Confused? Let us break it down for you.

SoHo → Small-Office-Home-Office
Modest in size, SoHo units are popular among young working adults because they are affordable, and function as both home and workplace.

SoFo → Small-Office-Flexible-Office
SoFo units offer great flexibility (hence the name) as they can be used for residential, commercial or both. There are no partitions/rooms, which allow owners to customize their living or working space.

SoVo → Small-Office-Virtual-Office
SoVo units are small offices equipped with telecommunication and infrastructural facilities for business to start using right away. Owners must pay assessment, water, and electricity and telephone bills based on commercial rates, which are generally higher than residential rates.

The build-up area of these units range from 37sqm to 74sqm, with prices ranging from RM480 psf to RM700 psf. People are attracted by the promise of a small cozy haven for a fraction of the price of a regular high-rise house, in which they can also utilize as an office space.

There is no legal definition to these phrases. However, it is important to note that SoHo is covered under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 as it is implied to be a dwelling for human inhabitation through the word ‘home’; it is understood to be a part-commercial, part-residential entity whereby Section 3 of the Act states that it can be “adapted or intended partly for human habitation or partly as business premises”.

SoFo and SoVo units are categorized as commercial property due to its ‘office’ connotation, and their usage is deemed to be for office or commercial purposes only. They are often described or marketed to feel as cozy as residential units, with fully-fitted bathrooms and pantries, but they do not fall under the legal protection of the HDA and therefore, buyers do not have the same protection under the Act. This means that developers are not obliged to observe with the rules and regulations under HDA, and are free to set all terms in the sale and purchase agreement as they like.

What does the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 do?

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 is to regulate the business of housing developers, and protect homebuyers from fraudulent developers who abandon or fail to complete housing projects after being paid. This means that homebuyers can begin criminal proceedings against the developers who abandon housing development projects.

The bottomline?

SoHo is actually the only property type that exists, and is recognized, internationally. SoVo and SoFo are fancy names created by Malaysia’s highly creative developers (or their marketing teams) for properties built on commercial land for commercial purposes, marketed to be the perfect office-home within an economic space. Depending on your needs and requirements, these small but comprehensive spaces may just what you’re looking for, but always be sure to do your research and read the fine print!

• Jeffrey Chan (link)
• National House Buyers Association (link)
• The Malaysian Bar (link)
• Chur Associates (link)