Why The Play-It-Safe Approach To Investing Makes Sense (Even When You Swim With The Sharks)

Shahira Jamsari

Allow me first to introduce myself. My name is Shahira, and like many of you I’ve known Khai Yin through his work here on this blog as well as his property deal matching service. As he is going away for a week or two for the Chinese New Year festivities, I am standing in for him as a guest blogger at least for this week. Truth be told, I really look forward to the GoodPlace Digest that he publishes every week on Wednesday like I would look forward to Saturday morning cartoons as I was a little girl back in the 60’s in rural Besut, Terengganu.

Khai Yin told me that no topic is out-of-bounds as far as this blog goes, and if you’re a long time follower of GoodPlace (say, 1+ years like me!) then you’ll remember some brickbats that he received over some rather “edgy” content that he had published – both on this blog as well as on his newsletter. Therefore, I’ve been given a free hand on what to write this week (yes, he has given me access to the backend of this website, and gawd, I feel powerful), and so nothing will be sacrosanct – including Khai Yin and what he writes and stands for!

Indeed, recently I have noticed that Khai Yin have become rather reckless in his latest blog postings – which included an article on how to exploit desperate people and also how to sell to newbies who don’t know any better. Of course, I’ve also realized that his writings have become rather satire-ish recently (read his entertaining guide on how to be a jerk investor – will make you chuckle because it’s all so true), and he might have written those articles in tongue-in-cheek fashion, but publishing a guide on how to “prey” on people in desperate situations like death and divorce simply leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Additionally, he had also talked about some rather risky tactics (dubbed the Gekko Tactics – like the one here and a few more elsewhere) which I rather he would not give light to because I know some fanboys of his who would just run with whatever he says here on this blog. Really, this site should’ve come with a parental advisory sticker of sorts!

Playing It Safe: The Other Option

So what I am doing here today is to present an alternative (albeit relatively un-sexy) view to what Khai Yin would usually write these days. Maybe this article won’t get as many views as his guides normally would, but I have grown to love GoodPlace, and so it’s up to me to restore some sort of “order” by presenting a sane-r point of view to counter balance the risque stuff that he writes. And so here goes…

Clearly I am not in the league of Khai Yin’s friends inside his Mentor Circle, but having said that, I’ve developed a rather healthy portfolio of landed assets (as well as a couple of budget hotels) over the years that has made me free from the shackles of a desk job. However, my style is conservative perhaps to a fault; I buy only “safe” properties which would appreciate really slowly over time. This investment philosophy is entirely design:- I look for “set and forget” properties, run them through a qualifying filter, select one to add to my portfolio, and then move on to the next property – maybe one every two years. Spending my days and nights looking at properties and analyzing them just doesn’t appeal to me… I am as passive as they come as far as property investments are concerned.

I found that by “playing it safe”, I cut down the work required since I don’t have to pour over data and go on site visits to look at houses. Of course, this goes against what many investors would suggest you do (especially Khai Yin who, as far as I know, likes to rely on quantitative analysis to select properties to buy), but it works for lazy people like me 🙂

The Uber Conservative Investment Style

The Malaysia property market is infested by what they call “sharks” – it can be as cutthroat as they come, but this is only to be expected as it is one of the most lucrative ways to make relatively large amounts of money in relatively short amount of time. Thankfully for me, these sharks don’t usually get attracted to the opportunities that I look at because they are decidedly un-sexy and appear to be less lucrative (at least in the short run). Anyhow, I still believe that even if you proverbially want to “swim with the sharks”, my conservative investment principles will still give you an edge especially if like me, you’re investing for the long term.

Just like any conservative investor who carefully selects his or her property investment targets, I have developed a strict selection criteria which I sum up below:-

  1. I don’t buy cheap properties just because they are cheap. Strong growth prospects in the long term is a must – no matter how slow it gets. Upside potential is the most important consideration.
  2. Branded developers only. I don’t hold anything against smaller developers, but I like the bigger companies better – especially when they are listed. The reason is simple: when they’ve got shareholders to answer to, they won’t (usually) screw up!
  3. I make it a point to avoid the latest fads. I have once avoided luxury condos because they were springing up too frequently for my liking in central KL. For now, I’m not investing in Soho/Sofo/Sovo/So-whatever because they have turned too fad-dish for my liking.
  4. Buying less than market value is always desirable, but whenever the asking price is ~20% less than market value is always a sign of trouble. I like the -5%-10% pricing band because it’s a sweet spot: but this is immaterial as long as criteria (1) above is fulfilled.
  5. I will hold on to properties for at least 10 years.
  6. I look for properties with “unique selling proposition” to borrow a popular marketing term. For some it could be an unblocked view of the KLCC towers, or freehold status in the middle of the city. Something that creates scarcity will always appreciate in value over time.

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to find something that will fulfill all the criteria above, but if there’s one thing that defines the conservative investor is to be especially strict in following the rules, and not to yield to temptation.

About Shahira Jamsari

I've been an investor since 1980's, and my portfolio includes a selection of boutique motels lining up the beaches of Terengganu. In my free time, I like listening to old records and I've got a healthy collection of old 45's. To contact me, drop Khai Yin an email. :)


  1. ariffin abd majid says:

    i like your article.

    Generally your investment strategy works well because the properties you invested generate positive cash flow hence you can hold for more than 10 years and ride on its capital appreciation in later years. However i find it difficult to sustain the positive cash flow position as the rental yield is very low and the lack of availability of quality tenants in Malaysia.

    i would go for a hybrid strategy , long term and short term depending on your financial capacity.

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