15 unique property types in Malaysia you should know about

By Derek Uittenbroek | Buying Property

property types in malaysia

Do you know your Condos from your Duplexes? 

For any buyer or investor, a glance into Malaysia’s property market can set heads spinning.

Particularly for any first-time home buyers - with so many different property types out there, it’s tough keeping up with the name game of agents and developers. Especially as new categories continue to emerge, and especially for foreign buyers who may be new to the market.

Although the physical differences between some properties are subtle, the implications for buyers and investors can matter a great deal. Knowing what’s-what should always be your first step to any property-related decision making.

So, I've put together a breakdown of the top 15 categories you’re likely to encounter.

1. What's an Apartment?

apartment

An apartment building in Kuala Lumpur.

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 875 sq. ft. but typically range from 550-1,200 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

Whilst this one may seem obvious, the term ‘apartment’ can be something quite specific in Malaysia.

Apartments are units in a multi-storied building found in major towns and cities, Malaysia-wide. They’re a staple favourite, with mid-sized apartments sitting comfortably atop homeowners’ lists, alongside terraced houses.

Globally, an ‘apartment’ refers to a residential building that’s owned by a single entity. So, a developer or consortium, rather than individual landlords.

Here, however, the term is often used in reference to facilities. As a general rule, apartments tend to be low-end. They usually come with gates and guards and basic facilities like playgrounds, landscaping and, sometimes, very basic sports facilities.

A quick search on iProperty will reveal that the average unit comes with 2-3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an inside car park space.

PropertyLife Tip: Foreign buyers take note - many apartments are priced under the RM1 million minimum-price threshold that foreign buyers need to adhere to, under government guidelines. In some states it's even higher like in Selangor where it's RM2 million (for non-landed properties). Most apartments average out at about RM376 per sq. ft. in Kuala Lumpur according to data from Brickz.

2. That's the same as a Flat, right?

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 659 sq. ft. but typically range from 400-1,000 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

Say “flat” in Britain or Europe and your audience probably hears “apartment”. But here, the term is usually used to reference a more low-end residential property.

Flats tend to be lower, with an average of five storeys high, and often lack lifts.

Their very basic facilities don’t always include gated/guard security – a trade-off for the smaller price tag which averages at RM236 per sq. ft., going off stats from the past quarter.

Flats are often part of local affordable housing quotas and many of them are Bumi Lots. I'll elaborate more on this later.

3. Then what's a Condominium?

condominium

The Loft condo @ South Bay City in Penang - due to be completed in 2017.

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 2,857 sq. ft. but typically range from 2,110-4,175 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

If you’re browsing online for a high security residence with fancy facilities like tennis courts, multi-purpose halls, gyms, BBQ, greenery and swimming pools, the keyword ‘condominium’ is probably your best bet.

Condominium units are usually owned by private individuals and managed under the condo community’s homeowner association, as pointed out by our friends over at Durian Property

This gives owners much more freedom when renovating the home’s interior/exterior. The landlord remains the individual condo owner and he/she retains responsibility for any maintenance.

Again, it’s worth checking the fine print. Some Malaysian developers cleverly apply the term ‘condominium’ to market apartments seemingly more luxurious and with a minimum land area of 4,000 square meters.

4. What's a Serviced Residence?

serviced residence

The Elements @ Ampang Hilir, a popular serviced residence in KL.

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 801 sq. ft. but typically range from 600-1,130 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

The big difference between serviced residences and condominiums is their land status.

By that, we mean condos are considered residential properties, and serviced apartments are commercial, with the latter managed more like a hotel rather than sold on a strata title basis.

Serviced residences are essentially high-end, fully-furnished apartments that are rented out short/long term to those who want a flexible living arrangement. Rent covers the use of facilities including security services and hotel-like amenities - think front desk concierge, main lobby, housekeeping, parking, towels and saucepans!

The different population densities of commercial lots mean more neighbours and a greater flow of non-residents, as most serviced apartments come attached to malls. I can go on forever about the differences, or you could have a read of this.

PropertyLife Tip: Whilst serviced apartments are great for those who enjoy luxury & flexibility, investors should be aware that they can rake up higher utility charges and tax rates because of their commercial status.

5. What is a Bungalow ('Banglo')?

bungalow banglo

An artist impression of Kajang's Ridgeview Residences.

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 5,309 sq. ft. but typically range from 2470-12,350 sq. ft (!).

FACILITIES

A bungalow, or 'banglo' in Malay, is a standalone house that sits on its own land, and can be of any size at all.

Malaysia has its fair share of huge bungalows that are surrounded by lush, large plots of land.

Unsurprisingly, prices for bungalows vary tremendously by size, location, and variation, with some built-up areas exceeding 10,000 square feet. A standard 4-5 bedroom bungalow in Bangsar sits in a price point between RM3.5 – 6 million.

6. What are Terraced / Linked houses?

terraced linked house

Serissa Terrace in Denai Alam

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 1,050 sq. ft. but typically range from 630-1,830 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

Terraced homes are also known as linked houses. Which gives most of the game away.

Both typically share walls with the property next door, on either side. Typically, terraced houses are 1-2 storeys high, although three storeys isn’t uncommon. Each row of houses can consist of 10-12 units, though it does depend on the width of the house.

Typical terraced homes are sized at 1,050 sq. ft. and have 4-5 bedrooms and 3-4 bathrooms.

7. What are Semi-Detached houses?

semi-detached house

Semi 8 in Balik Pulau, Penang.

