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Cryptocurrency: Hottest Investment of the Decade?

CRYPTOCURRENCY: BANE OR BOON? Despite being declared legal tender in many countries across the globe, cryptocurrency continues to draw an equal measure of flak and fealty. 

BREAKING NEWS: Yesterday, Bithumb, a South Korea-based cryptocurrency exchange announced the suspension of its deposit and withdrawal services after $35m worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen by hackers.

Bithumb is one of the busiest exchanges for virtual coins in the world and the second local exchange targeted by hackers in just over a week. The news sent ripples through the market with Bitcoin and Ethereum recording price falls, according to CoinDesk, a news site specialising in digital currencies.

Cryptocurrency: A Precarious Medium

This is not the first nosedive in the cryptocurrency world. Digital currencies — like the stock market — are highly reactive, recording multiple tumbles in recent history.

The price of Bitcoin, the world’s best known digital currency, has been tracking a downward spiral since the start of 2018, plummeting heavily from the Dec 2017 price of $18,960 to $6,762 at time of publication.

The price of Bitcoin, the world’s best known digital currency, has been tracking a downward spiral since the start of 2018, plummeting heavily from the Dec 2017 price of $18,960 to $6,762 . Source: CoinDesk & South China Morning Post
The price of Bitcoin, the world’s best known digital currency, has been tracking a downward spiral since the start of 2018, plummeting heavily from the Dec 2017 price of $18,960 to $6,762 . Source: CoinDesk & South China Morning Post

Still, cryptocurrency has risen from obscurity and is now legal tender in many countries across the globe. And, it continues to draw flak and fealty in equal measure.


The inherent nature of cryptocurrency and the world of blockchain ensures no possibility of double-spend as the system is built to be irreversible and transparent to the peers within its ecosystem. Cryptocurrency has also been touted as the hottest investment opportunity currently available. The potential rewards (and risks) are huge; its value can fluctuate by as much as a few hundred dollars in a single day and, potentially, one can either make (or lose) a lot of money in a short period of time. One can also trade in it, purchase goods with it, earn money from it (through mining), and it is recognised as a form of payment in some jurisdictions.


How does cryptocurrency work? Image credit: Blockgeeks
Cryptocurrency: how does it work? Image credit: Blockgeeks


Cryptocurrencies are high-risk investments and, as such, their market value is highly volatile, fluctuating like no other asset’s. It’s easy to lose (or make) a tremendous amount of money in a day. Cryptocurrencies are not backed by a central bank/organisation, and are therefore unregulated to a certain extent. It is subject to price manipulation. Its security is questionable, as clearly demonstrated in yesterday’s Bithumb heist, as well as incidences of hacking in the past. Perhaps the biggest theft in the short history of cryptocurrency happened in 2014, when more than $450m in bitcoins disappeared from customers’ accounts in the Mt Gox exchange in Tokyo.

Rat Poison Squared

This year, Google, Facebook and Twitter announced a crackdown on cryptocurrency ads on their sites in a move to protect investors from fraud.

Bank of England Governor Mike Carney has been highly critical of cryptocurrency while Bill Gates has gone on record about betting against cryptocurrency, describing it as a “kind of pure ‘greater fool theory’ type of investment.”

More famously, Warren Buffet, in yet another rail against digital currency, described Bitcoin as “rat poison squared” and that it’s “creating nothing”.

“When you’re buying non-productive assets, all you’re counting on is the next person is going to pay you more because they’re even more excited about another next person coming along,” Buffet said in an interview with CNBC.

BitMex CEO Arthur Hayes, however, is unfazed by Bitcoin’s volatility, predicting that the cryptocurrency will hit $50,000 by the end of the year.

Cryptocurrency may well be the investment of the decade with incredible returns, agrees Virata Thaivasigamony of CSI Prop, a property investment consultancy with offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

“But it needs to approached with a combination of care and sheer ballsiness,” he adds.

“Investment is a very personal matter. For me, cryptocurrency pales in comparison with something tangible like property investment.  Real estate has more stability, proving time and again to be a hedge against inflation and a great asset for diversification. Investing in real estate traditionally outperforms most asset classes in risk-adjusted returns. When compared to bitcoin, it is unequivocally the safer investment.”

As inflation rises, so, too, do rents and housing values. In an inflationary environment, real estate assets react proportionally to inflation. And real estate has incredible tax benefits and cash flow incentives.

Ultimately, investing in cryptocurrency — as with all other investments — is a gamble. A question to ask yourself before embarking on any investment is: how risk-averse are you?

We are colossal fans of property investment (duh!) and we make no apologies for it. Still, we remain curious about the many other types of investments out there and would love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below. If you’re a die-hard property investment fan like us, and are thinking of expanding your UK and Australia property portfolio, hit us up: we’ve got some good stuff for you.

By Vivienne Pal


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Should you invest in property in Singapore?

(LATEST UPDATE ON 18/7/2018)

Conventional wisdom, especially among Asians, dictates that you should invest in property. CSI PROP takes a closer look at investing in the Singapore property market and compares it to property in other markets overseas.

Property in Singapore is prohibitively priced

Being a tiny island surrounded by water on all sides with not much space available for construction, the only way to build is up creating the familiar high-rise skyline of Singapore.

With the severe lack of land, it is no surprise that property prices in Singapore are one of the highest in the region — the second highest in Asia after Hong Kong, according to S&P Global Ratings.

The prohibitively high prices of property raises the bar for investors, only allowing for the more affluent section of the population, with ample capital, to invest in the market.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad had announced recently that the Kuala Lumpur to Singapore High Speed Rail development will be postponed until further notice.

Following this announcement, envisioned property price growth for the Jurong area in Singapore and the Iskandar region in Johor is unlikely to materialize, much to the dismay of investors.

Government intervention has, so far, kept housing price growth in Singapore in check. A report by S&P Global Ratings found that cooling measures and an accommodative monetary policy have helped to control house price inflation.

Until recently, that is. Despite warnings from the government, house prices in Singapore surged by 9.1% over the past year, after nearly four years of price declines.

