Home MMBIZ News An Oasis in Yangon’s Housing Market

An Oasis in Yangon’s Housing Market

Yangon’s Hlaing Thayar township, located on the western side of the Hlaing River, has long been recognised as an industrial hub of the city. The industrial zone located in the township is well-known, while all along its streets lie dozens of factories, manufacturing products including whisky and soy-based food.
Yet in 2000, property tycoon Serge Pun recognised an opportunity to use the large, vacant space in the area to develop a high-class golf and housing estate.
The Pun Hlaing Golf Estate opened as a 9-hole golf course with a few houses at the turn of the century, but has since developed to include an 18-hole golf course – designed by golfing legend Gary Player – as well as a hospital, a nearby school, a spa, tennis courts, swimming pools and high-quality housing for about 300 people.
Yangon was a different city back then. There were barely any cars on the road and very few international companies were willing to operate in a military-run country, while businesses from US and Europe were unable to operate due to government-imposed sanctions.
But Pun’s risk, it seems, has been rewarded and as the country attracts an increasing amount of foreign investment, the estate is taking advantage of the surge of international companies setting up operations in Myanmar, and more notably Yangon, and who are looking to house executives and their families in high-class, comfortable accommodation.
“[Since opening] it moved along nicely, but in this last 18 months to two years, we have seen an enormous amount of interest,” said John Sartain, who runs the management of the estate.  Sartain continued, “We are now leasing out many apartments and houses on the estate on behalf of the owners and we are seeing a great deal of interest from new international businesses, proving that this is the place to reside.”
“Property prices have gone up significantly across the City of course, and we have put in a huge amount of effort into maintaining a world class estate, particularly infrastructure, such as WiFi, sewage systems, sanitation and a continuous electricity supply to ensure that they are all up to international standards,” he added.
This has helped to attract a number of business people, not just those from abroad but also prominent local businessmen. The estate, Sartain says, has a roughly 50/50 split between foreigners and locals.
Pun Hlaing is currently about an hour and a half’s drive from the city, something that Sartain accepts is a minor issue as many of the residents on the estate work in Yangon’s downtown, but with work nearing completion on the Hlaing Tharyar bridge – connecting the western part of the city with the centre – the travel time is likely to be halved when the bridge opens.
 “Once this [travel time to the city] is down to less than an hour, maybe 45 minutes then I think that will be acceptable for most people,” he said.
“We’re in an enviable position. Once the bridge and adjoining junction work is complete, communication improves, and we commence a ferry service from the estate to downtown next year, it really will put our estate in a different league”. We already have a hospital, a school.  At FMI City we already have a [another housing estate operated by Serge Pun’s group] supermarket and a Yoma Bank branch so things will develop quickly from here,” he added.
As the estate continues to expand, further projects are underway. One such project is a new 5 star boutique hotel that is currently under construction that will overlook the golf course. The 46-bedroom hotel is expected to be, much like the estate, managed to the highest standards and Sartain believes that the hotel will compliment the golf activities as well as serve the local business community.
“We also hope to attract people here on leisure breaks, so the estate will become a destination in its own right and as the hotel will be ready by early 2015 we are working hard on preparing and developing our people for the operational issues now,” he said.
One of the challenges faced by the estate is a regular theme across the country – human resources. With more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, and having spent the previous five years operating hotels in Singapore, Sartain is hoping to use his experience to train local staff so that they can operate the estate on their own, something he feels can contribute to Myanmar society.
“One of the things that I noticed early on is that although we have almost one thousand people working on the estate and they are incredibly enthusiastic, diligent and hard-working, many lack training. They are very keen to learn and part of my remit is to impart them my knowledge and experiences gleaned over the years.  In a short time some of these wonderful people will be managing this estate – they are the future, not us!”.
Very early on Sartain initiated specific training, much he undertook himself – English language training is one, leadership training, standards and quality, health and safety. “Importantly, we have also handpicked six people from the estate who we are ‘grooming’ to be our leaders of the future. They’re very enthusiastic and they will be provided with a personal fast track training programme to facilitate them moving into supervisory positions within two years. This will be evidence to others that local people do have real opportunities to grow and to develop themselves on this estate.”
The golf course itself offers much future potential too, Sartain believes. He revealed that due to ongoing work on the course over recent years, the club had not taken some of the more major tournaments in the region – as it had in the past. Although the work is continuing, they will now be looking towards hosting more events on a course that is generally touted as the best course in the country.
“We are already speaking  to Asia Golf with a view to hosting some Senior and Junior tournaments over the next 12 to 18 months and by the end of 2015 [we hope] to be in a position to bid for hosting the Asia Tour, maybe the Yangon Open,” he said.
For casual golfers, he says the course’s popularity is growing rapidly and that on the weekends they need to manage the tee off time carefully to ensure that members can play at an enjoyable pace.
“So as the entire estate grows, and the area around us grows, we hope to take advantage of the opportunity with our Serviced Residences, which will open middle January 2014,” he said.

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