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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Baby Xin's Piano Recital

Baby Xin, being the curious baby she is, loves to press on the keys of the piano.  Sometimes if she sits at the piano, she refuses to be removed. Today she played a Christmas piano recital.  Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ka Juo Kitchen Knives from Shangri-la Yunnan

Here's something interesting from our travels that I thought I would share.
Tucked in Yunnan province, China, is a place called Shangri-la, an area with hills and lakes at high altitude, and was supposedly described in James Hilton's book, where people there are almost immortal, purportedly because of the peaceful surroundings and the clean air.
Well, we visited that place and came to know that it is also the home of the famous knives, Ka Juo.  In fact, in the market square there is a shop with a large sign that literally translated into "Famous Knives Family for Centuries".  Apparently they started making warrior knives and swords in the old age with steel, and that family tradition is honoured until today. The family owned a factory to make knives - either decorative, or for kitchen use.  In fact, if you travel to the factory, all along the road, the signboard advertisement reads, "Knives that can cut nails and hack iron."
Wow, we were really impressed.  And also confused.  Because there were so many other brands also claiming to be famous - Ka Wa or Ka "something or other". We also nearly got fooled by another brand which claimed that Ka Juo, Ka Wa and Ni Ma are the 3 famous knives of Shangri-la.  Luckily a check with our local driver revealed that the only trusted brand is Ka Juo.  And all said and done, the knives are not very expensive, not like the Zwilling Henckels from Germany.
So we decided to buy a set of kitchen knives.  But we were worried that these would not be able to transported back to Malaysia by plane.  We were assured that we can definitely check-in the knives as luggage, as kitchen knives are acceptable but not the decorative knives and swords.  So we took a chance.  The knives come in a plastic holder as in the photo, and they packed in a cardboard box for us.  And we just used that as check in luggage in Air Asia.  Luckily, as the shop had said, kitchen knives are allowed.  Phew!
The set above consists of 1 meat cleaver (that's the one that can cut iron), a vegetable cleaver, 2 fruit knives, a knife sharpener and a pair of scissors.  Why did we buy it when we already have (Ikea) knives at home?  Because they were really, really sharp and high quality and we were impressed!  And you really don't get it anywhere else.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Family Trip to Chengdu

These school holidays we were very fortunate to be able to travel to Chengdu via Air Asia.  Chengdu is the Panda capital of the world.  We took the kids to see the pandas and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  There was a lot of walking to be done.  So much so that Wei wrote in his postcard from Chengdu to his Grandma:  "We are enjoying ourselves but our legs are very tired..."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yuan's Birthday

This morning I left a present on Yuan's bed so that she would find it when she woke up. Yuan is 7 years' old today.  She is small for her age but she loves to read and we thought a gift of books would be wonderful for her.  When she woke up, she couldn't wait to open the present, and she was anxious about a birthday cake as well.  She said: "It's not a birthday without a cake."  J was going to buy her one for the evening but she didn't know that, and we kept teasing her about it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A cover for my iPad

During my recent worktrip, I had a transit flight to Singapore.  That was when J persuaded me to buy the iPad.  He said that I could read my ebooks on such a useful tool.  Furthermore, my work companions also reinforced the idea by saying that the baby could develop good motor skills with the number of free applications available for babies on the iPad.
On the flight back to KL and while in transit at Changi, I checked out the price of the iPad. The iPad 32GB (wireless only) was only RM100 more expensive than the selling price in the USA. So, needless to say, I succumbed to the temptation. 
Now, what I didn't know was, after buying the iPad, you need to buy accessories to it.  For instance, the screen protector and the iPad case or cover.  Because the screen is bound to get scratches and fingerprints from having such a large surface and you keep tapping on it. After using it for about 2 weeks, I started to research on the available products.

My boss who got her iPad from the USA, also bought an Apple case for it there.  She got her screen protector installed locally at a Machines store. She told me for the 2 items, each would  cost over RM120!  Wah, it's like after buying the cow, you need to buy the yoke.
Anyway, I read reviews about the 2 items, and I found out that the best screen protector is the "Invisible Shield", which is expensive, but it is a horror to put on.  Even local sellers who sell it here will not dare to install for you.  And the official Apple iPad case is actually lousy at protecting the device due to it being flimsy, and also there is no strap or anything to hold the cover closed, and the velvet-like material gathers dust easily.

