Sunday, October 21, 2012


Should you buy an abandoned house?
BUYING property and then selling (or renting) it is often viewed as a good form of investment by many. This is especially the case for strategically-located homes that are either new or have been well maintained by a previous owner.

However, sometimes, an abandoned house or even an old, dilapidated one, could be worth investing in. Admittedly, reviving an abandoned house can be a daunting task. But with a little bit of patience, effort and money, the home you're looking to revive could just end up being a diamond in the rough.

Abandoned house

According to reports, there are 177 private housing projects that have been abandoned as at May 31.

Finding abandoned houses is actually not that difficult, as they tend to stick out like a sore thumb! The main issue, however, comes after you've found one, and then need to locate its owner.

“One simple way is to ask the neighbours,” says James Wong, director of international property consultants, valuers and estate agents, VPC Alliance (M) Sdn Bhd.

<b>Wong:</b> ‘One simple way (to find out about the owner of an abandoned house) is to ask the neighbours’. Wong: ‘One simple way (to find out about the owner of an abandoned house) is to ask the neighbours’.

However, a house could be abandoned for so long that even the neighbours might not know of the owner's whereabouts.

“The official way is if the house is within the jurisdiction of the municipality, local council or district council, and to go to the assessment section to check the owner and address,” says Wong.

“If the house is outside the jurisdiction of the municipality, local council or district council, then you need to go to the land office to do a title search on the property, which will reveal the ownership of the title. Then, you have to check the owner's contact details and contact,” he adds.

But what if the owner is deceased?

“In a situation where the owner is deceased, one can appoint a lawyer to make checks at the central probate registry at the High Courts to verify whether the family members of the deceased have filed for a petition for a grant of probate (where the deceased died leaving a will) or for letters of administration (where the deceased died intestate),” says National House Buyers Association (HBA) secretary-general Chang Kim Loong.

He says checks could also be made at the related land office to ascertain whether an application has been filed (at the land office).

<b>Chang:</b> ‘Checks about an abandoned property could be made at the related land office’. Chang: ‘Checks about an abandoned property could be made at the related land office’.

“They could also make enquiries at the Amanah Raya office for confirmation. Having established the identities of the beneficiaries to the deceased estate, one can approach them and negotiate the offer to purchase.”

Cheaper price

Elvin Fernandez, managing director of property consultancy firm Khong & Jaafar Sdn Bhd, points out that abandoned houses, or homes that have deteriorated over the years, tend to be cheaper.

“When you buy a home, you are buying it for the land and the building. The value of a property is what the building and the land are collectively worth.”

He says that the value of a property is affected when the condition of the building has deteriorated.

“If the house has been left unattended for a long time or has depreciated quite substantially, then usually the land value remains the same but not the building value.

“The greater the depreciation, the lesser the value. In fact, there might actually come a time when the building will have no value at all,” Elvin says.

He says in rare instances, the building's deterioration level could be so bad that it could create a spillover effect on the land and affect the land's value as well.

“It's not a rule that's set in stone, but usually it's the building value that drops,” Elvin says, adding that even the location of the property could play a role in the property's value.

“It depends. A house in Damansara Heights that's been abandoned for a while could still have its value intact, while a house in a poorer (rural) neighbourhood that has been left unattended for just six months could already see a substantial depreciation in its value.”

A good buy

Elvin believes that buying an abandoned house is definitely worth the investment, seeing as these homes generally retail for a much cheaper price (compared with new properties or lived-in ones in the secondary market).

“Abandoned properties could be worth a good buy and definitely a must to look at,” he says.

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) deputy president Siva Shanker also feels that purchasing an abandoned house is a “great investment opportunity.”

<b>Elvin:</b> ‘The value of a property is affected when the condition of the building has deteriorated’. Elvin: ‘The value of a property is affected when the condition of the building has deteriorated’.

“You have a lot of this going on nowadays, especially within Petaling Jaya. There are a lot of old houses in that area and many people are buying them either to move in or to flip it (resell) for a profit.

“It's a great investment opportunity. People buy the home for between RM600,000 and RM700,000, then spend RM500,000 on refurbishing it and then selling it for about RM1.3mil. You can easily make a profit of between RM200,000 or RM300,000 right there!”

Siva believes that refurbishing an old or abandoned house is much more cost effective than buying a brand new one (or a lived-in one in the secondary market).

“The Malaysian property buyer is such that once he's bought a house, whether straight from a developer or an existing buyer, he's going to tear it down and make renovations of his own.

“And this is not at all cost effective, because the developer (or previous owner) has probably already given the buyer everything he needs. But after buying the house for say, RM1mil, he's then going to spend another RM500,000 on renovations. Better to buy an old house, which is cheaper, and then install whatever you need.”

MIEA president Nixon Paul, meanwhile, feels that it's “safer” to buy a house from the primary or secondary market.

“Buying an abandoned house will be cheaper, but think of the refurbishment that you're going to have to do, which could cost a lot more than what you would normally do for a new one.”

