Overcoming the misconception of home ownership

Many are of the opinion that purchasing a home is a tedious process and not affordable due to the price tag on a house

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by TMR FILE

OWNING a home could be a taboo for many these days, as one’s salary might not meet the expectations of the price tag on a house, which has led to a huge mismatch in the property market.

According to the National Property Information Centre, the overhanging supply of houses had reached a record high of 30,115 units worth over RM20 billion nationwide last year.

To ease the glut, the government in March launched the Home Ownership Campaign, offering a 10% discount and various rebates to clear up some of the unsold houses.

However, the six-month campaign only managed to sell about 1,144 houses worth about RM650.1 million as developers still struggle to reach the right buyers.

While property players still find it difficult to sell houses, Hartabumi dotCom Sdn Bhd CEO Radzi Tajuddin (picture) said home ownership access to Bumiputeras is also considered low at about 21%.

Radzi, a 30-year-old architect, set a property portal in 2015, called “hartabumi.com” to help Bumiputeras find the right homes.

“It is hard to convince them to buy houses as they stigmatise property developers as capitalists who leverage a huge sum of money from the buyers.

“They think that buying a house is impossible due to the expensive price tags. The term ‘home ownership’ is alien to them,” Radzi told The Malaysian Reserve at the launch of the Hi Home Property Conference 2019 in Kuala Lumpur recently.

To overcome this, Radzi said the company had to gather a lot of information, develop content, publish videos and infographic for the portal’s visitors.

As a result, hartabumi.com has been receiving many questions regarding affordable housing and the tedious processes of purchasing a house.

“Slowly, we can see their doubts going away. Purchasing a home could be very tedious only if you have no knowledge about it, but when we make them understand the whole process, via our content, they realised it is not that difficult.

“On the conception of salary and house price mismatch, we changed their minds with a list of houses that they could consider,” he added.

With a team of 30, Hartabumi help potential homebuyers make informed decisions and get housing loans through the portal.

Until September last year, there were four million visitors. It registered 50,000 comprehensive databases, serviced 310 customer applications, processed RM85 million worth of properties and generated RM2.2 million in net revenue, growing by almost 300% year-on-year.

About 80% to 90% of its visitors are Bumiputeras.

“In the beginning, we only had about 25,000 visitor ‘hits’ a month. Now, we get half a million hits a month. There was a time last year where we had almost one million hits in a month,” Radzi said.

The young entrepreneur also had to deal with property players.

“Hartabumi was not easily accepted by the developers. They saw me as a young man who wanted to sell houses valued at millions of ringgit and at that time, the portal had poor traffic. I needed to convince them that I could deliver buyers.

“My first project was only worth about RM5,000. That was the cheque we received for promoting a house which was worth millions of ringgit, but I just grabbed it as I wanted to prove that this could work,” he said.

It was a tough first year, but the team believed that this was the right course and strategy.

The project received a capital injection of over RM500,000 after Radzi, a graduate from Manchester School of Architecture, decided to get into the property field.

“When I came back from the UK in 2014, I practised architecture for a while before becoming a researcher. That was when I learned that there were many unsold houses, especially for the Bumiputeras.”

Radzi’s team had to manage and process a lot of data and attract users to gauge their sentiments and at the same time establish strong relationships with developers.

Four years into its operations, Hartabumi is expected to enter the “profitability” phase this year.

“I believe we had done the right thing by targeting the niche Bumiputera market, which comprises about 30% of allocation in the marketplace.

“Moving forward, we aim to go for a wider market, competing with long-established property portals in Malaysia,” Radzi said.

Currently, Hartabumi is involved in four construction projects with a total GDV of RM60 million and an assetlight company with a valuation of RM8 million.

It started with only three manpower in an office shared with another company. Now, with a bigger space of 4,000 sq ft and 30 direct workforces, Radzi envisions tapping a wider market in the property sector.

Hartabumi is expected to launch a new online property expo this month called Hi Home, showcasing 100 new housing projects of which 50% are affordable units below RM300,000. In total, some RM3.4 billion worth of inventory will be showcased.

Radzi aims to sell about RM500 million worth of houses, attracting one million users in the three-month expo.

“If the project succeeds, we may continue the Hi Home portal and expand it regionally,” he added.

Simultaneously, Hartabumi is also expected to organise the Hi Home Property Conference, inviting pertinent speakers to talk about home ownership and property-related subjects.

Among the invited speakers are CIMB Group Holdings Bhd group CEO Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz and Khazanah Research Institute research director Dr Suraya Ismail.

The discussions would be compiled and presented to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in October.

Radzi said both platforms were fully endorsed by the Housing and Local Government Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry, and the Selangor and Perak governments.

Describing his journey, the young Selangor-born said it is never too late for young people, especially the Malays, to explore their potential in owning a home.

What is important, he said, is garnering the right and sufficient knowledge before one signs a 35-year loan commitment with the bank.

“I bought my first house in 2015. It was an exciting moment. However, I found later, like many other youngsters perhaps, that I also made a wrong move by rushing into the purchase.

“That is why knowledge is so pertinent when it comes to buying a house but surely, it would not be impossible,” Radzi added.