This led the government to pull the brakes on the property market yet again. Its most recent cooling measures — possibly the 12th, to date — have been the strongest seen in the island nation in five years.

The government has now slapped an additional 5% stamp duty on property purchases for individual home buyers and tightened limits for housing loans.

First-time buyers who are Singaporeans or permanent residents are exempt from the increase.

Foreigners/foreign investors now pay 20% on stamp duty compared to 15% previously, whilst entities will have to pay 20%, an addition of 10% to previous rates. An extra 5% acquisition tax has also been imposed on developers buying land to build residential properties, which can only translate to an increase in property prices for the buyer in the end.

Changes to Singapore's Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty Rates (Source: Straits Times)
Changes to Singapore’s Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty Rates (Source: Straits Times)

The government also tightened loan-to-value (LTV) limits by 5% for all housing loans, ostensibly in a move to make property-flipping more prohibitive

Following the government’s drastic measures, new private home sales are expected to reduce by 15% to 20% year-on-year for the whole of 2018, reported Singapore Business Review.

As it stands, developers have already sold 41.7% less private residential units (654) than the previous month, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Developers volumes were 20.2% below the year before.

The recent action by the Government to control inflation may be good news to home buyers, but from an investment perspective, capital gains from investing in Singapore property may be lacking compared to investments elsewhere.

Poor rental yields

Singapore’s rental market remains in the doldrums, despite signs of a property market recovery from last year.

Property prices do not always have a direct relationship with rentals. Singapore’s rental market is very much driven by foreign demand, given that over 80% of Singaporeans own a HDB flat.

Overall gross rental yields for non-landed private homes from January 2017 to January 2018 hovered just around 3.2% the lowest in a decade.

The weak rental market deflates returns on investment in Singapore property, lessening its attraction for investors. Stamp duties, property tax, legal fees and agent commissions further cut into profits.

In Singapore, residential property that you own, but are not physically living in (whether rented out or vacant) is taxed from 10% to 20% depending on the house value. Commercial properties have a flat tax rate of 10%.

In June, rentals for private condos and apartments in Singapore fell 0.2% per cent, while HDB rents fell 0.8% per cent in June from the previous month, with volumes continuing to decline as well, according to real estate portal SRX Property.

The rental income that you are able to earn from local property will be impacted by the high property tax, putting a damper on returns.

The United Kingdom

With less-than-stellar returns in Singapore property, it is no wonder that many investors are looking beyond its shores to overseas markets like the United Kingdom and Australia, which can be far more lucrative.

The UK currently faces a severe shortage of homes — in England itself, there is a backlog of 3.91 million homes, according to research by Heriot-Watt University.

The high demand and low supply for housing in the United Kingdom has driven capital growth. Local economies in the regional cities are booming due to initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse, which bring regeneration and infrastructure improvements to England’s North.

Cities in the Northern Powerhouse like Manchester have recorded price growth of an amazing 12.7% last year, with Liverpool following closely behind at 10.8%. This is an indication of the potential that these cities have to offer for the savvy investor.

Singapore currently holds the title of being one of the largest institutional investors in student property in UK and beyond, in recent years. Mapletree and GIC had spent a combined S$2.15 billion on student housing in the UK in 2016, in cities like Leicester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester and Lincoln.

Just this month, Centurion Corp bought a student housing property in the British city of Manchester for S$33.66 million.


Australia faces a similar dilemma to the UK, with the last decade of construction failing to keep up with the country’s record population growth.

Melbourne, in particular, is one of the fastest growing cities Down Under. This city is slated to overtake Sydney as Australia’s most populous city according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 

The Urban Development Institute of Australia warned last year that Melbourne could have a shortfall of 50,000 houses by 2020.

Commsec Senior Economist Ryan Felsman commented, “if you look at Melbourne there’s 120,000 people moving to it per annum, but only 75,000 houses being built.”

Whilst the 5 Australian capitals collectively experienced a 0.7% drop in capital growth for the 12 months leading up to May 2018, property in Melbourne performed beyond expectations, growing by 3.3%.

Singaporeans are putting money into Australia. Last year, Cushman & Wakefield reported that Singapore overtook China as the largest source of foreign capital for Australian commercial real estate, as the Chinese government tightened restrictions on overseas investments for its citizens.

Investments into Australia from Singapore quadrupled from about $1bn in 2010 to an excess of $4bn in 2017.

Alice Tan, Knight Frank Singapore director of consultancy and research commented, “Australia has been a popular overseas property destination for Singaporeans, especially for the recent two generations,”

“It continues to maintain its appeal as evident from recent survey findings from Knight Frank’s 2018 Wealth Report, where Australia ranked second on the list of top five destinations where Singapore Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) plan to buy prime property in 2018,”

“Australia’s economic resilience, adaptability and 26-year record of steady growth provide a safe, low-risk environment in which to invest and do business,” she added.

Cushman & Wakefield regional director for capital markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Priyaranjan Kumar added: “Outside of Singapore, Australia and UK boast two of the most transparent and stable property markets globally for Singapore investors who are largely very institutional in their approach to investments.”

Savvy investors can jump on the foreign property investment bandwagon and take advantage of the supply-demand imbalance in countries like Australia and the UK for more rewarding returns on their investments.

What are your thoughts about investing in the Singapore property market? Drop us a comment below. If you’re interested to tap into the attractive potential that overseas markets have to offer, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 3163 8343 (Singapore), 03-2162 2260 (Malaysia), or email us at!

Article by Ian Choong


  • Featured image: Archinect
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Rapid Population Growth Drives Melbourne’s Transportation Expansion, Housing Demand

Melbourne’s population is set to keep growing, driving the need for improved and expanded transport-related infrastructure. Opportunities continue to abound for the investor as the city’s planned and ongoing transport expansion leads to jobs creation, driving the demand for more housing.

Melbourne looks set to expand its transportation systems in the air, on land and beneath the ground to keep up with its rapid population growth — so rapid, in fact, that Melbourne is set to surpass Sydney as the largest city in Australia by 2031.

