Everything You Need to Know About Real Estate in HCMC

By: Patrick Gaveau

We sat down with property experts Mauro Gasparotti and Rudolf Hever from Alternaty (Alternaty.com) for a deep exploration of Ho Chi Minh City’s real estate scene.

Mauro GasparottiMauro Gasparotti

Do you think Vietnamese people as a whole have a different perception on land value?

Mauro: Yes. Valuation is probably the most important and sensitive subject for Vietnamese. I think the true definition of value, which is what a willing buyer and seller would pay for is not applicable. It’s more of what the people are asking for next door.

The other thing that affects the value is the process of the acquisition of land, the years of pain of getting the land from a certain status to a much more sellable status. From a valuation point of view, foreigners don’t consider this when they come in. You could spend years on relationships and a lot of money to get this land, so there is a mismatch to what a normal developed country would perceive as value and what the Vietnamese think of it. Vietnamese want to get paid for this process, and that’s why a lot of development comes at such a high prices, because this would make the project feasible.

The Vietnamese also put a future value into the asking price. They put what the value will be in 5-10 years time, they try to put the growth of the country as a factor. It’s a long exercise to understand value from both sides. For Vietnamese it’s what has been the history they needed to go through to get to this point where they can sell the land; for foreigners it’s what the price is that would make their project feasible on this land.

There’s no transparency. That’s why the big guys like Vincom who get the land easier can also move the process along faster than the single developer who has spent 10 years trying to get the approval and now he wants to get paid for this 10 years.

Photo by Pullman Saigon Centre

Is there in your experience any other country that is similar to Vietnam in the market’s disregard to value?

Mauro: Myanmar. We have been asked to open an office there. I clearly saw the dynamic of the market when I was there. Nobody can tell the real value of the land, everybody is relying on the future value it, as well as how easy it is to build on it, how clean it is - also a lot of corruption in the back. That’s when you see speculation, you see a bubble, you see overpriced land, and not many transactions. And now you see an oversupply in the hotel business; two years ago there was an undersupply. Vietnam is past this stage now and much better than before.

Cambodia is different. It’s easier to get the land process approval. You know exactly how much it will cost you, so Cambodia is an easier market to do business with, and they rely on foreign business as well.

Is the average land value in the primary streets in HCMC overvalued?

Mauro: Yes, but if you asked me this question five years ago I would have said yes as well, and now the value is 30% more, so I was wrong then. I could be wrong now. The reality is that if I run a cash flow model on any commercial property, and I pick US$20,000 per square metre of land, there’s no way I’ll recover from that.

However, because of this barrier of entry, it will always keep your commercial property high in terminal value. If you look at the hotel business for example they badly need 3 and 4 star international branding. But then you look at the land price and it’s not very feasible to pay US$20,000 per sq m if your room rate is US$70.

But you're more likely to sell your end product for a premium. So you pass this high price on this land to the high price on your building. The whole system works somehow on this high land value, high barrier of entry in District 1, and then high value on the completed building. So somehow, I am sure, there are certain projects that are actually feasible.

Then you go outside a bit of District 1 - District 3, near the airport - the land price drops a lot, but still pretty high, but it’s feasible. Noise is another story [laughs].

Photo by Tri Nguyen

Do you think this system is sustainable?

Rudolf: I look at it in a more optimistic way. It is what it is, but it is changing, the market is developing, there are more laws being passed encouraging foreign investment, and you can see this in the statistics of FDI [Foreign Direct Investment]. I think over time, in terms of the big picture, we are an emerging marketing. We are going the right way, although it’s a rollercoaster, but over the long term it’s getting more developed and transparent.

FDI is increasing? By how much?

Rudolf: I don’t know off hand but real estate is usually the second or third largest recipient after manufacturing. Real estate is one of the major benefactors of FDI.

How important is the real estate market for the Vietnamese economy?

Mauro: [Pause] I think it’s crucial, I think [the Vietnamese] look at it closely as an indication of how strong the economy is itself. They are very attached to the land as core value, and I think it’s a good way to move the money out of the stock market, which seems very risky at the moment.

