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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.