Then I found this medium-range case developed by More (a Hong Kong company).  The Shocking Case comes in shocking, vibrant colours and the best thing is, a free More crystal screen protector. The cover flips close like a diary and has little magnets to keep it closed. And the company which sells it is based in Sunway and can provide free installation.  The service was very good too.  By the time I brought my iPad to them, the screen was practically smudged all over.  The service staff cleaned it with a cleaning detergent called "Applesauce"  (just imageine the things that can develop as a downstream industry from Apple products).  Then he sprayed some solution on the screen, fitted the screen protector and smoothed out all the bubbles.  It was very professionally done, and I am glad I didn't for one minute think that I could ever do it myself.  All these for the cost of RM175, I count myself lucky for reading reviews first.
Post-note:  iPad launched in Malaysia today (30 Nov) and really good value for money, for the model I bought it's RM150 cheaper than in Singapore.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Camp Outing

Wei and Yuan are going on their first camping trip. It's not a real camp trip like the ones you go to at Taman Negara, but just an urban children's camp where they stay for 3 days 2 nights in a Buddhist society in Petaling Jaya.
They are excited and I am happy for the fact that they will be occupied with some activities besides playing computer games and watching tv. This morning they are all geared up with sleeping bags, pillows, blankets and a change of clothes.
In the camp, there will be a children's workshop, all towards building character and moral values. At the end of the camp which is on Monday, there will be a mini concert presentation on the things that they have learnt.
They're only gone for a day and I miss them already. 

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Property Posts are moving house

For the past 2 weeks I have not updated this blog. There are so many things I want to write but I was overwhelmed with work, and also a little inner struggle. Do I continue to post here like this on my 3 main topics - kids, work and property? Or should I split and post into another blogsite?
When I started in March 2010 with 0 readers, I thought that putting in so many topics will be easy, I would always have something to write. Now I have too much to write and I don't like the disarray of my blog posts - it makes me feel so disorientated. And so for the past 2 weeks, I struggle in writer's paralysis, unable to pen down a word.
Now I have finally decided. I continue to blog here for the love of my children, recording their milestones, and my daily life. I pen down stories from my work and travels. And little trinkets and gadgets that I like.
I have created a new blogsite, Property Dance for all my property learnings and money smart habits. The name is inspired by a wonderful friend who would have a dedicated blogsite soon. If you like my property posts, please follow me to my new blogsite.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

70% Loan-to-Value Ratio for 3rd house onwards

An update following my previous post 80% LVR?
It has finally happened overnight. BNM announced quietly, with immediate effect, a 70% LVR for the 3rd property onwards. See Support for BNM's LVR cap move.
As I have mentioned, this will result in much difficulty for small time property investors like us. However, Renesial Leong, the property guru, had mentioned that we can look at 2 bright points:
1. Property prices may stabilize for a while, or even drop because of urgent sales by investors who want to get rid of their property quickly since it is unlikely to appreciate in the longer term.
2. People who are speculators without sound backing may be out of the game for awhile, resulting in less competition.
So, fellow investors, collect your seed money and be patient, we are investors of the long term and we will be in this game, until the next policy change!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wei's birthday

I came home from a work trip just in time for Wei's 9th birthday. His present, which I picked up from the Zurich airport is a Swatch. It took me 10 minutes to choose it, since there were not many watches that fit my budget, and this one stands out because it also tells the day and date. Wei is very proud of it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baby Xin's 2 front teeth

Baby Xin has grown 2 front teeth since September at around 8 months old. I think she is my earliest baby to sprout teeth.
At this age, Baby Xin also has another talent. She can crawl to the tv cabinet and grab the DVDs inside, pull them out and toss them all over the floor. That will occupy her for a long time, if I allow her to do it. I think I need a tv cabinet lock.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Getting Started in Property Investments Seminar

Sara and I spent an amazing day at this seminar, held at the UEM academy in PJ. Although I have attended such seminars before, we still learnt a lot from the 2 gurus, Michael Tan and Dr Peter Yee.
One of the important lessons I learnt from Peter Yee is to have a support group. Meeting with like-minded friends once a month, and sharing and mapping your goals out during the monthly meetings will help. Dr Yee himself had the support of his close friends who are property enthusiasts like himself, and they all managed to make good progress along the way. That is because if you don't have a group with whom you could discuss, and which would prod you along the way, it was very easy to slacken and forget about your property goals while you are caught in your daily job.
Another important lesson I learnt from Michael Tan is "What's your number?" which is the amount of lump sum money (pension fund) that one must have at retirement in order to comfortably live out the rest of the years. While he admitted the calculation method did not originate from him but from an insurance company, he still stressed on the importance of realizing the big figure that we need at retirement. He showed us how this principle can be applied using rental properties as the desired income vehicle, and how to work backwards to know how much is the value of the property to be invested now.
Let me illustrate the formulas here:
Pension fund = (Desired monthly income) X (Passing on Age - Retirement Age) X 12 months
Example: Let's say you need RM10k a month to live a comfortable life post-retirement.
This person retires at 55 and projects that he will live till 80.
So his pension fund at retirement is 10k X (80-55) X 12 months = RM3 million
In order to have this pension fund through properties, what is the property value that he must buy now to get this monthly rental income? Assuming this person is able to get rental yield of 8% per annum and there is no capital appreciation of the property.
Property value = (Desired income) X 12 / (0.08)
which is 10k X 12 /0.08 = RM1.5 million
In other words, if this person buys a property worth RM1.5M now which he can rent out at RM10,000 per month, this person has already set up the rental cash flow that he needs.
This is really a very simplistic rule, however the lesson learnt here is valuable nonetheless.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Internet application for SD Tiara