A lot of the big guys I mentioned before will change the dynamic of the market, whether there is a huge bubble of oversupply I cannot answer now but the belief is that they are building because there is demand and they believe people will invest. I think this is sustainable at a level that the bank will need to come in with more support. The market is a long way from being developed but it’s good news that we’re talking about something that can always improve and get better.

If you see the whole District 2 it’s a beautiful example of a new satellite city. So there is a lot of good news out there, I wouldn’t be too worried. And being here for eight years I passed two big bubbles: 2008-2009, and then 2011-2012, so I am very realistic about the market, but I see a lot more educated buyers and developers now.

Photo by Huy Nguyen

Is local financing still too weak to support real estate development?

Mauro: I think yes, I think there are banks that rush into something when they are asked, and then they step out as quick as they rush in. There is really no long term strategy for the bank itself, and they only support a certain level of buyer, which is the mid- to high-end buyer that has easier access to the bank, while the people that really need it, it’s much more difficult for them.

We were doing a project in Cambodia one year ago, a satellite city with a townhouse. We were amazed to see the amount of support the low-income buyers got from the banks to buy these low-cost townhouses. There was a whole structure of payment set up according to the salary the people had and there was a lot of cooperation from the developers and banks coming together to help this structure. I don’t think Vietnam is there yet. I think it’s more based on the personal relationship between the buyer and his bank, than a sustainable, clear structure. As a foreigner living in Vietnam, or as a foreign company, it’s not an easy structure - so there’s a lot of improvement to be done at that level.

Rudolf: I think we all know that bank financing and debt financing is a big mystery to most people in Vietnam, and very few have access to it. But on the level that there is access, I don’t think there is a shortage, just simply looking at the amount of activity going on in HCMC and Phu Quoc. But as Mauro said, once we go down to the middle tier and lower tier enterprises, then it’s quite difficult. There are also sources of financing overseas. A few big players like Vincom and Novaland are using offshore bonds. Then you have other groups Singapore’s CapitalLand, who obviously get funding from Singapore from the head office. And then you have groups such as SonKim Land, who are mid tier developers who are locally based, but who are partnering with foreign investors who then bring cash either at the corporate or project level, which can be private equity or listed funds.

The government recently issued new regulation that facilitates the purchase of property for foreign residents. Can you tell me more about that?

Rudolf: I think there is growing interest from offshore to invest in Vietnam. But in reality the number of actual groups and projects that are viable and are able to handle a foreign partner are very small.

Photo by Tri Nguyen

Legally speaking is that easy for them to do?

Rudolf: In terms of individual buyers, there are less restrictions. There is interest, people are definitely curious about Vietnam. You see more articles on Bloomberg, Newswire, these big news outlets, are now running good stories about Vietnam. But it’s still not an easy decision making process to commit to buying. Over time it will get easier, and the laws have improved dramatically, but there are still grey areas in terms of exactly what you can and cannot do and the mechanics of a purchase and sell. But we’ve come such a long way, and there will be more interest. You will see more and more developers going overseas with a broker to sell property. You see a lot of properties in Thailand, Australia and U.S. sold offshore. Vietnam is now getting into that group. It’s still seen as an emerging, a more risky case, but I think it’s an incredibly huge market to get into.

Mauro: If you buy property here and rent it, it’s actually a decent yield compared to other countries. With some properties you get 7-9% return on your initial investment, which is pretty attractive for people. But the problem is how do I get my money out of the country. The foreign buyers are those who are familiar with the country. It’s not just overseas people who put the money in, there is usually a wife, girlfriend or whatever who is familiar with the country. Thailand has a proven track record of enter and exit. Foreigners are more keen and safe there. Vietnam has just opened to foreigners, so I think there will be a couple of rounds of track records to be proven to the market, and I think this will be seen over the next couple of years as some properties are developed, such as Estella Heights.

In terms of the number of projects, there is no match. I think there are more projects in Ko Samui than in the whole of Vietnam. So that’s just in terms of volume. I think Vietnam has a lot of room for what Phuket and Bali have a lot of - these villas, second home projects that are decently built. Usually [in Vietnam] it’s either a US$1 million beachfront property or the township project with no real design. Vietnam needs a mid-type of prical structure with a managemental top, not much branded management, just something nice enough to show that there is value here. This is missing in Vietnam.

Which real estate sector suffers the most in HCMC today?

