House or Home? Which one made me feel at home? This is the story of how I started my room and property renting and later property investing journey.
Do we have a house or do we have a home? A luxurious property in a big city can still be a lonely place. A small property in a small town (e.g, Teluk Intan) can still be a happy place. Yes, that was the home I grew up in and it was the happiest years where I could ride my BMX bike around the neighbourhood every morning and late afternoon.
I was very happy with that property and has told my parents if they ever wanted to sell that property, their only buyer is me. Of course, it will need a big makeover but I am willing to pour attention to it, especially for this home which I grew up with so many sweet memories.
The below was an article I wrote for Property Insight magazine (I have just updated it today) and I think it’s very applicable today. Much more so when we are locked at home.
A cheeky good friend asked me this question the other day. He says that since I have my own preferred area, surely I will be biased when I write articles on certain areas. I replied, ‘It’s not just the areas that I would be biased. I would also be biased when it comes to landed versus high-rise. Moving on, I also have my favourite developers and this list changes over time which meant that I keep changing my own opinions!’
By the way, even the areas that I like may change when I get to know about it more closely. One thing which will never change is this. The best house in the world is the one that makes us feel at home. I still remember the final time that I visited my first apartment of 730 sq ft in Relau, Penang.
Both my wife and I were sad even though by then, we were already staying in a much bigger sized condo of 1,258 sq ft; an upgrade of 500 sq ft over our first apartment. My wife told me that she still remembered that day when we got the keys and opened the doors to our very first property in our life. Me too. I still remember I walked directly to the balcony to enjoy the view of the pool. Haha.
That smaller apartment (730 sq ft) made us (my wife and I) feel at home for more than 4 years. It gave us a home we could call our own for the very first time in our lives. It gave my sister and her brother a place to stay when they first moved to Penang for study and work respectively.
I still remember when I first moved to Penang in 1998. I was renting a room in Georgetown and it was a small room which was ‘built’ with some space in the living hall. So yes, I could hear everything that was spoken right outside my room. That room did not give me any feeling of a home.
After a few months, I moved to a semi-detached double-storey home nearby the Penang prison. That house is worth easily RM2.5 million today as it could easily park 5 cars and my car was one of them. My room was huge, at least 350 sq ft but it did not give me the feeling of a home because the owner and the family seldom speak to me.
It was a house which I just arrive home, park my car, go to my room and the next day, leave my room, drive my car out and go to work. I stayed there for awhile, until my current wife (yes, I only have one wife then and now) moved to Penang and we rented a small apartment together.
This rented apartment was not my first choice because the swimming pool was on the ground floor and everyone driving into the apartment could see me in my swimming trunk or my wife in her swimwear. However, it was the one we could afford (the rental) and it’s near enough to our place of work.
No matter how much we try to make the place comfortable, we could never call it a home sweet home, yet. It was not ours. This changed a year later when we found a place which we could afford to buy and we started the renovations. We also filled it up with furnitures and electrical goods of our choice. Yes, till today, my favourite remains to be Sharp / Panasonic.
We also proudly showed it to our parents when they dropped by. We also did house-warming for over 50 of our friends.
We even replied happily, ‘You can always stay with us if you don’t mind,’ when my wife’s brother asked if we have a place to stay and my sister continued her studies in Penang. Personally, I think the best house does not really concern the area, the type and even the developer. It’s the one that makes us feel the most at home.
Usually, that’s the one that we put a lot of effort in as well as own. Yes, I will still be biased. Haha. Always make the best with what we have instead of trying to buy somewhere we could not really afford or have to overstretch ourselves too much.
After this first property, chances are we will have enough to upgrade to a better one few years later. Without that first one, chances are the owner whom we are renting from would be buying another property in a few years’ time. Happy making yourself at home.
Originally written for Property Insight May 2018 edition and revised 9th Aug 2021.