I applied for Streamyx internet broadband via the reseller at the SD Tiara apartment about 2 weeks ago. Last Saturday, the reseller informed me that they were unable to get into the application system for me because I have another telephone line pending. I was quite surprised, and when I dialled the 100 line, I was told that I still had a pending application in Cyberjaya.
I went to TM point on 3 separate occasions to settle the problem. The first time was on Monday lunch time to cancel the Cyberjaya telephone application. The 2nd time was on Thursday to try to apply for a new telephone line for SD Tiara because the reseller still couldn't get into the system, but there was such a long queue I gave up.
This morning (Friday) I arrived TM point early to be one of the first ones to get into the outlet which opens daily at 8.30am. There was already a queue formed outside the door.
When I got in and waited for my turn, I was told that the problem with Streamyx was there was no port again at SD Tiara, and same old story, they did not know how long we had to wait. So Unifi was introduced again, but this time no more free installation and unlimited downloads. Installation fees were RM200, to be billed in 5 monthly installments. And no more the good service that I experienced at the Domain (installation within 3 working days), now I was told I have to wait until Nov 15 before installation. I asked them why and they replied, "It's because of the high demand."
TM's philosophy, I think, is when you have good business, it's ok to sacrifice customer service. My tenant said he is getting used to the Malaysian culture of slow service.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Final Race for 2010

At work, I am faced with the toughest challenge ever. Already behind our sales target for the year, our team is asked to not only deliver this quarter's target but also to catch up to some extent on the previous 9 months' shortfall. And yet I feel upbeat and positive about things.
That is because my boss, had forced me to run a business review with the team. I didn't want to hold the review at first because I thought it was a waste of time, the team would be better out in the field getting more sales instead of wasting 2 days at the office. However, the meeting proved to be very fruitful for us. We reviewed what we have been through so far, what had worked and what had not. Also, we emphasized the importance of still going the distance even if the task ahead seems so futile. Because if we throw in the towel now, we don't have a chance. But if we try, we still might hit something somewhere, even though we know we are far from our original target.
At the closing, my boss said something which really touched me. She said it to our team, who has taken a beating all year round due to poor sales performance. She said it despite the fact that we will not hit our original budget. She said, "Team, if you can show growth that is better than last year and give this all your might and do not give up, you can hold our chin up. And I will stand proud with all of you."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Furnishings at SD Tiara Apartment

Continuing from my previous updates on SD Tiara, here are the pictures of the kitchen. The kitchen cabinet was put in years ago when we first got the keys to the apartment.
This time we only updated the wall shelf and the rod with hangers.
The previous tenant also left behind a water filter, so I just replaced the inner cartridge.

The master bedroom

The middle bedroom

The 3rd bedroom

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Scam Alert

This time, even an advertisement for renting out rooms at my apartment has attracted a scam response. Here it goes:

I am a citizen of United States America,staying at Richmond,Virginia,staying at 1410 OAKHURST LANE APT#1 RICHMOND,VA 23224 and i want rent this apartment because am coming dawn to Malaysia for International Conference and which is going to take me 6Month do let know know the total package of the apartment and make sure you calculate it in USD$ and get back to me soon as possible so that i can make the payment via ECASH COMPANY here in USA that will deliver the money to your door step in Malaysia means ATM CASH CARD that you can use to withdraw the money in any bank in Malaysia using ATM MACHINE..and do get back to me with the attachment of the apartment to review. Nice Doing Business with you. Mrs Michele.

The best part is when I advertised, I specified it is for males only.
What kind of international conference will last for 6 months?
Again, I blocked the email as scam and deleted the email.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Egg Puppet

Here is the post of a very proud mom. This may be the easiest thing to do but I am amazed at Wei's creativity.

This is an egg puppet that Wei made for a school project. I helped to break the egg by making a hole at the tip (and cooking it afterwards, of course).
J helped him do the cutting and and sticking. The other stuff like the tie and umbrella are entirely Wei's idea.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sales and Growth

This year at work, the sales number required is very challenging.
That is to the point that sometimes I feel that I'm faced with an insurmountable task ahead.
However today I learnt 2 important lessons from my work:
1. If you can't get to the sales target, at least show credibility to the performance by showing growth over last year.
2. Even if the future looks bleak, at least do not give up even now itself.
If everyone has a defeatist attitude, he or she will give up, and the prophecy of failure becomes a reality. That is why no matter what, I must keep a positive mindset.
I am thankful for the many things in life that are going well, and I take this little setback as making me stronger to progress. I will not give up and I will rally the team to do this as well.

