Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thank you for your defense

Good to know you are always there to support me in good and bad times. And good luck in being a landlord and getting a girl friend :D

Channelnewasia forum

Have been rather upset after my feature was being scrutinised and critised in a few Singapore forum recently, I do not blame the forumers for they do not know me well enough. But he defended me on the forum. I guessed noone could ever understand me as well as he did. He witnessed first hand how I cried every night missing my family and stressing at work, my anxiety in buying my first property, my sleepness night when my unit untenanted for 2 months and all my ups and downs at work.

Instead of smearing the name of your ex, isn't it great that your ex comes to your defend when you are defenseless? I believe in karma, what comes around goes around. Once again, a big thank you!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why invest in Malaysia?

Ever since my feature was out, forumers have been debating if Malaysia is a better bet as compared to Singapore real estate? With all due respect, I think if I have the cash, I would invest in Singapore as compared to Malaysia. As land is scarce in Singapore, there will always be demand for reasonable price property. But due to constant Singapore Government intervention, the rich gets richer while the middle class stays put. So, the only way to get out from that category is by investing elsewhere. I am not going to debate why property is better than shares, cause I failed at shares. I did invest in shares for a brief moment but I can never understand why it went up on certain days and drop the next minute. It was beyond my control. I broke even in my shares trading.

Now, why Malaysia?

1. Strong Singapore currency.

Having a strong currency is an advantage as we (Singapore earners) can easily secure a nice condo in a prime area at half the price. But then again, the shortcoming would be further depreciation of RM against SGD, making the conversion no longer attractive. Unless you have some local business in Malaysia to offset against your income. Else enter into a hedge, again not feasible when your cash flow is minimal.

2. Proximity.

Would you invest in Indonesia? Thailand? Vietnam? Or even US? If you don’t see yourself investing in such country, so apart from Singapore, where else can you invest? Malaysia is just a ride/fly away. Besides that, let us analyse the potential country to invest internationally. Starting from the west to east.

- United States
Plenty of foreclosure, time to load up the property, but massive subprime debt, distance a problem, no leverage avenue for foreigners.

- Canada
No data

- Europe
Same as United Stated

- Africa
No data

- Middle East
Dare to invest in Middle East? Not me.

- China/Hong Kong
Overheating prices, worst than Singapore, dare to go in now? Currency control measure, currency fluctuation, language barrier (for me, I can’t read Chinese), not familiar with local legislation.

- Thailand/Vietnam/Indonesia/Philippine/ Myanmar
Underdeveloped countries, politic instability, chances of currency control is even higher, they have yet to get their fundamentals right where the basic infrastructure and human needs are yet to be met. The gap between the rich and poor is too wide.

- Malaysia
Government a bit screw up, but still acceptable. ETP plans, upcoming MRT line within Greater KL, possible high speed train from KL to Singapore. Once this high speed train is made possible, connectivity makes easy. Similar to Hong Kong MTR that connects to Shenzhen, bringing vast business opportunity between both country. Singapore can only grow at a certain extent due to its size, it’s economy has to expand beyond its own backyard. The tipping point for Iskandar Johor, KL and Singapore is the high speed train, then we will be known as a Mega Region as popularised by Mr Ho Chin Soon.

3. Population growth
While Malaysia is hit with high percentage of brain drain, we still have locals from the remaining 11 states to fill in the vacancy in KL. At the moment, the population of people in KL itself is 7.2million (quoted from Tim Murphy, Buying Asia), which equals the population of whole Singapore.

So, where would you invest now apart from Singapore?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Singapore Business Times 20 June 2011

I recently got featured on Singapore Business Times 20 June 2011 in the Starting Young forum sponsored by Citibank. Oh, I have also started a real estate book distribution in Singapore. The authors that I am representing currently are Ho Chin Soon, Milan Doshi and Juanita Chin.

Check this out

Here are the write up!

Accountant Melissa Low tells LESTER HIO she eyes mainly properties with positive cash flow

MELISSA Low's firm belief in investment lies not in monetary terms, but in investing in herself.

To this end, the 26-year-old accountant takes the time and effort to attend investment seminars and to pore over books and research before deciding what to invest in.

Her passion for investment lies in real estate and to date, she has three properties in Malaysia to her name, with one rented out at a 7 per cent yield while the other two are still under construction.

Besides her main passion for real estate, Ms Low has also diversified into an online and book distribution business, where she sells books concerning real estate. http://www.alphamarketingsg.com/

Q: How did you handle money when growing up?

