Turning overhang properties into affordable rental units

With the pandemic still ongoing, salaries of young working adults have remained stagnant while in some industries, have even fallen from previous years. How do these young workers cope especially with high rentals in central locations?
A fully-furnished studio in the Klang Valley can easily cost MYR1,500 per month while a partially furnished condo unit can reach RM2,000 or more. Some units available may reach the tenant’s budget limit, but the housing conditions might be sub­optimal, or they would have to endure longer commuting time due to longer distances from central locations.
We aim to match overhang properties in the market with tenants’ demand and affordability.
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One start-up’s turnkey solution is to turn empty properties in key urban centres in Malaysia into affordable rental homes for young people. Rebranded from Hostel Hunting, LiveIn.com is a long-stay platform which grew its revenue by 60% during the pandemic. Asian Property Review talks to Wen Khai, Co-founder and CEO of LiveIn, who first launched the company in January 2015.
1.How does LiveIn work? Do you just go into the website and book a room like you do for a hotel room?
That’s right! Because our rooms are all standardised, tenants just go to the website and book a room. If they feel like viewing the room first, we could assist in a virtual tour (via video call) or they could come and do a physical viewing.
2.How does LiveIn stand out from other similar rental platforms?
Existing property platforms focus on entire unit sale or rental. With young people’s average salaries ranging between MYR2,000-MYR3,000 per month, it is not easy to secure a property within their budget.
Instead of renting out the entire unit as a whole for, say, MYR2,000 per month, LiveIn rents out at MYR800 per room per month. It comes fully furnished, complete with high-speed WiFi, and cleaning and maintenance services – the entire process can be done via a tap on our app. So, it’s easy and hassle-free.

Wen Khai
LiveIn @ M101 Studio, DangWangi, KL

3.What happens if the occupants of different rooms within the same unit do not get along?

It has happened before. Our team will engage with the tenants to understand the root of the problem, and depending on the situation, we could arrange for the tenants to move to other units.
4.How does LiveIn earn from each rental?
LiveIn charges a marketing fee for helping the owner to find a tenant as well as a monthly management fee for helping the owner to manage the property.

5.How do you go about selecting which unit to rent from?
It’s demand-driven approach. Based on our tenant enquiry data, we are aware of which locations have top enquiries, hot properties in specific locations and underserved properties. The latter is LiveIn’s main focus, we aim to match overhang properties in the market with tenants’ demand and affordability.
6.Can the rental be extended beyond the 12-month rental period?
Yes, we have tenants living with us on extended agreements, for close to 36 months already. I remember they joined since their university graduation and now they’re young working professionals.

LiveIn@Fraser Master Room,KL

Based on our
tenant enquiry data, we are aware of which locations have top enquiries, hot properties in specific locations and underserved properties.
7.Would turning some condos into a student-like accommodation be objectionable to other owners who are perhaps occupying the unit themselves or renting out to non-students?
LiveIn focuses on young people who could be tertiary students or young working professionals. LiveIn’s properties are not “student-like accommodations”. They are located in condominium buildings or serviced apartments that come with amenities and facilities. This is in line with our mission of shaping a better living experience for our young people while solving the rental affordability issue in central city locations. This means that we don’t “over-cramp” a property unit; each property is comfortably designed and comfortably tenanted, while being affordable.
8.What are the demographics of your tenants?
Our target customers range in age between 18-34 years mainly. Most of them are from outstation or overseas and they are either studying or working in the Klang Valley city areas. Half are tertiary students while the other half comprises young working adults.
9.With the labour market shrinking due to business closures, how would this affect the rental market in urban areas?
The short-term market is severely affected due to the adverse impact on tourism. However, the long­term market remains ‘business as usual’. This is because the problem of lack of affordable decent accommodations in centrally located locations in cities still remains. APR

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