Photo copyright: Haruki, Scotland, Oct 2009; to use please post a comment & acknowledge source.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Replacement of Room Door Lock

While I was busy at work today, the tenant of the master room at The Domain called. He had accidentally left his room keys inside the room, and then locked the door. He asked if I could come and rescue him with a spare key.
And today of all days, I really cannot leave the house even after work, as I have to look after the kids while J is doing the finishing touches to the SD apartment. So I asked the tenant to go to the hardware store downstairs for help, see if they can do a lock replacement. He managed to do it and luckily the store was not closed yet.
Now, the question is, who should bear the costs of the new lock and replacement? The tenant has not asked me yet, but I will collect the spare keys from him one of these days and he might ask. Any of you experienced landlords out there can give your opinion?

Photo from Phoenix Locksmiths

Monday, October 11, 2010

CIMB duplicate bank-in slip for Domain management office

On 1st Oct, I went to one of the CIMB branches and made a cash deposit over the counter for the Domain management account - Laketown. It is for the payment of service charge of the Domain. Fully intending to keep the bank-in slip and fax it over to the management as proof of payment, I lost it the next day. No matter where I looked I couldn't find it.
So I called the Domain management office anyway, to let them know that I have made a cash deposit, the amount and the date, but I had lost the slip. However they insisted that they could not issue a receipt to me just like that, I still need to fax or email the bank-in slip. They told me to get another copy from the branch.
With no other choice, I went to the bank 5 days later, to inform them that I need a duplicate copy of the cash deposit transaction. To my pleasant surprise, the CIMB staff and manager there was very helpful. In less than 15 minutes, I was given a duplicate slip. Very easy and no trouble at all.
There is good customer service in our Malaysian banks, after all....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Updates on SD Tiara

The past 2 weeks had been a whirlwind of activities for both work and also fixing the apartment. There were just so many things to do, with one problem popping up after another. Finally today, the apartment is more or less settled, and the first tenant has moved into the master bedroom. Here are some pictures of the work.The living room completed, during the day and night (curtains installed).

The handymen installing a new fan with light, replacing the old flourescent lamp. It can get hot in the dining area without a fan.

The Dining area with a glimpse of the kitchen.

Coming soon in Part 2, the bedrooms ;-)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wall Colour at SD Tiara

Actually we chose a color called Spiney Green from Nippon Paint, but to save cost we use KCC (paint from Korea). Since KCC didn't have that colour, I then asked Faizul and company to change the colour to blue instead. And this colour, even J and I have never seen before, hehehe. We just entrusted it to Faizul to choose a colour representing "biru terang" (bright blue), white for the grill, and for the doors and skirting - mahogany.
Here's the result. This is KCC Littleton. No feature walls, Anie, only plain blue.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

SD Tiara Apartment

Last Sunday my tenants handed over the keys of our very first apartment. They finally moved away after 8 years. Actually J and I bought the apartment when we were getting married. By the time the apartment was completed, we already had Baby Wei, and then we found that the apartment was too far for our family needs, so we rented it out.
The condition of the apartment was dirty to say the least. The wall had watermarks and paint was peeling off. And it looked like the tenants had not been staying there for some months already, they were just slowly moving the things out while they stayed at their new home.
Since they handed the apartment 4 days early, we quickly took advantage of the 4 days to repaint the house. J and I couldn't do it ourselves, because during month end it is almost impossible to take leave from our companies. So, we decided to find professional painters and pay them to do it.
I went through many phone numbers before I found my painter, Faizul and company. That is because he was sincere enough to want to view the apartment condition on Sunday night itself, and gave us an offer on the job. The rest of the painters cannot be bothered to reply my SMS for quotations.
Faizul came and gave us a quotation and J negotiated with him. Finally we agreed on a price, and the painter promised to finish the job in 4 days (Mon to Thurs). Sneak peek of the paint colour coming soon!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Papa

On J's birthday, we both had to work. No way of taking the day off! So I told J to come home a little bit early, I would buy a cake and we'll cut it with the kids. The kids are always excited when they get to sing a birthday song and share the cake, no matter whose birthday it is.
It turned out that J came back very late. Wei and Yuan were excitedly waiting for him, and then they ran out of battery..... Wei lay on my bed to rest, and then I couldn't find him after that. Somehow he ended up at the side of the bed beside the wall, fast asleep and all snuggled up in my comforter.
When J came back we had to wake him, so that he didn't miss singing the birthday song. His eyes could barely open for the photo session.
After the birthday song, he ran back to his bed to continue sleeping. Yuan was still ok and awake and got to eat a little cake. Wei would have to eat his for breakfast the next morning.

