Friday, June 25 2004

Helping foreigners buy homes here

By Farrah Naz Karim

PUTRAJAYA: Foreigners will soon find it easier to deposit money here to buy houses, which may attract more of them to make Malaysia their second home.
And their applications will be handled within a month, Home Affairs Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid said.
Last year, the Government approved more than 1,500 applications to buy houses, some 250 per cent more than in 2002. To date, just over 3,800 foreigners have bought homes in Malaysia since two programmes were introduced in 1999.
The "Silver-Hair" campaign is aimed at foreign retirees and "Malaysia my Second Home" at those who invest in property around the world.
Azmi said today that overseas banks with branches here would be allowed to take the fixed deposits that are required before foreigners qualify to buy Malaysian houses.
Putting RM100,000 in a fixed deposit is the first step to qualify. Currently, only specific local banks are approved to take these deposits.
"Not only will it spur them to cross over to Malaysia for investments, but the money channelled here would help enrich the nation's economy," he said. Some applicants were rejected due to "unconvincing details", Azmi said. Applications were thoroughly scrutinised to ensure buyers were genuine and that their income was from legitimate sources.
All foreign buyers must have Malaysian sponsors but some locals sponsored foreign citizens, especially females, to be absorbed into vice rings, he said.
The Government was especially cautious of young and single female applicants. To date, none aged below 35 had been approved.
"This is our approach unless they can prove their intentions and financial strength." Most applications under the two programmes are from China. Britons, Japanese, Indonesians, Dutch and Indians are also keen.
They are allowed to buy two houses of at least RM250,000 each and may take a loan of up to 60 per cent of the purchase price.
The Government might also raise the RM250,000 floor price for foreigners' house purchases, a level set when Malaysia was recovering from the 1997 financial crisis.
Most foreign buyers bought higher-priced upmarket properties, Azmi said.
"We would have to hold discussions to review it.
" If the minimum price is too low, we will look into setting a new value," he said.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"