Major infrastructure development plans, totalling to over $60bn, are underway, with most projects set for completion by the 2020s and 2030s. For property investors, this translates as good news. Increased job opportunities and continuous effort to preserve Melbourne’s unprecedented quality of life will ultimately continue to attract home buyers and renters alike. After factoring in the chronic undersupply of houses throughout the city, paired with population and economic growth, investors should arrive at one solid conclusion: Melbourne’s property market is a promising one.

Air: Melbourne Airport Needs A New Runway

Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi has announced the need for a third airport runway to keep up with booming passenger numbers, following the airport’s celebration of nine consecutive years of passenger growth.

Over 35 million passengers passed through Melbourne Airport during the 2016/17 financial year, and this number is expected to almost double by 2033. This inevitably makes the establishment of the new runway one of Melbourne’s top priorities. The runway, set to operate by 2022, will not only reduce delays as more arrivals and departures take place, it will also supply numerous jobs during construction and operation.

Melbourne Airport is known to be a major employer in the local region. About 16,000 people are currently employed at the airport, with 67% of these jobs filled by people whose homes are within a 15km radius of the airport. It is predicted that by 2033, the number of jobs directly related to Melbourne Airport’s operations will grow to 23,000. Furthermore, with a burgeoning number of travellers arriving in Melbourne Airport, the tourism industry throughout Victoria will surely provide even more jobs!

Land: New Road Fills The Missing Link

What is also set to improve tremendously is accessibility by car, as plans for three separate roadworks commence throughout the state of Victoria. The North East Link, the largest of the trio and currently, the largest transport infrastructure in Victoria, is a $16.5bn construction that will fix the missing link in Melbourne’s freeway network. The project will shorten travel times between Melbourne’s north and south-east by up to 30 minutes, take 15,000 trucks off local streets daily and deliver kilometres of new walking and cycling paths. During construction (expected to begin by 2020) and early operation, thousands of jobs will be created.

Three feasible options for the North East Link will be designed throughout 2018, alongside specialist studies that will be conducted for planning approval.
Image 1: Three feasible options for the North East Link will be designed throughout 2018, alongside specialist studies that will be conducted for planning approval.

Perhaps the most interesting transport development plan in Melbourne is the $1.3bn rail loop and driverless trains that will connect a proposed $30bn ‘super city’ at East Werribee, known as the Australian Education City. Preliminary works to assess the feasibility of this new heavy rail connection have been done as part of the ongoing proposal.

The multi-billion dollar project would see land at East Werribee become home to 30,000 dwellings in medium to high-storey towers, with universities, schools and a research and development hub. Up to 80,000 residents and 50,000 students are planned for the precinct which would see local and overseas universities collaborate to provide world-class education across several campuses. Global tech leaders, such as Cisco and IBM, are eager to snatch a piece of this colossal project.

The $1.3bn rail loop and driverless trains that will connect a proposed $30bn ‘super city’ at East Werribee, known as the Australian Education City.
The $1.3bn rail loop and driverless trains that will connect a proposed $30bn ‘super city’ at East Werribee, known as the Australian Education City.

Underground: Two New Rail Tunnels Need To Be Constructed By 2035

Melbourne City Council has proposed the idea of adding two new rail tunnels — Melbourne Metro 2 and 3 — under the city by 2035. The rail tunnels will join Melbourne Metro 1, the first stage of this underground transport expansion that has been slated to operate by 2025.

Council documents reveal that, should all go according to plan, the second tunnel that links Newport to Clifton Hill via Fishermans Bend, will operate by 2028 or earlier. This tunnel would quadruple passenger capacity for the Werribee line corridor and boost east-west accessibility. Those from the south-west and north-east, too, will find this line adding considerable convenience to everyday travels.

As described in the council paper, Melbourne Metro 3 could be built by 2035. The project would be the second airport rail line linking to Southern Cross, via Arden Macaulay and Maribyrnong. By 2028, trips to Tullamarine Airport is expected to be equal to that of Heathrow Airport today — three rail lines currently service Heathrow.


The various transportation schemes currently in the works will welcome the rising population in Melbourne. To the savvy investor, the widely cited population and economic growth within this coastal capital reads as a precursor for high housing demand. Those with concerns regarding the environmental impact of these projects can be rest assured that measures taken will be passed through strict approval processes before arriving at the least detrimental conclusion.

“Infrastructure projects – electricity, roads, airports, water systems and telecommunications are the foundations of modern economies. They have a huge multiplier effect (a dollar spent on infrastructure leads to an outcome of greater than two dollars)”*. Astute investors realise the mileage that such multiplier effects bring to the investment dollar. If you’re planning to leverage on that and are looking for fantastic property investment options in Melbourne, hit us at at 03-2162 2260 or or text us in the comment box below!

By Nimue Wafiya
*Balaji Viswanathan


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How Improvements in Transport Affect Your UK Investment

Birmingham is a fast developing city, supercharged by regeneration and transport improvements (Source: Paradise Birmingham)


Two-thirds of buyers still work in the capital, and transport links are what enable them to live away from London. Larger homes are cheaper to find away from the capital, and, with improvements to the public transport networks, many prefer the larger living space, despite having to take a longer commute to work.

Migration out of London is at its highest ever level. The number of Londoners in their 30s leaving the capital has risen by 27% over the past 5 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Unsurprisingly, the most popular destinations for these leavers are concentrated around London’s commuter belt.

Savills data shows that 14% of all their new home buyers across the UK were moving from London in the last 3 years, with 39% of them upsizing to a larger property. Between 2015 and 2017, the average new build home bought by a Londoner was 14% larger than a home bought by someone moving from elsewhere.

Two-thirds of buyers still work in the capital, and transport links are what enable them to live away from London. Larger homes are cheaper to find away from the capital, and many prefer the larger living space, despite having to take a longer commute to work.

Transport improvements trigger higher demand

Transport has a key role to play in the delivery of new homes. As people look to move to a new area, a transport hub can fuel residential demand and, consequently, house price growth.