Online Scam

Mudah.my is a useful website to buy and sell things in Malaysia. However, lately I noticed there are false purchasers using the website as well.
Usually this happens when you want to sell used mobile phones. Earlier I wanted to sell one, and I got 3 emails from overseas, purportedly from UK, wanting to buy the mobile phone from me. Of course I didn't entertain since I wanted to sell to Malaysians only, and I didn't think much about it. Then lately I wanted to sell a cooler bag, one that is used to keep cold drinks for picnics, and I got an email from someone supposedly named "Dr Sarah Smith", wanting to buy. I thought, maybe it's a foreigner in Malaysia who wanted to buy, so I responded to the email, naming a place to meet for COD (cash on delivery).
I got a reply email from her and she said she is from Scotland, but she would like to buy it for her son who is now in Nigeria. She asked me to ship to Nigeria by Poslaju. In the email, she also asked me to reply to her the price including shipping, my full name, my bank account number, handphone contact number so that she can transfer the money to me. I immediately reported the email as spam, and deleted it.
A few things made me very suspicious:
1. The "Dr" in the email. Usually if you want to buy something you wouldn't even tell the seller you are a doctor or whatever. This person uses a Dr title to improve her credibility.
2. She is supposedly from Scotland, but the English grammar is atrocious. She wrote: "I awaits your reply..." I remember the last time I also got an email from another guy wanting to buy my handphone, who is also from the UK with an English name, but the English was terrible.
3. Asking elaborate details of full name, bank account, handphone number- all these details are needed for bank verification when you call in to do banking transaction.
So, be very careful with all these personal details, especially when dealing with foreigners. For all you know these people are already in Malaysia, otherwise how would they know about Poslaju? And I am just thankful that I didn't fall into their trap.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TM Unifi e-bill

After the free installation of the Unifi on 11 Aug, I got my e-bill on 8 Sept. If you opt for e-bill to be delivered to your email, it is free. If you want the hardcopy posted to you, then they will charge a fee.

In the bill, there is a stamp duty charge of RM10. Besides that, 2 months of service is charged. The first month, Aug, is prorated from Aug 11 to Sept 6. The 2nd month, the service fee is billed from Sept 7 to Oct 6. This internet fee is prepaid every month.

Once the e-bill is sent to me, I will send it to the email of my "chief tenant". He will then collect the shared amount from the other housemates and remit the fees to me. I will then make a bank transfer through Maybank2u. If you want to do that, make sure you select the payee as TM Sdn. Bhd. - Unifi.
I like the e-bill because:
1. It is green. We save paper.
2. I get to see the bill and ensure the payment from my tenants. If the paper bill is sent to them, they may not pay immediately, and I may risk having an accumulated utility bill for a few months. In this way, I have one less utility bill to worry about.
I wonder if you could ask for the Streamyx bill to be emailed instead of posted to you, too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Are you moist enough?

My hubby, J, had never struck me as the type of guy who is sensitive and modern. Back in our dating days, nothing moved him; he was and still is, practical, pragmatic, no-nonsense. I had never seen him shed a tear. A true macho man. A true china man too - non-romantic and non-passionate, and yet I married him.
So it totally surprised me to see his transformation when he held our first baby. Moisture in his eyes. Rationally, he thinks it's the paternal hormones inside him, breaking free. Emotionally, I knew deep down inside that he is moist enough. He had realized the responsibility and the sacrifice he could make as a father. This had happened with every baby. Only that it's been so long that I had forgotten, until our latest addition, Baby Xin. I am falling in love with him all over again, seeing the SNAG (sensitive new-age guy) that he can be.
Of course the photo here is not him. Nobody can beat Baby Xin's skin now. J is now moist at heart, he spends time taking photos of our little dear here.
And gentlemen, if you believe you are not moist enough, wait till fatherhood. You'll be one extra-lovable man, totally moisturized at heart!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Coffee Maker for J

Last Oct, J bought some Starbucks coffee beans. These were sitting around for sometime, not doing anything because he realized later that we need to brew the coffee, unlike instant coffee. Being a non-coffee drinker, I didn't know any better.

So I thought it will be a good idea for us to get a coffee maker. I bought a new Philips coffee maker, from a friend who got it from a company lucky draw, but she never even opened it because she doesn't drink coffee. I got a >30% off the retail price, my friend got some cash for her "lucky" draw, and J got an early birthday present. Hehehe, never buy kitchen appliance for your wife as a birthday present - but it's ok to buy for your husband instead ;-)

So we were all excited about finally opening the pack of Starbucks coffee, and finally being able to brew the coffee. I read the instructions carefully, J put coffee beans in it, poured water into the compartment and started the machine. We waited, but only weak coffee water flowed into the jug. It smelled good, but certainly not drinkable.
Then I read the instructions again. Alamak, it says put ground coffee, not coffee beans. So I went to the internet to check, how to grind coffee. This time there are even more "canggih" machines to buy to grind coffee beans. First we bought the cow yoke, then the cow, now we've got to buy the cart? (Old chinese saying).
Unwilling to spend any more money, we tried grinding the coffee with a good old mortar and pestle. J's mom uses it to grind chilies, so we made sure it's washed carefully first ;-)
So now, 2nd try on the coffee machine. Yeah, successful! J now enjoys a good homemade cappuccino from Starbucks. We'll share a cup or two with friends when they drop by. No fun drinking alone, definitely.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Art project with Wei & Yuan

Last Sunday I came home from Tesco's with some groceries. After putting them away, some cardboard boxes which used to contain tea were carefully put away for recycling.
Oh by the way, I bought a lot of tea, because of the free mug that they were giving with the twin packs. I got 2 mugs like the one below, haha.

