- Catalina show villa to be launched mid-August
- High net-worth investors optimistic of wellness real estate market in SL
- Colombo appears competitive value proposition compared to regional markets
- Experts opine road and air connectivity to be a game changer for real estate industry
- Fears unethical players will derail opportunity of attracting foreign investors
BY Charumini de Silva
Villa-based residential country club, Catalina Koggala recently held a discussion to create awareness among local business community and potential high net worth buyers, ahead of the show villa opening in August as well as to announce its partnership agreement with international luxury real estate agency to market Catalina to an international clientele.
The discussion evolved around why Sri Lanka can be an outstanding destination for residential wellness living communities and Catalina’s ground-breaking role in this perspective, which was attended by a very select, blue-chip group of local and overseas investors comprising Granite Capital Managing Director Jeevan William, Granite Capital Chairman Brad West, Granite Capital Director Azira Esufally, Sri Lanka Sotheby's International Realty Sales and Marketing Director Charles Phillpot, Sri Lanka Sotheby's International Realty Director Petar Petrovic, Hemas Holdings Plc Chairman Husein Esufally, Jetwing Travels Managing Director Shiromal Cooray and PwC Sri Lanka CEO Sujeewa Mudalige.
Catalina, the first-ever luxury residential wellness community featuring 22-spacious deluxe villas in a country club setting, boasts of offering residents a luxurious and independent lifestyle underpinned by a commitment to healthy living and wellness.
“It is a planned and purpose-built wellness community, which offers comfort and refinement, with all the amenities needed to enjoy an independent lifestyle in an exclusive community,” developers of the project Granite Capital Managing Director William said.
He also expressed that they were excited to leverage the powerful Sotheby’s International Realty network and to be able to offer Catalina luxury villas to their exclusive clientele.
Sri Lanka Sotheby’s International Realty announced an agreement to work with Catalina, where it will undertake a host of operational, marketing and research-oriented initiatives to address the requirements of the Sri Lankan property market. The team comprises of real estate professionals with extensive experience in international sales and marketing as well as across diverse sectors of the real estate industry.
Catalina comprises 22 villas on 5.75 acres of land surrounded by tropical climate and hospitable people near Koggala Lake, an hour-and-a-half drive away from Colombo via the Southern Highway, while there are also charter flights to Koggala daily. The project is expected to be completed in July 2019 and targets a price range of $272,000– $325,000.
Since Catalina’s launch announcement in February this year, he said that there had been many inquiries from different demographics. “The inquiries have been very encouraging. We have got three confirmed reservations for the 22 villas. We have our show villa opening next month. The feeling is that once they start seeing the property people will understand the concept and like it,” William added.
He said most foreign inquiries were from Australia, the UK, Canada, Dubai Singapore and Hong Kong.
With inbound tourist arrivals are expected to grow in August, the firm is expecting a fair number of them to visit the villas in Koggala, while also hoping to get the assets ready towards the end of the year.
Living in style
The villas come in two layouts and a range of different finishes. Every villa features two air-conditioned bedrooms, a utility or service staff room, solar powered hot water, a European fitted pantry, fitted wardrobes and full internet and cable TV connectivity. In addition, Catalina provides 24-hour security services including CCTV and alarm systems, backup generator power and emergency call buttons for every villa.
He said the residents can meet and socialise with like-minded neighbours at the clubhouse, workout at the fully-equipped gym with a qualified instructor on hand or partake of the 25-meter lap pool for an invigorating swim.
An array of sports activities on the premises include a putting green, tennis court, jogging track and a bowling green, while a nine-hole golf course at Koggala is 15 minutes away. Catalina residents also have access to electric golf carts which will provide complimentary transportation within the country club.
For those who enjoy an active lifestyle, he said there are plenty of activities lined up morning and evening where chauffeured luxury vans offer scheduled shuttle services to Colombo and Galle. Also, there will be a concierge on site, to assist with bookings for in-house music lessons, cookery classes, wine tastings and friendly quiz competitions and frequent guest speakers.
William emphasised that a well-stocked library and regular movie evenings at the Catalina clubhouse encourages interaction among like-minded residents. The Double Sunrise restaurant at the clubhouse will offer tasty and notorious meals within a comfortable environment that encourages socialising.
Acknowledging the few luxury gated communities that are in the pipeline, William however stated that there were none which meets all the above-mentioned criteria of wellness real estate; with wellness really at the heart from inception stages of planning and designing.
“In our project at Catalina, from the inception of our planning and designing process we have got the key characteristics of wellness built into our philosophy. This is where we think Catalina differentiate,” he added.
He emphasised the intent is that those who buy these villas also embrace the philosophy through aspects like organised community outreach to the neighbouring schools, society, the green living lifestyle, with like-minded people to make a lasting impact from the start.
“This is what sets Catalina apart as a second home and as a value proposition compared to a lot of high-end real estate,” he pointed out.
to become wellness
real estate destination
Elaborating on the potential Sri Lanka has on being an outstanding destination for residential wellness in real estate, William pointed out that the country has got a lot of assets in place for the island nation to get on the map as a wellness real estate destination.
He also said that many of the investors and leading business figures present at the discussion had spotted these growing opportunities and put Sri Lanka on the map as a wellness destination.
“We all are quite passionately believe Sri Lanka can play a significant role both in wellness and real estate and many of these leading business figures have been able to identify those opportunities well ahead of the pack. I personally believe that wellness real estate is a great opportunity,” William asserted.
According to Global Wellness Institute Research, it is an industry which boasts $ 37 trillion and is one of the fastest growing industries in the world with 64% annual growth over the past two years. Within that the wellness real estate industry globally accounts to $134 billion, where India holds a market of $6 billion, Malaysia $197 million and Indonesia $571 million.
