Tag Archives: housing

Dealing with Noise Pollution in Your Condo

Malaysia doesn’t have noise pollution standards as far as I can tell (does anyone know if this is accurate – if they do exist they sure are not enforced effectively). So you may well find extremely loud noises from extremely loud speakers from street events, bars and temples late into the night and very early in the morning. At some Johor Bahru condos this is not a huge issue, but at others it is a huge problem.

There are various methods of trying to cope with noise pollution. Installing windows that are at least double-paned can help (but if the speakers are blasting away too loudly that will only reduce the problem, but not effectively deal with it). Heavy curtains can also noticeably reduce noise pollution penetrating into the room (but they are not nearly as effective as good windows). I am still looking for some way to buy such curtains in Johor Bahru (or get them shipped here). Please comment if you know where I can get them, or someone who is willing to make them for me (it really shouldn’t be that hard). I have talked to numerous places without any success. And I have emailed some places and don’t even get a response.

Upon discovering how bad the noise pollution was (I don’t know the scope of the problem yet, some days it is extremely bad far later into the night and starting again very early the next morning – other days is just very bad but only for a few hours). I bought some headphones and a fan locally and ordered some devices to mask noise pollution (they generate more noise in the hopes of canceling out more annoying noise) from Amazon. I was amazed to get the devices shipped from the USA to Malaysia in just 4 days.

The Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine is a great device that creates various noises (stream, ocean, fireplace, rainfall, meadow…). One great feature of this device is that it has a microphone it uses to hear the noise level and then adjusts to increase the volume it produces to mask the noise pollution. It also will accept 100-240 volts (it has a transformer itself – like computer laptops do). It is very good for low levels of noise pollution (I would say under 60 decibels). However high levels it has to get so loud to mask them that it isn’t very useful.

Fans also work decently for low levels of noise. The combination of the sleep machine, a fan, and earplugs, in my bedroom, is enough on most nights. However, on nights (and days) with louder noise pollution – I would estimate over 80 decibels getting into my room (as loud as if someone placed a TV in your room and turned it on – it is definitely significantly louder than my TV) those don’t work – even with all that, the noise pollution still gets through.

The noise pollution is by far the most annoying thing I have had to deal with here. I am surprised (and extremely disappointed) that I was recommended this condo given how important I said peace and quite was. But my experience is an example of how important it is to beware, as the purchaser, and watch out for yourself. I am not sure how bad noise pollution is at all other condos but many have to be far superior in that regard to mine. Other than that problem (which is huge) this condo has many advantages. Realtors in Johor Bahru are in the business of renting the units they have. You can’t count on them actually knowing the strengths and weaknesses of options and presenting you their expert advice on what meets your needs (some will, others won’t). I would say this is the only big problem I have had. Otherwise many things have gone well.

As I write this, for at least 44 of the last 60 hours I have had extremely loud speakers blasted into my bedroom (over over 75 decibels and over 85 for many hours), it is unbelievable to me that this is tolerated as acceptable behavior. But it is. On my balcony it is often over 100 decibels, I would estimate, though not for quite as long – maybe 20 of the last 60 hours (the level increases from very loud to extremely loud at various times).

Related: Android Mobile Phone Options in MalaysiaExercise, SwimmingPenang Condo Market

Growing Your Own Food With a Balcony Vegetable Garden

A few years ago I starting growing my own vegetables and I found it incredible convient. You can save money too, but my main purpose is to eat food that taste better and is better for me. I have started a vegetable garden on the balcony of my condo in Johor Bahru.

photo of the Nursery near KSL Mall

Front of the nursery by John Hunter.

First I needed to buy some supplies. I was referred to a great nursery two blocks from KSL mall: Skyt Perniagaan Ming.

The planting boxes they have are especially nice. Very light but made of strong plastic. They also have a divider to leave a bit of room at the bottom of the planter for water to drain and the ability to let the water drain out the bottom by removing plugs (if you use it outside). If you use the boxes indoors you can leave the plugs in and it won’t drain out the bottom. They have 2 sizes, I got the smaller ones, which are about 25 cm by 75 cm by 20 cm (deep). They actually suggested the larger size for growing vegetables so we will see if I made a mistake.

photo of the plants inside the nursery

Plants inside the nursery

I never used fertilizer when I grew in my yard. I just used some compost and regular dirt. I am using some long release fertilizer at their suggestion for these containers. I barely need to water them as it rains nearly every day heavily enough to water the plants (Since there is a balcony right above mine, there has to be a fair amount of wind and rain for nature to take care of the watering for me).

I didn’t buy enough seed packets at first (the packets don’t have a large number of seeds – many of the types don’t). I have bought more seeds now but in the interim I also just planted some seeds from some peppers and tomates I ate from the grocery store. Those tomato plants seem to be doing great (though I am not sure they will work in these small containers (they are the large, regular, tomatoes).

