Here’s What Expats Need To Know About Buying Properties In Malaysia

property guide for expats

Malaysia is one of the friendliest and most hassle-free countries in the Asian region for foreigners and expats who are on the lookout to acquire properties. There is no limit on the number of residential properties a foreigner can purchase, and aside from certain rules and restrictions, the entire buying process for a foreigner is the same as a local buyer. It’s one of the most flexible countries when it comes to legal issues relating to buying of properties.

The best locations to call home
A property’s value is determined by its location, major residential properties in Malaysia are within city limits or slightly out of it but are well connected via highways, and public transport.

Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)

Designed to be a city within a city, KLCC is made up of Jalan Ampang, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Pinang, Jalan Kia Peng and Jalan Binjai. It hosts many key commercial properties such as shopping malls, hotels, offices and retail space including the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, making it a go-to residential cum leisure spot for expats and foreigners. What’s more, the well-developed road networks and transportation system such as MRT and LRT lines around KLCC allows for easy access.

Petaling Jaya

PJ as it is popularly known; Petaling Jaya achieved city status in June 2006, and is made up of many commercial properties such as warehouses, factories, shopping malls, office buildings and shop lots, hence making it one of the central hubs of the Klang Valley for industrial development. PJ is also widely connected via several highways and public transport systems such as LRT and MRT.


Damansara, or better known as the Golden Triangle of Petaling Jaya is comprised of mature neighbourhoods such as Damansara Utama, Bandar Sri Damansara, Bandar Utama and Damansara Perdana. Commercial properties are in abundance in Damansara, while residential properties ranging from terraced houses to luxury condominiums are also easily found in the area. Topped with outstanding connectivity via the Sungai Buloh MRT line and amenities, this sought-after suburb has its property prices on the rise while demand remains at an all-time high.


Prominent neighbourhoods in Kepong include Bandar Menjalara, Desa Aman Puri, Metro Prima and Desa Park City. This urbanised area is a mix of commercial and residential properties which are relatively new and command good prices. Apart from that, this township also has an excellent connectivity to the city and the rest of the state via major roads and highways such as LDP, MRR2, DUKE 2, Jalan Kuching, Jalan Ipoh and KTM train.

Penang Island

Being the fourth-largest island in Malaysia has its perks as Penang is able to retain the old world charm while enjoying the benefits of modern development. Back in 2008, George Town, the state’s capital, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island’s beautiful beaches and famous street food holds an irresistible pull for tourists attracting many foreigners to call it home, which in turn pushes up the demand and value of properties on the island.


Another property gem is Ipoh. After the closing down of the tin mines, Ipoh has seen much development through industrialisation and commercialisation. Today, it is a popular ground for various commercial properties such as shopping malls, offices and shop lots. Additionally, there are many high-rise buildings as well as landed residential properties around Ipoh, making it a go-to choice for property investors due to its strategic location between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Rental agreements

Now that you have your dream property, the next step is rental agreements. In Malaysia, landlords and potential tenants are free to negotiate the rental amount as rent control has been abolished. Having an estate agent who is well versed in the legal proceedings will be useful and is highly recommended as he or she will be able to help negotiate on your behalf. However, it’s a plus point for you to know what the main factors are when it comes to renting. Thus, here are the basic guidelines for property renting in Malaysia.

Lease agreement

Once you have found an ideal property rent, you’ll need to contact the landlord, usually via an estate agent, to make an offer. In Malaysia, most landlords are open to negotiation on the amount of rent to be paid. This is usually handled by the estate agent as they would have a good idea of the amount the landlord is hoping for. It is advisable for you to do your homework on the local rental market value to be able to negotiate a good price for the property.

After all the negotiations are settled, an earnest deposit, which is usually one month’s rent, has to be paid. This acts as a booking fee, which means that once this deposit has been made, the landlord cannot allow other tenants to view the property or rent it to anyone else. A letter of offer is signed at the same time, which outlines the basic terms and conditions of the lease, as well as what other payments are due and when.
During the following week, you would need to make payment on a security deposit of two months’ rent and a utility deposit. The value of the security deposit can vary, with half of the monthly rent being the usual amount. These are kept by the landlord to be returned at the end of the tenancy period, minus any costs for damages incurred and unpaid bills.

