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See also: Types of Houses in Malaysia
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As a prospective property buyer on the constant lookout for office units to host your small or rather large team, the names of the office types might always be up for major confusion. Between SoHo, SoFo and SoVo units, it might be difficult to choose the perfect units to set up an office for one’s next startup.
However, fear not as it’s definitely easy to differentiate these units from one another. The similarities, however, are quite general, as all these units are designed and optimised for commercial purposes.
If a potential property buyer happens to flip through an entire brochure of units, he or she would be curious regarding the pricing of the SoHo, SoFo and SoVo units. This is because they are usually higher in price than residential units. The owners of these units would have to pay bills such as unit assessment, water, electricity and telephone bills by themselves as they are all commercial titled, This contributes to the high price of these units.
All these units are generally located in hotspots in the city areas, often dubbed as the booming centres for businesses. This means that these properties are located in areas where access to public transportation and amenities such as shopping malls are within a stone’s throw away. The style and comfort that these units provide would be a distinction between normal shop lots and SoHo, SoFo and SoVo units.
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While SoHo units are protected by the Housing Development Act (HDA), due to the presence of the standard Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA), it should be noted that SoFo and SoVo units don’t have this form of protection. This would be a call for concern as a potential buyer — with the non-existence of a standard SPA for them.
The reason behind the presence of a SPA for the SoHo units is purely because they have a commercial title albeit being used for residential purposes. With no form of protection for owners of the SoVo and SoFo units, any dispute that arises would have to be dealt with in court and this would be settled based on the SPA signed by the buyer and seller.
The importance of a HDA might not be highlighted by most people and a huge majority might not even be aware of it. In reality, it should definitely be brought to everyone’s attention. Below are some of the importances a HDA holds:
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SoHo units are known for their flexibility in being used as either offices or homes. Hence, it’s an acronym for small office, home office. A SoHo unit allows the owner to integrate a good work-life balance. Therefore, most young singles, newly-weds and start-up owners would opt for these types of units.
This is to integrate their daily life with work without alienating both of these aspects from one another. SoHo units would typically consist of a living room, bedrooms and bathrooms. However, they would not take up much floor space especially with the fact that these units are designed by interior designers who’ve always taken into account a comfortable yet sustainable lifestyle for the prospective residents. These properties are strata-titled and would often come in modest sizes.
SoHo units might not work for everyone. It’s not a one size fits all concept, nevertheless. Before investing in a SoHo unit, a potential buyer should analyse his or her needs and invest in a property that would be in line with their needs and wants. In general, SoHo units might come in handy for a few groups of individuals.
1. Buyers who WFH (Work from Home)
With today’s rapidly growing gig economy, freelance work is no stranger to the youths — with a wide range of flexibility in terms of location and work hours. However, what’s the usage of flexibility if one doesn’t have a conducive working environment to even begin with. In this case, SoHo units are useful for freelancers as such.
Not only that, it’s a good option for workers whose companies give you the option to work from home. Business owners would benefit greatly from this too. A conducive environment to plan a business is vital too. With the peace that a SoHo unit could offer, new ideas to expand one’s business would come in easily too!
Whether one would think about starting a business that offers copywriting services or a cryptocurrency based-business, the space and comfort from a SoHo unit would take an aspiring business owner to greater heights. The units would also allow one to rest comfortably while working. This would compensate for a perfect work-life balance.
2. Start-Up Companies
A start-up company, unlike regular companies, is a very small scale business. There would be tons of groundwork involved and the first thing that every owner would want is comfort. The space would be perfect to lead a team of 2 which might eventually rise up to about 10 or more.
To justify this, a typical SoHo unit would have a built-up size range of 420 square feet to 806 square feet. A SoHo unit would promote a conducive environment to work in without feeling too cramped up. This would motivate the employees further.
SoFo units are definitely different in comparison to SoHo units. It’s also an acronym for small office, flexible office. Units as such are indeed small but these units have special features.
Every SoFo unit has an internal partition (a wall that can be broken down) and this would eventually give the owners the flexibility to customize the units to accommodate the current needs. If one desires to have a bigger space, 2 units could be purchased and the partition could be torn down to cater to a large living space.
If one wants to invest in a unit for a small start-up, a SoVo Unit, or a small office, virtual office, should be considered. Being a unit fully equipped with only the essential facilities required, the SoVo units could be used to embark on a new journey together with one’s colleagues.
However, it should be noted that SoVo units do not consist of residential amenities such as gymnasiums, swimming pools and lounge areas. Unlike SoHo and SoFo units, SoVo units are purely for commercial purposes. This means that it can’t be turned into a residence. In addition to that, if disapproved by the management, owners can’t stay overnight in these units too.
Since these units are considered commercial units, the Developer Interest Bearing Scheme is readily available forto interested buyers. This would allow buyers to pay 10% of the price until the completion of the project. Owners of the units have to pay the water, electricity, telephone as assessment bills based on commercial rates. This would be higher than the rate for residential properties.