Mauro: To me it’s malls. This sector is still not truly developed. The demand is not there on the Vietnamese side. The mixed tenants are not there. Usually there is the same type of tenants. You don’t see what you get in Thailand: where people can spend all day at a mall, where there is a large variety of shops and a large food court, with everything from low-priced items to the branded level. I don’t think malls in Vietnam are a sound market yet - land is too expensive for the amount of land retail needs. Considering the land price you need to go high-rise to make your money. I think the only mall that has proven to be nice is AEON Mall. I think that was a good shot. But it took a long time to be executed.

Malls are popping up everywhere. Is there an oversupply?

Mauro: I don’t think there is an oversupply, I think there is a lack of demand and even the right design. There is no mall where I want to spend more than two hours at, as opposed to in Thailand. In Vietnam the feeling of a mall is still just a box where you can buy something and get out. There is a lot of room for further development, even open malls where it’s outside and there’s bars and clubs and something where you make the whole place more than just a shopping location. I think retail, and more specifically the malls sector, is the most difficult to make work, but there is a lot of potential.

I think office passed its bad period. I think it’s doing well and will do well. Residential - that’s where there might be a problem. Residential is still being supported by sales. But that’s a market where you want to keep selling and moving. That’s the riskiest market at the moment. People don’t know if it can be a huge success or disaster in the next two years. Apartments for rent need to be much more developed, a nice rental structure, where developers actually help the tenants rent the space for a decent price, and decent management. The rental market is actually very small. There is a lot of room for improvement here.

Hotels - I think there is a big need for 3 and 4 star hotels, mixed-use hotels, limited service hotels. I think these have the most potential in the non 5 star area; 5 star hotels we have all the property we will need to have for the next three years, that’s it.

What is your opinion on Vincom’s Landmark 81 project?

Mauro: I saw the pictures as everybody else. I think there is a need for Landmark 81. Did you see Bitexco? Again, from a feasibility standpoint it’s not a good return on investment, but it does give somehow a stronger character to the whole city. So I think this is something we should give it credit for. Vincom is different, because they are able to get the money on everything surrounding the Landmark 81 development. That’s the strategy: they’re going to spend money on something that’s not making any money itself, but this value is then going to be passed to every surrounding development they are going to have. I like the area, I think there is a lot of potential. There are a lot of critics on Vincom’s design and choices, but there is respect for them in that they actually deliver.

For a land lease for foreign companies, you are given 50 years. What happens after 50 years?

Rudolf: There are a few different issues. First of all, let’s go down to the other side, which is a developer selling projects to individual investors. There’s new rules and regulations, so yes, a foreigner can buy, but as an individual buyer foreigners can lease only 50-70 years renewable for a freehold area, but the renewable part is the grey area. In terms of talking about a development project, a local or foreign joint venture company can build the project; it just depends on the actual land and area, if its leasehold or freehold. But even a foreign developer, or a joint venture partner with local participation, can buy and sell for freehold some projects. For example a typical case is SonKim Land for The Nassim project. SonKim Land is local, but they joint ventured this with Hongkong Land. It’s freehold for locals, but foreigners can only buy it with a 50 year lease. Same thing with Estella. It’s actually now a 100% foreign-developed project but they can still sell as freehold.

Mauro: It’s funny because as a foreigner you buy leasehold, but if you sell to locals it converts to freehold. This structure makes the whole system open to hope that you never really lose the value even if you are foreign investor. So within 50 years you have a likely chance to sell it.

Imagine the prime minister of Vietnam approaches you and asks you to give three actions to take in order to boost the real estate market?

Rudolf: One is continue along the transparency route. Transparency is a key and risk factor for foreign investors. It has improved over five years but it still has a ways to improve to encourage development.

Mauro: I still think education for the real estate players is important. So my suggestion would be start to really work with developers, architects, PMs, everybody around real estate to educate them what the future of Vietnam is set to be and get everybody on the same page. Once you get a developer who knows what they are doing the project get smoother and the structure is better for the long-term value for the country. Same with architects, get them to a more professional level.

Education goes from the normal public structure all the way to certificates the government requires for the real estate professionals. 70% of the brokers selling homes are random people that are requested to call other people to try and sell it. This to me is wrong because there is a lack of information, a lot of confusion.

