Buying Property in Vietnam

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnam property ownership for expats is a dilemma that has been here as long as the expats themselves. You come to Vietnam, fall in love with the country and settle down. But where will you live? Is it going to be rental property forever? You don’t intend on leaving so why not buy? It may surprise quite a few to realise that it is not as fraught with danger as you may think. It is certainly easier than in Thailand, and there is a lot less chance of you losing your hard earned money.

Vietnam Property Law Changes

The government changed the rules in July 2015, enabling foreigners to buy their dream home here, provided they match a few criteria. Anyone buying property here now has a lease of 50 years, with the ability to sell-on and transfer the lease.

Conic Residental Building in Binh Chanh (Photo by Đức-Huy)

According to the new law, foreigners and foreign entities will only be allowed to buy or take ownership of apartments and houses in commercial projects. They will still not be allowed to buy in areas that limit or ban foreigners. A maximum of 30% of apartments within a given block and 250 houses in a given ward will be available to expats. The 50 year lease will be able to be extended in the future, although details of exactly how this will be done will change over time.

People may think that not being able to buy the land and only the building upon it is unfair, but this is the same for the local population. The government maintains ownership of the land here. Since the announcement, a property market that was already heating up has really opened up and enabled foreigners to join the Vietnam property ladder. The country already had a strong economy and a very strong and vibrant middle class.

These new rules also apply to long term Vietnamese who, living abroad, have kept up their Vietnamese citizenship. With 4.2 million Vietnamese living overseas and about 30,000 high earning foreign executives working and living here (CNBC), the potential for local real estate companies is huge.

Big Changes for Ho Chi Minh City

The drive to modernise the city has meant that developments are springing up everywhere. The new prestigious tower being built in District 1 by Vinhomes is seen as a symbol of the future. At 461 metres, the Landmark 81 tower will be the tallest building in Southeast Asia.

Photo by Vinhomes 

Vietnam’s economy has a steady growth rate of over 5-7% per year. Almost 42,000 apartments were launched in 2015 with a record 36,000 of them being sold (Vietnambreakingnews.com). Vietnam does certainly look like a great place in which to invest. In Ho Chi Minh City, The top end properties are priced at $3,000 to $5,000 per square metre. This is way below the $9,375 per square metre you would have to cough up in Bangkok (Financial Times). And yet, rental yields here are 1.5-2.5% higher than those in Bangkok, Hong Kong and even Singapore, according to VinaCapital.


Deutsches Haus: German World-Class Design in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Deutsches Haus is “the symbol of the strategic partnership and friendship between Vietnam and Germany.”

On the 1st of August 2017 Deutsches Haus, Southeast Asia’s most eco-friendly and well-constructed building, will open its doors on the corner of Le Duan and Le Van Huu in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, right beside the InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The 25-storey, 40,000 gross sq m building represents the union of the Vietnamese and German governments, showcasing modern German technology and acting as a model of sustainable design.

In 2011, Germany’s Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a declaration establishing the partnership between Germany and Vietnam, designed to strengthen the political, economic and cultural relations of the two countries.

For the past five years, Germany has been Vietnam’s biggest trade partner in the European Union, totaling a trade volume of US$8.92 billion in 2015 alone. The Deutsches Haus is to be the central platform for German and Central European companies doing business with Vietnamese and other ASEAN businesses, as well as the place to be for cultural exchange and relations.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The project aims to receive the USGBC LEED Platinum certification - the highest level of green certification possible. This will be the first building in Vietnam to receive LEED’s Platinum level, and is one of a few in Southeast Asia. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally recognised certification that ensures a building uses less water and energy, has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, pays particular attention to its construction material (and their effects on health and environment), and much more.

Examples of LEED Platinum certified buildings include the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, U.S., which contain the world’s only Platinum certified greenhouse; the massive Taipei 101 building in Taiwan; Canada’s Manitoba Hydro Place, quoted by CBC News as one of "the most energy-efficient office towers in the world”; Kohinoor Hospital, Asia’s first LEED Platinum certified hospital; and other select stadiums, hospitals, office buildings, conservatories, universities, convention centers and homes around the world.

Currently, there are only a total of 40 green certified buildings in the country, based on two certifications: LEED, and LOTUS (a certification similar to LEED, but more attuned to Vietnam’s climate and conditions). The first building to garner a LEED certification in Vietnam was a manufacturing facility owned by Colgate-Palmolive. The Diamond Lotus is a LEED-certified condominium project that will have three connected apartment complexes covered in bamboo, to be built in the coming years.

