I definitely do not mind working in an office but I also take the opportunity to get out and about. It usually happens only to visit a house or survey lands for sale in the suburbs. Occasionally, I do get a client who wants to sell a piece of land in the jungle which serves to be more interesting.
Brunei with its abundance of oil and gas, has never had to exploit its jungle habitat which fortunately, that means there is a wealth of jungle all around us.
When I first arrived in Brunei, I used to wonder how everbody coped without air conditioning. The answer is simple. They did not need it. Living in the suburbia, surrounded by baking hot concrete and tarmac constantly results in the heat radiating back at us. No wonder we can't live without air conditioning.
Its totally a different scenario when you step out of the hot sun and enter into the shades of the jungle canopy. It is like stepping into a different climate zone. It is not only cooler, but it is like an envelope of peace descends around you.
The stillness of the trees and the quiet of the forest contrasts with the incredible abundance of life everywhere. By comparison, in the suburbs only a few miles away, we are subjected to the constant noise of a non-stop flow of traffic. In the jungle, apart from the occasional birdcall or gentle swish of a passing troop of monkeys swinging through the trees, everything is incredibly quiet and peaceful.
The idea of living close to nature obviously appeals to someone. From the little way along the track that leads into the jungle, there is an unfinished house. With a grand size of about four thousand square feet, it has not been completed and is now falling into disrepair. The house only had one inhabitant, a deadly looking red and black snake. However, such things do not trouble intrepid real estate agents in Borneo. We take these things in our stride. Especially when they turn out to be made of plastic!
When I enter the jungle I found stands of bamboo everywhere, and judging by the signs, some had been recently harvested for their shoots. It is hard work, but you can make a couple of hundred dollars in a day or two by collecting bamboo shoots and selling them.
As I sheltered in the comparatively cool air of the jungle canopy, the land owner and interested party discussed the value of the land. It occurred to me that, although we rather casually place a cash value on a place like this, in reality it is priceless. We take for granted the paradise around us, because incredibly, it is so commonplace. We casually assume that it will always be here and that it will always be like this. We now understand that our environment is much more fragile than we once believed. Just because this paradise is a commonplace to us, we must not become complacent. The earth is the only home we will ever have, and probably the only real home that humankind will ever have. We must always remember, its real value is much greater than the cash value that we place upon it.
The Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre in Jalan Residency is probably the last place you would think of going for a good meal. The Tarindak d' Seni Restaurant may well change your mind about that. It recently opened on the first floor, specialising in Malay cuisine at an affordable price. It's an attractive restaurant with excellent food and services.
But that wasn't what attracted me to it. When my wife suggested we try a new restaurant for breakfast, (they have a breakfast buffet on Fridays, Sundays and Public Holidays), I instantly reached for my Nikon.
The Tarindak d' Seni has a unique feature, and it doesn't cost you a cent to enjoy it. While sitting down enjoying my meal, right in front of me were stunning views of Brunei's world-renowned water village, Kampong Ayer.
With the best of local Brunei cuisine, the panoramic view of the water village, overlooked by a variety of mosques, and The Istana Darul Iman gave an overwhelming experience to it all.
The non-stop to and fro of water taxis busily buzzing back and forth across the Damuan is a testimony to the energy and enterprise of the people of Kampong Ayer.
If you happen to have a shutterbug in the family, show him or her a little thrill and take them for a meal to the 'Tarindak'. They will appreciate it, and may even offer to pay for the meal. Though I wouldn't bank on that.
(Published Jan 4th 2009) Construction works are well underway at Kampong Ayer's new Tourism Centre set to open sometime this year. Its most prominent feature is the 'lookout' that offers amazing views of Kg Ayer and beyond. The attractive interior of the new centre, located at Kg Lorong Sikuna, has yet to be completed and once the building is ready to be launched, it will be a great asset to Brunei's historical heritage and the sultanate's tourism industry.
The tourism scene in the sultanate has been an unlikely success story as it competes with neighbouring countries filled with interesting tourists attractions. Brunei's success in this field is quite astonishing.
Nowadays, buses are loaded with tourists and have become a rather common sight around town and Kg Ayer, which is one of the main tourists hotspots in the sultanate.
We now have larger and better tourist boats, which takes visitors on a cruise through the water village. Hats off to the Tourism Development Department of MIPR for their hard work and creating a new building destined to become a landmark in Brunei.
By: Ron Knox, Executive Manager, RussTini Real Estate (As published in the Borneo Bulletin, Saturday 5th Aptil 2008)
BUYING a house is not only the most expensive purchase most of us will ever make; it's also one of the best investments we will ever make.
We provide a home for ourselves mid our family and an asset for future generations as well. It's probably the best investment we can make for our own security and to help our children.
There are several steps to take before you actually start looking around to buy a house. The first thing many people do is to go out and look at a tot of houses. This is putting the cart before the hone.