More regulation, more help and support. Having people run real estate as a profession. I’m not sure what are the requirements now for an architect to be considered a professional. If you see them make a mistake, you would withdraw the license that they have. A lot of Vietnamese developers - and I won’t mention any names... if you go to Nha Trang, there are a lot of structures that are dangerous in the way they are structured. A lot of property management companies have no real regulations in the way the work needs to be performed, just financial regulation to what they can charge to the developer. Yes there is a certificate to be a broker, but it’s just an easy month course. All of this is missing from the country. The fact that the professionals here are not guided to maintain a certain level of professionalism.

The other suggestion would be for local authorities to work much more with developers. There is a lack of international flights to Phu Quoc, one of the reasons is that local authorities and developers are not sitting down to develop the destination in the right way. Hotels don’t have a small marketing fund to promote destinations. I think if this coordination between local authorities and private investors was there, it would benefit everybody. Danang was able to be seen as an international destination within three to four years of development, because a lot of international brand hotels came on board, and because local authorities were much more open to foreign investors and players. I’m still surprised we receive the Danang newsletter from local authorities every two months. This to me is a huge step ahead. They understand what foreigners need, they listen to them, work with them on promoting the destination. I think this will give a lot of value to Phu Quoc, Mui Ne, Ho Tram, Nha Trang, all the destination that need more coordination. They should sit down with investors and consultants and make a master plan not just from the land value point of view but a 20 year planning for the whole city.

Photo by Tri Nguyen

Do you think it’s a bit naive to think that the Vietnamese can change to work for the benefit of the group?

Mauro: It’s a big step forward. But Danang did it, and it’s a good example of how it can be done.

Would you recommend a foreign friend to buy now in Vietnam?

Mauro: I would recommend to buy. Not everything. To me the right land is not the prime land, it’s the right development, the right spot that can be developed well, if the design is right, if many other things are right. It’s not just about having the prime land, but the land that makes the most sense. For the residential, yes - we bought a unit at Estella. I will buy some Novaland property. There are some products that have opportunities, but not which many people look at because of land prices.

Rudolf: Both of us have been here eight years. I myself would have never thought of buying anything until six months ago because of the future and pricing, but everything now converged to make sense. This time around there seems to be more real demand, I think the years of 2012-2015, where we worked through all the excess and the foundations again, gave me confidence that we went through that period of consolidation and that now we have much more solid footing. And now the economy - I follow it quite closely and all the indicators are looking positive; FDI, interest rates, foreign trade, everything is looking quite solid. Last quarter we had a little bit of a down, but everything for last 2 years has been building solidly. All our regional peers are suffering. So Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia - usually they’re always looking good and Vietnam is the black sheep. Now it’s actually the reverse.

Photo by David Sawyer

Many economical factors are looking very bleak on a global scale. Is the Vietnamese economy dependant on these factors?

Rudolf: Yes and no. But I always look at myself, why I am based in Asia and why I am based in Vietnam. Because globally it can be a good place to be. Putting all the factors together, in the next 5-10 years Asia, specifically Southeast Asia and Vietnam, is a good place in terms of balance.

So you don’t think we’re in a real estate bubble now?

Rudolf: Globally it’s been risky for the past five years. But if you keep saying there is a crisis every day, in five years you’re going to be right at some point. There are always cycles, but I think the gloom and doom scenario is possible but highly unlikely.

Mauro: I don’t see a bubble like I saw a few years ago. I don’t see that scary situation where you say, oh my god, if that bank or whoever stops doing this, everything will collapse. I’ve seen much more growth from private investors. There are probably two sectors where you may say there is a lot of supply coming but demand is uncertain: one is residential, which is what probably everybody is looking at. I receive a message every day that somebody is building a condo somewhere in HCMC, so that’s probably the part that is most scary. The second home market is the other. Some planned projects are fine. But a lot of not well-planned products we will see selling only 15-20% at launch, and that’s it. This is the scary situation where there is no buyer.


