“Most people were expecting another slow recovery of the property market in 2020 — until the Covid-19 came in,” said Lim Boon Ping, the president of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents.
Since mid-March, Malaysia has been under a Movement Control Order, requiring residents to stay home unless they are providing essential services or buying groceries or medicine. The order, in place until late April, has made title searches and property showing much harder, said Sarkunan Subramaniam, the managing director of Knight Frank Malaysia. “As both buyers and sellers have become more vigilant amid the outbreak, a wait-and-see approach is prevalent,” he said, “as people will try to avoid showrooms and sales galleries during this critical period.”
Before the pandemic, the housing market in the state of Penang — which encompasses Penang Island and the city of Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula — was faring better than those in much of the rest of the country, said Mark Saw, the executive director of Knight Frank Malaysia. The state, sometimes called the Silicon Valley of the East, has developed a tech-manufacturing sector that attracts workers and investors from oversees. According to the National Property Information Center, the average home price in Penang during the second quarter of 2019 was 437,632 ringgit ($101,000), higher than the national average of 420,345 ringgit ($97,000), although still far below the average of 780,564 ringgit ($180,000) in Kuala Lumpur.
“Over the years, generally, Penang property has sustained itself more than the rest of Malaysia, because of its unique position being known as the pearl of the Orient and its historical background,” Mr. Saw said.
On Penang Island, where George Town is, land for new development is limited. Properties with land currently range in price from 800,000 ringgit ($185,000) to 15 million ringgit ($3.5 million), depending on the location, said Anders Ong, a sales team leader at the Roof Realty, in Penang. A condominium can sell for 400,000 ringgit ($92,000) to 5 million ringgit ($1.16 million).