One space, multiple functions

Most Gen-Yers seem to prefer the flexible work-and-play lifestyle enabled by SoHo (Small office Home office) units as opposed to standard homes or conventional office units.

Given the changing work, live and leisure habits of an increasingly young workforce who prefer a flexible lifestyle arrangement, SoHo (Small office Home office) units are now an increasingly viable option among Gen-Yers.

SoHo developments, usually defined as strata-titled properties located on commercial land, are identified as units that come with flexible designs that enable occupants to use the space both as a home and workplace.

SoHo units usually come with ample facilities and amenities within mixed-use developments. They offer convenience, being located within walking distance to food and beverage (F&B) outlets, cafes and shopping malls for Gen-Yers to hang out at.

Essentially, advances in technology have made it such that enterprising individuals, especially those among the younger workforce, can now work from the comfort of their SoHo units.

A recent rising trend is seeing even professionals, including lawyers and others such as real estate agents and surveyors, working from SoHo units.

SoHo units seem to be growing in popularity based on the fact that many Gen-Yers now favour a flexible working and living arrangement as opposed to the restricted confines of a nine-to-five day and beyond, spent working in an office building.

It may indeed be the case that the Millennial generation prefers less structured working hours, opting for a more flexible approach compared to the older Gen X generation and Baby Boomers in general, who may be accustomed to working fixed hours.

Mixing business with family Urbanify Sdn Bhd business strategist Mubashar Aftab shares on how his business has expanded since he left his previous job in favour of working from a SoHo unit.

“SoHo allows one the convenience of working and living at the same place while maintaining a certain measure of privacy. Working from home gives me more opportunities to spend time with my family.

“Oftentimes, people perceive that when you are the boss of your own company, you can leave your office any time to head home. But that is not true,” he says.

To him, having a workplace and home under one roof allows for greater flexibility as he can switch his attention from work to his family without sacrificing travel time in between. Furthermore, his time spent on work is not confined to the typical nine-to-five office hours.

“Sometimes, I develop and design software or applications as well as websites with my team members here, working till past midnight. The home-like ambience of a SoHo unit is more relaxing and enables them to feel more comfortable.

“We tend to describe our company as a ‘software house’ rather than a ‘software office’,” he muses.

SoHo workplaces do not require dress codes or uniforms. Thus, it is a great motivational factor as workers and business entrepreneurs can wear anything they like.

A great deal can be saved on not having to purchase suits, corporate clothing or having to pay for dry cleaning services.

Cheaper start-up SoHos, unlike conventional offices, are not bound to the 70% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio as specified by Bank Negara.

“SoHos are technically termed semi- residential units. When I applied for a bank loan, I could get up to 85% LTV ratio. This is healthier for my finances as I have more capital to finance my advertising business,” Mubashar opines. Getting a SoHo unit also requires a relatively low capital outlay as one would need to fork out less cash as opposed to renting a conventional office unit which is oftentimes larger in size, resulting in a higher price range. Mubashar bought his SoHo unit at Avenue Crest, Shah Alam in Selangor for approximately RM380,880. The unit that comes with a built-up area of about 614 sq ft translates to roughly RM620 per sq ft.

The security features provided by Crest Builder Holdings Bhd, the developer of this project, is comprehensive. These features include an access card system at the lobby, round-the-clock security patrol personnel, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras as well as a concierge and floor cleaning services.

A rising trend CBD Properties Sdn Bhd head of project marketing Timothy Low believes that SoHo properties are indeed a rising trend among the younger workforce.

“Recurring costs such as electricity and water bills as well as assessment fees for SoHo and SoFo (Small office Flexible office) properties are charged under commercial tariffs, hence the public perception about recurring costs for SoHos being expensive,” says this real estate agent who is optimistic about SoHo units.

“Look at it this way, with such a small built-up area of between 400 sq ft and 800 sq ft, how much electricity can you use? Even at 33 sen per sq ft for the maintenance cost, it is actually still quite affordable.”

Faced with escalating property prices, Gen-Yers can consider staying at SoHo units as an alternative choice as opposed to settling for larger, conventional apartment units.

The same is true in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, China and Singapore where the younger workforce cannot afford to buy a home due to the higher per sq ft prices.

“This is why SoHo units are trending among young entrepreneurs and fresh graduates. Hence, several developers are answering the increasing demand by building more SoHo and SoFo units to cater to the needs of the younger workforce,” he concludes. - BY Melvin Chow (StarProperty)

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