With a range of options to suit any taste and budget, expats will have no problem finding a place to call home in Malaysia. In fact, many expats in Malaysia report that they are able to afford much more spacious housing than back home.
Types of accommodation in Malaysia
Expats have a wide variety of accommodation to choose from in Malaysia: large standalone houses, semi-detached and terraced houses, apartments and condominiums. Generally, condominiums are most popular with foreigners, as they are secure and often boast sought-after amenities such as gyms and swimming pools.
Housing prices are reasonable throughout the country, especially when included in a lucrative employment package or when financed by a large expat salary. Expats should note, though, that property in central Kuala Lumpur is generally more expensive than in other areas.
Fully furnished, semi-furnished or unfurnished accommodation is available, though expats should be aware that 'unfurnished' is sometimes used more literally in Malaysia than in other countries. The term can refer to places that are completely empty, without kitchen units, stoves or even curtain rails.
Finding accommodation in Malaysia
The process of finding accommodation in Malaysia is straightforward. Expats can engage the services of an estate agent to help them find a suitable place to stay, or they can conduct internet searches and check local newspapers and other publications for rental listings. Estate agents can be especially useful for expats as they have experience in the local property market and knowledge about the various areas.
Renting accommodation in Malaysia
Rental agreements are usually signed on a two-year basis, with an option to renew. If expats are unable to commit with certainty to the full two years, they should be sure to have a termination clause written into their rental contract, allowing them to break the lease off early under certain conditions.
To secure the property while finalising the contract, expats may be asked to pay an 'earnest deposit' of a month's worth of rent. This essentially puts a hold on the property while contract details and negotiations are worked out. The earnest deposit is typically used as a rent payment once the contract is finalised.
In addition, the tenant will have to pay one to two months' rent as a refundable security deposit. This is returned to the tenant at the end of the lease period if the home is in good condition.
Estate agent fees are normally paid by the landlord.
The tenant will usually be responsible for their own water, electricity, sewerage, phone and internet bills, and may also be required to pay a deposit on these utilities before moving in.
Buying property in Malaysia
Buying property in Malaysia is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for expats, with the Malaysian government actively looking to increase foreign investment in the property market through the initiative referred to as 'Malaysia My Second Home'.
There are some areas of the country where expats are still not allowed to buy property, and expats can only buy property above a certain value in order to protect low- to middle-income Malaysians from property inflation. Loans and mortgages are available from Malaysian banks and other financial institutions.
►Discover the neighbourhoods of Malaysia's capital in Areas and Suburbs in Kuala Lumpur
"The housing options are very nice, especially by Western standards. Housing is much more affordable than in Seattle, we have a large, brand-new apartment with amenities for a fraction of what we would pay back home." Read more of Emily's expat experience in Malaysia.
Are you an expat living in Malaysia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Malaysia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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