So the cardboard packaging which was left over, was quickly snapped up by Wei and Yuan, saying that they could do something with it. I had no idea what they would make.
Then on Monday,when I came back from work, they showed me 2 dioramas that they made with the cardboard. A world of their own, in black and white.
I asked them why they didn't colour the buildings. The plain answer was that they were lazy.
So I told them that we would do an art project together on Malaysia day, a rest day for all of us.
And here are the results:
Wei's world

Yuan's world

The colourful dioramas are filled with buildings and people entirely from their own imagination. Condominiums, police station, schools, houses, banks etc. are all thought up and positioned by themselves. I only helped with a bit of the colouring.

It was a fun project and the kids are very proud of their work.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Increasing the Rent

One of the lessons that I learnt from Renesial Leong's book is to increase the rental every year upon renewal of the tenancy. According to her (ahem!), do not be afraid to increase rental for fear of losing your tenant as long as the increase is fair to you and the tenant, and reflects the market rate. There is no need find an excuse to increase rental because majority of tenants know it will increase with time, especially upon renewal. She also said to make it a point to increase rental even though it is only a token sum upon renewal to set the trend. After that, there wont be an issue of whether there is an increase or not, but rather how much increase it would be!

As a background to my story, my husband and I actually bought a house in Kepong last year with the intention of moving in. Then along the way, I got pregnant with Baby Xin, and the kids' school was a big problem for transfer, so we decided to just cool down and not move. We rented out the house (at negative cashflow, because houses cannot fetch the kind of good rental like apartments) for a year.

This year, the tenant told me he wanted to extend the tenancy for 1 more year. So armed with the knowledge from my property Guru, I wanted to increase the rental. But what is the quantum to increase? The tenant has been a very good payer. Everything is on time and he is also not fussy. As for the market rate, that is almost impossible to find as there are very few houses being rented out, mostly people buy for own stay. Even my friend, Sara, the property negotiator, could not find transacted records, only asking prices, which seems higher. (Mind you, asking prices are not actual rent rates, my rental is not that far behind).

I was feeling very uncomfortable trying to apply the lesson that I have learnt. I know that the tenant is stuck there for at least 1 more year, because he has not found a house to buy (which was his intention when he rented the house from me). I wanted to increase only a token 5%, but Sara pushed me to ask for more - 10%. Sara has become very gung-ho after attending the Wealth Summit with me. She says I am not even getting market rate. Renesial's lesson, about the increase being fair to both me and the tenant, is very difficult to apply in real life. But I thought, it's ok, just discuss with the tenant first and see if he has any objections. If he accepts it, good. If he bargains, then settle for a small increase, or no increase - (Anie also said that your tenant is one of your best friends mah).

So I called the tenant, citing a reason for increasing the rent. Next year the housing area wants to set up a guardpost, and will collect guard maintenance fees from each house. So I told him because of this, I need to increase the rental, 10%. And I also cited that actually the rental rate around the area is also higher than what he is paying. And you know what he said? He said OK, as long as I am paying the guard maintenance. Wah, wah, wah! Such a good thing that I asked, thanks to Sara for pushing me.
And year end, must buy new year's hamper already....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Key to Global Competitiveness

UM drops from top 200 list of world ranking

Why is it that when UM drops out of its ranking in the top 200 Universities in the world, all that our minister of higher education can say is "we are not going to be obsessive about the benchmark. We cannot compare apples with oranges because each university have different environment and conditions."?

It is like saying to my son, if he ends up at the bottom of the class, "It's ok, son, I am not obsessive about the ranking as I cannot compare you with your friends".

The QS World University Rankings measure university research quality, graduate employability, teaching commitment and international commitment. So if these are not globally accepted criteria to rank universities, I am not sure what Malaysian universities quality criteria is based on.

Instead of working to find out what is wrong and how to improve the ranking by providing active solutions, we say it's okay, it is normal to see fluctuations.

If we hope to be competitive in an increasingly global economy, then parents like us must not think like our minister. If we keep living bagai katak di bawah tempurung, very soon the emerging economies around us whom we now consider behind us in development, will be the rising giants in future.

