Don't rush to buy into 'hot spots'

The Straits Times

Recent curbs hit genuine buyers

Malaysia has long been Plan B for Singapore property investors deterred by cooling measures and sky-high prices here, but there are plenty of pitfalls across the Causeway for the unprepared.

The fact that it's right next door does not lessen the risks for local buyers, who should arm themselves with a good understanding of the country's rules and regulations.

The very nature of investing in real estate offshore is in itself a chancy endeavour, as National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan highlighted last Monday.

He warned in Parliament that Singaporeans, when buying properties overseas, should take note of the added risks and complexities arising from differences in legal and regulatory frameworks.

That has not stopped Singaporeans from making a beeline for Malaysian hot spots such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and, more recently, Johor over the years.

The attractions are obvious: Many years of rising prices here have led those with smaller investment budgets to seek out more affordable units in Malaysia.

5 things to know before investing in overseas property

Click on thumbnail to view. Story continues after photos. CEA Consumer Guide; Photos: Dua Residency, ST, TNP, Bloomberg

Several rounds of property cooling measures and loan restrictions have pushed wealthier investors northwards too.

At the same time, the ramping up of development in Iskandar in recent years has attracted a wide variety of Singaporean buyers, from savvy speculators to retirees looking for a more laid-back lifestyle and lower cost of living.

Of course, Malaysia is not the only market that Singaporeans have targeted.

In fact, it was the rush to invest in foreign fields that prompted Mr Khaw to sound his warning last Monday.

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) released an online guide this week that will provide some general tips on buying property overseas.

It will also step up efforts to regulate estate agents marketing foreign properties here.

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