Related: The Science of GardeningMee Bandung at JB Station KopitiamEat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.condos for rent to expats in Johor Bahru

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Photos from Penang

I took this photo while walking from Batu Feringgi to Tanjung Bungah on Penang. There were some nice views, like this one, but it probably isn’t very smart to walk that path as considerable distances have no sidewalk at all and you have to walk within a foot of where cars and trucks zoom by. And even when there is a sidewalk you have to be watchful for huge holes, feet across and several feet deep, you could easily fall through.

The lack of consideration given to pedestrians in the design and operation of Penang is a big reason I don’t think I will live there. The buses were very convenient, and cheap, for the Georgetown to Batu Feringgi corridor, that part of the urban planning has been done very well.

See more photos from Penang.
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Online Resources for Living in Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru is right next to Singapore on the Southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia. Many working in Singapore live in Johor Bahru for the substantially cheaper rents and costs. Malaysia has create the Iskandar Development Region to focus on creating economic success in Southern Johor.

Singapore and Malaysia have been moving to encourage cooperation on projects that cross the border. The 2nd link added additional capacity for car, truck, motor bikes and buses and they are now working to add MRT (Mass Rapid Transit trains) link between Johor Bahru and Sinapore.

Here are some resources I have found online for those interested in considering a move to Johor Bahru:

Blogs about Johor Bahru

Sites useful for moving to Malaysia

Penang Condo Market

See Topic: Penang Condos 2011 forum discussion of this topic for background information.

In general property prices can only support what local jobs support. So is Penang adding lots of jobs that can support costly condos? I don’t know, but am skeptical.

Penang may be a bit of an exception (as a “retirement local”). For retirement locations if you have a future stream of retirees then you can support higher prices than local jobs (this is riskier to rely on as a investor). Retirement locals that are cheaper than where those worked are coming from can seem cheap so those working elsewhere are willing to “overpay.” This could be the situation for Penang.

MM2H buyers don’t seem that can actually affect the market. Speculators are likely a big player. The smart public policy action in this case is to raise down-payment requirements and increase transaction taxes. This won’t stop a bubble from forming but will reduce the size of the bubble and limit the damage when it pops.

I wonder if a significant portion of demand (in addition to direct speculation) is Malaysians working in KL, Singapore, USA… buying a condo today that they don’t plan on living in for years. This can be a form of speculation but is a much more solid foundation for sustaining prices. If you have a high working income, purchasing a condo in Penang could be relatively cheap. If you are buying one, to rent for 10 years and then move back into you are unlikely to be harmed greatly when prices drop. Now some people will do this and see their first condo doubled in value and then buy two more, over-leverage themselves and have a great ride up the bubble and then get clobbered when the bubble bursts.

For the Penang area to sustain a long term boom, Penang needs to develop a sustainable long term pool of buyers. the safest way to do this is with lots of high paying jobs. That can be supplemented with some retirees (Malaysians and MM2Hers). To do either of these the government and developers must pursue strategies that attract these populations. There are other minor factors – you can have people making a lot of money buy a condo for their family or parents… But the only reliable way to sustain increasing property values is adding jobs and creating a pleasant living experience.

In looking around Penang me sense is that rental prices are very good (for renters). The available condos for rent seem to be quite high also. My guess is this is a sign of the large percentage of speculators/investors compared to those buying condos to live in themselves. This is a dangerous sign – when the market has more capacity than people (normally due to building more housing than the job market supports). My familiarity with the market is extremely limited however, my perception could be way off.

On the plus side the prices on a regional and global basis are reasonable. Therefor, those accustom to international prices can buy and feel they have a bargain. And this situation can support rising prices (especially if those buyers plan on retiring there – if they need to have a job there then it doesn’t matter how cheap the prices are if the jobs don’t exist). Buying with the hope that Penang is moving toward a prosperous future is reasonable. That is a bet that the island will add jobs and improve infrastructure to support a livable community that attracts people from all over Malaysia, and beyond. There is a great example of how to do this in nearby Singapore. If Penang take cues from many of Singapore’s wish moves investors could certainly be rewarded in the long term.

One significant risk to investors is the carry cost of their investment if the overcapacity (if there actually is overcapacity) continues over a long period. That will suppress rental rates. As new condos are added it also can reduce the attractiveness of your condo to renters (or future buyers).

Related: Home Values and Rental Rates10 million More Renters In the Next 5 Years (in the USA)Apartment-vacancy Rate is 7.8%, a 23-year High (in USA, Nov 2009)Retiring Overseas is an Appealing Option for Some Retirees