It was noted that wellness real estate creates the environment for wellness communities to flourish, which touches on a lot of factors including community outreach with wider community, within the residential community living, green living as well as physical, mental and spiritual health. Irrespective of the land prices, global quality of life, cost of living or access to quality healthcare; William said Sri Lanka has stepped up very favourably to become a wellness real estate destination in this part of the world.
“We are already in this journey in terms of Sri Lanka as a wellness destination. I think there is a lot of upside to wellness real estate market in Sri Lanka,” he quipped.
Colombo – next big buy
The booming economy and the favourable climate in Sri Lanka were outlined as key differentiating factors for Sotheby’s International to enter into the market, said Phillpot.
“The reason why Sotheby’s International Real Estate is opening here is because we believe that Colombo is going to be the next buy,” he quipped.
Sharing his global experience in real estate industry, Phillpot noted that when he first visited Dubai 25 years ago the Jumeirah Beach Hotel was in the middle of the desert and today it is under the Burj Al-Arab, which is amazing.
“We have a port that has already 40% of capacity of the containers going to Dubai. Then there is a Megapolis project coming forward. Also, Colombo now has the air bridge that connects it with the rest of the world. These are some major initiatives that will further make Sri Lanka an attractive destination of real estate investment,” he added.
He asserted that wellness is a trending aspect now as people tend to live longer years.
“Today, holidaying is about experiential travelling. The idea of going on holiday nowadays is actually coming back home fit and healthy. The exclusive gated community of Catalina is the ideal concept for holiday home as it offers a high level of both security and management. If we can actually make the wellness proposition work, I think it is becoming a huge upside market and that is why the package of Sri Lanka is compellingly good,” Phillpot expressed.
Noting that there is currently a lot of interest from many countries for luxury homes in the south of Sri Lanka, he asserted the central location of the island nation and increasing number of air routes connecting Colombo and kind climate is conveniently accessible to much of the world.
West said Sri Lanka is well positioned for those looking on places for retirement where Catalina fills the gap for purpose-built wellness living.
“Sri Lanka is set to join the luxury wellness communities in this part of the world like how Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia has created to the growing demand for affordable, luxury accommodation for affluent clients. Catalina provides customised luxury villas for discerning, affluent buyers who wish to have a second home in a peaceful setting surrounded by like-minded neighbours,” he added.
He noted that facilities and services have been designed to provide people comfort and security, allowing them to enjoy life and make memories without stressing about little things.
Road and air connectivity
to be a game changer
Mudalige expressed confidence on getting the second terminal completed at the Bandaranaike International Airport by 2023, while also connecting the road network.
“These are some of the key factors which makes Sri Lanka an affordable country. You don’t have to be in Colombo anymore, whether it is Galle, Negombo or Matale with the completion of the Central Expressway. The road infrastructure is an absolute turning point, particularly for real estate,” he said.
With the outer circular getting connected to the Katunayake Expressway by 2020, he believes it will take away a lot of traffic.
Mudalige said after the road network, air connectivity is going to be a game changer for Sri Lanka.
In terms of land prices, he pointed out that prices of land in Colombo has grown double digit over the past two years recording a y-o-y growth of 8% to 9%, while posting an average growth of 10% during the past decade.
Attributing to a recent study he said that Colombo was still very cheap compared to regional places like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Manila.
Phillpot also underscored that compared to other regional cities, Colombo had a very competitive price, where a top-end property is averaging around $500 to $600 a square foot, while there are also properties in the range of $350 a square foot.
In addition, Mudalige stressed on the importance of relaxing the immigration rules particularly to cater to healthcare needs.
“You got to allow foreign specialist doctors to come and work here, especially in the areas we don’t have expertise. We must allow people from the regional countries such as Singapore, India and Pakistan, which I believe needs to be done by the Government,” he added.
He suggested short-stay visa will be more viable option than allowing three to five-year long visas.
William also said that the new visa program ‘my dream home’ is a great initiative that allows people to live in Sri Lanka as their second home.
Cooray said wellness is a huge industry and has great demand mainly from European countries such as Germany and Switzerland, while the UK is just catching on.
She said most of the leading tourism players have been concentrating on Ayurvedic wellness, competing with Kerala. However, now that there is great demand for wellness tourism, the stakeholders are looking at much more comprehensive methods combining elements like yoga, meditation, eating habits and so on.
Considering the type of people who are coming to Sri Lanka to live, Esufally said that they were concerned about the basic level of healthcare services in the country.
“Colombo as a medical centre is getting very sophisticated healthcare. Although Sri Lanka has not met the levels like in Thailand and Singapore with a whole ecosystem, we are getting to that level step by step which makes people very comfortable in coming here,” he stated.
Looking at the options, Esufallynoted that Sri Lanka definitely is very comfortable and a good choice. Insurance cover and accreditations of the hospitals were highlighted as two major bottlenecks that he observes.
While there is a lot of upside for Sri Lanka as a real estate destination, William cautioned on ‘cowboys’ in the industry. “One major factor that can derail this opportunity is the unethical players, who do bad job and mess up the market prospectto attract investors, while also affecting the reputation of the country,” he added.
Therefore, he said that they intend to set the benchmark sufficiently high, so that it is harder to imitate and meet the same quality standard.
Esufally pointed out that creating confidence and reliability were some major challenges in the real estate industry. “It is not just buying the property but living the lifestyle with like-minded people with poise. I think at Catalina, that credibility comes with Sotheby’s International,” she asserted.
Acknowledging that there are already many expatriates who have returned to Sri Lanka and bought high-end apartments and beach-front properties, she however stressed that Catalina was a novel concept which addresses all aspects.
Pix by Indraratne Balasuriya