The design of Deutsches Haus has been entrusted to world-renowned architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who has over 50 years of experience. Gerkan has designed Tegel Airport, Lingang New City, the National Museum of China, the Hanoi Museum, Hamburg Airport, both the National Assembly and the National Convention Center in Hanoi, and many others. The design he undertook for Deutsches Haus is meant to express Germany’s role as an industrial and technological leader in the form of sustainable architecture, as well as German-standard architecture abroad.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The building’s double façade will eliminate the heat of the sun while allowing a great deal of sunlight to pass through, minimizing artificial light usage while ensuring a comfortable interior. In addition, this “double skin” will reduce noise and provide superior thermal insulation.

This façade is unique in Vietnam and is to be a milestone for future developments. LED lights will be used throughout the building for brighter and more energy-efficient lighting; the building’s air will be cleaned through a superior hospital grade filtration system; personal comfort is pushed to the forefront with particular attention to localised temperature control, centralised dehumidification, shading and daylight control and integration of all non-life systems; rooftop solar panels will be able to power the building’s lobbies during normal business hours; and a thorough plan for the building’s water system includes rainwater harvesting, grey water flushing systems and the reuse of treated sewage for irrigation and cooling.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The city is certainly in need for a greener urban environment: according to numbeo.com, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked the ninth most polluted city globally. This is more than evident in the amount of noise and smog one encounters while cruising around the city by motorbike. Although initiatives are being taken by introducing electric buses and other green projects, until the population adapts more sustainable practices, greener buildings are a necessary beginning.

The building will feature premium office space; a residential living space on the top floors; the largest rooftop terrace in the city; a pool and a fitness center; a multi-functional conference, exhibition and event-space; a restaurant; public areas with workspaces; coffee shops; a mobile washing station for cars and motorbikes parked at one of the four basement parking levels; raised floors (functioning to hide wires and regulate room temperature); and a fully-featured lobby. The lobby will feature screens projecting weather, German and European news, the building’s environmental stats, and will include an air freshener system, German artwork, and architecturally congruent seating. The building will also be the new home for the German Consulate and other German and European institutions.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

This is a serious undertaking in a city full of delimiting regulations and architectural mishaps. The building is an example for the entire country to follow - projects integrating some of its features have already began construction in Vietnam. The Deutsches Haus is to be an environmentally and culturally sound representation of the city’s international future - and it seems to have been entrusted to the right hands for the job.

Image source: flickr.com


Improving Your Home: An Interior Design Case Study

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Homeowners usually think of their dwelling as a place to relax and unwind after a hard day out, spend a bit of quality family time, and have the occasional meal. But have you ever thought a home can be an extension of one’s personality, a space to feel refreshed after a long day, something that inspires you instead of acting like a permanent hotel?

Interior design’s focus is to enhance an indoor space to make it not only more pleasing on the eyes, but bring its inhabitants together and seamlessly connect separate spaces. Below we take an interior design project in Binh Duong New City, where an existing apartment layout goes through several modifications to maximise both space and function.

1. Existing condition: The existing condition of the space was a three bedroom apartment for a young family. There were long, narrow corridors, too many solid walls that made the public area smaller and tighter for anyone passing through. There were no true spaces for working, reading or entertainment.

2. Solution: As the inhabitants were a young family with a small child (and possibly another coming), changes were made in the layout in order to create a functional space that could fulfill the needs of a small group of closely knit people. For this an “open” concept was used.

2.1 Functional change of space: The project began with the demolition of one bedroom and the creation of a multi-purpose space – this new working/reading room can be used as a guest bedroom when needed.

2.2 Working room: The working room is an open space, connected with other sections of the apartment: the kitchen, the dining area, bedrooms and the living rooms. Privacy for the working room can still be kept using a partition and bookshelf.

2.3 Open kitchen: An open kitchen also helps make the space look bigger, as it connects with other sections of the apartment.

 

2.4 Overview: This “open concept” does not only create a connection between spaces but also connects family member together – while mom is cooking, she can talk or look after her kids, and also speak with her husband in the working room at the same time. All spaces are connected together without boundary, and this creates a roomier feel in the apartment.

3. The value created: A simple change in layout can create a big difference for your apartment, yourself and for others who are engaging in this space.

