Forgotten risk, what condo buyers overlook

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Simon Griffiths has overseen CBRE Cambodia’s property management department for over four years having been involved with the most high profile developments in Phnom Penh and benefitting from a total of over 10 years’ experience in real estate, property management and property development in Cambodia and the UK.

Forgotten risk, what condo buyers overlook

In their purchasing decision condo buyers often pay little or no attention to who will take charge of property management upon completion of the development and what quality property management actually costs. Without effective property management and the necessary according fees, the impact can be catastrophic on re-sale value and the ability to rent a condo, according to Simon Griffiths, associate director at CBRE Cambodia.

Exclusively for Post Property, Griffiths explains why developers and condo buyers in Cambodia should consider more on property management, management service fees and what it really means to their purchasing decision.

“While the real estate market in Cambodia is ‘hot’ and new condo developments are rising out of the ground all over Phnom Penh, a rarely discussed topic is how these new condos will be managed once they are built and online. With property management (PM) being a decisive factor in the enjoyment of a condo, not to mention potential re-sale values and rental returns, the topic neither receives attention nor interest from many buyers. Understandably and rightfully so. Price, location, developer reputation, facilities and amenities are key determining factors on which a condo buyer will make a ‘buy or not’ decision. However, property management and according fees are crucial components when it comes to owning a condo.

In one sentence: Buyers beware of low management service fees (MSF)!

Consider buying a Porsche sports car. Would you then use the cheapest gasoline off a street vendor or pay the extra 20 cents a litre for the premium gasoline that is meant to protect the engine? Would you clean your car regularly at the additional cost or let it be covered in dirt? You would want to protect and enjoy your investment.

The same principle holds true for property investment. Low cost PM will manifest in low quality PM and will quickly become visible to buyers and renters even in the short term.

With poor management, the value of a condo investment is at risk, not to mention the enjoyment of anyone living at the condo. Why then, so often, do buyers invest in premium condos and then actively seek-out and desire lowest price MSF’s?

Let’s set put this discussion in Phnom Penh’s market context. The often so called ‘standard market price’ for condo management service fees in Phnom Penh is set between $0.5 and $1 per square metre and buyers commonly consider $1 per square metre overly expensive.

Consider then a scenario with 100 condominium units at 100 square metre each. If you manage this building at $0.50 per square metre the PM monthly budget is $5,000. This will need to cover a building manager, accountants, handymen, technicians; building insurance; cleaning; 24 hours security; cleaning materials, mechanical and electrical parts and so much more. Simply put, this budget may keep the building functioning but only just, and the initial ‘on the surface’ benefit of a low MSF would quickly transpire into low safety standards, broken machinery and equipment and a poor condition building in a short space of time.

Now, would you desire a low price MSF or consider paying more for quality?

But even at $1 per square metre MSF for the building in the above scenario, while it would be possible to provide functional PM, there is little room for high quality services and sacrifices would need to be made in cleaning, security and mechanical and electrical maintenance to keep within the budget, thus showing that the MSF so called ‘market rate’ (in some cases) is artificially low and being driven down by buyers who are mistakenly prioritizing ‘low price’ PM as a positive factor in a purchasing decision.

In effect, condo buyers’ MSF expectations are often too low set by a ‘market rate’ that makes it difficult for developers to truly deliver promises of high quality. Couple this with the successive increases in minimum wage levels, and achieving a quality PM service becomes an increasingly difficult proposition.

In summary, the so called ‘market price’ for MSF in Phnom Penh in many cases is not feasible and creates a situation where there is a disconnect between buyer expectations and what will actually be delivered in terms of PM service quality.
The result is a situation where lowering MSFs effectively may secure sales but creates unrealistic expectations. Selling high quality PM with a low budget makes it almost impossible to deliver on such promises.

So how should the developers and buyers think and behave?

Developers should not be looking for the easy or quick way out of setting an unrealistic MSF to achieve extra sales. This is flawed and would inevitably lead to unsatisfied buyers come the time when the building opens and is short sighted. Developers need to invest time, energy and knowledge to ensure relevant PM services are installed and embedded within a development before they ‘exit’ and ensure MSF’s relevance to the quality of the development.

Buyers should consider more than the bottom-line price in relation to MSF. Consider your expectations, quality and what you want from your condo investment. If you desire a low price, expect low quality and manage your expectations accordingly.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Griffiths
Associate Director
CBRE Cambodia


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