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Housing in Malaysia

Building a house in Malaysia? See sample house plans or contact me to design a new house for you!

housing types
building code
crazy stuff

Some westerns wrongly see Malaysia as a third-world country. Malaysia is a fast-growing economy population doubled in last 25 years due to immigration. Like Singapore, Malaysia evolved from villages (kampung) into modern landed housing and high-rise condominiums. If in Eastern Europe most of housing dates back from communist times (<1990), Malaysia construction industry is booming and most houses are recently built.

Looking at GDP per Capita, we can see that Malaysia developed rapidly during 1980s and 1990s. 1997 Asian Crisis plunged economy down, time in which Eastern European countries were evolving rapidly. Currently Malaysia is a middle-income country similar with countries in Eastern Europe, but having much lower cost of living.

The government subsidy many things including gas (I am not sure if this is good, cheap gas encourage travel with personal cars rather than public transport, cause urban sprawl, traffic jams and pollution). Update: this lower cost of workforce and may encourage foreign investment.

Petronas Towers (452 meters tall) was the world tallest building between 1998 and 2004. Merdeka 118 (680 meters tall) became the second-tallest building in the world in 2023.

At this moment I do not know many details about living conditions, how good is education, healthcare, crime, etc. Maybe some locals can help me with an “internal opinion”?

Malaysia housing statistics

Malaysia have a total of 7,346,910 housing units, of which Detached 2,416,210, Semi-detached 528,408, Terrace/link 2,570,317, Townhouse 32,682, Cluster 63,345, Flat 744,187, Apartment or condominium 716,729, few more housing types do exist (as 2010). Home ownership ratio 72.5%. Source:

Malaysia housing types

Housing in Malaysia is similar in style and types with Singapore housing, but cheaper and bigger houses and apartments, due to lower land prices and lower salaries.

The equatorial climate (absence of heating systems) and the lifestyle with big families, turned Malaysia into a country with one of the biggest houses in the world. Average household size dropped from 4.62 in 2000 to 4.31 in 2010 (source: census report, page 31 and, I am in doubt if this was caused by influx of foreigners with different lifestyle, or due to increased wealth of Malay families and married kids moving away from parent’s house?

Most houses and apartments in Malaysia have 3 or more bedrooms. Searching on Google for 2-bedroom or studio apartments I do not see many results.

Flats (public housing apartments) can be small as 60 sqm and still have 3 bedrooms! Example floor plan Pangsapuri Seri Nilam.

Apartments and Condominiums (privately built) have usually 3 bedrooms, around 100-120 sqm, but there are also examples over 400 sqm and 5 bedrooms.

Terraced House are most common type of home for Malaysians. Most new terraced houses are 2-storey and have 4 bedrooms, usually 6000 mm or 6700 mm wide (approximate metric values of 20 and 22 feet), and 12-14 meters depth, and about 150-200 sqm if they are 2-storey, up to 300 sqm in case of 3-storey terraced houses. Single-storey terraced houses are around 100 sqm with 3 or 4 bedrooms, some bedrooms being windowless. I have not seen yet any house with less than 3 bedrooms. Would like to know what is average family size in these oversized houses.

Semi-detached house are shared by 2 families living side by side.

Bungalow (detached house) are a symbol of luxury inside cities, they have usually 4, 5, or even 6 bedrooms, each with own bathroom, some are 3-storey, reaching over 400 sqm. But detached houses in rural areas are also called bungalow, most of them being single-storey, dragging down average house size.

Townhouse is a building shared by 2 families living one above other, both having entrances on ground floor, usually 2-storey and 3 bedrooms, but one day I saw a 4-storey townhouse on sloped ground, where one family had entrance at 1st level while second family had entrance at 3rd level from opposite side. I lost URL so if anyone know where it is located please tell.

Link house is a term which include terraced houses and townhouses which are build like terraced (townhouses can be semi-detached too).

Superlink house is a term that I do not know the original meaning, but today most link houses are called superlink for marketing purposes.

There is also new interesting housing styles, quaduplex, sextuplex, honeycomb (example).

A large part of housing stock remains the old houses built 1960s to 1980s when Malaysia was just a third-world country, these old houses looks quite ugly and not properly maintained, but still better than houses of same age from other Asian countries.

Minimum ceiling height is 2.5 m but most houses are built in 2.5-3 m range, some high-end bungalow may have even 4 m ceiling (personal estimation from photos, anyone who is living or have been in Malaysia please provide more accurate data).

Update: Google Streetview in Malaysia launched on 26 September 2014, allowing me to see that this country is worse than I expected, many houses are single-storey, further study is required when I have free time, for more precise estimation of house sizes!

Luxury apartments from Putrajaya and Mont Kiara
Pangsapuri, Presint 18, Putrajaya Pangsapuri, Presint 9, Putrajaya Pangsapuri, Mont Kiara
More photos of luxury condominiums around Mount Kiara here

Low-cost apartments (public housing)
Technicolor public housing Penang public housing

Luxury terraced housing, semi-detached and bungalows
Villa Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur Desa ParkCity NadiaRumah teres, Presint 8, Putrajaya

Medium and low-cost housing

Malaysia kampung

Another beautiful part of Malaysia is the countryside… the kampongs. Houses with big garden, a lot of greenery and no fence, contrasting the concrete jungle of cities. Traditional Malay houses were made by bamboo or timber, built on stilts to protect from flood and wild animals, and for better ventilation. Windows are louvre type, again for ventilation.

