WFH culture pushes workers to rent instead

LiveIn CEO says many people now realised that affordability is a crucial issue, while dealing with uncertainties during the pandemic


THE work-from-home (WFH) culture, which is adopted by most people across the globe due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has pushed more buyers to resort to the option of renting rather than buying homes for flexibility in the new working culture. co-founder and CEO Wen Khai said the remote working initiative has accelerated the thoughts of many individuals to the flexibility of renting rather than committing to one single house.

He said many people now realised that affordability is a crucial issue, while dealing with uncertainties during the pandemic.

“Some people are considering downsizing their current living standards. Hence, many people, especially millennials nowadays, are not looking to buy a property.

“People in this generation are looking to rent spaces that come with flexibility and living experiences,” he said in a recent interview with The Malaysian Reserve.

Khai said moving forward, the property and rental market would continue to be soft, especially if the number of unsold properties in Malaysia continues to stay high.

He said countries that can implement proper vaccinations will be able to take advantage of the opportunity and perform better.

“It is important to note that the pandemic is not the root cause of the high number of overhang properties. This challenge is caused by oversupply of properties and its unaffordability for the young population.

“Vaccines may boost the sentiments of some property investors, but they will not be able to absorb all the unsold properties or lower the rentals too much.”

Recently, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) warned unsold properties in the country remained at an elevated level as at the end of 2020.

Khai said it is a fundamental problem that requires long-term policy intervention, where the majority of these unsold properties are high-rise properties situated in the Klang Valley and Johor.

He stressed the problem of high overhang properties is mainly due to oversupply and low-income levels among young adults, leading to unaffordability.

“The country’s property sector requires an active policy intervention that can look into every stakeholder’s interest.

“While many buyers and investors are looking to rent out immediately after their purchase, the gap between the asking rental and rental affordability continues to exist.”

Khai said LiveIn, his long-stay rental platform, recognises the rental issues among young adults and ensures that unsold properties could be rented out to people who are looking to study, work or stay in urban areas.

He said LiveIn focuses on turning empty properties in the centre of cities into affordable rental homes for the young people.

Khai pointed out that property developments in urban cities are getting more expensive, with young people not able to afford buying a unit nor renting it.

He said this leads to a gap between young people’s rental affordability and rental asking, with the gap keeps growing larger.

“So, our platform hopes to match as many of these available and unsold properties in the market as possible to young people.”

Khai said LiveIn’s target market comprises tertiary students aged between 18 to 23 years old and young working adults of 23 to 30 years old, of which his tenant database currently made up 50%:50% of these two groups.

“Most existing property platforms focus on unit sales or unit rental. While young people’s salaries are around RM2,000 to RM3,000, one fully furnished studio in Klang Valley is easily RM1,500, one partly completed condo unit is easily RM2,000 or more.

“Some property directories may bring tenants to possible lower budgets, but housing conditions might be sub-optimal, or people must (commute longer).

“So, instead of renting out the entire unit as a whole, LiveIn rents RM800 per room, fully furnished, and each unit comes with high-speed WiFi, cleaning and maintenance services. Tenants could get all their facilities done via their mobile app.”

Khai said LiveIn currently covers condominium buildings and serviced apartments, with facilities and amenities for its tenant community.

The platform also regularly hosts community events for its tenants, such as yoga sessions, hiking trips and cinema outings to help new tenants socialise and transition into their new environment.

However, he said these activities are postponed at the moment due to the current pandemic.

LiveIn originated as a “hostel hunting” platform for tertiary students looking for a room to rent, but after quickly becoming a platform of choice, it differentiated itself by offering more customer-focused services.

It currently covers most areas of the Klang Valley, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, which includes major key districts such as Subang Jaya, Old Klang Road, KL Sentral, Bandar Sunway, Bukit Jalil, Cyberjaya and Petaling Jaya.

With more than 142,00 total listings on its platform, LiveIn has also expanded its coverage to prime locations such as Singapore and Thailand.