Developers race to spruik properties as Vietnam opens door to foreign buyers

With foreign ownership of houses and apartments now allowed in Vietnam, international customers and brokers have begun frequenting real estate showrooms in Ho Chi Minh City

An apartment project that targets foreign buyers is seen in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.

With foreign ownership of houses and apartments now allowed in Vietnam, international customers and brokers have begun frequenting real estate showrooms in Ho Chi Minh City, while realty developers are boosting promotional campaigns to attract the new category of buyers.

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Foreign property brokers currently join their Vietnamese counterparts in examining apartment projects which are under development or on sale in the southern metropolis, as foreigners are now allowed to buy houses and apartments in the country, following a new rule which took effect on July 1.

While Salvatore Passari, an Australian broker, visited Vietnam to observe the realty market only a few times last year, he is coming more frequently this year, since foreign ownership has been approved.

Passari is slated to bring around ten Australian customers to Ho Chi Minh City to choose and buy apartments, he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Saturday, while attending the inauguration of the Landmark 81 project in Binh Thanh District.

Another broker from Australia, Mark Builksol, has also attended many ceremonies showcasing new realty projects in Ho Chi Minh City recently.

Builksol said around 30 of his customers are eying apartment ownership in Vietnam.

The Aussie is confident that many foreigners will buy houses and apartments in the Southeast Asian country, both for living or reselling, as prices are reasonable and the realty market is growing.

Choi Seok Hwan, general director of HanViet Invest Co., said many South Koreans also have plans to buy houses and apartments in Vietnam, at a time when the housing market in their home country is stagnant.

In the meantime, Vietnamese realty developers are offering various programs to lure foreign buyers.

Tuyet Hang, a salesperson at a realty exchange in District 2, said her company will grant a round trip ticket to travel to Ho Chi Minh City for any foreign customer who places a deposit for a project she is selling.

The company also offers many other preferential treatments, including allowing buyers to get a full refund if they want to return their apartment within one month of purchase, to appeal to foreign homebuyers.

Patrick Ferneini, a Lebanese customer, examined the project four times before deciding to place a deposit for a 98.75 square meter, three-bedroom apartment on Friday, apparently attracted by such incentives.

Unclear regulations

According to the new rule, foreign ownership is valid for 50 years, and can be extended by the same term only once.

A foreign individual must have a valid passport with an immigration stamp to be eligible to buy a house or an apartment in Vietnam, whereas an organization must have an investment license or a permit for their operations in the country.

The documents must be valid at the time a home purchase is conducted.

Nguyen Trong Ninh, deputy head of the department for housing and realty market management under the Ministry of Construction, said foreigners only need a valid visa for immigration to buy houses or apartments in Vietnam.

“Even a visa with only one day of allowed stay is eligible for house and apartment purchases,” Ninh told a meeting on July 18.

But many foreign homebuyers say there are still many issues they find unclear.

Builksol, the Australian broker, and Nguyen Nhat Hung, the legislative consultant for a realty project, both said many of their customers are in the dark about what kind of visas they must have to be eligible for foreign ownership.

“For instance, is a tourist visa accepted?” Hung asked.

While it is easy for foreign customers to place a deposit for a project, preparing and finalizing the purchase contracts is more complicated.

Ardis Gaetano, an Italian national, said a project developer told him that they could only prepare the apartment leasing contract for him, as they do not know how to create a trading contract due to the lack of legal guidance.

“We have to wait for instructions from a relevant decree and circular regarding the new law on foreign ownership,” Le Thi Thuy Nga, a salesperson at the Estella Heights project in District 2, explained.

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