Gateway Thao Dien: Raising the Bar for Luxury

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Gateway Thao Dien is Ho Chi Minh City’s answer to high-end, exclusive living

Investors may be surprised by the level of commitment Gateway Thao Dien has shown. It seems delays and misinformation are common complaints for anyone investing in property in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, Gateway Thao Dien has delivered on its word, and even provided added value for its investors - something rarely seen in the local real estate market. There are four ways Gateway Thao Dien has kept its commitment to its demanding home buyers.

On Point and On Time

To date, Gateway Thao Dien has reached all of its milestones on time. Construction has been carried out in a timely manner. From the beginning of October, the status of the project has been going along smoothly: Tower A (The Aspen) and Tower B (The Madison) are expected to complete level 20 and 22, respectively, this November. This means the projects is on track for its expected completion of date of the last quarter of 2017.

World-Class Partners

Backing Gateway Thao Dien are a number of highly reputable contractors and suppliers. These companies all have outstanding track records, and were carefully chosen for their professionalism. Gateway Thao Dien put much effort into acquiring the support of these partners - and buyers can clearly see the results in the quality of the residential complexes, the timely execution, and the customer support given throughout.

Cofico: Since 1975, Cofico has been renowned as one of the leading contractors for both civil and industrial projects in Vietnam. Honored to be appointed as the main contractor for Gateway Thao Dien, the team at Cofico is making every endeavor to satisfy the developer’s requirements for progress, quality and safety. The company’s brand name will act as a guarantor for the construction quality of the project.

Mace: In charge of construction management and supervision of the Gateway Thao Dien project, the Mace Group is a global consulting and construction firm employing 4,600 people across 70 countries. Their management and supervisory team are actively ensuring that the high quality products selected by Gateway Thao Dien are given the proper level of treatment during installation.

Searefico: This company is responsible for providing Gateway Thao Dien with integrated mechanical and electric solutions, as well as equipping the project with modern, high quality products and utilities. Lifts have been installed from world-renowned Swiss elevator company, Schneider; Daikin air-conditioners and Mitsubishi generators have also been added to ensure quality airflow and uninterrupted power. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM), SEAREFICO helps minimise problems in the construction process, ensuring quality installation and quicker progress.

Arup: Known for their intelligent, sustainable structural design, among other high-quality services, Arup is an international firm with 13,000 staff across 42 countries. They have been responsible for some of the world’s most famous structures. They have assisted Gateway Thao Dien with the tower blocks’ structural design, as well as the project’s penthouse floors. Gateway Thao Dien is one of the tallest residential buildings in HCMC, and Arup ensures all the buyers this will be one of the safest places to stay, in terms of structure.

Eurowindow: High-end windows are supplied by Eurowindow. The high-tempered glass is soundproofed up to 40bB, with powder-coated aluminum frames. Complying with AAMA2604 standards, Eurowindow will offer a 20 year warranty for all of its products.

A Surprise Upgrade

Buyers will be delighted to know Gateway Thao Dien’s developers have upgraded many of the appliances that were initially agreed upon. In particular, most bathroom appliances from Kohler and Toto have been promoted to Duravit and Hansgrohe. Teka kitchen appliances have been upgraded to the German Bosch brand. Digital door locks have been changed from Samsung/Yale to Häfele from Germany. Entrance and internal doors will be provided by Sunwood, with the same specifications as for their Marina One project, one of the most luxurious multi-purpose high-rises being built in Singapore.

Steep Rise in Property Value

Metro Line 1 (Ben Thanh to Suoi Tien) is the first metro line in HCMC, with a total span 19.7km and a budget of US$2.49 billion. After the development of Line 1’s master plan, numerous projects began to spring up in the vicinity of the train line. As Line 1’s construction nears completion, property values will rise for anything in the line’s vicinity - that includes Gateway Thao Dien, which is right by the metro.

Contact information:

Website: www.gatewaythaodien.com.vn

Hotline: +84 9 3205 7979

Addresss: Gateway Thao Dien Sales Gallery, 53 - 55 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3


Ibis Saigon Airport: A New Flagship for AccorHotels in Vietnam

By: Arik Jahn

The First International Brand to Open an Airport Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — With an electrifying event, ibis Saigon Airport, AccorHotels’ brand-new hotel sitting right next to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, celebrated its grand opening on 24 March 2017. Ibis Saigon Airport is the latest addition to AccorHotels’ vast hospitality network in Vietnam.

