As a developer or buyer looking for your next big real estate project, what are the things that you should look for in a location?
Well, you have the usual things to consider like price points and the size. But then there’s also the neighborhood: what the surrounding area is like (and the whole city to a larger extent), proximity to important establishments, and the conveniences available if you’re ever going to make it a home for yourself or for your target market. These all affect the livability of the place, which in turn impact the marketability of the place and your overall return of investment.
This list aims to help you get started. Let’s take a look at some cities in Southeast Asia that boast of great neighborhoods with focus on livability. Drawing heavily on an annual study by the HR consultancy firm Mercer, we have whipped up a short roster of Southeast Asian cities that stand out in terms of quality of living. We added a couple of places to the mix. These all have a stable political, social, economic, and socio-cultural environment and offer access to important establishments and conveniences like medical and health facilities, housing, schools, public services and transportation, recreation, and consumer goods.
Mercer uses this Quality of Living index to help multinational companies and employers place international job assignments efficiently and appropriately. But they’re also a great resource to determine the best places to find a home. We also added some other helpful information from various sources.
So—these are six cities that have stood out for us.
Sleek is how we’d describe Singapore. As a global commerce, finance, and transport hub, it only makes sense for this first world city-state to make it to this list. It is, after all, one of the five founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and has diplomatic relations with more than 180 sovereign states. On top of that, more than 5 million residents and tourists enjoy a tropical climate and a slew of shopping centers, entertainment options, and culinary delights. Talk about a great juxtaposition of nature and commerce!
Getting around is pretty easy too, what with the number of transportation options available. There’s the city’s rail system (the Mass Rapid Transit and the Light Rail Transit), buses, taxis, and more. The city-state also has two bridges—the Causeway and the Second Link—that link to Malaysia. It also boasts of an international airport that many consider the best in the world, and a major trans-shipment port. Because it’s so efficient, public transportation is widely used and preferred in Singapore, with residents spending an average of 84 minutes commuting.
Skyscrapers dot this bustling metropolis and yet Singapore still has a rich culture of Malay, Chinese, and Indian influences. People from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures have made Singapore their home, including tens of thousands of international students who came to benefit from the city’s topnotch and famed education system.
And speaking of nature and eco-friendliness, Singapore is fondly referred to as a “Garden City”. Its urbanization led to a loss in 95% of its historical forest so the city has engaged in a steady stream of preservation efforts. It now has numerous nature reserves and parks strewn across the area. This includes the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 150-year-old tropical garden that was touted a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the tourist attraction Gardens by the Bay. Highly modernized city with great infrastructure that’s nature-friendly! Who says you can’t have it all?
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Let’s head over next one of its closest neighbors—Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia—or more popularly referred to as KL. As the largest, most populous and capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has a lot to offer its more-than-a-million residents. Aside from scoring high on Mercer’s study, the city also stood out in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Global Liveability Ranking, which deemed it the second most liveable city in Southeast Asia and a safer place to live in compared to other major cities in Asia.
KL also has outstanding educational facilities. It has a literacy rate of 97.5%—the highest in Malaysia—and is home to the oldest university in the country, University of Malaya. Also in the area are several other universities and colleges, high schools, elementary schools, and kindergarten schools.
And let’s not forget the attractions and entertainment: aside from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers—the tallest twin buildings in the world—KL is home to three of the world’s ten largest malls, truly making it a tourist and shopping haven for residents and visitors alike. In fact, it is considered the heart of retail and fashion in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Many world-renowned hotel chains, beautiful buildings, and trendy restaurants contribute to the glitz of the city.
Entertainment centers in KL are complemented by a comprehensive road system and extensive public transport network, including a rail system, bus rapid transit system, and two airports: the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport.
With its rich history and host of modern facilities, KL truly is one of the most visited and progressive places around the world. If you like the pulsating buzz that the city brings, you should consider calling this your home.
Let’s go up to the city of Bangkok, the capital and most populous city of Thailand. More than 8 million people live in this vibrant, tropical savanna city, and for good reason. It’s the country’s economic center, one of Asia’s hubs of transportation, and a top tourist destination. In fact, it has been consistently voted “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine for four consecutive years.
Because it’s located right in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Bangkok is the seat of many international and regional organizations including the Secretariat of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the regional office of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It’s also the seat of all branches of the national government of Thailand.
And while this culture-rich city suffers from the occasional traffic congestion woes, there are a number of transportation options available to residents and tourists alike. These include the city’s rail system, extensive bus network, and of course its water buses (which are not as popular as land transport but is still widely used). There’s a promising pipeline for the city’s transport network as well, with more rail systems still under construction.