The above project was completed by OP3 Interior Design & Construction. The firm’s belief is that a home should tell a story about the owner, while at once refreshing those who live there, connecting family together with a seamless space that take into account the natural elements of the earth. You may learn more about their home enhancing projects at op3vietnam.com. For further consultation, you may contact OP3 Vietnam at marketing@op3vietnam.com.


Hong Kong and Singapore Investors Seek Opportunities in Vietnam

By: Timo Schmidt

Vietnam’s new laws for foreigners, released in July 2015, have already had great impact on the local housing market in the country.

Particularly, investors from within the region are amongst the first ones to actively seek investment opportunities in the country. Savills Vietnam has seen great interest and real demand from foreign buyers based in Singapore and Hong Kong. To better understand the reasons for their aggressive moves it is important to look at the local housing market in these respective countries.

Property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong have been heating up over the last decade due to ever-increasing demand from local and foreign investors. While Singapore is a preferred investment destination for buyers from Malaysia, Indonesia and mainland China, the market in Hong Kong has seen tremendous investment from the latter.

“Property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong have been heating up over the last decade”

To react to the social problems caused by the price increases - such as lack of affordability for first-home buyers - governments in both destinations have put cooling measures in place. These are now showing effect with a considerable drop in transactions, and prices are expected to drop in both countries.

In Singapore and Hong Kong the governments reacted as early as 2009 with a variety of cooling measures, which included:

  • Increase of Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) for purchases of multiple properties of up to 15% in Singapore and 8.5% in Hong Kong respectively, particularly for non-resident foreigners and entities.
  • Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) on resale of properties with short holding periods in Singapore for periods of less than one year, which was later increased to three years. And in Hong Kong from two to three years.
  • Limits on loan-to-value for multiple unit purchases, meaning that buyers could not leverage purchases by using bank loans. Especially relative to foreign buyers or those who purchased multiple units.

These measures were specifically introduced to curb property investment and speculation - particularly by foreign investors - rather than preventing irsthome buyers from purchasing units. The effects are finally starting to show with transactions and prices decreasing in both markets, and talks of a property market crises making the rounds. More importantly, the yield potential in these markets has declined due to the additional purchasing costs.

Photo by: Tri Nguyen

Taking into consideration that Hong Kong and Singapore investors are amongst the most active in the region, Vietnam is seen as one of the most attractive destinations for property investment in Southeast Asia. With excellent yield potential and prices at a fraction of those in Hong Kong and Singapore, investors can purchase multiple units at the value of one property in their home markets.

“Vietnam is seen as one of the most attractive destinations for property investment in Southeast Asia”

Savills Vietnam was among the first real estate agencies to take advantage of this by creating an international sales department to actively promote Vietnam’s properties in these key markets; in collaboration with Savills regional offices.

“We have seen great interest of local developers to market their projects abroad, and have scheduled a series of sales events in Hong Kong and Singapore over the year 2016. Our offices in both countries are excited to promote Vietnam’s properties given that the easing of restrictions allows foreign investors to take advantage of low prices and excellent yields in comparison to their local markets,” says the head of International Residential Sales for Savills Vietnam. “Since inception of the department we’ve transacted nearly US$20 million in sales to foreigners without bringing projects abroad. We are confident that this number will increase dramatically over the coming months.”

The opening of the Vietnamese property market to foreign investors is expected to draw more foreign investment into Vietnam from private and institutional investors.


Top 10 Real Estates Websites in HCMC

By: Luke Nguyen

Buying, selling or renting a house in Vietnam, easy though it sounds, can be a challenge for a foreigner. The country’s real estate transactions have been based heavily on the traditional method of having an agent (or “co” - the housing stork) do all the work. People are now becoming more proactive in their choice of creating a home and taking advantage of online information to save costs and time.

Here are our top 10 picks for quality real estate websites in Vietnam. Despite the fact that only a limited number of them have a proper English interface, their information is valuable and can be translated easily using Google Translate.

Check out the 10 sites below:

1. batdongsan.com.vn

When it comes to housing and real estate, Bat Dong San is no doubt the number one portal in Vietnam. With the largest amount of information in its field, continuously updated and presented professionally in both Vietnamese and English, it satisfies a wide range of enquiries from visitors. Besides real estate information, it also provides visitors advice on architecture, construction, interior and exterior decoration, legal issues and feng shui.