Kampung houses are smaller than the houses in the cities, but still big considering the poverty of people living there.

Small towns, like the following video, have a mix of kampung-styled houses and modern houses.

Malaysia also have slums, houses built over water, probably with little or no running water or proper sanitation, but even they are large, around 50-100 sqm, not like the 5-10 sqm slums of India or Philippines.

Malaysia building code

Download building code: Uniform Building by Laws.

Malaysia building code specify minimum 10 feet / 3.05 meters setback from side and rear property line, and 20 feet / 6.10 meters from street, also 10 feet / 3.05 meters of carport roof. corner lots usually have large courtyard 6 meters wide in side of house.

However, most houses are built with longer setbacks around 9 meters from street, thus you can park 2 small cars one behind other. Does anyone know when the current building code was issued and what were the earlier laws about setback?

Google satellite imagery and street view shows numerous houses expanded, carport lengthened to the street line, etc. How these building code violations were possible? Corrupt authorities?

Crazy stuff found during my study of housing in Malaysia

Crazy urban planning: if in United States there are 1/2-storey houses mixed with 3-storey apartments, and in Europe there are 2-storey houses mixed with 4-storey apartments, in Malaysia there are 20-storey blocks built in middle of a 2/3-storey landed housing development! How does this explain?

Bad apartment layout: in a country dominated by low-density developments, many condominiums, despite of large open space in their compounds, the apartment towers are massive, with large number of units per floor. Thus the apartment layouts are bad and crammed, some blocks being 30 meters wide with double-loaded corridors, 3 bedroom apartments of which only living room and master bedroom have view to outside, the other 2 bedrooms are facing inside of block towards the corridor, ventilated through a small airwell.

4 bedrooms is a STANDARD in Malaysia even for single-storey terraced houses! Example: Austin Residence, but… 2 bedrooms are windowless! Is this legal in Malaysia!!?? Someone has told me that is legal if they have high-level windows, over the ceiling of nearby room. However the picture does not show this.
3 bedroom can be found nowadays only in townhouses (2 families sharing same house)
A very old back to back terrace house with 2 bedrooms. Fortunately there are not many such shitty houses.
The ONLY house with 2 bedrooms found so far
Mutiara Seputeh, a development with 93 houses ranging from 400-870 sqm (floorplans available).
Some luxury apartments reach 400 sqm as well.

Further read:
Housing Statistics 2015
Malaysia Housing Policcy (PDF)
Case study of the low-cost public housing in Malaysia.

Malaysia is located in the most raining region of earth, so… best to avoid buying houses near rivers. Worst affected was Kota Tinggi in 2006-2007.
Kota Tinggi flood Kota Tinggi flood Kota Tinggi flood

See 100+ flood photos on yazidtim‘s Panoramio account.

STUDY TO BE CONTINUED… but I don’t know what else to write here.

Oh… don’t forget, somebody should tell to Johor Bahru to expand the city further away from coast and stop deforesting the areas around Singapore. From where Singapore will get fresh air when it will be fully urbanized?


Page published for first time in 2011 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!



  1. 39. Natural lighting and ventilation.
    (1) Every room designed, adapted or used for residential, business or other purposes except hospitals
    and schools shall be provided with natural lighting and natural ventilation by means of one or more
    windows having a total area of not less than 10% of the clear floor area of such room and shall have
    openings capable of allowing a free uninterrupted passage of air of not less than 5% of such floor

    42. Minimum areas of rooms in residential buildings.
    (1) The area of the first habitable room in a residential building shall be not less than 11 square
    metres, the second habitable room be not less than 9.3 square metres and all other rooms be not less
    than 6.5 square metres in area.
    (2) The width of every habitable room in a residential building shall be not less than 2 metres.
    (3) The area and width of a kitchen in a residential building shall be not less than 4.5 square metres
    and 1.5 metres respectively

    44. Height if rooms in residential buildings, shophouses, schools, etc.
    (1) The height of rooms in residential buildings other than shophouses shall be–
    (a) for living rooms and bedrooms, not less than 2.5 metres;
    (b) for kitchens, not less than 2.25 metres;
    (c) for bathrooms, water-closets, latrines, porches, balconies, verandahs, garages and like,
    not less than 2 metres

    (2) The average height of rooms with sloping ceilings in residential buildings other than shophouses
    shall be–
    (a) for living rooms and bedrooms, not less than 2.5 metres;
    (b) for kitchens, not less than 2.25 metres;
    (c) for bathrooms, water-closets, latrines, porches, balconies, verandahs, garages and the
    like, not less than 2 metres.
    Provided that not part of any room shall be less than 2 metres in height.

    Source: Uniform Building By-Laws 1984

  2. “Google satellite imagery and street view shows numerous houses expanded, carport lengthened to the street line, etc. How these building code violations were possible? Corrupt authorities?”

    Those are illegal extensions, but Malaysian politics of public governance is extremely populist. Corruption is part of it, but if you’re an authority personnel trying to go authoritarian on these ‘people stuff’, you will see the backlash from the general public painting the authority as oppressive, doesn’t matter if the imposition is just and lawful or otherwise.

    Basically the general public don’t understand the requirements of modern civilization and development.

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