Modern Kepong retains its appeal
Ang Hui Hsien 
Excluding high-end townships like Desa ParkCity, prices of houses in Kepong are still within reach of average Malaysians

THE matured town of Kepong has come a long way since its tin mining days, transforming into one of the emerging locations for property development in the Klang Valley.

Straddled across the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor border, the area boasts of excellent connectivity, thanks to several existing and upcoming highways.

Despite years of modernisation, it still retains some of its old world charm, and continues to have a predominantly Chinese demography. Many of its residents are descendants of the tin miners who first arrived and settled in the area more than a century ago.

Throughout the years, Kepong has been experiencing a generally healthy property market, as the arrival of new residents contribute to a steady demand for housing.

Many landed properties were built, but in recent times, high-rise residences have been making their entry into the market, with more expected to come up in the near future.

Data from property portal shows that transactions for non-landed properties from July last year to June have overtaken those of landed homes.

Henry Butcher Real Estate Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Tang Chee Meng says apartments hold appeal to younger purchasers who are seeking properties priced at a lower range.

Kepong properties bearing KL addresses command higher prices compared to those in Selangor, says Tang

“For the new high-rises, the buyers comprise a mix of mainly Kepong residents, second generation long-time residents as well as some people from outside Kepong who are attracted by the affordable home prices,” he says.


Rise of non-landed properties

Echoing this sentiment is Trinity Group Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Neoh Soo Keat.

High-rise properties are well-received because of their security features and facilities, says Neoh

“High-rise properties have been well-received over the years, especially amongst the younger generation due to the safety of the multi-tier security system as well as the multitude of facilities offered that complement their active lifestyle,” he explains.

Last September, the developer launched Trinity Lemanja consisting 583 apartments housed in two 40-storey blocks and priced from RM500 per sq ft (psf) onwards.

The development is sited on 1.13ha freehold land – something which Neoh points out is a rarity in the area.

“Based on our market research, we have observed a lack of freehold residential condominium projects in the Kepong area. Most projects in the vicinity either bear leasehold or commercial titles or both,” he says.

Neoh also reveals the three markets the property is targeting based on the findings of their research.

“The majority of the existing residents in Kepong live in a close-knit community, thus, it is only natural for the younger generation [Gen Y] who have stepped into adulthood and are looking to settle down to start their own family close to their family home,” he says, referring to this group as “new money”.

“Our second target market would be parents with ‘old money’ who want to support their children by investing in a home for their children close by with better amenities, accessibility and security,” he adds.

The term “old money” is also used to describe the project’s third target segment, which encompasses older purchasers who want to enjoy a modern lifestyle as well as better security in their golden years.

“People are attracted to the security a high-rise property can provide. After all, a home should be a safe place to be as it is a place they return to every day,” says Neoh.


Tale of two jurisdictions

Due to its unique placement, Kepong is under the purview of two different jurisdictions – one part bears a KL postcode while the other makes up part of Selangor’s Gombak district. This difference in location also has an effect on property prices.

“Bandar Manjalara and Taman Bukit Maluri are located in the KL part of Kepong whereas Taman Ehsan, Taman Desa Jaya and Taman Daya are located in the Selangor side of Kepong.

“For the same type of properties with similar sizes, the schemes located in KL are about 30% to 40% higher in terms of prices,” observes Henry Butcher’s Tang.

A quick check on portal reveals that from July last year to June, the transacted prices of bungalows on the KL side of Kepong ranged from RM391 to RM445 psf.

This was much higher than the RM44 to RM127 psf range recorded for bungalows sitting on the Selangor part of the area.

Similar patterns were recorded for terraced houses as well as non-landed properties including condominiums and flats.

Tang believes this could be because of the better accessibility Kepong properties with a KL postcode enjoy compared to those in Selangor.

“Desa ParkCity, which enjoys a KL address, is able to fetch better prices because of its better living environment and designs, and attracts a more affluent class of residents from outside Kepong,” he reasons.


Pull factors

The self-contained township is a 191.4ha development by Perdana ParkCity Sdn Bhd, which is a subsidiary of conglomerate Samling Group.

It has met with much success, as both landed and non-landed properties within its grounds have achieved significant price appreciation.

Last June, a 1,894 sq ft terraced home in Desa ParkCity was transacted at RM1.7 mil while a condominium with a built-up of 915 sq ft was sold for RM830,000 in August.

However, discounting such neighbourhoods, Tang adds the prices of properties in Kepong are still attractive for purchasers looking for something more affordable.

“Property prices in Kepong, except for high-end neighbourhoods like Desa ParkCity, are generally still not that expensive and is still within reach of the average Malaysians,” he says.

Apart from having properties still within the affordable range, the area also holds appeal for its proximity, connectivity and maturity.

“Kepong is an established area which is not too far from KL city centre [about 12km] as well as Petaling Jaya [about 10km] and is popular with the older Chinese community.