The key to global competitiveness is education for our future generation. Fellow parents, prepare if you can, to send your children to more competitive institutions, with better "environment" and "conditions".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Q&A from Starproperty.my

Malaysia Property portal, Classifieds, Listings, News, Home & D├ęcor

While I was reading more about the potential implementation of the 80% loan-to-value (LVR) implementation, I came across this article about a live forum Q&A with 3 property experts held in Aug 2010. I enjoyed it and hope you will too.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

80% LVR (Loan-to-Value Ratio)?

Property investors should be constantly feeling the pulse of the market. One of the things that I feel will be inevitable is Bank Negara's potential directive in raising the loan-to-value ratio to 80%. According to the ministry of housing and local government, such a move should cool the speculation on property prices so that there will not be people who are putting out very little downpayment money, to flip their property quickly after capital appreciation, and thereby creating a property bubble that will burst and affect the economy later. In fact, according to the ministry, this move will not dampen the property market in the long run. See also "Loan mortgages move would not dampen market."
While many business analysts feel that this will affect the property market in the short-term due to knee-jerk reactions, small time investors like us will definitely feel the pinch in having to come up with a bigger downpayment to secure our next piece of property.
So, what do we aspiring property investors do in such a situation?
Well, go back to the basics, as the property gurus say:
1. Whatever the bank policies, we need to build up enough seed money. Practice delayed gratification, for example, if you are planning to take a family trip overseas for the year end holidays, change your plans to do Cuti-cuti Malaysia instead. It takes a bit of cutting back here and there to try to come up with the 20% downpayment.
2. Invest, not speculate. Do our homework to look for rental-income properties, not just buying for fast capital appreciation to sell. Let's look at the BNM (potential) implementation as something good as it will force us to do our homework well and not just follow the crowd and buy in a frenzy.
Photo from Chinadaily.com

Post-note: As of Tues, 21 Sept, the PM announced that it is still 90% LVR for 1st and 2nd purchase, but no mention about what the LVR will be for subsequent purchases.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baby Xin's first long car trip

In conjunction with the school holidays, J decided to take the whole family (his mom, dad, the 3 kids and I) to visit his sister in Penang. This is Baby Xin's first long trip in a car that lasted 5 hours and 30 minutes, that's because J takes a slow and leisurely drive. When you have old people and kids in the car, you cannot rush. Our own car cannot fit so many people, so J had to borrow a Serena from his boss, who was very kind to lend it to us.

Baby Xin, as any baby in a car trip would, slept through most of the journey. When she wasn't sleeping, she was happily smiling and gurgling from her carseat.

So now, here I am, blogging from Penang. Tomorrow and Tuesday, I will go to work. It's nice sometimes to be able to combine work and family and I am thankful for that flexibility from my company.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is Your Personal Credit in Good Shape?

In my previous post entitled Property Investment Strategies in the next 6 months, getting your personal credit in good shape is the first strategy. Here is a story that I wish to share about my friend who did not do that.
My friend, G, has always been a good paymaster. Whether it is her house rent, car instalments, or credit card debts, she would just pay on time. She also has a long standing relationship with a certain bank, where her salary goes into, and her active transactions in the current account also show a great record.
G decided to buy a home, instead of renting. She had just got a good bonus from her company, and coupled with her savings, it was just enough to for the downpayment of a nice, cosy condominium in Kuala Lumpur for herself and her parents. She decided to apply for the loan from the bank (where her salary goes into) which she has good relationship with, and when the banker saw her good record from the bank's internal data, she was told that she should have no problems getting the loan for 90% margin of financing. So she went ahead and made the 10% down payment and signed the S&P agreement.
So, imagine her shock when she was told by the bank later that her CCRIS record was a concern. It showed lapsed payments in Jan and Feb 2010 for a car that she owned. Then only she realized what had happened. G had a car which she sold to a distant relative. As there were only 2 more years to pay for the hire purchase loan, the relative persuaded her to let him "sambung bayar" (continue to pay the instalments under G's name), so that he need not go through the hassle of applying for another loan. G agreed. She received a lump sum for the car, and the balance payment was through the relative bearing responsibility for the remainder instalments. But the hire purchase loan was still in her name. So her CCRIS record was damaged, and her bank declined her application for the home loan.
All other banks looked at her CCRIS record, and rejected her application. She had no choice but to apply from MBSB, which she was told could close an eye on her CCRIS record. She had the disadvantage of having to take up an unattractive loan interest rate. On top of that, for some reason, MBSB or its lawyers work very slowly (unlike conventional banks), thus delaying the loan disbursement to the vendor of the condominium, and the very irritated owner threatened to charge her interest for late disbursement.
What a lesson to learn. Just one small act of kindness, to a distant relative, resulted in so much monetary hassle for herself. And this has long term consequences, imagine being stuck with a high interest loan for 30 years!
G thought: "I have been a good paymaster all my life. The only thing I didn't do was I didn't check my relative's money habits and I brought all this trouble on myself."

