Wednesday 28 Feb 2024
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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on July 29, 2019 - August 4, 2019

It is unusual to be distracted by monkeys during an interview but that was what happened when City & Country sat down with Michael Tan, chairman of Sanctuary Lakes Global Group. The monkeys were playing at the swimming pool area of the sales centre of Santuari Park Pantai — the company’s project in Kuala Lumpur that is within 3km of the serene Bukit Gasing Forest Park.

The gated-and-guarded development sits on a 38-acre freehold hillside tract that is next to Pantai Sentral Park in Jalan Pantai Lama. It features vacant lots and landed homes.

The developer has sold some of the vacant lots and will launch 20 bungalows in September. The bungalows are in various stages of completion.


Five decades of experience

Having been in the property development industry for almost 50 years, Tan has had a hand in projects with more than 10,000 properties in total both at home and abroad. Some of them were developed by Sanctuary Lakes Global Group while others were completed by Tan and other investors under various special-purpose vehicles.

“I have developed projects in places like Penang, Alor Setar, Johor Baru, Semenyih and Seremban and they are mostly landed homes, especially bungalows. We (Sanctuary Lakes Global Group) do some of the projects on our own and we only do residential units. We exit once the project is successful,” he says.

Tan’s developments under Sanctuary Lakes Global Group include the Gasing Heights Condominiums in Petaling Jaya and the Bandar Tasik Kesuma township in Semenyih — both in Selangor.

He believes that a developer is “someone who develops something from nothing — otherwise you are a builder”. Under his direction, the group’s focus has been on constructing residential units that allow their occupants to enjoy the environment and landscaping, hence adding value to its projects in general.

“We believe in creating value for the projects, so we think of what we can do to enhance and create the value of the homes. We do it through landscaping such as lakes, stones, plants and trees. We have enjoyed using water as a major feature in most of our developments. For example, for our project in Melbourne (Sanctuary Lakes Resort), we made a lake part of the landscaping to create a unique identity,” says Tan.

“After we built the residential units and put in the golf course, the residents started inviting their friends over for golf sessions and some of those friends would stay a night or two there. There is a plan by some of the landowners to build a hotel nearby. Meanwhile, we have seen many migratory birds — which weren’t there initially — laying eggs around the lake.”


Overseas ventures

Besides Melbourne, Sanctuary Lakes Global Group also has a presence in Hua Hin (Thailand), Mianyang in Sichuan (China), San Francisco (the US) and Albania. The developer has ongoing projects in Hua Hin, Mianyang and San Francisco.

Sanctuary Lakes Hua Hin is an 84-acre low-density development. Phase 1, which takes up 32 acres, will offer 86 units as well as 6.5 acres of natural lakes, a 1.4km walking path and cascading waterfalls. The units will come in three designs — Kingfisher, Sandpiper and Hummingbird — and will be priced at US$330,000 to US$530,000 each.

The developer has completed 50% of the infrastructure and 30% of the utilities at the gated-and-guarded development.

Meanwhile, the 41-acre Sanctuary Xianhai in Mianyang, China is a US$100 million development that will offer Spanish-style residential units, to be developed over six phases. The group has delivered Phase 1 and is constructing Phase 2. There will be 150 units comprising villas as well as semi-detached and terraced houses upon its completion. Targeted at the high-income domestic market, the units are priced from US$330,000 each.

The residential project in San Francisco is in the planning stage.

While Tan says he is not too concerned about venturing into other countries, he believes that it is the circumstances in life that direct one towards making certain choices.

“I look at life differently … sometimes we don’t have a choice when it comes to what we want to do. For example, in Hua Hin, I didn’t have the money to buy the land but the landowner said that we were going to be partners and that I didn’t have to pay for the land until after I had sold the units. He was willing to accept later payment, so I just needed to come up with the development money and he would get paid when I got paid,” he recalls.

“As for the China market, we first entered it because our China partner told us that the land price was cheap and that we could not go wrong with it. Right now, even though we haven’t done anything on that piece of land, its price has already shot up six to seven times. We believe that we can’t go wrong when owning a piece of land. No matter where it is, its price will eventually go up.”

