Have you gone for high-rise property hunting recently? Then you’d likely have encountered the labels of SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo while you’re at it. They may appear similar at first, but some nuanced differences set them apart for value and utility.
Keen to rent or purchase one, but not sure which one to pick? We’ve got you covered. Let’s start with the common grounds they share:
SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo similarities
These properties are typically located in prime hotspots in a city where businesses and commercial trades are most conducted. They are often close or adjoined to high-connectivity landmarks such as LRT and MRT stations and shopping malls.
With their style of amenities that resemble residential condominiums, they are likely preferred by single working millennials, young couples, or young families looking to start homeownership.
Since they're all commercial-titled, owners of these units must be prepared to pay for the unit assessment and water, electricity, and telephone bills based on commercial rates. Take note that these rates are generally higher than residential rates.
Now, what sets these properties apart?
SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo differences
SoHo units have a commercial title but are used for residential purposes and are thus protected by the Housing Development Act (HDA) because they have a standard Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA).
The fact that there's no standard SPA for SoFo and SoVo units could be a source of concern for prospective buyers.
This is because they may find themselves out in the cold without the protection from the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) (Amendment) Act 2007.
Any dispute that arises for the SoFo and SoVo units would have to be settled in the courts, based on the SPA signed by the buyer and seller.
To know which type of property you want to pursue, let’s delve deeper into what each development means, and how you can best utilise them to fit your urban livelihood.
1) What Is The Meaning Of SoHo?
SoHo is an acronym for ‘Small office, Home office’. SoHo units can be used as either offices or homes.
How does this type of property work? Well in most cases, young singles, newly-weds and budding professionals take up SoHo units for the convenience of being able to incorporate their living area with their workspace.
These strata-titled properties on commercial land can function as both a home and a workplace. In fact, their modest sizes are the result of a convergence of economic and lifestyle considerations.
SoHo's don’t need large floor areas thanks to clever interior designing innovations that allow much to be made from small spaces. They often come with a living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
2) What Is The Meaning Of SoFo?
The term ‘SoFo’ stands for ‘Small office, Flexible office’.
Much like its name, a SoFo is a small unit that offers owners greater flexibility in terms of how they decide to use their space – be it for residential or commercial purposes or both. They also have condominium-style amenities within their buildings.
But, they are no less unique! Every unit has an internal partition (a wall that can be broken down), and therefore provide the owners/occupants with the flexibility to customise or to fit-out their units as they please.
Owners can also opt to buy two units side-by-side and create an internal connection if they desire more space.
3) What Is The Meaning Of SoVo?
A SoVo, which stands for “Small office, Virtual office”, is a small office that's fully equipped with telecommunication and infrastructural facilities.
It allows immediate business start-ups to operate. Unlike SoHo or SoFo buildings, SoVo’s do not possess as many residential-style amenities.
As you cannot legally use them for human dwelling, it's important to note that this property is strictly for commercial use ONLY.
As such, owners don't have the right to stay overnight in the property if the management does not allow them!
Other Things You Should Know Before Purchasing A SoHo, SoFo, or SoVo
Given that SoHo, SoFo, or SoVo units are commercial properties, they are thus subjected to different homeownership metrics than purely residential properties.
Below are some things to consider before you purchase any one of them.
1) Purchase loans
While it may not always be so, the maximum loan margin of finance for SoHo, SoFo, and SoVo properties tend to be lower than those for residential loans (which are typically 90%). Their loan tenure may also often be shorter (around 25 to 30 years).
It is worth noting that since your SoHo, SoFo, or SoVo property is commercial, they are not subjected to the same limitations of a 70% maximum margin of finance that residential loans are subjected to after purchases of a third property and beyond.
When in doubt, always check with your property developer and the bank issuing your property loan for details and any discrepancies around your loan agreement terms.
2) Utility and maintenance bills
The loan margins of SoHo, SoVo, and SoFo units may be lower than those of residential properties, but their utility bills, commercial assessment bills, and quit rent are higher. Why: They are built on commercial land and are confined to laws overseeing commercial properties.
Consider the following detail for perspective: Tenaga National Berhad (TNB) charges RM21.80 for every 200 kW per month as a general yardstick. But the charge for commercial properties differs in that they have to either pay 43.5 sen per kWh for the first 200 kWh OR pay RM87 per 200 kWh.
It's possible to convert your TNB or even Indah Water rates from commercial to residential, but it is usually done on a case-by-case basis. In a nutshell: your situation has to exceptional and subject to thorough inspection before approval.
Now, here’s a summary of the subtle differences between SoHo, SoFo, and SoVo units:
Small office, Home office
Small office, Flexible office
Small office, Virtual office
Use as an office (commercial)
Use as a personal home
Yes (they have wall breaking points for spatial extension)
Subjection to SPA standard
Learn more about How to Differentiate Between Condominiums, Flats and Serviced Apartments, the Difference Between Freehold, Leasehold and Bumi Land Title, and How HDA Malaysia Can Help You During the Defect Liability Period. Otherwise check out PropertyGuru's vast range of Guides for more useful information!