Ibis hotel

Over a hundred guests, including Ho Chi Minh City officials, representatives from AccorHotels and the hotel’s owner company Hado Group attended the event, which paid tribute to ibis Saigon Airport with an opulent buffet, contemporary dance performances and a rooftop party.

“A Milestone for the ibis Brand”

The ibis Saigon Airport’s major asset is its strategic position: a mere 500 metres from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the gateway to Ho Chi Minh City and all of Vietnam. Xavier Cappelut, Accor’s regional Director of Operations for Middle Scale & Economic Brand Hotels, praised the hotel as “a significant milestone for the ibis brand” thanks to its one-of-a-kind location.

Ibis Saigon Airport is a haven of hospitality tailored to corporate travellers and all those looking for “Value for Money”. With its functional and stylish travel-themed design and an outstanding 24-hour food and beverage service at the in-house Oopen restaurant, this hotel truly honours ibis’ slogan, “Well-being at the best price”.

ibis

As the first international airport hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, ibis Saigon Airport goes beyond the usual amenities of the economy sector. Its room typology – standard rooms, family rooms, studios, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments – is unrivalled in the budget segment, catering to the individual needs of each and every guest, from corporate clients to travelling families, from short-stay to long-stay visitors.

INTERVIEW WITH ORESTE TRAETTO, GENERAL MANAGER, IBIS SAIGON AIRPORT

Question: What makes ibis Saigon Airport the first choice for business travellers in Ho Chi Minh City?

Mr. Traetto: Our hotel is strategically tailored to business travellers. Our Oopen restaurant is open 24 hours and we are the only international hotel chain offering a breakfast service from 4 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock [in the afternoon]. So if you have an early flight to catch, you will be able to grab some food, get a coffee, hop on our free shuttle to the airport and you’ll be there in five minutes.

ibis oopen

Or imagine you are a businessperson, and had a hard working day. At ibis Saigon Airport, we provide you with all the facilities to truly reenergise you. What is very important to us is the ibis ‘sweet bed’ that can give you a really good rest. We have incredibly good feedback from our clients about it. And all that, I believe, shows how we really cater to the customers’ needs.

Question: You are very proud of ibis Saigon Airport’s in-house venues. Can you tell me a bit more about them?

Mr. Traetto: Today, travellers, even though they stay for a short amount of time, they want to optimise their stay. Now, with The Hub, ibis Saigon Airport has the only rooftop bar in  Tan Binh District. When you finish your work, you go upstairs, get a beer and enjoy the view of landing airplanes. We have a pool, we have a steam bath, we have a sauna, we have a gym – this is definitely what gives us the opportunity to attract a specific segment of clients. We provide our guests with a place to relax.

We are, if I may say so, part of the new generation of ibis hotels.

ibis hotel view

INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER CAPPELUT, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR MIDDLE SCALE & ECONOMIC BRAND HOTELS, ACCORHOTELS

Question: AccorHotels is home to many brands. Why did you choose the ibis brand for this particular project?

Mr. Cappelut: I think this is a very unique location. The guests who choose to stay close to the airport have very specific needs. They might be in transit for a few hours, they might be spending their last night in Vietnam after a trip. We believe the level of comfort provided by ibis is just the right amount for these specific customers.

And the beauty of a brand like ibis is: you can travel anywhere in the world, you will find the same layout, the same service, the same comfort. Guests choose ibis because they know exactly what they can expect. That’s a guarantee that we provide to our customers. And they appreciate it.

Question: Vietnam is a country with an immense potential for tourism. How does ibis Saigon Airport serve this very particular market?

Mr. Cappelut: Vietnam is very important to us as a group. We, AccorHotels, have been in Vietnam since 1991. Back then, we were the only international hospitality company in Vietnam. That shows how committed we are to Vietnam as a business location.

And today, this country is developing at a dizzying pace. Last year, there was a 26% increase of international visitors and a 9% growth in the domestic market in Vietnam.These are incredible numbers.

And of course, we try to attract Vietnam’s domestic guests. The ibis brand perfectly caters to them because it is a functional, but full-service product that offers “Value for Money”.

