Vietnam expands foreign property ownership

VIETNAMESE lawmakers approved a law allowing broad foreign ownership of property, as the government seeks to boost an ailing real estate market and accelerate economic growth.

Foreigners with a valid visa as well as foreign companies and international organizations operating in Vietnam now will be permitted to purchase houses and apartments, according to the National Assembly’s Web site on Nov. 25. Current laws restrict ownership to foreigners married to Vietnamese and those foreigners deemed to make significant contributions to the nation’s development.

The law is the latest government move to help bolster the property market, following a housing stimulus program and a low-cost home loan package. Vietnam is stepping up efforts to boost economic growth to 5.8% this year and clear up bad debts in the financial system, some of which are tied to property.

“It is a very helpful move, a good change of policy to open up the real estate sector not only for overseas Vietnamese, but also for foreigners,” said Alan Pham, the Ho Chi Minh City-based chief economist at VinaCapital Group. “It projects an image of an opening of the economy to foreign capital, and it might help the bad debt problem.”

“It makes the market more attractive to Vietnam-based expats that want to buy in Vietnam,” Marc Townsend, the Ho Chi Minh City-based managing director of CBRE Group, Inc.’s Vietnam unit. “The residential market is already improving so the actual implications may not be felt for a long time.”

The new rules also allow maximum foreign ownership of 30% in any apartment building or 250 houses in a ward.

Under Vietnam’s constitution, all land belongs to the state. Land lease certificates good for a maximum of 50 years are granted in real estate purchases. — Bloomberg


Business World | November 26, 2014