Train stations that have seen the largest increase in passenger use over the last two years are those that have seen larger volumes of new homes delivered. Areas such as these have, on average, seen house price growth that is 5% higher than neighbouring areas over the past five years.

As people continue to move out of London, improvements to infrastructure can provide an opportunity for developers to take advantage of the demand for new homes in commuter locations.

Commuter belt hotspots

Over the past 2 years, stations that saw the largest increase in passenger use were those within a 19- to 39-minute journey from a central London terminal. These are also the markets which have seen the largest increase in secondhand sale prices over the past five years – an average of 44% against the average for England and Wales of 20%.

Some of the highest increases in passenger use were in lower-value locations in the Home Counties such as Ebbsfleet, Apsley and Luton – areas on the cusp of higher-value ones. As affordability in the capital becomes more stretched, we expect these up-and-coming locations to remain popular with London movers, particularly if they are located on new or improving lines such as HS1 or the Midland mainline.

Train stations with highest increase of passengers over the past 2 years likely have affected house price growth in their areas (Source: Savills Research)
Train stations with highest increase of passengers over the past 2 years likely have affected house price growth in their areas (Source: Savills Research)

Beyond the commuter belt

Hotspots beyond traditional London commuter locations have already benefited from infrastructure improvements.

The upgrade of Birmingham New Street, for example, has seen a 33% increase in passenger use since 2015, while house prices within 2km of the station have increased by 44% over the past five years.

Ahead of High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) at Curzon Street station, there has been significant investment in the regeneration of Birmingham city centre. This has fuelled commercial investment from companies such as Deutsche Bank and HSBC, and has helped to support residential demand and subsequent house price growth.

This is also rippling out into markets surrounding Birmingham. Rugby, Coventry and Long Buckby have all seen an increase in commuters of between 18% and 19% while house prices have increased by 35%, 46% and 67% respectively over the past five years.

New residential developments in the city are attractive to investors as a result. One example is Arden Gate which is located in the prime city central area. These luxury apartments are only a few minutes away from the central New Street train station, close to entertainment, shopping centres, and major businesses, including the HSBC HQ. Currently the developer is offering a 6% rental assurance for the first 12 months. Prices start from £182,950, with up to 70% financing available.

Up in the Northern Powerhouse, Transport for the North (TfN) which became England’s first sub-national transport body in April revealed a £70bn 30-year plan that includes the Northern Powerhouse Rail. Under the plan, new lines and upgraded existing lines will be linked to the HS2, increasing connectivity between the North’s largest cities and enhancing opportunities for both workers and investors alike.

The ripple is taking effect for, as a direct consequence, Manchester’s Piccadilly station and its surrounding areas will be overhauled. This could be the start of a series of more overhauls across the Northern Powerhouse.


The ripple effect of Londoners moving to the commuter belt is expected to gain momentum. Occupiers searching for more space are likely to bring London’s equity with them and will be targeting markets with the quickest links to the capital. These include established prime locations and up-and-coming areas which are more affordable than its surroundings.

This ripple effect will be expected to move beyond London’s commuter zone to markets in the Midlands and the North. House prices there have risen more in line with wages, and therefore remain more affordable. The most capacity for growth will likely be there over the next few years.

The strong local economy and infrastructure investment will remain catalysts for residential demand and house price growth. The £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund will provide funding for improved connectivity in areas such as Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire, the West Midlands and Liverpool City Region.

What do you think about transport improvements driving house prices? Drop us a comment below. If you’re interested to take advantage of transport improvements in the pipeline, and invest in property in the UK regional cities, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 03-2162 2260, or email us at

Article by Ian Choong


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England & the World Cup 2018

What has England, the World Cup and real estate got to do with each other?

The World Cup season is upon us! CSI Prop examines the unlikeliest connection between England, football and real estate.

Did you know that since its inception in 1930, 79 national teams have made at least one appearance in the FIFA World Cup Finals but, of this number, only 8 nations have ever won the Cup?

Drilling down a little further, now: England made history when it won the trophy for the first time in 1966. It may remain the only time, to date, that this will ever happen — pundits are claiming England has just about a smidgen of a chance (4%, to be exact) of winning the World Cup this year.

But where are we going with all this footie talk? Patience; we’re getting to it.

Watch England’s winning goal and a very pretty young Queen E presenting the cup!

History shows that 1966 is not just when England won the World Cup.

It was also a time when house prices in the UK were at a stupendously affordable average of £2,006.

Research shows that UK house prices are 106 times higher now than they were when England won the World Cup, catapulting from an average price of £2,006 in 1966 to £211,000 today.

Wages, meanwhile, had risen at around a third of the rate, moving from £798 to £26,500. Meaning, it’s 3 times harder to get on the property ladder than it was in 1966, when the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine rode the top of the charts, the miniskirt came into fashion, David Bowie released his first single, and Gordon Ramsay was born.

It gets a little grimmer. House prices aren’t deflating any time soon, not with demand far outstripping supply and driving prices to increasingly stratospheric levels.

In February, research by Heriot-Watt University showed that England is facing its biggest housing shortfall ever, with a backlog of 4 million homes. Meanwhile, rough sleeping or homelessness has risen by 169% since 2010.

This means, in order to address the escalating housing crisis in the UK, the government needs to build 340,000 new homes each year until 2031.

This is a significantly higher figure than the government’s annually targeted 300,000 homes that we talked about in some of our previous posts.

In 2017, Professor David Miles, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said that the shortage of housing and restriction on the availability of land in the UK, will mean house prices keep soaring for decades to come. He referenced analysis that showed that house price inflation over the past 30 years is likely to continue for the next 50 years.

Britain is wont to remain a nation of renters, by the looks of it, particularly as the younger generation moves increasingly towards the idea of renting a home, rather than owning one.  

