A Layman's Guide to Buying Property in VietNam

Thanks. The first 2 requirements are in place. Will work on the rest. JWM

Thanks for your advice. First 2 items done and working on third. Have heard of problems with help from unscrupulous lawers though.

Great advise here. Are you still in Vietnam, and as far as you know, does the info from 2011 still apply in 2014?

Hello Jaitsch, I came across your informative post and would love to learn more about your shipping container mini-hotel! We've just bought land in a hem close to where The Manor Saigon is, and I'm a big fan of sustainable building and would love to find out more about your project!

What's a reasonable amount to pay for an all right place to live in hoo chi Minn city ?

From 50.000 dollars and up.  for two bedrm and two bath.  67m. with beautiful river and city view.  Swiming pool/gym/garden/playground/resturant/mini market/bus.

Know any websites were I can check them out?

Hi there, the new property law start on 1st Jul 15, what would you say about the change and would you mind to update it here! Thanks

Hello Sir
  I also would like to learn more about the shipping container conversion. My Vietnam girlfriend owns some farmland outside of HCMC. I am very interested in placing a home there one day and very much into recycling and greener alternatives to our typical methods of doing things in the past.   
Thank you so much for sharing.

Hi Guys, the new laws effective on the 1st July. We understand that anybody can now buy property in Vn...
Just had an agent suggest that we can't, very confused. My wife was born in Vn although brought up in Australia, refugee from the Vn conflict, what do you understand? M and L...

Further to my last post which nobody responded to, I have now discovered, after much research, that ordinary people like retirees, virtually cannot buy a property in Vn. So explain to me why there are so many properties for sale at prices that seem way too high, ie, house recently listed at US$190,000, not in a central area. This equates to AUD$270,000 which would buy a nice townhouse which would rent for minimum $390 week.
If you can't buy and the 50 yr lease issue, why so expensive?

Hi M+L
I am not expert, been in Saigon only 8 months, but have been looking and touring real estate, in particular condos in Saigon and Vung Tau, and houses in Nha Be = south cheaper suburb of HCM.

Some links. Best map for overview of HCM districts, download img to your computer
Google maps is pretty good, paste into search the full property address in Vietnamese.

Some Vietnamese real estate property websites: you will kill hours and hours browsing! Some like chotot have merchandise also. muaban has just a little real estate but popular for other stuff so I included.  Oh, and if the real estate website is not in Vietnamese then they are advertising to foreign businesses, yes? Use google chrome browser for translations, it kind of works and is entertaining when it doesn't.

The new July 2015 law: same as visa laws in Vietnam, evolving, with many interpretations, but I believe/hope in a positive direction. Personally, my decision was that though tempting, and though seeing many well-priced properties on the websites above get listed and then sold fast, it is too early to buy. Maybe next year or two when the laws stabilize, and I've decided this is where I want to be for awhile.

> Just had an agent suggest that we can't [buy property], very confused

What kind of agent? Talk to several. Like anywhere, there are buy-from-owner properties with no agent, agents in small local RE offices, agents in huge companies like Saccombank real estate, developers selling their own projects, etc.
New condo tower projects said no problem for a foreigner to buy their units. They are marketing like mad to presell the units during construction. Brochures written in English.

> So explain to me why there are so many properties for sale at prices that seem way too high, ie, house recently listed at US$190,000, not in a central area.
In a Saigon suburb like D2 or D7, that is a pricey expat area with wide streets, international schools for the kiddies, less congestion, no street vendors. If in another suburb, that could be a "villa" which I think is a freestanding house with a yard. Only the rich have villas.

> If you can't buy and the 50 yr lease issue, why so expensive?
The expat/foreigner market for non-commercial real estate is probably < .01% so I don't think has much effect on property price trends. Why is the city 4x more than the country? Why is Sydney 2x more than Brisbane? Supply and demand. Individuals don't own houses, families do. Renting is comparatively cheaper here, definitely a better short term financial decision. And have you read about how hard it is to get your money out of the country, if you decide to sell your house and go back? I have no first hand knowledge, but even school teachers blogged you can put your money in the bank, but transferring to another country is another matter.

Does your wife have citizenship, passport? Then RE can be in her name, foreigner law circumvented, yeah?
Are you sure you want to live here? Why even think about buying so soon? Have you spent a year+ here, short-term renting in different areas? Vietnam is a challenging place to live requiring a flexible mindset. (I just spent a week in Thailand, totally different, practically first-world: cars, people follow driving laws, huge supermarkets, many people speaking at least a bit of English.)
If Saigon area, do you know where flooding is bad? If not just in your neighborhood, maybe the road you commute on goes underwater...  Don't ask me, there have been maps in newspapers published after big storms but I don't know a reliable source for info.

Thank you for your long and informative blog...
My wife was born in Vn but has lived in Aus since she was 4 yrs old, so an Aus citizen...
We have spent a lot of time in Vn and have many Vn friends...
We thought, like a lot of people, that the change of laws in July would allow at least my wife to purchase property...
Whilst not impossible, it is extremely difficult to jump through the hoops required...
Your comments are noted, probably good to rent in the area first...
Still wondering why properties are so expensive when they are almost impossible to buy...
Don't like the 50 year lease, 99 years would be reasonable...

Recent upbeat property articles:

Note that the 50 year lease is extendable,, although there's no real clear guidance on how long (some say another 20 years, or 50 more years)..  It is understandable why a 50 year lease is  less desirable than freehold ownership - it depreciates over time.