Tenancy agreement

The agreement is usually arranged and prepared by the landlord’s lawyer. It usually is drawn up for one to three years, the tenancy agreement must be stamped so that it can be used as evidence in a court of law. Note that tenancy renewal and any rent adjustments should be agreed in advance. Here is what you can expect from a standard form of tenancy agreement:

  • Details of both parties
  • Beginning and end date of the agreed tenancy period
  • Rent payment details
  • Responsibilities of both the tenant and landlord
  • The person who is responsible for maintaining the property and is responsible for damages

Normally, landlords require that a property is returned to its original state once it is vacated. Therefore, it is highly advisable to discuss and come to an agreement as to what are the necessary measures needed to be taken a couple of months in advance of vacating the property. Note that this makes it more likely for you to get your deposit back in full without any mishaps.

Diplomatic clause

This clause comes into effect if or when the tenant has to leave the country and requires the contract be terminated early. The clause states that the landlord is either compensated for at least two months’ rent or is given two months’ written notice prior to the tenant leaving. A tenant who wants to terminate a contract early often has to provide evidence that they are leaving, such as the cancellation of a work permit. In most tenancy agreements, an exit clause does not take effect in the first 12 months of the lease.

Residential property restrictions for foreigners

On June 30, 2009, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) produced a comprehensive set of guidelines on property acquisition by foreigners in Malaysia to replace the previous approving authority under the Foreign Investment Committee.

Following this, the EPU had revised the minimum threshold on the acquisition of properties by foreign interests from RM500,000 to RM1 million, effective March 1, 2014, which is stipulated nationwide. It was increased from RM 500,000, partially in an effort to curb speculation from foreign investors. Note that although the EPU guidelines on property acquisition by foreigners apply nationwide, the acquisition is still subject to the respective state authorities’ approval.

The minimum purchase price for foreign property buyers are based on three things:

  • Where the property is located (typically which state it’s in)
  • The title of the property – strata or individual title
  • Whether the buyer holds a Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) visa or not (more on this below)

Here’s a list of the minimum purchase prices across Malaysia:

Minimum Purchase Price
(Individual Title)
Minimum Purchase Price
(Strata Title)
Kuala Lumpur
Negeri Sembilan

Penang Island

Penang Mainland





Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Not permitted - only landed properties with strata titles



* Zones in Selangor
Zone 1 - Districts of Petaling, Gombak, Hulu Langat, Sepang and Klang
Zone 2 - Districts of Kuala Selangor & Kuala Langat,
Zone 3 - Districts of Hulu Selangor and Sabak Bernam


Penang, Selangor, and Melaka are stricter on minimum purchase prices, particularly for landed properties (or those on individual titles) whilst offering more leniency for those on strata titles. Property ‘title’ usually refers to your ownership rights. In Malaysia, you’ll need to be familiarised with three types of title:

A master title usually refers to the ‘top-level’ title held by a property developer, which affords the developer full control and rights over the land they own. Typically you’ll find references to the master title when new properties are being constructed before individual or strata titles are granted.

A strata title is usually granted to a property owner who buys a property in a shared building (i.e. non-landed property). So, for example, owners of condominiums usually have strata titles.

An individual title is similar to a strata title, but it typically refers to landed properties like houses, bungalows, semi-detached houses and so forth – where the property owner has a discrete piece of land, usually below the property.

Note that Penang, Melaka, and Johor imposes a ‘state levy’. Penang imposes a state levy of 3% whilst Melaka and Johor charge a state levy of 2%. This can no doubt significantly bump up your buying costs.

Selangor is probably the strictest of all states, although it doesn’t impose a levy state, they only allow foreigners to buy landed properties if they have strata titles. This usually limits foreigners from buying in gated developments.

For new developments in Selangor, foreigners are not allowed to purchase more than 10% of the total number of properties set aside for non-Bumiputera (each new development has a quota set aside for Bumiputera, or the indigenous Malay people, called “Bumi Lot”). Foreigners are also not able to buy property at auction or buy agricultural land in Selangor.

Property purchasing procedure

Here are seven main procedures you’ll need to be familiarised with as it sums up the process of acquiring a property in Malaysia:

1. Sign the developer’s sales form or the offer to purchase form with the vendor, for sub-sale transactions.

2. Apply for financing if necessary.

3. Provide these following documents to the solicitor:

  • Photocopy of passport
  • Correspondence address and contact numbers
  • ·       Income tax number and the place of submission of the income tax, note that this is applicable for sub-sale purchase only

4.  Within 14 days from the date of signing of the sales form, or offer to purchase, sign the Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA), deed of mutual covenant and other transactional documents. Pay the 10% deposit to the developer.

5. Solicitor to apply for state authority consent. Purchaser to provide the following documents to the solicitor:

  • One certified true copy of the SPA
  • One certified true copy of the Foreign Purchaser’s passport
  • One certified true copy of the constitution in the case that the purchaser is a foreign company
  • Latest quit rent and assessment receipt of the property
  • Application form under the Section 433B of the NLC

6. Pay the balance purchase price in accordance with the Third Schedule of Schedule H Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Regulations 2015 or the SPA.

