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Kuala Lumpur - Accommodation & Property

Many expatriates today prefer to be located near to their workplace, hence expatriates are located throughout the city. Nonetheless, many expatriates settle in particular neighborhoods, particularly close to the city center to ease commuting woes. The neighborhoods popular with expatriates include the city end of the long Jalan Ampang road (where many embassies and KLCC are located), Bangsar Bahru (south/southwest of city center), Damansara Heights (west of city center), Taman Tun Dr. Ismail (farther out west of city center).

Jalan Ampang is perennially popular among expatriates, despite its unpredictable road conditions (poor traffic, road diversions). This area is ideal for expatriates who work in the city center, as it is located conveniently close to the city center. There are many restaurants serving international cuisines, and shops along Jalan Ampang that cater to expatriates. Bangsar Bahru boosts of many eateries, bars and shopping malls (e.g. Bangsar Village I is home to Village Grocer, Country Farm Organics, Toys R Us, Early Learning Center and Gumboree, and Bangsar Village II is home to Spanish brands Zara and Trucco, French brands Lancome and Sia, Indian designer Mumbai Se). Damansara Heights is home to a number of luxurious houses and apartments. Taman Tun Dr Ismail has a good mix of houses and condominiums, and close to the major shopping area of Bandar Utama (e.g. One Utama, Tescos, Carrefour, Ikea). For expatriates with school-going children, many international schools are located in an area known as the Golden Triangle.

Even though these locations are popular with expatriates, do not assume that all apartments / condominiums are of the same quality, even in the same neighborhood. As far as possible, look around and ask to see the particular apartment you are interested to lease before signing any lease apartment.

Given the traffic situation in KL, it is advisable to consider your location vis--vis your commuting route between your workplace and place of residence. For this reason, many expatriates who do not drive prefer to live close to a LRT station, while expatriates who drive may wish to avoid certain areas that are prone to traffic congestion. Expatriates with families also take into consideration the relative distance between the schools and their residence. For examples, the Fairfield International school (UK curriculum) is located along Jalan Ampang, as well as the International School of Kuala Lumpur Ampang campus (US curriculum) is located just off Jalan Ampang. The Australian International School of Malaysia, the only school in Malaysia that offers the Australian curriculum, is located in The Mines Resort City in Sri Kembangan, which is a fair distance from KL city center.

While it is not necessary to engage a real estate agent, hiring the services of one can help expatriates who are unfamiliar with the city, or need to find suitable accommodation within a short period of time.

There is a good range of properties to choose from, whether expatriates are looking to lease or purchase. Most expatriates choose to live in serviced apartments / condominiums that include security and facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, playgrounds and tennis courts. For expatriates with children / large families, many opt for a house within a gated community, which can come with a swimming pool and garden. Large detached houses (bungalows), semi-detached houses and terrace houses are available.

Rental rates in KL are among the most expensive in Malaysia. However, they are still significantly less expensive than other Asian cities such as Singapore. Most serviced apartments available for rent come furnished. Some houses are rented non-furnished. "Fully-furnished" apartments are similar to hotels includes bed linen, curtains, and in some cases, even cutlery and cooking utensils are provided. "Semi-furnished" means only bulky items such as beds, wardrobes, dining table sets cookers are included. Non-furnished or un-furnished means an empty apartment / house without kitchen units such as a cooker. There are several furniture rental providers in KL.

Most leases are for two years, but there is an early termination clause (sometimes referred to as the diplomatic clause). This is to cater mainly for expatriates whose term of employment in KL may be less than the lease term. In most cases, for an early termination of a lease, the tenant is usually required to give two months' notice, or pay two months' rent in lieu of notice. Expatriates who sign a lease should prepare to have about 3 months' rent available upfront one month's rent is an "earnest deposit" (first month's rent), and the other 2 months' rent is held as a security and utility deposit that is refunded (less any damages and unpaid utility bills) after the lease expires.

To purchase a property in KL, expatriates can check the local classifieds for advertisements. It is advisable to engage a real estate agent to assist in the paperwork for purchase of properties in KL.

Despite the ups and downs of the property market in Malaysia, there are expatriates who have made good returns from medium to long-term investments in property in KL. Property prices in KL are generally known to be driven by external property investors based in other countries, notably, from Hong Kong and Singapore. Even so, property prices have lagged behind other major Asian cities. Note, however, that property prices for purchase by foreigners are significantly higher than they are for the locals. Some areas of land can only be bought and sold by Bumiputera (Malays and other indigenous groups of Malaysia).

Hiring domestic help is common and relatively inexpensive. Domestic maids can come from the Philippines or Indonesia, and are hired as lived-in or on a part-time basis. Drivers and gardeners can also be hired. Nannies and babysitters, on the other hand, are not as common. Daycare centers are the best option for working parents.

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