Published in Jan-Feb 2017
With the dwindling number of residential plots and the subsequent increase in prices in the housing sector, there is a growing demand for apartments throughout Pakistan and an insufficient supply. ChenOne Builders – an offshoot of the well-known apparel and home ware brand – launched COLAH (ChenOne Luxury Apartments & Homes) Properties with the objective of filling this market gap.
Explaining the drive behind ChenOne’s venture into the residential property market, Masood Akhtar Bajwa, GM, ChenOne Developers, says “ChenOne has been offering lifestyle solutions for decades and with the launch of COLAH Properties, we are moving a step closer to realising our objective of offering quality products that improve lives. Our research also revealed that there is a major gap in the property market that we can fill.”
The development of the first initiative of COLAH Properties began in Faisalabad late last year, featuring fully-serviced luxury apartments on Canal Road. The project is spread across 500,000 square feet, while 125,000 square feet have been designated for amenities to cater to the daily requirements of residents. The apartments are available in 10 sizes, offered on a four-year instalment plan, with a 10% down-payment requirement (see the table below for the pricing structure of COLAH Properties Faisalabad).
Bajwa explains that because horizontal spaces are becoming scarce, this has led to an escalation in property prices across Pakistan and, as a result, the middle-income consumer segment is no longer able to buy property. The other problem is that the properties that are within their budget range are located far from the city centre, and living there entails putting up with extensive travel time and costs. Further adding to the woes of prospective homeowners is the fact that there are very limited smaller living space options.
"Horizontal spaces are becoming scarce, which has led to an escalation in property prices across Pakistan and, as a result, the middle-income consumer segment is no longer able to buy property."
According to Bajwa, “affordability is not the only factor; people also want easy access to quality utilities and amenities. The edge that COLAH Properties has is that we are offering all the basic necessities within the residential compound where the apartments are located.”
On-site amenities include grocery stores, laundry shops, housekeeping services, salons, flower shops, a bakery, fruit and vegetable markets, ice-cream parlours and a mosque. Added to this, residents will also enjoy free membership of COLAH Club.
“The club culture has become very popular in Faisalabad. However, the membership of these clubs is so expensive and exclusive that most people are unable to become members. Now, anyone living in our apartments will automatically be given membership, and can begin using the facilities without paying anything extra.” Recreational options include eateries, a coffee shop, a rooftop restaurant, a cinema screen, a play area for children, a food court, a gym, saunas, Jacuzzis, tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool, a snooker area, an aerobics studio and even a small cricket ground.
The greatest attraction of the project is that residents do not have to worry about the law and order situation as almost everything is a few minutes’ walk away, in the safety of a compound. This is primarily why most of the initial bookings have come from the industrial business community. Bajwa believes this is because Faisalabad has a large business community that travels frequently and most of them worry about the security of their families when they are away. This is perhaps why, since the project’s launch, 30% of the apartments have already been sold.
However, that is just one side of the picture. Talking about the challenges of operating in Pakistan’s property market, Bajwa says that government policies are a major hurdle in the growth of the sector, and for the success of their project as well. “We could have sold an even higher number of apartments considering the amount of foreign investment that has been coming in to the country, thanks to the launch of CPEC, but the recent changes in property valuation and taxation procedures have shaken the confidence of investors and the market has slowed down considerably.”
However, despite these issues, ChenOne Builders are keen to expand their projects to other cities because they believe that the market holds great potential, and once the policy issues are settled, the market will recover. As a result, they are planning to launch COLAH Properties in Lahore and Islamabad sometime this year. Both projects are similar to the one in Faisalabad and will feature luxury apartments. The Islamabad project, however, is expected to include 2,500 and 5,000 square feet luxury villas.
So far, ChenOne Builders have mainly focused on Punjab, where they have completed the ChenOne Mall in Multan and a similar project is underway in Okara. However, there are plans to expand to other regions as well by collaborating with developers such as DHA and Bahria Town. This will make it quicker and more cost-effective for COLAH Properties to launch projects within the premises of their partners.
With property prices expected to continue their upward trend in the coming years, it is likely that luxury apartments will become even more popular, attracting an increasing number of builders and developers to launch similar projects. Although COLAH Properties’ uniqueness lies in providing affordable luxury, increased competition may force them to reconsider their pricing structure, which will in turn, reduce their profit margins.