The housing situation in Penang is quite different from the area I grew up in. First, let me clear up one misconception right off the bat... we do NOT live in a grass hut! In fact, the housing here is quite nice. Because it is a small island, land is at a premium. While in America, we like our huge McMansions with their big foot print and huge lots, in Penang everything goes up, not out. Housing comes in a few different forms:
apartment buildings (called condos) that are generally many, many stories high with underground parking garages. A nice, modern 3 bedroom apartment, usually around 1500 sq ft, will cost around $200-300,000 in USD. They are all owned by private owners and then lived in, used as a vacation home or rented out.
terrace homes which are basically like condos as they are full size homes but no yards. This is what we live in. It has 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, about 2200 sq ft and if you wanted to buy one it would cost you $350-400,000 in USD. Thank goodness housing is part of our compensation.
semi-detached homes which we call duplexes. These sometimes come with a teeny tiny yard (and here, yards are called gardens whether there is actually a garden growing there or not). Some of these are terribly run down as they have been here a while, before Penang became a hot spot to live. But the newer ones are really nice.
landed homes (also called detached homes) which we would just call a house. These usually come with a small yard but they are rare and usually only the very rich can afford them. Most of these would fall under the "mansion" category. They sell for a few million dollars.
Also, it is quite normal to live in a gated community. Although major crime like rape, murder, etc. is practically nonexistant here, lesser crimes like home invasion are more frequent. There is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots and there isn't much of a middle ground. So unfortunately, stealing is pretty common. Therefore, the nicer, newer areas will have gates, guards, cameras, etc. The community we live in is VERY strict and you cannot come to visit us unless we leave your name with the guards and you show ID. It is kind of a pain to be honest but I get why they do it.
Most of the homes you rent come fully furnished which is also quite different from the U.S. And the homes are all very contemporary with lots of glass, marble, chrome, etc. You won't find any "country kitchens" or victorian decor here. Here are some pics from our home and neighborhood to give you an idea of what it is like here.
We live high on a hill so the roads are all pretty steep. Fun for the kids to ride their scooters down. Not so fun pushing them back up!
Because yards are so rare, all homes come with balconies. We have three floors and each floor has a balcony.
As I mentioned, everything is contemporary...marble floors and the cupboards actually have bluish-tinted glass fronts.
The comtemporary "sectional" couch seems to be a staple in many homes here. Hip light fixtures too. The books are mine, though. :)
And many of these gated communities come with a pool, clubhouse, work-out room, playground, etc. So the kids have a blast!
So we are definitely not "roughing it". Add the year-round summer and it is a pretty good gig. :) Feel free to come visit!