7.  Pursuant to Schedule H, the developer shall deliver vacant possession of the property within 36 months from the date of the SPA, or a later date as may be approved by the relevant authority. Upon delivery of vacant possession, the developer shall deliver the strata title and certificate of completion and compliance to the foreign purchaser. In the case of a sub-sale transaction, the vendor shall deliver vacant possession to the purchaser in accordance with the terms of the SPA.

Residential property financing for expats in Malaysia

Malaysian banks and foreign banks in the country provide loans to foreigners up to 70% to 80% of the property price, an offer that you won’t be able to find in many other countries. These loans will be given to foreigners who are working in Malaysia and have a valid working permit.

However, there are also foreign and local banks who would be willing to lend loans to non-resident foreigners or those who have retired in Malaysia under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.

MM2H Programme

The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) Programme is endorsed by the Government of Malaysia to allow foreigners who fulfil certain criteria, to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a multiple-entry social visit pass. This Social Visit Pass is initially for a period of ten years. However, it’s renewable.

Below are the terms and conditions of application:

Financial requirements:

Applicants are expected to be financially capable of supporting themselves before applying for this programme in Malaysia. Upon application:

  • Applicants aged below 50 years are required to show proof of liquid assets worth a minimum of RM500,000 and offshore income of RM10,000 per month. For certified copy(s) of Current Account submitted as financial proof, applicants must provide the latest 3 months’ statement with each month’s credit balance of RM 500,000.
  • Applicants aged 50 and above may comply with the financial proof of RM350,000 in liquid assets and offshore income of RM10,000 per month. For certified copy(s) of Current Account submitted as financial proof, applicants must provide the latest 3 months’ statement with each month’s credit balance of RM350,000. For government pensioners, they can show proof of receiving a pension of at least RM10,000 per month.

Upon approval:

Aged Below 50 years old

  • Open a fixed deposit account of RM300,000.
  • After a period of one year, the participant can withdraw up to RM150,000 for approved expenses relating to house purchase, education for children in Malaysia and medical purposes.
  • Must maintain a minimum balance of RM150,000.00 from second year onwards and throughout stay in Malaysia under this programme.

Aged 50 years and above

  • Open a fixed deposit account of RM 150,000.00
  • After a period of one year, a participant who fulfills the fixed deposit criterion can withdraw up to RM50,000.00 for approved expenses relating to house purchase, education for children in Malaysia and medical purposes.
  • Participant must maintain a minimum balance of RM100,000.00 from the second year onwards and throughout his/her stay in Malaysia under this programme.

Medical report:

All applicants and their dependents are required to submit a medical report from any private hospital or clinic in Malaysia.

Medical insurance:

Approved participants and their dependents must possess valid medical insurance coverage that is applicable in Malaysia from any insurance company. However, exemptions may be given for participants who face difficulty in obtaining a medical insurance due to their age or medical condition.

Security bond (Direct application only):

Applicants applying directly are required to fulfil the security bond condition. Please refer to Security Bond for the rate per person by nationality, ranging from RM200 to RM2000.00.

Personal bond (Application through an agent):

Licensed companies are required to provide the personal bond for their clients who have been approved under the MM2H Program.

The programme is open to citizens of all countries recognised by Malaysia regardless of race, religion, gender or age. Applicants are allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried children below the age of 21 as dependants. Log on to the official portal for more info.

The best country to reside in

Over recent years, the property market in Malaysia has climbed steadily higher, although from the end of 2016 the steep price rise has appeared to level off. The final quarter of 2016 saw prices rising 5.36% year on year, compared to 7.35% year on year for 2015. Depending on the location, average property prices in Malaysia tend to vary. It’s common to buy property as opposed to renting, and hence the steady demand creates plenty of opportunity for both buyers and sellers.

Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, and Ipoh are all sought-after areas to live in, whether that’s for expats, retirees, students or locals. Accordingly, the properties in these cities command higher prices. Kuala Lumpur – affectionately referred to as “KL” by locals – is the most expensive in the region, with average house prices of around RM 770,000 (US$173,000).

What’s more, Malaysian property prices are still among the cheapest in Asia with good growth amidst a resilient economy.


Ameena Siddiqi, the managing editor for Selangor Journal newspaper published by the Selangor State, likes to write on property and general topics. She has edited numerous books and magazines, and believes that financial literacy is important and knowledge is the key to advancing in life. 

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