2. muabannhadat.vn

With a friendly website layout, Mua Ban Nha Dat is a great source providing online solutions for marketers and real estate brokers. For investors, brokers and individuals who are active in the field, this site is one of their first choices to get quick market updates and details on upcoming real estate projects all over the country with a few quick clicks. The only downside is that they don’t have an English user-friendly interface, but as mentioned earlier, Google Translate can be a good way to explore.

3. zita.vn

Zita is one of the newest additions to the Vietnamese real estate field. With its clean, sleek layout including a city view home page video, Zita sets itself apart from the other competitors. The information on the site is presented beautifully with a neighborhood browsing feature and an interactive map for visitors.

4. dothi.net

Do Thi provides the fastest and most accurate market information in Vietnam. Through the advanced site browser, users can find all about buying, selling, renting across all provinces and cities in the country. News and featured projects sections are updated daily to keep visitors informed on the latest buzz in the field.

5. nhadat24h.net

Nha Dat 24h specialises in online real estate transactions, featured VIP promotions, advertising updates and latest market news.

6. 123nhadat.vn

With over 2 million real estate listings and an average of 5,000 housing posts per day, 123 Nha Dat provides market information, and post-purchase education and lease-free housing. Users can search for land, houses and apartments.

7. cafeland.vn

Cafeland is one of the leading real estate sites in Vietnam. Besides housing information, the website also provides up to date news and market analysis from experts in the field. The site also has a portfolio section which provides key details on real estate with specific and neatly presented information.

8. diaoconline.vn

Dia Oc Online aims to contribute to the sustainable growth of information-sharing and real estate infrastructure in Vietnam. Besides housing listings and information, consultancy on decoration, interior design and feng shui are also provided to users for reference. The featured agents section is also very interesting and informative.

9. dinhgianhadat.vn

This website lives up to its good name by providing qualified property valuation software to assist customers with making buying decisions easier. Besides real estate news and tips, Dinh Gia Nha Dat also features a cheap land and housing section and a promotion and auction space for buyers and investors.

10. kenhbds.vn

Kenh BDS supplies a wealth of resource materials for home buyers and sellers for big cities in Vietnam. The website is presented so that both buyers and sellers can make the most of its user-friendly interface and information.


Meet the Expert: Charles Gallavardin on sustainable architecture in HCMC

By: Patrick Gaveau

Today, the demand for more sustainable design in HCMC is steadily getting off the ground. Charles Gallavardin of T3 Architecture Asia sat down with Citypassguide.com to give his perspective on green buildings in Vietnam. Charles and his wife started T3 Architecture in France in 2007, specialising in green architecture. When Charles arrived in Vietnam in 2011 to begin T3 Architecture Asia, the demand for green building was low, although interest was growing. We spoke with Charles to determine what changes were taking place to catalyse this newfound interest.

What is the definition of a green building for you?

It’s a building well integrated into the place it’s set up at. It should take the landscape into consideration - the shape of the building is quite important, to be protected from the sun and allow for natural ventilation. The idea is to avoid direct light in a hot tropical climate; that’s why we design overhangs or balconies, to take the facade away from the sun, so you keep your main walls in the shadows.

Secondly, you have to take care of the roof, and make sure there is a double ventilated roof to keep the air flow and make the top floor always cool. Then, ideally, you try to use green building materials, sourced not too far from where you are.

Why does Saigon need such type of construction?

Saigon is one of the more polluted cities in Asia now. There is a huge issue concerning air pollution. The demand of energy is getting higher than what can be produced. What we can see for many years is that Vietnam is mainly doing a “copy-paste” of buildings they saw in Western countries with full glass facades but they didn’t realise that the climate is totally different and that they have to create their own style to make their building more appropriate to the climate, to save energy, save costs and make the building more comfortable.

Do you think one of the main challenges to building green buildings in Vietnam has to do with people’s perception?

Yes. I think when you discuss this with most Vietnamese, of course they want more parks and more green areas. But in reality, in urban development in Vietnam, this is still considered a quantity issue. Which means they try to plant vegetation to increase the number of green area per square meter per inhabitant, but without having in mind that it’s better to have many small parks than having long green areas along the highway. It is the same story with green buildings: a green roof doesnæt make your building green.

 

Do you think one of the main concerns for people who don’t understand green buildings too well is the fear of additional costs?

