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Investing and living in Nusajaya, Malaysia: An expat couple share their experiences

We recently caught up with David and Carol Boschler, executive directors of Exhale, a boutique company specialising in luxury villa design. We asked them for the scoop on working in Singapore while living just over the border in Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia.

What is Nusajaya?

It’s a new township being developed in Johor, Malaysia. It is the “jewel” of the Malaysian government’s Iskandar Plan – they’ve invested over US$2billion in the project already, and there is also active participation from the Singapore government and companies such as Temasek.

Has it been built yet?

Several projects are already completed, such as Columbia Hospital, Newcastle University, Puteri Harbour Marina, and Kota Iskandar (government offices). Other projects to be completed by 2012 include Marlborough College, Legoland, Lifestyle Mall and the Coastal Highway. So, now is really the perfect time to look at investing in Singapore’s neighbour. Many expats are already choosing to live in Nusajaya while commuting daily to Singapore for work and school.

Why do you think expats are making the move to Nusajaya?

Our clients are typically moving from their relatively small Singapore condos to our custom-designed villas without increasing their housing budgets. To put it in numbers, to build a luxury 5,000-6,000 square-foot villa on 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of beautifully landscaped freehold land will cost approximately S$1.5-2 million. The villas Exhale are building in Nusajaya would cost between 35 and 50 million Singapore dollars to build in Singapore!

What your involvement in these villas?

Exhale is a design and build company. After we help clients choose their land, we offer a full turnkey solution to design and build a dream home. Our international expat team consists of a design architect, a lighting architect, a landscape architect, an interior designer and a security consultant. We choose the best local builders, trades-people and landscapers to work with to complete the project to a level we can be proud of.

How long does it take to get into Singapore every day?

It takes about 15 to 20 minutes every morning to get from our doorstep in Nusajaya and through customs into Singapore. From there it’s another 30 minutes to get the kids to school and ourselves to the office.

Is it safe?

This is the most common question that we get, particularly because Singapore is such a uniquely safe country to live in. Our experience in Johor has been that it is no more or less safe than virtually any other major city in the world – say New York, Toronto, London or Sydney. In addition, our villas are built within gated and guarded communities and we have a security specialist on our team who provides input into each of our designs.

Where will our children go to school?

Most expats are bringing their children into international schools in Singapore. The lifestyle is very much like that of living in the “suburbs” outside other major cities. However, there are also local schools available, and internationally acclaimed Marlborough College will be opening its massive 90-acre campus next year, just seven minutes down the road from our villas!

How is immigration handled? Do I need a visa? Do I need to fill out those white forms every day?

There are a number of visa options available. The programme called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) provide long-term visas to those accepted into it. Investors in the area can also apply for the Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS) that removes the annoying requirement to fill out immigration forms.

Is property freehold for foreigners? Can foreigners get financing?

Yes, property is available freehold to foreigners. Foreigners are also able to get financing from international banks such as the UOB and the HSBC in Malaysia.

Any pitfalls to avoid when building or buying a home in Nusajaya?

If you are looking to invest in real estate in any foreign country, take the time to fully inspect the home you wish to buy, or to research the builders you want working on the property. Alternatively, you can leave it to a trusted and reputable company like Exhale to manage the processes for you.

Exhale designs and builds homes in Singapore, Malaysia and South East Asia. For more information, visit www.exhalegroup.com, email service@exhalegroup.com or call +65 9170 9325.