SINGAPORE — A day after Malaysia announced it intends to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, the phones of property agents Anthony Chua and Eugene Wong were buzzing with calls from worried clients who were concerned with its impact on property prices near the proposed Jurong East terminus.
Some customers, who had forked out as much as S$200,000 in down payments for properties in that area, even accused the agents and developers of misleading them, said Mr Chua, an agent with SLP Scotia.
Explaining to customers that Malaysia's U-turn came as a bolt out of the blue, Mr Wong of ERA Realty pointed out that, given the Government's plans for a vibrant Jurong Lake District, the area still has a lot of potential — with or without the HSR.
"But it's just the second day, so the ripple effect (on the property prices) may not be so (obvious) yet," he said.
Touted as Singapore's second business district, the masterplan for the Jurong Lake District was first released in 2008 as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's efforts to grow new employment centres outside the Central Business District to bring more quality jobs and recreational options closer to homes.
The HSR project was officially agreed between Singapore and Malaysia in 2013, with Jurong East earmarked as the terminus in Singapore, adding to the anticipation of a vibrant district.
The proposed terminus will occupy part of the current Jurong Country Club site which had been acquired by the Government.
A slew of condominium projects were launched around the area over the last few years, such as the CSC Land's Twin Vew and EI Development's Parc Riviera in West Coast Vale, as well as MCL Land's J Gateway condo in Jurong East. They are all within a 15-minute walk from the proposed site for the terminus.
When TODAY visited the residential areas near the site for the proposed HSR terminus at Jurong East on Tuesday (May 29), some homeowners expressed shock and disappointment that the HSR project is off the table.
For Nanyang Technological University's Assistant Professor Althaf Marsoof, a resident at the Ivory Heights condominium which is in talks for an en bloc sale, the news poses even more uncertainty.
Asst Professor Althaf Marsoof, who stays at Ivory Heights condominium in Jurong East. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY
If the project is called off, there is a "greater possibility" that owners and residents would consent to the en bloc sale and be pushing to sell the development faster before the market turns, he said.
"(But) arguably, if the project materialises, the property value will increase," said Prof Marsoof, who teaches at the Nanyang Business School.
A resident of J Gateway — who only wants to be known as Ms Ling — had forked out over S$1 million for her apartment. Facing a potential drop in the price of her property, the 35-year-old said she might consider moving to the East instead.
Young couples who have bought Build-to-Order flats of the upcoming Tengah new town also expressed concerns that the absence of HSR might dampen the appeal of the area, which is located a 20 minute-drive away from the proposed Jurong East terminus.
"With the HSR, it would increase (the property value), and the area will be buzzing," said resident Mrs Koh, 26, who added that the HSR was a unique selling point for some young homeowners like herself.
"But now we don't know how that's going to affect the future prospects of Jurong East… Without (the HSR), the area may be quite sleepy."
Many were also looking forward to the added convenience of travelling to Malaysia on the HSR. A Jurong resident in her 40s, who makes monthly trips to Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur, expressed disappointment. "It's just too bad," she said.
However, the majority of residents and property agents were more sanguine about the possible repercussions, and were optimistic that it would not affect upcoming developments.
The HSR decision may give undecided buyers "another excuse to sit harder on the fence", said a property agent, who declined to be named.
"But we are sold on the Jurong Lake District story because the Government is still making significant investments in the area," he pointed out.
"The Government doesn't seem to be pulling back or rethinking its investments. The HSR is significant, but it's just one part of the whole picture."
Businesses looking to cash in on the increased footfall from Malaysian visitors were just as disappointed.
Madam Zaiton, 67, who runs a Malay clothing store at neighbourhood mall JCube, said she might consider consolidating her business in Singapore and concentrate on her two other stores in Johor Baru.
Some, like Madam Neo, 55, doubted if the HSR would actually bring more traffic to her shop, citing the bleak economic climate. "I'm not sure how the future will pan out, so we are just taking things one step at a time," she said in Mandarin.
Another store owner in JCube, who declined to be named, said she has suffered a 30 per cent drop in earnings since last year. She also noted that business was even slower during this month's Malaysian General Elections.
"Business is already quite bad, so (even) with the HSR, things may not improve," she said.