In 50 years, I will make a wild guess and say real estate laws will have changed. Compare, 50 years ago was 1965, pre-reunification, pre-all new government, pre-big economic changes in the 90s.
In another 50 years, Vietnam might have become overrun with cars, and poor immigrants, and smoke from Indonesia and you left. Perhaps the government turned it into Singapore and, where your house was, is now a greenspace. Or a skyrise. Or the dam that was built to stop the flooding. By then, you might be living in the United States of Asean. Or in a Mars colony.
I wouldn't worry so much! Live in the moment. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero = Seize the day, put very little trust in the future - Horace

Have just spent time in Danang, now in HCM, we notice a bigger difference now than a short time ago...
Danang seems more friendly and generally more reasonably priced...
Has anyone else noticed this?

My Wife & I live in VN now; my wife is Vietnamese, but also an Ameican citizen(where she lived for about 8 years). We have employed a lawyer to help us with the legal papers for a house; he is now telling us he will not know anything about the filing over the new July law until at least early Dec. Even with my wife still being a VN citizen she must extend her visa every 3 months just like I do as she arrived on an American passport; and yes you still have to jump through many hoops to ever get the right to own & only in her name with the suggestion of a will to assure both have a say of ownership. Seems to be many flaws in the new law on anyone other than VN people owning property, if having a 2nd citizenship it is like being a foriegnor getting to the final result
The new housing projects promise a outsider to have ownership papers within 6 months if buying their property. I do not know anyone who has accomplished this, but the real estate agent says foriegners have already purchased some of those?

@osage if your lawyer has never processed the documents for this (and very few if any have) than a few weeks to get it together in his head is not unrealistic. Its a long slow process but it can be done. Please go back and read some of my previous posts on the subject. In the mean time do a fact check with that real estate agent and see if he'll provide you with the names and phone numbers that he says have already completed the action and have the pink papers.

Thanks for the advice Rick, will look into it. The Housing development that asked us about looking at them are about 20 km from Saigon. I do not think I am interested that far out of District 1.
I will have my wife speak with the lawyer further, he claims the hold up is that the government has not provided what is needed to do the paper work yet. The firm has done ownership papers before, but not sure if for a Vietnamese that is looked at as an American like myself, but will check.
Thanks again

This is an old but great and still relevant to what I want to do in Vietnam. Thanks for writing it. Would be great to see some pictures of your place.

michaellieptourists - I am Viet Kieu too and I was interested in the new law change as well. The issue I had when looking around at the time of the change was that nobody knew exactly what it meant. When speaking to sales staff and even lawyers at some of Vietnams biggest property developers, Vinhomes and Novaland, they were clueless. The issue was with the definition of who is a Viet Kieu. According to them, it's based on passport and since I have a British passport now, I am a foreigner. Even though my passport notes my place of Birth. I just knew this was incorrect so I went out of my to prove it. Millions left Vietnam as refugees and got new passports not just me. Since many of the better "A" condo's are built by either of the two companies, I went on a mission to confirm my new legal rights because I might have ended up in same situtaiton if I try to buy from them. Your wife can obtain a document from the embassy in Australia called a certificate of Vietnamese origin. She needs to show either her original birth certificate, her parents birth certificate or a letter written by a Vietnamese national. Once she has this paper, it proves she's a Viet Kieu and she is entitled to same lease/land rights as a Vietnamese citizen. I must admit it was harder for me to convince them I was a Viet Kieu because I do not speak Vietnamese so I had to jump through lots of hoops in order to have this piece of paper so no one will question my former nationality.

As for land values and apartments, I find them overpriced in parts of Saigon and Hanoi. Heavily speculated with few owner/occupiers. I don't think prices ever went down properly from the last bubble. Look at Da Nang for example, abandoned prime beach resorts. You also see land set for residential use bought by speculators and left empty. Rows and rows of empty plots and then you'll see a newly built house. The streets resembles those in China with nail houses.

In my opinion, apartments are risky investments in Vietnam. Some of Vietnam's first high rise apartment buildings built less than 10 years ago are now crumbling or in the middle of being pulled down. There's Thanh Kieu Plaza, Ever Rich... and basically any apartment built over a parkson's is quickly going to be worthless. This fascination to build apartments over shopping centers is so stupid. The bottom retail spaces get abandoned and the whole area becomes a ghost building.

Now moving on to some of the newer "A" condos with few owner occupiers. They're either bought off plan to be flipped, held back by developers and leased out by them until the market recovers but I know there's lots more available than sales staff will let you know.  If they see you as a foreigner, you instantly get told that the most expensive one is the only one left. My Vietnamese girlfriend when enquires is told something else. There's just no transparency and they are like sharks. I rented at the new icon 56 for a while,  It's quite empty and the only people you meet are tourists staying a short while via airbnb. This is the problem when a place is seen as just an investment and not owner/occupied, the place becomes an unlicensed condotel and things break very quickly.

Compare all this with a more developed market such as Thailand... condos of the same size are cheaper in Bangkok, arguably of a better quality with better infrastructure and local public transportation. And transparency! They show you every single available unit. Thailand is country that has historically attracted more foreigners so the rent/sales market is more developed. The only reason I don't put my money down in Bangkok instead is because after looking around, I want to buy land or an old house in Vietnam to tear down to build my own which is why I really appreciate this post and it's very informative. Would be good to know any experience of other self build projects.

Another example of how ridiculously over speculated land is in Vietnam. There's an area around westlake hanoi that's referred to in the Vietnamese media as the "Golden Land". If you actually go there it's like empty plots of land or shacks on top of land thats claimed to be the most expensive in the world. Crazy!

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