I don’t think so, because finally we can do green buildings quite cheap, depending on the material you use. But the green principles are very basic and you can find it everywhere in the traditional architecture of Vietnam. Traditionally you have your long and narrow plot, with the shop facing the street, the house on the backside and a courtyard in the middle. The air ventilation is efficient and you have natural light in your house and your shop. The house is far from the street so it’s far from the noise. For 20-30 years, Vietnamese have lost their knowledge of how to create a green house, but recently some young Vietnamese architecture firms take traditional building materials and traditional Vietnamese architecture and incorporate it in a more modern sense to make the house more green.

So green houses are one issue, but can you tell us about the problem of green urban areas? Is this something that can happen in Vietnam?

Yes, it could. But what we can see in the development in Vietnam, it’s always private investors who wield the city, and their model is a Singaporean one, but with a lower budget and less knowledge. There are really few alternatives for high-rise buildings and private houses. So when you have a private house, the plot is usually very small, and you have very few green areas. And for high-rises, you need to build these by large streets if you follow regulations, so then you have very narrow green areas.

One solution would be to make the city very dense, with apartment blocks lower with some streets more narrow, but keeping some spaces open for parks and public gardens, like we have in Europe.

Is the government aware and sensitive about the need to do something about that?

Yes, they are. There are many discussions about this. But if you’re a private investor and you finance infrastructure, the government cannot complain too much about what you do. You try to optimize your plot as much as possible.

Is it possible to bring more awareness to private investors by showing them the financial reward in doing so?

Yes. In America and Europe, the government pushes green building by giving a loan or some advantage. The government in Vietnam doesn’t have a lot of money, so they’ve let the private investors do the development. But private investors’ awareness is going up because they see people want more green spaces, nice areas around their apartments, so it’s starting to change.

Is it feasible to build a green house or building using only locally sourced material?

Yes, it’s possible. There are many materials available; less than Western countries or Singapore, but enough to build something green. The prices are the time.

What about reusing old material. Is that something that happens in Vietnam?

Yes, a bit. For example, many architects reuse wooden shutters for part of the facade to use as ventilation. But not so much, since the quality of the construction is not so good and when you destroy a house there’s not much you can use.

Some years ago I met with an architect and he told me something that surprised me. He said that Vietnam is one of the best countries in the world for recycling. When a house is being dismantled, the Vietnamese will often take every brick and every cable, to try and reuse it for some other purpose. Is this true?

This is partially true. They reuse material by placing it on natural soil to make it not porous anymore, and then they pour cement over it to make a concrete slab. But then you have the problem that you don’t have enough natural soil then to absorb the water during rainy season, and it makes flooding a very important issue in the near future.

Energy consumption is growing, meaning the price has to go up, which means it makes sense to have more energy efficient practices and buildings, correct?

Yes, this happens in every city. When energy prices go up, green houses and buildings become more and more normal. Of course, for Vietnam, electricity cost is very low, even compared to the standard of life. One issue, even though it’s never easy for government to say that they have to increase electricity costs, especially for poor people, it’s a real way to make developers and private investors more concerned about energy savings.

In 10 years from now, what do you think the state of green buildings will be in Vietnam?

Green construction has been developing more and more, first in hospitality projects; you have international guests, so five or six years ago in the private sector and even residential projects, Vietnamese started to be more concerned about energy and cost savings, and the quality of the environment. Thanks to Vietnamese architects and small agencies, we can do something more.

Almost none of the existing high-rises in Ho Chi Minh City are really environmentally friendly. If the price of energy rises, most of these building will have to be rebuilt or adapt to the new demands. And you provide this service?

Yes, full renovation to adapt an existing building and make it less costly in terms of energy, and most important of all we make it more comfortable for people!

How big of a project is it for someone who wants to make their home more green?

Usually, you have to touch up the facade and main structure, so it’s a bit costly, but you don’t have to demolish all. It can be from some very simple like adding shutters, to touching up the roof at VND 3 million per sq m, up to VND 10 million per sq m to redo something very properly and almost reconstruct the house.

Is the wiring in Vietnam efficient?

In terms of fire hazards and electric shock, no. 

And LEDs?

There is a huge market for LEDs. They are replacing halogens with LEDs everywhere, more and more in residential projects. But before thinking about advanced technology and costly equipment - which is important also - the first thing is to try and hire a good designer when you are creating a building. And if the design is well done you are sure to have very low consumption. And of course you put some LEDs and solar panels. One of the problems in Vietnam and in developing countries in general is people don’t think of the basics. Once you do this, then you can think of the high-tech equipment and energy efficiency.


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