Is Malaysia's First Online Rental Network The Future Of Housing In Kuala Lumpur?

The nomadic lifestyle is now a trend and in Kuala Lumpur, where expats are in abundance, flat hunting has become quite the sport.

Finding the perfect flat these days is as easy as finding true love, what with so many things to consider like the size, the view, the neighbourhood, the proximity to your workplace and – of course – your budget. Quite the challenge.

Saify Akhtar says he experienced going through the hoops of renting when he first moved to Malaysia. From staying with family to dealing with landlords, furnishing problems, and even inconsistent deposits, he’s tried them all. In the city centre, he also noticed that most of the good condominiums only have a 30% occupancy rate which got him thinking – what was missing?

Akhtar worked with online transportation networks Uber and Grab for a while, training their people. “I saw that their business models worked well and thought of how to do the same for real estate. So I started looking at Airbnb and other hotel booking websites to do some research,” Akhtar said.

That’s how Haftarent came about. It is Akhtar’s new online social network for renters and landlords. Is it like Airbnb? Not quite. He says if you’re looking for the host experience, then this service isn’t for you. Haftarent is basically the middleman that connects a tenant to a landlord of a luxury apartment in Kuala Lumpur. All transactions are done online. Rentals are on a weekly basis with utility bills, furniture, and basic housekeeping included. 

It’s for people who just want to move in without going through all the hassle it comes with. Uniform deposits don’t depend on your rent and are at MYR 399 (USD 97). Got an immediate job offer in a different city or country? If you need to move out, you only need a week’s notice.

“Sometimes, people can be bogged down by their real estate. I have a friend in Singapore who’s been wanting to move to Jakarta. He’s been trying to sell his home in Singapore but it’s been two years and nobody’s buying,” Akhtar shared. “He’s been getting rental offers that are lower than his mortgage.”

Is it just for expats and diplomats? In a city where luxury, city centre apartments can easily go for about MYR 6 million (USD 1.47 million), people are now buying properties in suburbs that are an hour or so away. With 30 to 40 developments completed in KL every single year, these city properties are becoming an unexpected, long-term investment for the landlords. A lot of them are forced to lower their rates.

Meanwhile, with the traffic situation in KL, people are spending more time on the road rather than with their families or meeting up with friends. Rent and utilities in the city have also gone up.

“People are missing out on social interaction by spending too much time stuck in the [traffic] jam. If you live near your workplace, your gym, and restaurants where you can meet your friends, you will have more time for everything else,” Akhtar added.

However, starting Haftarent wasn’t a walk in the park. Akhtar admits that it is a lot easier to get tenants to sign up but convincing landlords is a different story.
Akhtar’s company asks property owners to lower the rental prices in exchange for better occupancy. “Landlords have to come to terms with the reality of the current real estate market. Getting them on the system is a challenge but those who have done so are already seeing better yield.”

His company also offers security for the landlords, adopting Airbnb’s rating system where tenants are also rated by the property owners. The company also does a bit of background checking on possible tenants and weekly cleaners making sure no gross damages were done on the property and the furniture.
Haftarent started out in January and now has 3,000 registered tenants as well as a couple hundred properties across the Malaysian capital. Akhtar says he is looking into expanding to Johor Bahru, Malaysia’s border city with Singapore which is also quite an expat hub with those working in Singapore opting for the 30-minute commute to save on rental prices. He is also looking at Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, and Vietnam where property markets are booming.




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