If you’d hedged your bets (and currency!) on UK property all these years, you’ve certainly scored big time on rental returns. We suggest you continue taking your chances on the UK property market, and forget about betting on England’s remote chances of winning the World Cup this year. Keen to talk property or even football? Call us at 03-2162 2260 or email Or share your thoughts on who’ll win the World Cup this year in the comment box below!

By Vivienne Pal


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Serviced offices: workplace & income-generator of the future?

Global demand for serviced offices is growing rapidly

The United Kingdom is the world’s largest market for serviced offices. Growth of the sector is set not only to continue, but accelerate, with optimistic suggestions putting the sector’s value in the United Kingdom at £120 billion by 2025.

Today, more businesses than ever are seeking more flexible and dynamic workplaces.

The changing reality of modern business is placing serviced offices as an attractive option for a wide variety of companies. Serviced offices typically come furnished, providing its tenants with ready reception services and use of business facilities, allowing businesses to get started immediately without the hassle of setting these up.

This paradigm shift is not just limited to new start-ups or small firms, but also larger businesses looking to maintain a presence in distant markets or establish a project office – as serviced offices offer a ready package of services and contractual terms that cannot be matched by conventional commercial accommodation.

Traditionally, office space has been aimed at large corporates with a large footprint. In the United Kingdom back in the 90s, businesses generally only had the option of a 25-year lease to secure office space.

This has changed in recent years, with long lease structures becoming less common. The average lease length is now between three and five years.

The modern worker is mobile and can work away from a central office hub. Email and conference call facilities make a fixed centralised office less important. Office-based start-ups require more flexible contracts, while established businesses increasingly use satellite offices or temporary spaces to accommodate expansion.

According to software multinational company Citrix, which provides networking and cloud computing technologies across the globe, 91% of businesses worldwide are adopting mobile work styles.

It is unsurprising, then, that the growth of the serviced office sector in the United Kingdom has been so strong.

The United Kingdom is the world’s largest market for serviced offices – a British success story. Serviced offices in the United Kingdom account for around 36% of the world’s serviced offices, with more serviced office centres than in the Americas, and more than in the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific combined.

Research firm Ramidus Consulting estimates that there are over 6,000 serviced offices operating in over 100 countries around the world. Just 50 cities account for 46% per cent of the total global market; of these 50, twelve are in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is at the forefront of the serviced office revolution (Source: Capital Economics)
The United Kingdom is at the forefront of the serviced office revolution (Source: Capital Economics)

Serviced offices have grown by over 30% in the United Kingdom since 2008. London is by far the largest and most mature market, with Manchester the second largest, followed closely by Birmingham.

Current estimates using a conventional office leasing business model estimate that the United Kingdom’s serviced office market is worth £16bn. However, a dedicated serviced office model based on workplace rental income, plus the additional charges from supplying a range of services typical to such offices, puts the sector at £19bn, close to 20% more.

“Growth of the sector is set not only to continue, but accelerate, with optimistic suggestions putting the sector’s value in the United Kingdom at £120 billion by 2025,” commented Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation.

Investment management company JLL has predicted that by 2030, office space around the world will become 30% more flexible.

Economic research firm Capital Economics estimates that the United Kingdom serviced office sector could see its value rise from £19bn to £62bn by 2025. On more optimistic projections it could increase in size over fivefold and be worth over £120bn, an echo of Leech’s predictions.

These predictions are based on favourable trends and developments that are having a very positive impact on the sector, making it a compelling investment proposition.

While the serviced office market in the United Kingdom is more mature than other markets globally, it is still underdeveloped, with large untapped potential for further expansion. Following current trends, the growth in demand for serviced offices is set to continue and even accelerate over the coming decade.

The office market in Liverpool

The city of Liverpool is currently seeing its current stock of office space dwindling, with barely any new supply in the pipeline.

The city’s overall take-up for the combined commercial district and city fringe area increased by 25% in 2017, compared to the previous year. Available office space has decreased by 25% since 2016, and a whopping 53% since 2014.

The amount of total office stock in the commercial district has decreased by more than a million square feet since 2014, a 20% decrease. This highlights the continuing reduction of office stock, and the lack of new build activity in the Liverpool office market.

There is now no supply of prime Grade A office space within the Liverpool commercial district. In 2012, 8.6% of total available office space was in the Grade A sector. B* stock, which is comparative in quality to Grade A, and key to filling its void, has fallen by 40% since 2014.

62% of the currently available stock is in the poorer quality and unrefurbished Grade C and D categories.

Investments in Liverpool offices totalled £87 mil in 2017, which would have been higher but for the lack of suitable space.

Liverpool’s huge growth in demand for office space has created lucrative opportunities for investors. In 2016, London-based real estate company GKRE reported a 76% rental growth rate for serviced offices in the city.

New serviced offices in the city are positioned to take advantage of this rapid growth in demand, and the correspondingly high rental yields.

Centric Serviced Offices, located right in the heart of the CBD, is a prime example. Its location opposite the Moorfield train station makes it extremely accessible, which will be of importance to any business tenant. It is professionally-managed, and is expected to offer investors good rental returns.

As one of the major cities of the Northern Powerhouse, Liverpool is set to grow in the next couple of years as billions of pounds are ploughed into the city. Already we can see massive redevelopment projects gearing up to push the city into a major economic powerhouse in the North.

The savvy investor will note Liverpool as a vastly untapped market in the office sector, with a huge potential for rapid growth over the next couple of years.

Do you think serviced offices are the workplace of the future? Drop us a comment below. If you’re interested to tap into the attractive potential that the Liverpool office market has to offer, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 03-2162 2260, or email us at

Article by Ian Choong


  • Serviced offices: A new asset class, Capital Economics
  • Commercial Office Market Review 2017, Liverpool BID
  • Workplace of the Future: a global market research report, Citrix



Grade A space is defined as office space that was completed since 1st January 2013, Grade B space completed before 1st January 2013 or other accommodation recently refurbished or due to be refurbished, Grade C as unrefurbished but ready for occupation. Grade D is office space which could not be occupied without substantial refurbishment and where no plans exist for such refurbishment

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Putting on the Ritz with CSI PROP

CSI PROP’s Investor Club Series is our own special way of adding value to the clients who invest with us, in line with our company’s core value of Having Fun. Yes, we not only work hard, but have fun together as well!