The first step is to make an appointment and sit down with a real estate agent. He will be able to provide you with a lot of free information and give you sound advice about buying a house. The agent can also help you take the next step - to arrange a loan.
FINANCE: Very few people are able to pay cash for a house or land. Banks are the most common source of finance for a house purchase.
First, you must find out how much you can borrow. There is little point in looking at houses costing say, $300,000 only to be told later that you can only borrow $200,000. This may seem obvious but many people start looking around without knowing how much. or even if, they qualify for a loan.
BANKS: Banks offer loans called 'mortgages' for property purchases. Mortgages differ from personal loans in that they we secured by the property being purchased. That means if you fail to make the loan payments, the bank can take the house or land 'mortgaged' as security for the loan.
GOVERNMENT LOANS: If you have a government loan, USE IT. They are a fantastic bonus. Borrowing money isn't cheap! Not many people realise just how expensive it is to borrow money. Government loans are interest-free. Your government low is worth tens of thousands of dollars!
That's how much money you will save by buying a house with a government loan instead of a bank loan. Government loans are best for people who already own land. They can use their government low to build a house on their own land.
It's not easy to use a government loan to buy other properties. This is partly because the seller has to transfer the house to the new owner first. Properly transfer in Brunei can easily take six months or even a year, and many sellers can't wait that long for payment.
But if you are a landowner and have access to and have access to a government loan use it. It will save you a small fortune.
Okay, you've spoken to a bank and you know approximately how much you can borrow. What's the next step? Well, go back to your helpful real estate agent and find out what houses are available in your price range.
What kind of house can you buy?
There are several different kinds of houses. The most popular is the detached house. A detached house is an individual house built alone on a single piece of land. A detached house may be the most popular, but it is also usually the most expensive option. Not everyone can afford a detached house.
If you really want a detached house but don't want to break the bank, consider the traditional Malay-style-stilt house.
It is less expensive to build than a double-storey house and you can build in the ground floor later when you can afford it. The stilt house is an excellent starter home for people on a limited budget.
Another low-cost option is the single-storey house or bungalow. They are popular for small families and inexpensive to build in comparison to a double-storey house.
The next style of house to consider is the semi-detached house. It is two houses joined together. Because less land is used and they share a common wall, semi-detached houses we usually cheaper than detached houses.
Last but not least, we have the terraced house. A terraced house is one of a number of houses joined together in a 1 me. You can build build more terraced houses on a piece of land and they share common walls, so terraced houses arc often the cheapest option available.
But that doesn't mean that they lack amenities. Modem terraced houses we well designed to make the best use of available space and they can also offer excellent value for money.
Buying a house is serious business. There are a few things that the first-time buyer should be aware of First of all, you will have to pay a booking fee to reserve the house while you process the bank loan.
That means that the owner has to take the house off the market and hold it exclusively for you. A booking fee is not refundable, so before you take that step, make certain that you have decided to go ahead.
Secondly, there are several other expenses involved in buying a house. The bank will charge you for a valuation of the properly. This usually costs about $300 to $500, depending on the value of the house.
They will also charge you a fee for setting up your Ioan. This will cost about the same as the valuation. Occasionally banks have special offers such as free valuations and loan charges. It's worth shopping around and finding out which bank is offering the best deal.
You will also have to pay for a Sales and Purchase Agreement drawn up by a lawyer. These are very expensive in Brunei, in comparison to Australia, for example. A typical S&P agreement in Australia will cost about $500. In Brunei, it can easily cost three times that amount! Lawyers, just like other businesses, we in competition. You can haggle with a lawyer just like any other trader and you can usually get a discount.
So a summary of the house buying process includes the following steps:
1. Talk to a real estate agent and get some advice first. It em save you a lot of wasted time later.
2. Check with your bank to find out if you can get a loan. Many Bruneians already have substantial personal loans so this may reduce the amount that you can borrow for a house. Your real estate agent can help set up an appointment for you with a bank loan officer.
3. The government loan is a fantastic bonus. Use it if you em.
4. When you know how much you can borrow to buy 'a house, return to your real estate agent and find out what is available in your price range.
5. Bear in mind that you will have to pay a booking fee to reserve the house. You will have to pay the bank for a valuation and loan set-up. And you will have to pay for a sale and purchase agreement.
6. And you will also need money for furniture, curtains, air-cons and all the other things that make a house into a comfortable home. Sometimes a bank will allow you to increase your borrowing to cover these furnishings.
Buying a house is a complex procedure and it's very important to get good advice right from the start to make the process as easy as possible.
Ron Knox is one of Brunei's leading authorities in the real estate business and has about 20 years experience in all things Real Estate from Australia to Brunei Darussalam. He is also an avid contributor to the Borneo Bulletin (the following articles have been published in the newspaper) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions and queries you may have about getting a house or land.