I’d like to introduce to you one of my favourite books ever, New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever by Matthias Hollwich with Bruce Mau Design. Found it at the Big Bad Wolf book sale some years back for RM12 and one of the best purchases I ever made.
New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever is a guidebook to optimising how we live; how to design our lifestyle so that we encourage lifelong happiness, productivity and self-development. I used to fear the ageing process (as we all), but this book helped me reframe that thinking, and even develop a positive attitude towards it.
The book gave lots of suggestions on living arrangements – the subject of this post. I’ve been a lifelong renter until age 34, until we finally moved into our forever home, but I’d be lying if I say I’ve never been tempted to buy property in my 20s. Of course I have, they make good ads. I’m sure you have, too.
And the thing about those property ads is that they try to show how perfect your life will be at their housing area/condo/apartment unit, because of their unique features.
Features are good… but with something as expensive as a house, rationality should overcome emotions. So here’s what the book says about getting an actual dream home in Malaysia. How to buy property which optimises your happiness.
#1 – No matter where you live, make it easy to meet friends and family
Life is all about human connections, isn’t it? Beyond everything else, this is priority number 1. When you’re looking for a place, you want to make sure your dream house is near and accessible to friends and family.
This is especially important for men, who are more likely to suffer from loneliness as they age.
Some suggestions from the book:
- Move closer to family members and friends
- Treat best friends like family
- Integrate colleagues and acquaintances into inner circle (note: personality fit is important too, obviously)
- Greet neighbours and people at places you frequently go to
- Add at least one unique and fun amenity that will reward those who visit (ie: pool, wifi, big kitchen, playroom)
- Live with housemates (and be open about diversity)
So yeah. Some people told me that they plan to retire in cheaper areas in Malaysia, because the cost of living and property prices there are lower.
But in my case, that’s not an option at all. I know I need to be based in Klang Valley – all my family and friends are here. I need to be near them for a happier life.
#2 – Make it easy to incorporate, access and do activities that provide mental and physical stimulation
Essentially, your home should not, by design, prevent you from exercising your brain muscles and body muscles.
That means it must not be too far from the amenities you need, and must have enough room so you can work on your hobbies comfortably.
Having tried out a few types of living arrangements, I can say that my favourite types of places to live are anywhere that is:
- Walking distance to amenities. For example, somewhere within walking distance to commercial areas, where I can get my groceries and access public transportation easily.
- Permaculture-centered communes. I’ve done short stints in France and Australia and love the focus on sustainability.
Your situation and priority might be different. For example, my parents are fairly religious, so living near the neighbourhood surau makes them happy. If you love tinkering with cars, ideally your home should have the space for it (ie a garage).
On the flipside: it would suck if you LOVE going to the gym but live like 1 hour away from it!
This segment is simple enough, right? Do more things that you love and are good for you = happier you. Make that easy by designing your home and lifestyle around it.
And last but not least.
#3 – Ageing-related enhancements to your home
Alright. So you live near family and friends, and your home allows you to indulge in hobbies (in or nearby). What next?
Accessibility. Something *I* personally have not considered up until recently. I’m lucky that I can move about now, but what happens when I lose my mobility?
That, for me, is the scariest part about ageing. Loss of mobility. The need to depend on others to take care of even the most basic of tasks. I can’t imagine the grief I’ll surely feel towards the loss of freedom and independence.
I have friends who had a taste of this when they lost their mobility due to accidents. None of them told me it was fun.
Suggestions from the book:
- Hire a contractor to add handrails, doorpulls, etc in every room
- Walk around your home with a rolling suitcase to see where navigational challenge might appear. Add ramps where needed
- Have a guest room, so you have the option of having someone over when you really need their help
- Have enough obstacle-free paths in your home – for wheelchair
- Smart-homing everything. Make use of apps that can help you adjust temperature, lighting, security, things like that
In Malaysia, finding property designed with accessibility in mind seems… hard. I don’t think I have a choice but to make and pay for the enhancements myself out of pocket.
There’s no way around it. Your dream home in Malaysia is going to be expensive.
First, there’s that simple fact that the majority of house prices in Malaysia fall under ‘seriously unaffordable’ and ‘severely unaffordable’ categories.
One could mitigate this by buying a low-cost home. They are hard, but not impossible to find.
Second is the fact that the type of house I want in the location I want (#1) with the amenities I want (#2) will surely run at least RM500k, not including renovations to add accessibility features (#3). Gedebuk gedebak let’s say RM600 thousand to 1 million.
That might sound like a lot, but here’s the thing: I don’t want to skimp on housing. If I’m going to make the biggest purchase of my life, I want to make sure I’m damn well happy with it.
So, what options do I have if I don’t have that much money? Five possible options I can think of:
5 Options If You Can’t Afford Your Dream Home Now
Here’s everything one can do if they can’t afford their house now:
- Combine income with a partner. Why not submit joint loan application with a partner? Not advisable, said a few people to me. Especially with the way faraid law (Islamic inheritance law) works, it would get too messy if anything happens to one of us.
- Buy an awesome house with some friends. 6 friends pooled their money together and bought a $1.3 million house in Toronto. According to the article, they knew they couldn’t afford to buy properties they love on their own, so they decided to do it together.
- Stay in a co-living space. The co-living movement in Malaysia is small, but it is growing.
- Start my own intentional community. I’ve subscribed to Intentional Communities for some time now, they give great newsletters and resources. I keep looking out for communities based in Malaysia but alas, no luck yet. Maybe some of you want to take a look and start one?
- Rent until you can comfortably afford to buy.
The last one was the choice I ultimately made. The way I see it, if I can rent a good enough place that makes me happy for cheaper than what it would cost to buy, and invest the difference while focusing on making more money (easier without the stress of homeownership), then this becomes a no-brainer decision.
The thing is, I don’t have a ‘must buy property before age X’ goal (perfectly acceptable goal, just not for me). And the bottom line is I want to comfortably afford the mortgage payment of my dream home in Malaysia, because I don’t want to turn something I love into something I hate.
I admit I experienced FOMO once in a while, seeing peers my age buying their first properties in their 20s. But I do not regret waiting one bit. In fact, I’m so glad I waited. I have the money to pay the mortgage, AND I even have savings to do (affordable) renovation, plus we bought new furniture and appliances as well.
How does your dream home in Malaysia look like?
Tell me what kind of home and living arrangement you’re hoping for. What is your must-have, and what is optional? Do you plan to save up for your dream home, or go for something cheaper, or try out an unconventional solution?
Let me know in the comments!