We have several exciting events lined up every year, and a total of five have been planned for 2018.

While humour was the theme of our curtain-raiser in February, our second Investor Club event on 20 May had a touch of glamour: we reserved the entire dining area of the elegant Cobalt Room at the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and threw our clients a smashing dinner!

The Ritz-Carlton delivered a sumptuous buffet spread with traditional delicacies hailing from all over Malaysia, to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.

Each Malaysian state was represented in the many dishes available for savouring. Diners were thrilled to encounter new dishes they had never tried before, relishing in a myriad of flavours and textures. 

Acar buah and umai were some of the more exotic foods available to taste
Acar buah and umai were some of the more exotic foods available to taste
The chef busy flipping tasty murtabaks on the hot grill
The chef busy flipping tasty murtabaks on the hot grill
The tasty, succulent roast lamb was a hit with the diners
The delicious, succulent roast lamb was a hit with the diners
A large variety of traditional, mouth-watering kuih-muih to end an amazing food journey
A large variety of traditional, mouth-watering kuih-muih to end an amazing food journey

Ritz-Carlton’s delicious food aside, we gifted our investors and their family members with handcrafted marble coasters, specially calligraphed with our company motto, Making a Difference.

Our handcrafted marble coasters were there to greet our investors and their family upon arrival
Our handcrafted marble coasters were there to greet our investors and their family upon arrival

Our Investor Club Series is one of the ways in which we hope to make a difference in our clients’ lives. Club events are where we update our clients on the construction of their projects and discuss the investment market; it is also where clients get a chance to have fun, and know each other — and our team — better.

Our next exciting event will be held on 15 July. Some of the more football-crazy among you will recognize this date — yes, it’s the World Cup Finals, and we at CSI PROP are counting down to it, as are all of you fans!

We’re watching the finals together!
We’re watching the finals together! (Source:

Our CSI grand hall will be turned into a super cool mamak with a hearty selection of food, drinks and games, while previous match highlights and the World Cup finals are flashed on a huge high-definition screen. And we mean HUGE. Get ready to catch all the action with us and stand a chance to win some amazing prizes too! Football fans had better not miss this — we’ll see you there decked out in the colours of the team you’re rooting for!

Don’t you wish you were there too at our exciting Investor Club at the Ritz-Carlton? If you’d like to get started on property investment overseas and be a part of our ever-growing group of savvy investors, give us a call at 03-2162 2260, or email us at Don’t miss out on watching the World Cup Finals with us! 

Article by Ian Choong
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Can Tun Mahathir Solve the Malaysian Housing Crisis?

Houses in Malaysia are seriously unaffordable for the masses (Source: The Malaysian Insight)

UPDATED; 5/6/2018

Uncertainty has been reflected in the volatility of the stock market ever since the country voted in a new ruling coalition. In the past few weeks, steps have been seen to be taken to address corruption and debt in the country. A new Local Government and Housing minister has been elected and her first order of business is to discuss with the Finance Ministry and Bank Negara Malaysia, the difficulties faced by first-time house buyers to get loans. It’s a start, but can the Tun M and his merry men (and women) of the Cabinet take Malaysia through the housing crisis? 

With the recent change in government, all eyes are on Pakatan Harapan to solve the housing supply-demand crisis in Malaysia. The current situation is dire with a severe lack of affordable housing, and a glut of expensive properties, and many Malaysians not being able to afford to purchase their own home.

The previous Najib administration had set a target of building 1.1 million affordable homes by 2018 to address the shortage, but after 5 years, only 23% (255,341) of the total was completed.

In November 2017, Tan Sri Noh Omar, the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister blamed state governments for the delays, citing a lack of cooperation.

Addressing a question in the Dewan Rakyat, Noh said that 25.6% (285,097) of the houses were still under construction while 39% (432,415) was in various planning stages. He said the remaining 12.4% (138,775) had yet to make it to the planning stage.

At the same time, there was an overhang in the amount of PR1MA homes for sale nationwide. Slightly under half (12,492) of the total PR1MA homes (25,132) had yet to be sold.

The PR1MA Malaysia Corporation was established under the PR1MA Act 2012 to develop housing for middle-income households in key urban centres, with a target price range of between RM100,000 to RM400,000.

This programme that was initially meant to help the average Malaysian buy his or her first house was relaxed in 2013 to allow purchases of second homes, and eligibility was widened this year to include households with a monthly income of RM15,000.

The overhang showed that PR1MA homes were still priced out of reach for its target market. The maximum affordable house price in Malaysia is estimated by Bank Negara to be RM282,000.

Property expert Ernest Cheong has said PR1MA should stick to its objective of providing affordable homes to middle- and low-income earners instead of jumping on the high-end property bandwagon. In PR1MA’s Jalan Jubilee development in Kuala Lumpur, the largest unit, a 1,089 square foot unit with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, was going for RM445,000.

A nationwide housing expo was held in March this year entitled “Housing Sale Expo Towards a Million Dreams, Experience A Wholesome Lifestyle”. The expo was a joint initiative by the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, the National Housing Department (NHD), PR1MA Malaysia Corporation, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB), 1Malaysia Housing Projects for Civil Servants (PPA1M) as well as state government agencies.

According to a report by The Malaysian Insight, hopeful buyers at the expo in Kuala Lumpur were disappointed with the severe lack of homes below RM250,000 for sale.

Pakatan’s pledges for the housing sector

Pakatan has pledged to institute a couple of reforms in the housing sector. One of those reforms is to ensure that developers under the PR1MA program do not merely build a small number of affordable houses, after obtaining land at discounted prices.

However, Pakatan’s manifesto has not addressed the pricing issue that PR1MA is currently facing. The reforms they undertake must include pricing homes within the means of the average Malaysian, otherwise the current overhang of PR1MA homes will continue.