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 3,304 sq. ft. but typically range from 2,300-5,600 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

A semi-detached property refers to a house that shares one common wall with the adjoining unit – i.e. wherein two houses make one building.

Sometimes also shortened to ‘semi-D’, their layouts are typically mirrored. A Semi-D in an area like Damansara rakes up a price of between RM2-4 million.

8. What is Freehold and Leasehold Land?

Before purchasing land, you’ll need to check out the land’s status from the Land Office or the State Land Registrar. So, what are the differences between Freehold and Leasehold?

Freehold Land

Freehold land means the land is yours to own and enjoy for perpetuity... or until it is transferred to someone else. You own the land, the building, and anything on the land. It’s preferable for obvious reasons, and more expensive, naturally.

Leasehold Land

Leasehold Land involves purchasing the right to occupy the land for a given length of time (usually up to 60 or 99 years). After that, it goes back to the state, or is renewed for another 99 years after paying a premium based on the property’s current market value. The land gets less valuable as time goes by on the lease. The fewer years left, the less it’s worth.

9. What is Malay Reserve Land?

Whilst foreigners can purchase most freehold or leasehold land, Malay Reserve Land is exclusive land that can’t be sold to any race except for Malays or Bumiputeras, two terms usually used interchangeably.

More on Malay Reserve Land and the Malay Reserves Enactment here.

PropertyLife Tip: From of the three land categories described, Malay Reserve Land tends to have a lower investment return, given that when an owner resells, they are dealing with a very limited resale market.

10. What's a Townhouse?

townhouse

16 Sierra, Dumalis @ 16 Sierra in Puchong, Selangor

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 1,117 sq. ft. but typically range from 750-1,600 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

Whilst a townhouse in America is essentially an ultra-upmarket terraced house, we like to take things quite literally here.

A townhouse comprises of two houses stacked on top of each other. Just remember the below and you’ll be fine:

  • Bottom floor units: Generally smaller, more convenient - tenants enter through the ground floor.
  • First floor units: Larger, need to be entered through a side of the building staircase.

A townhouse in Mont Kiara averages around RM2 million, with each unit typically occupying one and a half storeys.

11. What is a Penthouse?

penthouse

The stunning St. Mary's Residence in KL.

TYPICAL PRICE

TYPICAL SIZE

On average 2,455 sq. ft. but typically range from 1,300-5,300 sq. ft.

FACILITIES

Penthouses - are amongst the biggest residential properties out there. In Malaysia, penthouses typically take up the entirety of a serviced apartment or condominium’s top floor, with private lift lobbies.

That said, you’re just as likely today to find double storey units with extravagant bonuses that would make Batman proud, like private swimming pools and gymnasiums.

Thank goodness for the penthouses under RM1 million.

12. Is a Corner Lot what I think it is?

Probably. These are lots that are literally on the corner of a row of buildings. They have land at the front and back that can be double the size of intermediate units.

In a residential context, they refer to units on the end of a row of terraced homes. Their larger land spaces are often developed into bigger homes.

13. What are Linked / Superlink Properties?

linked property

La Ferringhi "superlink" homes in Penang

A linked home is essentially a terraced house of epic proportions.

Both the built-up area and land area of Link homes are bigger and more impressive.

Even more so for Superlink homes, which average out to have 5-6 bedrooms and just as many toilets. There’re also a feast for the eyes – check out these beauties here.

14. Retirement Homes? Really?

retirement home

The Green Leaf - not so bad, hey?

Back in the day, retirement homes were thought of as depressing place to send the elderly.

Come today, they’re known as luxurious resorts with wide natural spaces and support facilities like integrated, 24/7 healthcare.

Such homes tend to be located away from the bustle of KL. One of Malaysia’s most renowned retirement homes, ‘The Green Leaf’ in Sepang, sits on 90 acres of wild mangrove parklands.

Whilst there have been a handful of failed retirement home projects in the past, many remain confident that the industry will pick up legs in Malaysia. Especially since we’ve been declared one of the top 5 retirement destinations in the world.

15. What's a Bumi Lot?

Related to, but not to be confused with Malay Reserve Land, the Bumi Lot refers to a quota that developers must fulfil on every development. Bumi Lots are units which can only be purchased and owned by Bumiputeras.

These conditions might suit genuine homebuyers and long-term investors, but those looking to sell quickly may struggle with the restricted market and slow appreciation of Bumi Lot prices.

In convincing cases, Bumi Lots can be released and sold to non-Bumis by appealing to the Land Office. However, a “released” Bumi Lot does not make it a non-Bumi Lot and it will revert to its original restrictions upon selling again.

BONUS: 4 more property types in Malaysia you need to know about

There are four new, emerging property types in Malaysia that are becoming increasingly comment. Download our FREE guide now to find out what they are!

So, there you have it...

... You’re now equipped to spot the difference between 15 of the most common properties to be found in Malaysia!

Whether you’re a first-time buyer, investor or seller, it’s important to develop a fluency in the language and terms of the Malaysian property scene. This’ll help you separate reality from glossy marketing jargon and empower fully-informed decisions. We hope you enjoyed it and learnt a thing or three.

Love this article? Have any questions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to share the wisdom!

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About the Author

I'm a Dutch-born property enthusiast who spent a good part of my youth in Penang, Malaysia. Besides being a founder @ PropertyLife, I have experience in financial services both at start-up and corporate level. I founded and sold FundTheGap and I'm ex-Accenture, where I worked for some of the world's biggest banks. Besides property, my main interests include technology, entrepreneurship, internet marketing, travelling and generally all things 'disruptive innovation'.