Photo courtesy of Equifax.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Property investment strategies in the next 6 months

Lessons from my property role model, Renesial Leong, that we may already know, but it's good to remind ourselves now and again so that we can reach our financial goals.
1. Get your personal credit in good shape so that you are able to capitalize on opportunities should they arise.
2. Spend less, invest more - you need to build up seed money. So hold back before you buy that LV bag!
3. Avoid speculating on property with money you can't afford to lose - if you are buying to sell, don't risk it if you cannot hold.
4. Now is a good time for 1st time home buyers - mortgage rates are still low, high margin of financing and up to RM10,000 deduction on home loan interest rates for 3 consecutive years (for home purchased between 10 Mar 2009 - 31 Dec 2010)
5. Be extra careful with cashflow - factor in vacancies for 1-2 months, because it is a tenants' market right now - meaning that they have a lot of choices to rent from.
6. Be aware of upcoming mega projects. I for one, was amazed by the number of mega projects that is happening in KL city that will transform the KL skyline forever. KL International Financial District, Sime Darby Vision Valley, Sg Besi RMAF transformation, just to name a few. And I thought there was no more room for development in KL!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wealth Summit

Saturday morning, when other people are spending time at home with family, Sara and I went to attend Mastery Asia's Wealth Summit.
It was a charity event where one paid RM100 to attend (because Swiss Garden has sponsored the venue) and RM80 goes to National Kidney Foundation. I think it is great because 4 gurus in their own fields took their time about 1-2 hours each to share what they know about their fields. Of course they will also share with you their intensive upcoming workshops.
I wanted to attend because I wanted to listen to Renesial Leong's property investment strategies for the next 6 months, and I dragged Sara along because she was just starting out as a real estate negotiator and I wanted to encourage her by making her see the value in property investments. At the same time we both learnt something new and we are glad that the session actually raised RM15k for the NKF. Sara was so impressed with Renesial, she bought her book "Your Tenants, Your Jewels".
The other speakers of other fields were very impressive as well, and I learnt other strategies of making money work for you.
The founder of Mastery, KC See, mentioned at the end of the session that he will conduct another Wealth Summit at the end of the year, but on different topics. That's because he wants to raise enough money to get to RM50k which is the price of a dialysis machine.
I am thankful for people like him, doing their bit for charity and also teaching us. All of us aspiring investors should strive to be like them, doing their bit for the society when they already have enough for themselves, to make the world a better place.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stamping the Tenancy Agreement

As today is a Selangor public holiday, I finally dragged my feet to do the tenancy agreement stamping for my rental apartment in Cyberjaya.
I went to the LHDN office at Jalan Duta at 9am. I learnt that there were 2 blue forms and 1 white form to fill for each room tenancy. So altogether I was filling in 9 pieces of paper which took quite a while. Then I took the number to wait for my turn. The officer checked the documents and calculated the stamp duty rate.
And I learnt a lesson, stamping must be done within 30 days from the date of the agreement, otherwise one is liable to pay a fine. And needless to say, I got fined. As there are 3 room agreements, I was fined 3 times because I was late by maybe 10 days. And not only that, due to the fine I had to send the original agreements for endorsement. I was told to come back for collection on Monday 2pm. I only took back the copies.
But I was still thankful that the whole affair was simple and easy, and I learnt something new which I will be mindful of the next time I rent out another property.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

White Rhino

Yesterday night I asked Yuan to watch her sister while I took a bath. Baby Xin was happily playing in her cot, but just in case she cried, I asked Yuan to entertain her for a while until I get out.
When I came out, Baby Xin was still happily playing, while Yuan was happily making a bracelet from a burst long balloon. And then she showed me the magna doodle that I've hung on baby's cot.
She has written a label for the cot.
It says "White rhinoceros. Please feed her." The picture of the animal she had drawn looked more like a cat than a white rhino. My baby had suddenly become a white rhino in a zoo pen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

Sometimes I get too much pressure from work especially when I do so much, but the results are not satisfying. It is very funny, my boss knows I am trying my best and that I do everything possible, but still when it comes to the numbers game, numbers are the factor that makes the world go round.

These few weeks I have been toying with the idea of quitting my job by next year. I begin to imagine the things I can do if I am not working next year.

Actually not everything is bad, but somehow when things are not in the best shape, one will begin to focus on the negative things.

So I am thankful that yesterday I come across this blog entry about keeping a gratitude journal. In fact, this blog is my gratitude journal, when I started it I just want to record the positive, happy things, my blessings. It is a record of my kesyukuran (gratitude) for all the good things I have and good people that I meet.

I have not been as frequent as before in updating this blog as I have been bogged down with work. But I am glad now to be reminded, I must make an effort to focus and record all the things that I am thankful for. When I focus on the positive, I feel so much better, all the small things become insignificant, and I can look at the bigger picture.

Photo above is an art project, drawn by Wei when he was 5 years old, 2006.