Pakatan plans to establish a National Affordable Housing Council which will:

  • Build 1 million affordable houses within 2 terms of their administration, by 2028;
  • Coordinate an open database on unsold affordable housing;
  • Coordinate a national rent-to-own scheme for the B40 and M40 group, with a special scheme for young people;
  • Coordinate with the banking sector to expand access to financing for first-home buyers.

Building one million affordable homes by 2028 is a more realistic target versus the previous one set by the Barisan Nasional administration. Nevertheless, current house building efforts must be doubled to meet this target, judging from the rate of construction we have seen so far.

The open database on unsold affordable housing is a welcome one in the interests of transparency, allowing potential house buyers to find information on available affordable housing. This will prevent unscrupulous developers from hiding information from unwitting house buyers, and maximising their profit by marketing the premium market instead.

The expansion of financing for first-home buyers will allow more Malaysians to own their own homes, while the rent-to-own scheme acknowledges segments of the population that do not qualify for financing, or are otherwise unable to purchase an affordable home.

Other plans Pakatan has for the housing sector include raising the quota for affordable houses; to introduce a time limit for developers to complete constructions, so that land-hoarding can be avoided; and tax incentives for developers who focus on affordable housing, to encourage the use of efficient building technologies to reduce cost.

The new government’s manifesto appears to address many issues in relation to affordable housing shortage. Still, one hopes that the PR1MA reforms they take will fix the current lack of focus in the programme. The nascent Pakatan administration is yet untested, but under the experienced hand of Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, buyers and stakeholders alike can look forward to a comprehensive reform of the housing sector, with hope that the current crisis can be solved.

For a start, Housing and Local Government minister Zuraida Kamaruddin will meet the Finance Ministry and Bank Negara Malaysia to discuss difficulties faced by first-time house buyers to get loans. Zuraida promises that the ministry will find the best mechanism to ensure related issues can be resolved, namely involving applications for the purchase of affordable housing.


Investment prospects in the housing market

The current glut of higher-end housing, and undersupply of affordable housing is causing activity in the investor market to remain stagnant. If Pakatan can correct the supply-demand imbalance, property prices may start to rise again. Policies will take time to be implemented, and it will be some years before we see real change.

As we have said previously, the local market in 2018 is shrouded in uncertainty — a situation thrown into even sharper relief as the nation waits for the current Government’s plans to take effect.

With the recent fall of the UK and Australia currencies, properties in those markets are more attractive than ever, offering investors an opportunity to take advantage of the currency rate and get on to the overseas investment bandwagon.

Do you think Tun Mahathir and Pakatan can do better than BN in addressing housing affordability concerns in Malaysia? Share with us in the comment box below. If you think your money would be better spent on property investment overseas rather than the local market, give us a call at 03-2162 2260! 


Article by Ian Choong



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Are We Birkin Up The Wrong Tree?

The Hermes diamond and Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin handbag at Heritage Auctions offices in Beverly Hills, California September 22, 2014. Image credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

The iconic Hermes Birkin handbag is said to be a worthy investment, outperforming gold and the S&P 500 in investment returns and stability. CSI Prop investigates how this bag holds up against brick and mortar.

So the Birkin smashed the almighty Box Office of Buzzwords a few days ago when a raid at one of former Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s residences uncovered the haul of the century: 284 boxes of luxury handbags, a good number of which were in the signature Hermes orange hue.

The former PM’s missus, as the entire world probably knows by now, is a huge fan of the Birkin. Word on the street is that a rare, record-setting Hermes Birkin could be among the 284 handbags seized during the raid. The purse, which has white gold and diamond hardware, fetched an eye-watering $221,755 at an auction in Hong Kong in 2015 — the most expensive bag sold at auction at the time.

One wonders if Datin Sri Rosmah’s collection could give Victoria Beckham a run for her Birkins (note: Mrs B apparently has 100 Birkin handbags). Especially since a New York Times article reportedly quoted a broker’s estimation of Datin Sri Rosmah’s Hermes Birkin collection to be worth at least US$10 million.

Whatever the rumour, it looks like the cat’s finally out of the handbag…err, bag.

So, what has a handbag got to do with property, you might ask. Here’s our cheeky comparison between bag and brick — after all, both are investments in their own right and share many similarities. Or do they? You decide.   

Some of the Birkin handbags confiscated from one of former PM Najib Razak's residences last week. Image credit: The Malay Mail Online/Hari Anggara
The cat’s out of the (hand)bag: Some of the Birkin handbags confiscated from one of former PM Najib Razak’s residences last week. Image credit: The Malay Mail Online/Hari Anggara


  1. Time = Perfection

It takes Hermes artisans a minimum of 5 years training before they’re allowed to independently create a Birkin. The artisan makes a Birkin by hand from start to end, a process which takes possibly up to 48 hours.

A house, however, takes a good many months or years to complete, requiring the skill of experts from various fields in order for it to withstand way more than a huff, a puff and a blowing down by the Big Bad Wolf.

  1. Undersupply = Exclusivity

Birkins are expensive because they are scarce, with only 200,000 bags in circulation around the world. One cannot simply buy a Birkin without a purchase history at the store or knowing someone who has bought a Birkin, before getting on the wait list.

Property prices are also governed by the rule of demand vs supply. The UK is experiencing a critical undersupply of homes, and the government is facing challenges in achieving its goal of building 300,000 homes a year to even out the demand-supply balance. This continues to push property prices upward, making it increasingly difficult for first-time house buyers to get on to the property ladder. Oh, and for the record, you can’t own a property just like that either — you need to clear checks by the regulators first. Think AML, bank loan approvals, that sort of thing.

  1. The Right Price

The price of the humblest Birkin starts at around $12,000. It could go all the way up to more than $200,000. That’s the price of a house in some parts of Petaling Jaya, according to a report in The Star.

Property is expensive, too; the greater the undersupply, the higher the price. Take Melbourne property as an example. AUD$500,000 could likely get you a landed property, but we’re talking some 16km away from the city centre. For AUD$550,000 you may get a 2-bedroom apartment in the stylish Palladium Tower apartments in Melbourne CBD, but apartments in this part of the city, at this price, is becoming a rare find (call us if you’re interested; we can hook you up).

