Three Numbers That Will Make Your Property Investment Rock (Or Suck)

Last week I wrote about how successful investors were usually driven by their relentless focus on one particular skill of choice, and why in retrospect I had decided to work towards being the most fanatical number cruncher in Malaysia property (click here if you’ve missed that article).

My obsession with numbers predates GoodPlace; in fact, I was trained as an engineer in college, and while I have been a marketer almost all my working life, I’ve always viewed marketing as a scientific, data-driven profession.

As my ex-boss Mr Ooi (now rocking a senior sales & marketing position in DHL Greater China, bless him) would quip to me, “As a marketer, you either pick colors or you pick numbers. You choose which kind.” I was decidedly the latter kind – the number picker.

Indeed, during that time in my life I would openly deride those Madison Avenue color picker types as bare-faced charlatans who would scam their clients by selling them fancy logos (under the guise of “corporate rebranding“), often coupled with feelgood (but ultimately meaningless) taglines.

If anything, my experience (both as an employee and later on as an entrepreneur) had taught me that textbook marketing fodder like “brand awareness” and “4Ps” were bullshit concepts that had no practical use in real life. In my world, marketing had nothing to do with fluffy, unquantifiable, up-in-the-cloud concepts like “brand equity“; it was all about numbers, numbers and more numbers. To me, marketing programs must have direct, quantifiable impact on the bottom line.

And so when I first started in this industry just about two years ago, I was rather surprised to find out how data takes a backseat in the scheme of things. Alas, when buying property, people seemed to rely more on their gut (and that their neighbours say) than actual facts and research. I was quite taken aback by this.

One would reasonably be expected to do some solid homework before committing to buy a piece of property (after all, we are talking about purchases of hundreds of thousands or even millions here) … but in actuality the buy decision would have more to do with the roti canai that the buyer have had for breakfast that morning or what his barber had told him during his routine monthly RM10 haircut. Don’t laugh because it’s true!

Tommy, Dicky and the Bear

Last Thursday a gentleman by the name of Raymond came knocking on my door at the HackerHub. He had introduced himself as an agent, but later I had found that brokering real estate deals was just a sideshow for him, and his real passion was in making the investments himself. And from how he described his portfolio and strategies he seemed to be pretty legit.

Raymond’s forte was the property rental market. During our hour-long conversation, he had shared with me his investment strategies which ranged from how to pick properties which would do well in the rental market to some pretty out-of-the-box financing techniques (exploiting a “loophole” which I am not at the liberty of sharing here). When I asked him about what made him successful, he answered that he simply do what most other landlords won’t do – to “add value”.

“Once I buy a property, I will renovate it to add tremendous value. It is much easier to rent out a place with that ‘wow’ factor even at a higher rate than the market price,” he had told me, adding that he could achieve as much as 9% rental yield when even 6% would be a stretch nowadays. What he said immediately struck a chord because it was remarkably similar to what some of my investor friends were doing in the luxury property rental market.

As I bid farewell to Raymond after a fruitful discussion, I reflected even more on what Raymond had said. It struck me that there were people who would consistently make money even when the market was going to the dogs, and these people would share one remarkably similar characteristic…

…the willingness to do a little bit more.

Many investors would procure properties to flip for a quick profit or to rent out with little to no thought to the property’s condition or rentability. Raymond took the extra step to jazz up the place (he had an interior design background) and figure out how to target good renters who can pay higher rents (he targeted executive-level expatriates). In short, he was willing to do just a little bit more, and that made all the difference.

Tommy and Dicky are camping when a bear suddenly comes out and growls.  Tommy starts putting on his tennis shoes.
Dicky says, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear!”
Tommy says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear—I just have to outrun you!”

To win in the property market, you just have to do a little bit more than the run-of-the-mill “investor”. In other words, you just need to outrun Dicky. 🙂

My Superpower

In my last blog post I had talked about how successful investors tend to have their unique “superpower”, i.e. a particular skill that they are particularly good at. For me, I’m making my obsession with numbers my “superpower”, and my ability to crunch data will make me outrun everyone else in the property race. 🙂

As I have argued many times before, the Malaysia property industry is opaque by design, and for this reason whoever who has got a clear ‘view’ of the market will hold the keys to the proverbial kingdom. Data is the ultimate competitive advantage in this game (be it for agencies, developers or investors), and is something that I can never get enough of. And as such, good data is hard to come by, and I am forced to come up with novel ways to get them (I don’t openly divulge these methods, but you may be able to find clues here and here).