Currently, the group’s land bank locally and abroad has a total GDV of about RM1.7 billion. Tan says in terms of acreage and number of houses, most of his projects are in Malaysia.

At home, other than Santuari Park Pantai, the group is working on the 120-acre Kasuma Resort — a joint venture with the Sarawak government’s Land Custody and Development Authority — in Kuching. The project is in the planning stage.


Santuari Park Pantai

While the initial plan was to sell only vacant lots at the development, Sanctuary Lakes Global Group decided to change the plan to include landed houses to encourage buyers of the vacant lots to build their homes, says Tan.

“We sold 27 vacant lots earlier, with a land area of 9,000 to 28,000 sq ft each, at RM200 to RM320 psf. Then we decided to change our plan because the lot owners were not building after they bought their land … everyone was waiting for everyone else to build first, so we went ahead and developed some units here and we will launch them soon,” he adds.

“We want to give confidence to people that this place is buildable. After we started the construction of the bungalows, some of the lot owners also began to build their homes. ”

In September, the developer will launch seven garden villas (individual-titled bungalows) and 13 courtyard villas (stratified bungalows). With a total gross development value of RM102 million, the units are in various stages of completion and are slated to be completed by mid-2021.

These 20 bungalows will offer a modern contemporary design and will take advantage of the orientation and elevated position of the site. The layout will maximise natural lighting and cross ventilation.

Features include a lift core for each unit to accommodate an elevator in the future. There will also be a swimming pool and an entertainment deck.

“To cater for a variety of needs, there will be units with individual titles and those with stratified titles. In addition, we also offer buyers the opportunity to purchase vacant lots, so they can build their dream homes,” says Tan.

Priced from RM5.8 million, the garden villas will have a lot size of 7,147 to 8,751 sq ft and built-up of 8,098 to 10,000 sq ft.

The courtyard villas will have a lot size of 3,155 sq ft and built-up of 5,581 to 7,950 sq ft. Priced from RM3.8 million each, the units will have strata titles because they will be built on a common basement parking podium, Tan explains.

“This will provide residents with a covered place to park their cars. Each unit will come with three parking bays and there will be some common parking bays as well.

“With a guardhouse at the main entrance and another at the sub-entrance of the courtyard villas, there will be double maintenance fees. For now, the indicative maintenance fee for the main guardhouse is RM300 per month.”

Tan says there are still a number of vacant lots — albeit of smaller sizes — available for purchase. The vacant lots currently available are 8,000 to 10,000 sq ft each.

He believes that the smaller lots are “something the market can absorb”, adding that the RM688 million Santuari Park Pantai will have 155 bungalows upon its completion in 2026. He opines that the greenery and low density will attract many upgraders in the neighbourhood.

Other factors that would draw buyers include the freehold tenure, the development’s location between Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya as well as its gated-and-guarded community, Tan points out.

Santuari Park Pantai’s elevated position will give residents a view of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya as well as fresh air. There is also a linear park, which has been completed.

“We don’t have a clubhouse because I don’t find it useful here … people who can afford to purchase [a vacant lot or a unit] here are already members of many clubs, where their friends are. If we have a clubhouse, they might just use the facilities alone, or if no one uses the facilities, the maintenance [fee] would become an issue,” he explains.

When asked about the objections received for the development, Tan says, “If you go back to the history of the land, it was zoned a freehold residential land in 1976 — even before the other homes were built there in the 1980s. It has never been a green lung and it is also not directly next to the forest.”

Sanctuary Lakes Global Group bought the tract in the late 1980s.

Tan believes that the development has no direct competitors from the surrounding areas, adding that the main challenge the developer is facing is in coming up with new ideas to offer more unique features in the project.

“Also, we have this issue of whether we should build the homes or the landscape first … we have a set budget, so we have to balance it. For us, it is important to landscape the entrance to attract buyers and then focus on the homes — ‘the real stuff’ people are looking at.”

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