While many reports were published on the role of planters from Sabah’s east coast pumping funds into the real estate all over Sabah, not many mentioned the contribution of the small-holders and small businesses south of Kota Kinabalu from Tenom, Keningau Beaufort and Sipitang playing a smaller but significant role in the sale and purchase of properties in Kota Kinabalu and Penampang, especially for houses around RM500,000.
Some are used as second homes to stay when on visit to the state capital or for their children who may or are studying in Kota Kinabalu with a view to letting them stay there in future when they take up jobs in the state capital unavailable in their own home towns or villages.
In much larger Sarawak, the trend is noticeable around the three major urban centres of Kuching, Sibu and Miri where UiTM, UNIMAS, Swinburne and Curtin universities are.
Let’s take a look at Tenom in Sabah which is considered a town with more rich smallholding planters than large plantations whether of Sabahan origin or from West Malaysia.
Besides investing in Kota Kinabalu that boosted the real estate sector, small business owners here also support the many shops and housing being built around town.
Twenty years ago, there are not many any sizeable housing estates in Tenom. Today, more are in demand.
Prices of homes in Tenom are no longer as cheap as before, but prices are still much cheaper than in Kota Kinabalu for single storey houses.
Let’s look at a housing estate nearest to Tenom town – just about 800 metres north of this 100 years old planters’ town, lies Taman Bahagia which means happy or harmonious unlike a similar named mental hospital in Malaysia.
This housing estate, from an area leading to Kampung Bahagia, has a history of 13 years with 20 units of single storey semi-detached houses and 19 units of single storey terraced houses within the authority of the Tenom District Council, obviously not a big housing estate like many in Kota Kinabalu.
It is popular and command higher sale price because it lies next to a government primary school, the S.K. Pekan Tenom and nearby the S.M.K. Chung Hwa. Nearby are other housing estates like Taman Lebih Maju and Taman Eng Huat. Other residences are government quarters and private individual houses on own lands.
In 2009, a single storey semi-detached house in Taman Bahagia with a land area of 2,400 sq. ft. was sold for RM160,000 about RM20 per sq. ft. for the land cost and RM112,000 to rebuild the house at that material time.
In 2010, a single storey corner terraced house in an area further south of Tenom with a much bigger land area of 4,800 sq. ft. twice the land size was also sold for the same price.
In Kota Kinabalu, such a house with a similar land area would have worth RM500,000 or more today. Tenom is a good place for more affordable retirement lifestyle now also accessible by road from Sipitang if more affordable homes are built.