For a big city, Bangkok has a relatively moderate crime rate. And in terms of facilities, city dwellers also have accessto a good number of hospitals and medical facilities—around 200,000 tourists visited the city in 2011 alone for medical reasons. As the country’s center of modern education, Bangkok is also home to more than a thousand schools including King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, a technical university that made it to the World University Rankings 2018 of the Times Higher Education earning the distinction of being the only Thai educational system on the list.
To the far right of Bangkok is the tropical, island-country of The Philippines. Metro Manila ranked high in Mercer’s list but let’s zone in on Taguig, one of the top 7 most competitive cities in the country as determined by the National Competitiveness Council. From its humble beginnings as a thriving fishing community, the city has grown to become an important residential, commercial, and industrial center in the Metro Manila area and of the Philippines as a whole.
Around 800,000 people live in this bustling urban center. But Taguig is also home to the headquarters of the Philippine National Police-NCR, the PNP Special Action Force,and several army, navy, and marine camps.
The city also has a strong commitmentto providing easily accessible healthcare and services through three operational Super Health Centers that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week offering free medical services. Residents also benefit from a month’s worth of free maintenance medicines for asthma, diabetes, and hypertension—delivered straight to their doorstep.
But more than anything, the city is more known for, the Bonifacio Global City. This city within a city is considered one of the biggest central business districts in the region. Skyscrapers dot the skyline and shopping and lifestyle establishments are found all throughout this place, providing a plethora of options for residents and tourists alike. While Taguig is a name that’s not easily read or spoken by expats, the city sure has gained a glowing reputation as a business gateway.
Two state universities, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the Technological University of the Philippines, call Taguig home. More recently, it also became home to the new campuses of the University of the Philippines Professional Schools and De La Salle University. With these developments and more, Taguig is set to become the new University City in the metro. If you’re on the lookout for properties close to schools or if your target real estate market includes college students or teachers, this would be a sound choice for you.
Down we go to Indonesia’s capital Jakarta in the island of Java. This booming city is in continuous development, and residents can benefit from a lot of progress and modernization. Aside from making it to this list, this city is also considered an Alpha Global City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network and has one of the fastest growing economies according to data from the Brookings Institution. With industries in the service sector, banking, trading, financial, and manufacturing, there’s a lot of room for growth in Jakarta.
Jakarta also has several universities, one of which is the University of Indonesia, the largest and oldest tertiary-level institution in the country. Because of the number of schools in the area, many students from all over Indonesia flock to Jakarta to study.
The population in Jakarta is quite diverse, and so is the city’s culture. There is a beautiful fusion of many different languages, ethnic groups, cuisines, religions, and customs—you will definitely find something that will resonate in this urban landscape. There are shopping malls and businesses in the area. In fact, Jakarta is home to the world’s largest shopping mall floor area within a single city—a total of 550 hectares! And every year, numerous shipping centers celebrate the “Jakarta Great Sale” to celebrate the city’s anniversary.
The city has a tropical monsoon climate. With warm temperatures throughout the year, Jakarta is perfect for sport events. In 1962, the city hosted the 1962 Asian Games. And next year, it will host the 2018 Asian Games alongside Palembang.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Let’s go northwards to Vietnam and its largest and most populous city, Ho Chi Minh. Known informally as Saigon, this city has gone a long way from being a small fishing village. It’s now the economic center of the country and accounts for a large part of the Vietnamese economy.
Residents benefit from a number of industries present in the city. Of note are its ventures in technology, mostly in the Quang Trung Software Park area, which is home to several software enterprises and dot.com companies, and a software training school. This, together with the Hi-Tech Park, contributes extensively to the Ho Chi Minh’s goal of becoming a notable hi-tech city in Vietnam—and to a larger extent, Southeast Asia.
The Saigonese also enjoy a relatively developed health care system, with around 100 government-owned hospitals and medical centers in the city. One of the top medical facilities in Southeast Asia, Cho Ray Hospital, is located in the area. The city also has a burgeoning academic industry, with over 80 universities and colleges attended by over 400,000 students.
For fun and entertainment, residents and tourists alike have access to a number of restaurants serving classic Vietnamese dishes, various museums, and hundreds of cinemas and theatres. For those more athletically inclined, Ho Chi Minh has close to 100 football fields, more than 80 swimiming pools, more than 200 gyms, and the Thống Nhất Stadium, which is the largest stadium in the city and can seat more than 20,000 people. Ho Chi Minh also has a lot to offer in terms of art, with pieces inspired by both Western and Eastern styles. That makes for great amenities that are important to most real estate buyers.
It is easy to get around Ho Chi Minh—the Saigonese use the city’s rail system and private transport. Motorbikes are a common form of transportation, but there are also buses, taxis, and bicycles making rounds across the city.
It all boils down to what you or your target market are looking for in a home or a project. This list should help you get started.