And if you’ve been reading GoodPlace since the last three months or so, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a “secret project” which took off soon after I predicted an “upcoming disruption in the Malaysia online property scene“.

The secret project: not that secretive anymore

The cat’s out of the bag – I am building a property listings portal.

The world doesn’t need another spammed out property site filled with fake listings posted by dubious agents. As far as listings are concerned, I will go for quality, and not quantity (and as such, you won’t see me screaming that I have got 324,201 listings). But there’s one more crucial difference between GoodPlace’s listings portal and the usual run-off-the-mill property classifieds sites, and that’s what I am going to tell you next.

The Three (3) Numbers That Will Make Your Property Investment Rock (Or Suck)

One of my earliest lessons with The Mentor was when he taught me one of the most fundamental lessons in property – on how to analyze a property for long-term potential. I have learned that a property’s prospects are pretty much bound by three major drivers:-

  1. Location
  2. Saturation
  3. Value

Being the data nut that I have always been, I have tried to quantify these three factors into indices which can be used to for ease of comparison between properties, or to check trends across time periods. For example, I have modeled the “location” factor for city condominiums in KLCC and Mont Kiara by computing each condo’s Walkability Score (details here).


The first page of notes I took during my first Mentor meeting. (Yes, my handwriting is this ugly.)

The Saturation factor is a little more complicated, but we have been able to map out supply and demand levels based on online data (the methodology’s quite complicated, but if you’re interested to know then shoot me an email). Finally, value is relatively straightforward as long as we can get a predictable stream of transaction data from JPPH (which I am currently working on).

Now if we are to “translate” the above to “what’s in it for me?” for the home buyer, those three factors can be turned into these three key questions that are commonly asked:-

  1. What are the locational advantages and disadvantages of this area?
  2. How strong will the demand be for this property, and how many more properties are competing for the same demand?
  3. Given (1) and (2) above, what is the lowest possible price that I can pay?

Indeed, when a savvy home buyer looks at a particular listing, he should be asking these three questions in order to determine the property’s prospects. Unfortunately, most (all?) of the property portals (as they stand today) do NOT directly address these questions. But then again, these portals are designed first and foremost to be a repository of ADVERTISEMENTS of properties for sale, and nothing more.

It may be self serving for me to say this, but the GoodPlace listings portal are built ground up FOR research. And for this reason, we are able to enhance each listings to provide all the necessary data points (location, saturation, value) for the home buyer to quickly compare between listings and make informed decisions.

What Makes GoodPlace Listings Different

Think of a GoodPlace listing as a “listing on steroids” – you will get the usual listings data (price, location, property details, pictures), but at the same time you will also get to tap into the rich set of GoodPlace data

  1. Walkability Scores – a measure of how “walkable” the property is based on closeness to important amenities
  2. Saturation Index – a measure of how “saturated” the area is based on projected supply and demand levels
  3. Price Indicators – how the asking price is compared to the last set of transacted prices

These are proprietary GoodPlace data, and therefore you won’t get these anywhere else, period. Additionally, there are also other nifty features that the home buyer will find useful –

  • Listings with “GoodPlace Verified” status are, well, verified by GoodPlace to be legitimate
  • Filter of possible fake advertisements with our price flagger
  • Property cheat sheets which contain all the important points about the property as well as impartial reviews – good, bad and ugly
  • Past transacted prices – you don’t need to make that dreaded trip to JPPH again!
  • Tighter integration with our legendary GoodPlace DealMatcher – get us to do the hard work for you

If you’re a home buyer, then sit tight and get ready for our imminent launch soon enough. And if you’re an agent, then get in touch to request to get onboard the rocket ship – we’ll post your listings for free for a limited time. Send me a message.

About Khai Yin

When I am not writing for and helping my readers find properties though the DealMatcher service, I spend time doting on my three kids: Wenyi, Qinyi and Eian. My personal stuff, some published essays and contact details can be found at


  1. Bravo Khai Yin!!
    I can’t wait for the launch of your GoodPlace Listings site! So excited right now!!!

  2. hello khai yin, is the property search portal out yet?

  3. Hi KHai Yin,

    Can we access to your GoodPlace portal already?

Speak Your Mind