I think if you ask a Penangite, they would most probably tell you, buy Penang. Iskandar is just a piece of empty land 2.5 times the size of Singapore. If you ask a Johorean, they may tell you that they have only begun to believe that Iskandar might just work but to buy in Penang does seem very far fetched. How about asking an Ipohan like me then? Even if I have worked in Penang for over 15 years.
First things first, I think the first question is where are you based? If you are based in Penang, without any doubt, buy Penang first and vice-versa. However, if this is already your 3rd property and you are deciding between Penang or Iskandar and you already have two in either Penang or Iskandar, I think you should buy the other side that you have none yet. Reason is simple, even if you feel the appreciation in either place is faster, why not diversify a little? Thus, the main advice would be to ‘Diversify’.
Penang island is smaller than Singapore. Iskandar by size is over 2 times the size of Singapore. So, if you look at the potential, it does seem that price appreciation in Penang seem much higher, especially now that there are 10 flights or more daily between Penang and Singapore, connecting both places as close as Singaporean taking a MRT ride from one end to the other in terms of time. I also believe the prices in Penang can only increase due to scarcity of land and the fact that there are favourite areas which are appreciating and thus bringing up the areas which are less favourable as well. The areas available to build is also much lesser than Singapore because Penang is not so much of a flat piece of land and it has even a Forest Reserve National Park within the island!
Iskandar meanwhile is less than 1 hour away, even at it’s furthest point from Singapore. With the potential of RTS and the fact that Singapore PM Lee Hsien long wanting to have even more of the world’s talents working in Singapore, Iskandar is a very good choice. The MNCs can base their staffs in Iskandar at less than 2 times the usual cost and yet have the best of the world working with the best in Singapore! Singaporeans who needs to retire more comfortably may also be willing to relocate to JB because when you look at even the prices of HDB resale units, it is already higher than the prices of new condos in Iskandar and it comes with sea view.
Thus, it matters very little where you choose. Sure, you may earn more with certain investments but once you look at it objectively, you would realise that investments in either one makes good sense. Some may argue, KL may overtake Iskandar if the bullet trains come into play. I do not think so but if you believe so, then fine, keep your cash until that day when the bullet train is finally approved officially and both countries agree on all the costs, stations, procedures, immigrations… wow… still a lot to talk about.
written on 4th Jan 2014