Ibis Saigon Airport is quite simply the right product in the right place at the right time. And it is highly visible. In fact, we couldn’t be more visible than here at the airport. In that sense, ibis Saigon Airport is Accor’s flagship in Vietnam.

ibis hotel room

AccorHotels’ journey in Vietnam is far from over. In the next two years, the group plans to open another 12 hotels all over the country, which will bring its total portfolio to 36. But thanks to its eminent location next to one of Vietnam’s most important travel hubs and its many amenities, ibis Saigon Airport is undoubtedly a go-to for all Ho Chi Minh City-bound travellers.

 


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.


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.


Can Vietnam Ever Become Green?

By: Michael Sieburg

Citypassguide.com met with Solidiance’s Michael Sieburg to determine whether Vietnam, and in particular HCMC, can ever become truly green. Here is the transcript of Michael’s comments:

Solidiance is a consulting firm that works with clients across industries. There are three industries we focus on. One is simply called industrial, which includes construction, chemicals, and all that. That’s the core of what we do. Then there is healthcare, especially in Vietnam. And what we call technology. In total we have 12 offices across Asia.

Within the industrial stuff we do, our research in green tech and buildings are really driven by two things: our personal interest and by our belief that this is where the country is going. We think Southeast Asian countries will be using these technologies more and more - green cities, clean cities, however you want to describe them. Our CEO is personally interested in this. He’s doing an online course with Harvard University to learn more about this subject. I don’t know when he sleeps. “When there is that mismatch of the developer and the user of the building, it can be harder to make it green because the immediate incentive is not there”

We are also a consulting company - we have clients who want to be where our other clients are - large multi-nationals. These companies are at the forefront of developing more efficient air conditioners, elevators, eco-friendly paint, smart grid technology, electric cars and batteries. Our clients are often innovating and making these technologies, and part of these projects involves green building output. They want to sell their products and part of their line is more energy efficient stuff.

School of The Art - Singapore

Most of the certified green buildings in Vietnam have been factories. And it’s not like there are thousands of green factories, but they are the biggest component, and I think part of it is that when you’re a company developing a factory, you’re also using that factory and they consume a lot of energy. It makes sense to find ways to save on that, even though electricity prices are low here, for now. A lot of these companies also have global standards that they must adhere to. “Our research in green tech and buildings are really driven by two things: our personal interest and by our belief that this is where the country is going”

One of the biggest factors in pushing green building practices is electricty prices. The government is currently subsidizing, which won’t go on forever. I think it needs to be balanced with low-income residents. For example, energy prices in Cambodia and the Philippines are high. And that hurts manufacturing investment there. Once electricty prices rise, there is a point when wind power become profitable, and at some point (economists figure out this point) you see further adoption of energy efficient machinery.

Calling for a country to raise electricity prices where many people cannot afford it is a difficult thing to do, which is why the government treads slowly.

Green Building - France

The cost of making a building is a bit more expensive - how much? That depends on what you’re doing. I think the real issue in buildings going green is when property developers create buildings for somebody else. The developer’s incentive is to keep costs down and cut corners where they can, because operating costs are somebody else’s problem.

When there is that mismatch of the developer and the user of the building, it can be harder to make it green because the immediate incentive is not there. You can argue that there is an incentive that you price the units higher when you sell them - President’s Place proved that correct.

Vertical gardens at Parkroyal, located in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. Photo credit: Straits Times

At the moment there are not really well-defined mandates in Vietnam. In Singapore there are mandates - any new building must meet green standards. Everything here is left up to the developer, if they want to build green or not. If you talk to the architects around here, the younger generation is getting it, but not yet necessarily at all levels. What you do see here is that a building might not be certified green, but the water heaters are solar. There is a move towards that. A lot of hotels are doing that - they probably have some hybrid electric-solar water heater when it’s not a sunny day, but as a way to save electricity costs. “The younger generation is getting it, but not yet necessarily at all levels.”

So factories also have that. The biggest solar plant in Vietnam at the moment is Intel’s factory, which is saying something. Vietnam is a sunny place; you can’t run the whole country on solar, but is there a gap between what there is and what there could be? Definitely.

Green Building - China

Young people are interested in sustainable development, which is good to see. Saigon in some ways doesn’t have to follow the same practices as other countries - they have the luxury of learning from others’ mistakes, one would hope.


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