Copied from CNA forum.
The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd: Sun, Mar 27
Home to educator Denyse Tessensohn had always been Singapore. But two years ago, after agonising over it, her family uprooted from their five-room Zion Road flat to settle in Johor, Malaysia, instead.
Her younger son, Mikhil, 25, an aspiring music therapist, had a place to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. But when they worked out the sums, the family found that they could not afford Mikhil's overseas education if they continued to live in Singapore.
Two years on, they have since found the move not as painful as they had expected. Ms Tessensohn, 60, and her husband Steve Hogan, 62, refer to their 9,000 sq ft home as a 'modest bungalow'. Spacious as it is compared to their former HDB flat, it is the second smallest home in the Ledang Heights estate in Nusajaya, west of Johor Baru city.
For the $400,000 price tag, they have four bedrooms, a garden, parking space and membership in the estate's clubhouse which has a pool, gym and restaurant.
'Our living cost is much lower; utilities are a quarter of what we used to pay,' Ms Tessensohn said. 'It's quiet, there's space, good air. It's affordable and there's very good food.'
The couple commute to work in Singapore five days a week. Mr Hogan is an artist and teacher.
Moving to Johor
More Singaporean families have gone to live in and commute from Johor. They are attracted to its up-and-coming residential city Nusajaya, where big houses and a quality lifestyle can be had on middle-class incomes.
Take the figures at East Ledang and Horizon Hills, two estates in Nusajaya where expatriates make up half of the residents. Of the foreigners, 80 per cent are Singaporean.
From the sky, Nusajaya resembles a city in progress. Patches of construction areas and swathes of virgin greenery make up the bulk of the 9,308ha landscape.
There is access to the highways bound for Johor Baru city or the Tuas checkpoint, both 20 minutes' ride away. Nusajaya is said to be on the way to becoming one of the most sought-after residential cities in Johor.
It is part of the Iskandar Malaysia project to develop Johor into an economic powerhouse. The area, including regions such as Johor Baru city, Senai and Pontian, is three times the size of Singapore.
In Nusajaya itself, various hubs are in the pipeline. There is EduCity, a 242ha collection of brand-name colleges and research centres, including Britain's Newcastle University and Singapore's MDIS. Newcastle's medical college will be ready there by this year.
Its integrated theme park, Legoland Malaysia, is due to be completed by next year. A transport hub has also been planned for the area, with a coastal highway due to be ready by next year.
Residential enclaves - like Ms Tessensohn's estate - have already sprung up. Each estate touts itself grander than the next. Nusajaya's Horizon Hills, for example, features an 18-hole award-winning golf course at residents' doorsteps.
Despite the premium pricing for houses in Nusajaya - starting from RM700,000 (S$292,000) for terrace units with about 5,000 sq ft in built-up space - they are popular with Singaporeans, who make up half the clientele.
Technology consultant Wu Qi (not his real name), is one of them. His semi-detached house cost him less than RM800,000 when he bought it two years ago. It takes him about an hour to travel to his office in Singapore's Central Business District each workday.
But the 34-year-old said: 'It is worth it. I enjoy the fresh air, the space and the freedom. It's not really about the travelling cost but whether it makes long-term sense.'
The lower cost of living was also a draw for Mr Steven Wong, 40, who has a weekend home in Setia Indah. The manufacturing firm manager estimates that food items in Malaysia are two to three times cheaper, thanks to the currency conversion.
'Living here is so much cheaper,' he said. 'The money saved can go towards my retirement. If I still live in Singapore, I won't be able to retire in comfort.'
Australian writer Kaz Augustin, 45, spent two years in Singapore before she moved to Johor Baru with her husband and two children in 2008.
Recreation for the family includes visiting the Ledang Heights estate's clubhouse and restaurants. They also take walks in the park in the estate, or enjoy the nearby lake in their motorised speedboat.
Bukit Indah, which is about 10 minutes away by car for the Augustins, has supermarket chains such as Jusco and Tesco, and shops. Residents there are awaiting the completion of Legoland and Puteri Harbour, a waterfront development. Till then, they spend their free time around the usual places in their gated communities, and however far their cars can take them out of Nusajaya.