“It has vibrant commercial centres, shopping malls, wet markets, eateries, schools, places of worship, medical centre, public parks and other amenities,” explains Tang.

Ng notes that Kepong has undergone major changes throughout the years, including improved road infrastructure

Offering a similar view is Veritas Design Group principal Ng Yiek Seng, who grew up in the area.

“The main attraction is location and proximity to town, with the convenience of public transportation, the Kepong Metropolitan Park [a public park], food as well as availability of amenities and shops,” he adds.


Improving accessibility

Ng also notes the positive changes made to improve the town’s infrastructure over the years, particularly its roads and transportation network.

“In the earlier days where Jalan Ipoh and Jalan Kuching were the main road into town, a bus journey may take up to one-and-a-half hours on a good day and more than three when it is raining hard and floods occur.

“The road to Taman Tun Dr Ismail comprised only two single-lane roads through forested areas which can be difficult to drive along on wet nights,” he recalls.

Today, a network of expressways and major roads, including the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2), Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) and the aforementioned Jalan Ipoh and Jalan Kuching, connects Kepong to other townships such as Subang Jaya, Ampang and Cheras.

In terms of public transportation, the area is serviced by the KTM Komuter line and houses the Kepong and Kepong Sentral stations, located 1km apart.

Traffic flow in the neighbourhood is also expected to benefit from the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway Phase 2 (DUKE 2), which consists of the Tun Razak Link and Sri Damansara Link. It was constructed by Ekovest Bhd at a cost of RM1.1 bil to alleviate traffic on the LDP and serves as an alternative route to MRR2.

However, Ng believes the upcoming Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations – Kepong Sentral, Metro Prima, Kepong Baru and Jinjang – will have more of an impact when they begin operations in 2021.

He describes the line as a “spine” which cuts through major parts of the neighbourhood, easing and cutting travelling time to central KL and upcoming areas such as Kwasa Damansara.

Ultimately, however, Ng points out the responsibility falls on the local community to ensure their neighbourhood remains liveable.

“As they say, the only constant is change and to stop changes is to stagnate. So it is up to all of us to be proactive and pave the way for continuous betterment through engagement and interaction,” he says.

Kepong’s changing landscape

THERE are many theories regarding how Kepong got its name. One says it is due to the abundance of pokok seranti kepong in the area.

Others highlight the link to the Malay word kepung which means surround or enclose, and the area was so-called because it is surrounded by undulating hills.

Yet another suggests it is because Kepong was one of the many “new villages” during the Malayan Emergency that were surrounded with barbed wire fences.

Notwithstanding the multiple theories as to how its name came about, it is generally agreed Kepong was one of the major tin mining areas in the Klang Valley in the 1860s.

This led to an influx of Chinese people, who eventually settled down there and started families who continue to live in the area until today.

As a result, Kepong has a large Chinese community – a fact which has attracted even more Chinese to relocate there.

This, in turn, has contributed to a healthy demand for housing and many parts of Kepong were developed over the years.

According to Veritas Design Group principal Ng Yiek Seng, who has spent most of his early life in Kepong, the neighbourhood has undergone a massive transformation.

“The land area developed in the last 30 years is more than quadruple of what was originally there. The sawmills, tin mining lake, quarry and unattended open area are now charitable associations, bistros, parks and other developments,” he says.

“Properties were mainly landed. I’m not sure when high-rise apartments started being developed.”

Today, the area is commonly associated with congestion, a situation which was exacerbated by road closures to facilitate the construction of the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE) Phase 2.

Despite this, Ng says he will always consider Kepong as home, and believes its appeal will continue to draw people to live there. 

Vibrant commercial and industrial segments

A MATURED neighbourhood, Kepong’s commercial areas and malls are a hive of activity and are generally performing well.

Henry Butcher Real Estate Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Tang Chee Meng attributes this to the area having good accessibility as well as a sizeable population catchment with decent spending power.

A check on property portal shows freehold and leasehold commercial properties experiencing healthy transactions for the past year.

From July last year to June, there were 35 deals for shoplots and offices in the Selangor part of Kepong at median prices ranging from RM148 to RM664 per sq ft (psf).

In comparison, commercial properties in the Kuala Lumpur part of town commanded higher prices, with 36 sold at a median price range starting from RM465 to RM871 psf.

Kepong also has an active industrial sector, housing a number of industrial parks including Kepong Entrepreneurs Park and Meda Industrial Park.

Tang reveals most of the industrial parks there are involved in light industries, operating in businesses such as food product manufacturing, plastic injection moulding, textiles and apparels as well as hardware manufacturing.

“Overall, based on statistics from Napic [National Property Information Centre], the volume of industrial property transactions in Malaysia has recorded a decline over the past five years, but the value of the transactions have generally remained stable or registered a slight increase,” he says.

A total of 28 factories in Kepong, KL were sold at median prices ranging from RM208 to RM986 psf while those bearing a Selangor address saw 27 transactions starting from RM500 to RM824 psf.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 260.