 60,000 – 72,000).

Minimum investment requirement

The minimum investment requirement is RM 1 million, which equals to around 245,000 USD.

5. Sabah

Sabah

Sabah is the second biggest state in Malaysia and called “Land below the Wind”, as it’s located right next to the Philippines typhoon belt.

The state consists of a cluster of small and big islands, which makes it a natural attraction for tourists. Pulau Banggi, which is Malaysia’s biggest island, is part of this state.

With more than 3.5 million people, Sabah is one of the most populous states in the country.

The state is still not as popular among tourists and expats, but has some of the finest beaches, rainforests, wildlife, and scenic views that Malaysia has to offer.

More and more travelers and expats has found this pearl, a reason why tourism is booming. With more tourists and rising interest among foreigners, new real estate developments are also increasing.

Sabah experienced a sudden price hike in the past years (due to an influx of foreign tourists and investments), when prices almost doubled within a short period of time.

However, the real estate market has cooled down, with annual price increases of 4.6%, which is a bit less than the national average. Still, it’s better than many other areas.

Areas of interest

Sabah has two major cities that should be of interest:

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is named after Malaysia’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu, located in the same area. It’s the state capital with comparatively new and modern infrastructure, compared to other urban centers.

KK is mostly known for its scenic views and beaches, a reason why many expats and wealthy Malaysians invest in vacation homes, like villas and high-end condos.

Sandakan

Sandakan is the second biggest city and a port city. Prices are more affordable compared to Kota Kinabalu. The city is popular among tourists mainly due to its beaches.

Real estate prices are almost half of those in Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah property prices

Kota Kinabalu is the most expensive city where the price of an average terrace house is around RM 1 million. In Sandakan, you can find the same property for half the price.

Minimum investment requirement

The minimum threshold is RM 1 million, while you can get an MM2H visa if you invest at least RM 500,000.

Summary

Malaysia is a culturally diverse country, and more developed compared to most of its neighbouring countries. You have a number of places worth having a look at, where the top ones are Kuala Lumpur (the capital), Penang, Ipoh, Sabah and Johor.

These places have good growth potentials and are generally more popular among foreigners and expats.

Property prices are surprisingly low in Malaysia, when considering the quality of life and living standards you can enjoy.

If you buy real estate in Malaysia, you’ll also have the option to apply for a 10 year visa, called MM2H (Malaysia My 2nd Home), which has seen a great success among foreigners.

To learn more about where you should invest, to know more about these different cities and areas, I recommend you to read the whole article.

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