JB is home, a big one too
SINGAPOREAN Fahmi Rais lives in a semi-detached house with six rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, a garden only slightly smaller than a two-room Housing Board flat, and a garage that can hold nine cars.
He bought the Johor Baru (JB) mansion for just RM550,000 (S$211,602), the average price of a two-room flat in Singapore, in 2010.
The 46-year-old is one of a growing number of middle-aged Singaporeans living across the Causeway and working here.
Mr Fahmi, an entertainment-production-company owner who is also vice-president of the Johor-Singapore Community Care Association, estimated that Singaporeans in their 40s with school-going children make up 30 per cent of the roughly 5,000 Singaporean families living in JB.
This is a stark increase from the 5 per cent to 10 per cent about four years ago, he said.
"That percentage is increasing as more young parents in their 30s follow suit. It is no longer just people wanting to retire in JB," he added.
His association seeks to cater for the long-term needs and welfare of Singaporeans living in Johor and Johoreans working in Singapore.
But why the move?
For Mr Fahmi, who used to live in a condominium in the east, it was not just the cost of living. It was also the space and the feeling of being part of a developing area, he said.
He has four children - aged four, 12, 13 and 17 - and they each have their own room now. The three older ones study in Singapore and get to their schools by car - a two-hour daily drive for Mr Fahmi.
"Outside the confines of our gates, there is nothing much to do. But we are enjoying the space, freedom and family activities together," he said, adding that his children enjoy the privacy of having a room each.
After dropping them off, it is another 20-minute drive to his workplace in Joo Chiat.
But the hassle of the long commute has faded into a quirk of living in JB.
"We are used to it. The jam is bearable, if you know what time to go and which lanes to take," he told MyPaper, adding that his wife helps him in his business.
Other Singaporeans who have jumped on the bandwagon are Mr David Ng, and his Singapore permanent resident wife.
Mr Ng, a 40-year-old car dealer, was frustrated after he was unable to get a home in Singapore, despite balloting for a Build-To-Order flat twice. He also found that he could not afford a resale flat.
The move to JB in 2009, he told MyPaper, was one of the best decisions he has made in his life.
His 3,909 sq ft corner terrace house - a 45-minute drive from the Tuas Checkpoint - cost RM296,000, roughly the price of an HDB flat one third the size.
Mr Ng has thought it all out.
"I want my children to grow up as children, with time to play, and less stress than in Singapore. As far as their future is concerned, there are many overseas universities opening here," he said.
Security in JB - which has been painted in a bad light for some time now - is not an issue, he added.
"There's a kampung spirit here. When I am on holiday, my neighbours message me if they see anything suspicious happening."