  1. Capital Appreciation

According to research by Baghunter, the price of the Birkin had risen by an average of 14.2% since its launch, outperforming traditional investments such as the S&P 500 and gold markets. A Himalaya Birkin handbag made from the albino Nilo crocodile hide with white gold and diamond hardware and auctioned in 2014, was reported to cost as much as a 2-bed/2-bath apartment in the heart of Brisbane!

Interestingly, Savills predicts that property in the UK will grow by 14.2% over the next five years in spite of Brexit-related uncertainty. One might argue that this was a drop from the 28% price growth between 2013 and 2018 but, hey, that was during the good times. Like, pre-Referendum. We remain confident that the UK will recover after a spell of uncertainty following Brexit in 2019. 

In Australia, meanwhile, the average price of a property in Melbourne had increased by more than 6-fold from A$142,000 to A$943,100 today!

And we haven’t even talked about rental yields yet! Investment in the UK commercial property sector such as purpose built student accommodation and commercial care homes, can fetch handsome yields of up to 9%!

  1. The Show-Off Factor

Of course, all said and done, one can debate that you could bring a Birkin anywhere and show it off to anyone, while a property is most ‘inconveniently’ tied to the location in which it is built.

OK, that’s true but, hey, you can’t live in a handbag, can you?

Birkin worshippers will probably have more compelling reasons why the Birkin makes a fantastic investment, and naysayers would have equally compelling arguments for rebuttal. Perhaps we could all put ourselves in the shoes (or sandals) of the current Prime Minister and think on how to have a bata (better) management of our finances. What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comment box below. Or if you think your money is better spent on property investment, give us a call at 03-2162 2260! Don’t be birkin up the wrong tree now!

Current PM Tun M seems to have a bata grasp of what the simple things in life is.
Current PM Tun M seems to have a bata grasp of what the simple things in life is. Image credit: gempak dot com
By Vivienne Pal


  • Image credit: Reuters


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#GE14: Investors and the Battle for Malaysia

In just a matter of hours, Malaysia will enter what could be the biggest tussle for leadership yet — the 14th General Election. Image credit: Asian Business Software Solutions

In just a matter of hours, Malaysia will enter what could be the biggest tussle for leadership yet: the 14th General Election (#GE14).

Once again, the incumbent government faces a serious onslaught (its most critical since Independence, perhaps) as factions from the Opposition unite to mount a formidable challenge for rulership of the land. As the latter’s weapon of warfare looms in the shape of 92-year-old former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad; the former continues to push its promises of cash and stability-in-the-status-quo to the masses.

The rising costs of living hogs the spotlight this #GE14, but yet another issue coming to a head as voters go to the polls tomorrow, is the lack of affordable housing, especially for middle class urbanites known as the M40 (ostensibly because they form part of the middle 40 percentile). This is an issue most pronounced in the bustling urban constituencies of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Johor Bahru. 

Bank Negara in its quarterly bulletin in Feb 2018, noted that homes had become “seriously unaffordable” in 2016 by international standards. The local media has also reported extensively on the lacklustre performance of the Malaysian property market and now, with the spectre of the general election looming ahead, contesting parties have pledged to tackle housing affordability as part of their election manifestos.

Not only is the M40 watching for the change(s) that could come with the #GE14; investors are paying close attention, too.

Currently, investors are adopting a wait-and-see approach. Wealthy Malaysian investors are diversifying their money into real estate opportunities across residential and commercial properties both at home and overseas, as well as assets such as bonds and gold in light of a more cautious market and the upcoming general election. The general sentiment is that investments into local property could pick up after the election once the dust settles and new policies are put into place.

Be that as it may, Knight Frank’s latest Wealth Report Attitudes Survey 2018 reveals that 43% of its Malaysian clients have plans to invest in properties overseas, going forward, with the top five overseas destinations being Australia, United Kingdom, Singapore, New Zealand and the United States. Interestingly, Malaysia tops the survey, followed by Hong Kong (40%), China (37%) and Singapore (30%).

The rising interest in overseas properties investment is not surprising, given the favourable returns that investors get (our portfolio of property investments can offer up to 10% nett returns for 10 years!).

“With the current property glut and wait-and-see approach adopted by investors, it is certainly a driver to continue investing abroad,” says Knight Frank Asia Pacific head of research, Nicholas Holt.

In a recent article in The Malaysian Reserve, Henry Butcher Real Estate Sdn Bhd COO Tang Chee Meng said that speculators and investors have been deterred by a host of issues including oversupply in certain locations, cooling measures by the government and cap on loan margins. The reduced interest from developers, he added, had resulted in more sluggish take-up rates for developers, thus contributing to the increase in the overhang statistics.

Stagnating rental growth rates have also clouded the local property market. And, with new developments moving at such a rapid rate, the rental market is hard pressed to keep up.

After tomorrow, the next few months will be crucial. The nation will be watching to see if promises are kept and if manifestos on bread-and-butter and housing issues will take effect in reality.

To all Malaysians traveling to cast their votes this #GE14, CSI Prop wishes you a safe journey. Selamat Mengundi.

By Vivienne Pal


CSI Prop proudly promotes international investment property with high yields at low risk. Our portfolio comprises residential and purpose-built student property in cities across the United Kingdom (London, Luton, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, York, Glasgow, Scotland; Sheffield, etc); Australia (Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane) and Thailand (Bangkok). Our projects are concentrated in high-growth areas with great educational, infrastructural and job growth potentials. We aspire to make a difference in the lives of our clients by helping them achieve their investment goals through strong market research backed by third party experts. 

Disclaimer: CSI Prop does not provide tax & legal advice and accepts no liability. Readers are encouraged to consult a qualified tax or legal advisor for a thorough review.

Need advice or clarification? Call us for more information and/or to find out about our projects! Hotline: 03-2162 2260