Before investing in an office unit of any type, there are a few important things that one should know. Keeping in mind the fact that, unlike residential properties, office-type properties (SoVo, SoHo and SoFo) have different homeownership metrics.
In terms of property loans, residential units would have a maximum loan margin of finance of 90%. However, this is not the same in the case of office-type properties. The maximum loan margin of finance would be lower and subsequently, the loan tenure would be shorter. Since these units are commercial, the 70% maximum margin of finance limitation after purchases of a third property and beyond does not apply here.
To prevent further complications, it would be helpful to seek help from the property developer of the bank issuing the loan for a detailed guide. The shorter loan tenure would definitely seem like a downfall but in reality, it would instil financial discipline and once the loan repayment has been completed successfully, the person could then focus on investing in his or her next property.
As for utility and maintenance bills, all 3 units are subjected to laws pertaining to commercial properties. Therefore, the utility bills, commercial assessment bills and rent are higher in comparison to residential units. These units are built on commercial land and conversion of one’s bills from commercial to residential is on a case-by-case basis and under exceptional circumstances.
Being built on commercial land, SoHo, SoVo and SoFo units are subjected to commercial loan terms. However, the reason why these offices are in a less favourable position to be invested in is that the loan amount is much lower in comparison to those of housing loans. Topped up with the relatively high prices of the units, it’s no doubt that investors and potential buyers would think twice before investing in these units.
In the case of SoHo units, there is no clear distinction on whether they should be financed using a home loan or a commercial property loan package. There are no blanket guidelines for banks to follow and it is decided by the banks for each project individually, depending on the banks’ tolerance for any potential fallouts.
If a person owns more than 2 commercial properties, more than one acre of commercial land or commercial property, or land with a market value of more than RM 2,000,000 and has the intention to sell, they are considered to be in business. This is in accordance with the recent guidance published by The Royal Malaysian Department Customs. Therefore, they are subjected to tax.
When it comes to buying SoHo, SoFo and SoVo units, most of the time, prospective house buyers are not aware of the legalities surrounding them. For SoFo and SoVo units, the standard Sale and Purchase Agreements do not apply here. This is mainly due to the fact that they are not regulated by the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 (HDA).
SoHo units, on the contrary, have the usual standard SPA. According to the National Land Code, if the SoVo and SoFo units are meant for permanent residential usage, they would be subjected to the local authority’s regulations. Buyers would be required to sign the SPA if a SoHo unit is bought.
Their rights would be protected under the act due to the fact that these properties are either wholly or partially used as residential properties. If a SoFo or SoVo unit is being purchased, a non-standard SPA should be signed with the developers. This is the only way to maintain security when buying a SoFo or SoVo unit.
In the context of property management, the value of a specific property is sustained by the management itself. However, it might not be as easy as it looks. There are various scenarios that could make this task very difficult at times.
For instance, there could be multiple owners in a single building worsened by the situation of occupants from different walks of life, with different types of perspectives and lifestyles. A potential property buyer would definitely need to do some background research towards the occupants of the unit next door and be able to think about whether they could tolerate those people in the long run.
As a business, it’s completely necessary to have a dedicated office to get the business rolling. However, in today’s digital world, most entrepreneurs could work from home offices too or co-working spaces. The need for office spaces has become a thing of the past especially if most of the logistical work is done online.
Be it for a short breakfast trip or to buy mineral water in the case of limited water supply, the amenities nearby are very important too, considering unavoidable emergency cases. A prospective buyer should definitely have this factor in consideration to eliminate any unnecessary hassle in the future.
The location of an office plays an important role to gain access to important amenities. However, in terms of the location, the primary location of one’s employees is also important. Places such as Kuala Lumpur, Seremban and Melaka are the most convenient due to its location in central Malaysia.
Just like a house, with guarded features, offices need to have security features too. This is to prevent robberies especially, when money is stored temporarily in the offices. Features like CCTV cameras and security guards are important to prevent these things from happening. Please check whether these security features are being offered before purchasing the intended unit.
Various office types could provide different levels of comfort albeit, having similar properties to one another. Be it SoVo, SoFo or SoHo units, the most important aspect in the quest of finding a good unit for one’s next business is always its practicality and convenience. As aforementioned, it’s not a one size fits all concept.
In fact, similarly to residential properties, location, accessibility, pricing and the level of comfort should also be considered prior to buying properties as such. Apart from that, some prospective buyers might not prefer these office units due to the location of these units. Since a majority of these units are located in bustling cities, peace and serenity might be difficult to obtain.
The existence of traffic jams would definitely add to the hustle and bustle of city life. Nevertheless, when it comes to office units, one might have to set aside comfort to ensure that large access to facilities and amenities in the midst of a prime location such as the city, could be achieved.
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