<b>Siva:</b> ‘Purchasing an abandoned house is a great investment opportunity. You have a lot of this going on nowadays.’ Siva: ‘Purchasing an abandoned house is a great investment opportunity. You have a lot of this going on nowadays.’

“You're going to need to spend a lot of money on a lot of things that have either deteriorated or are totally gone.”

Siva asserts that although buying an abandoned house and refurbishing it is a good investment opportunity, he does add that it's not for everyone.

“If you have the money, the holding power and the property know-how, then it's a good way to generate income.”

On a personal note, he does wish that it would be possible for buyers to “pre-customise” their homes when they buy it from a developer, and not purchase a “finished” product that will not necessarily appeal to everyone.

“Wouldn't it be nice if the buyer had a choice on the level of fixtures that go into a home, so that the price could be reduced accordingly? Because most people are going to move in and make changes that will end up being a waste of money.

“We need to slowly move into a more mature market where there can be more flexibility in the property that we buy,” he says.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Obsessive- Compulsive’s Guide: Top 12 Organizing Tips, Plus Resources

Is your life in disarray? Do you have trouble finding things? Do you constantly forget stuff? If so, don’t worry — you’re like most of the human population.
Disorganization is a natural state of order. It takes an obsessive-compulsive (like myself) to get the chaos of the universe into some form of organization.
If you have a desire to get organized, here are my favorite organization tips … stuff I’ve learned along the way, from other sources and from experimentation. And a list of some useful articles at the end, for those who need more. :)

1. Everything in its place. If you just followed one tip on this list, this would be it. Practice this, and you can skip the rest of the tips and articles listed in this post. Seriously.
So how do you do it? It’s simple. For everything that you own, designate a place for it. You can even label some of those places, to make it easier to remember. Find something that doesn’t have a place? Designate a place for it. Then simply put things back where they belong when you’re done using them. It sounds simple, but it actually takes a lot of practice to get this habit down. Read this article for more.

2. Start small. If your life and your home and your office are all incredibly disorganized, don’t try to conquer all of it at once. Choose a small chunk (maybe the top of your desk, or at least one part of it?) and organize that. Then come up with a simple system to keep it organize, and try to practice that system until it becomes habit. Now expand your “zone of organization” further, to a new area. One chunk at a time, you can get organized.

3. Create routines. One of the best ways to keep your life organized is to make routines for everything — for errands, laundry, finances, etc. And if you do this one at a time, and make it a habit, you can optimize your life this way.

4. Clean as you go. This is a great habit … instead of having big cleaning binges, clean things as you go. Done using some dishes? Wash them right away. Clean the toilet when you finish using it, so it never gets dirty. Read more.

5. All info in one place. Use a text document, a wiki, or some other type of system to keep all the information you regularly use and need in one place. You’ll never look for it again. Read more and also see how to organize your family with a binder.

6. Put it away now. Done using something? Most people will put it down somewhere nearby, with the intention of putting it away later. But messy houses and offices are full of these intentions. Instead of letting things pile up, put them away immediately. Right now, no exceptions.

7. Use an inbox, and empty it. Instead of having papers all over the place, have one inbox for all incoming papers. Well, one for your office, and one for your home. Now you’ll never lose a piece of paper again. Empty it regularly (at whatever regular intervals work for you — daily, weekly, every other day, etc.). Here’s how to process your inbox.

8. Keep a simple filing system. If your filing system is too complicated, chances are you won’t use it. Use this simple system to keep your files in order.

9. Google Calendar. It really doesn’t matter what calendar system you use, but I’ve found that Gcal works best for me. It’s so simple and fast, and as an online calendar I can access it from anywhere (as can my wife). We share a Google Calendar, and we put everything on it: work stuff, personal stuff, our kid’s school and extracurricular events, birthdays, family gatherings, reminders to follow up on things, school holidays, and much more. It keeps all our scheduling in one place, and we never have to worry about remembering again. Other good calendar options: 30 Boxes and Outlook are also popular.

10. A simple system for pending items. One reader recently wrote to ask me how she should organize her pending items, such as plane or theater tickets. I suggested she create a “Pending” folder to hold those items, and make a note of each item on her calendar. For those that are attached to a specific date, she could note the item on that date (“Theater tickets for 8 p.m., in Pending folder”). For items that she wants to remember periodically, she could make a note on the first of each month (for example) … so on the first of next month, there is a “Pending items” notation on her calendar, with a list of items in the Pending folder she wants to reminder herself about. If she doesn’t need to remember them yet, she can move that item to the first of the next month.

11. Make your system usable. If you’re having problems with your organization system, take a careful look at what’s tripping you up. Sometimes there’s a difficulty or complication that makes the system too difficult to use. If it’s too difficult, you won’t use it. Keep it simple and usable — if possible, even fun — and you’ll be more likely to stick to the system.

12. Create a landing strip. When I get home, I empty my pockets and put everything onto a tray near my doorway. My wife does the same. Keys, purse, my ID and cash, cell phone, anything. This way it doesn’t get tossed on our counter or table, and we never have to look for it or forget it when we leave. See Unclutterer’s article on The landing strip.