A: I was very prudent with money. Since young, I had been financially independent. My venture into business started when I was as young as six years old, when my neighbours and I would organise house parties and charge an entrance fee to other neighbourhood friends. In school, I would organise games and events where again I would charge a fee for participation.

Q: What sort of financial planning have you embarked on?

A: I've placed 60 per cent of my assets in real estate. I also have a few insurance policies in Singapore and Malaysia. I also invest regularly in unit trusts, which so far have been giving me a 30 per cent return because I invested in commodity-linked unit trusts during the financial crisis.

Q: Do you spend more or save more?

A: It depends on certain months. When I buy property, I will certainly spend more, but I consider that as an investment rather than pure liability spending. I only shop when necessary or when there are bargains.

Q: Do you use credit cards?

A: Yes. Having credit cards can be good for loan application if you pay your bills on time. The Central Credit Reference Information System or Credit Bureau Singapore keeps track of your credit record, which can be helpful when you apply for a loan, as a clean record can help you secure one much more easily.

Q: What got you interested in investing?

A: I was influenced by my dad, who is an entrepreneur himself. I was taught to be independent and work hard for what I want in life. When I joined the corporate world, I realised I was living paycheque to paycheque, and having an investment plan assures me of a side income as well as a way out of the rat race, as I have control of my finances.

Q: When and how did you get started investing?

A: I first invested in a bubble tea business when I was 23, which folded after six months. I then decided to earn passive income instead, and hence I started to actively search for real estate properties in Malaysia.

Q: What do you currently invest in?

A: Real estate is my main investment. I also invest in my own business, Alpha Marketing, which sells and distributes real estate books and research articles online.

Q: What is your investment strategy?

A: My objective is to buy properties with positive cash flow. At the moment, I only have one property in KL with a yield of 7 per cent and two under construction, one of which will be ready next year, and the third one due four years later.

Due to the new cap of 70 per cent margin of financing for third properties onwards, my investment activities has slowed down tremendously.

Secondly, I buy properties in prime locations and target the middle to higher income tenants, as I do not want the hassle of dealing with problematic tenants due to the distance as I am currently working in Singapore.

Q: How would you describe your risk appetite?

A: Prudent. I do my homework before putting my money down. I buy properties for yields and am not much of a speculator.

Q: What has your best investment been so far?

A: An office lot in the city centre of KL. I bought it for RM700 (S$284) psf, the project beside the office was launching at RM1.2k, that is already a gross RM500 psf gain.

Q: What has your worst investment been so far?

A: Most probably my bubble tea business at Wisma Causeway, KL. It was mismanaged and not quite optimised despite it being located strategically. It was also a hassle to manage as I was in Singapore. Long distance management is not suitable for a retail business.

Q: Any tips to share from experience in investing?

A: Do a lot of research and mingle with the right crowd. Networking is important.

Invest in financial education, attend seminars and set an objective when you invest.

Before you start parting with your hard earned money, set aside a few hundred dollars to be educated, be it through books or seminars. Take action only after you think you are ready.

In terms of real estate, look for undervalued, distressed and fire sale properties.

Q: What are your long-term investment goals?

A: To have five properties giving me positive cash flow before I turn 30.

Q: If you were a millionaire, where would you put your money?

A: I would invest in real estate and would like to set up hotels. It will be killing two birds with one stone, as I like businesses and real estate. Owning a hotel would be good.

I know there are a lot critics out there questioning how did I do it, owning 3 properties in short one year.

First and foremost, I do not inherit any riches from my parents, infact I am funding my youngest sister's education to a private university in Malaysia. My capital purely derives from my salary as an accountant in an MNC, if you must know, I work in IKEA Singapore. Before that I was an auditor in KPMG Singapore.

My bubble tea business only cost me about S$2k to set up, if you convert into RM, thats about RM5k, how did I do it? Magic. Being an accountant, I know my numbers. My business was just breaking even when I close it down. Was thinking to revived it but again distance is an issue.

How did I managed to afford 3 properties?
1. I earn in S$, thats 2.4 times for you :) Don't blame me, blame the currency.
2. I don't go for long holidays, the further I have been to is Hong Kong, and even that is sponsored :D.
3. I bought undervalued property (not very much undervalued but still below market).
4. My dad's a contractor, so I save a lot in renovation as he only charges me for the material and labour :D (ES Interior - 012-3983903 ask for Mr Kingston Low)
5. I have got the guts to sign on the dotted line. I dont have much liquid cash in all honesty, you can rob me but there is no money in my bank account.

Cheers :D