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Foreigners call for changes to VN home ownership law

Update: March, 29/2013 - 08:46

Next Week

Do you want a trade centre near Hoan Kiem Lake?

A plan to build an eight-story building with offices, a shopping centre and a hotel at the corner of Tran Nguyen Han and Ly Thai To streets near Ha Noi's central Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword) Lake has been given the go-ahead by the municipal People's Committee.

Some have raised worries that the building could affect the view of the millennium-old lake, which sits at the heart of the capital, because of its height and modern design. But Government officials said the project had been carefully planned so it would not affect the area's landscape.

What do you think about this plan? Would you prefer for the cultural areas surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake to contain predominantly historic buildings? Or do you want more modern facilities, such as this projected centre?

Does your own country have strict regulations about building near cultural and historic sites? If so, what are they?

Please reply by email to:, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, April 4, 2013. — VNS

Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers why the number of foreigners owning homes in Viet Nam is low despite a pilot project launched in 2009 allowing foreign individuals and organisations in five categories to buy an apartment.

Here are some of the replies we received:

Dale Virago, Australian, Nha Trang City

I am from Australia, and have been in Viet Nam for 14 months. I'm based in Nha Trang and love it here. You can live a good life here.

I would like to build a house here and make this place my home. But… being a foreigner you cannot own anything. The property would need to be in a Vietnamese name. As an investor, you would be crazy to do that. Real estate in Spain is cheaper than Viet Nam and your name actually appears on the property title deeds. An apartment purchase is really only a long term lease.

Vietnamese people can buy property in Australia and their name is on the title deed. They own it forever. If they die, their family inherits the property.

We foreigners always discuss the problems of actually "owning" something here. Motorbikes are similar.

I invest for a living. The volatility and uncertainty of investment here is the main "hurdle" stopping us buying property.

The only smart people investing here don't use their own money. They are joint government infrastructure projects. They use tax payers' money and big multi-national companies that use shareholders money.

So, if you are a sole investor using your own money you wear the loss yourself if things don't work.

I know several foreigners here that have been "burnt" and lost their money in business and property.

If there was an internationally recognised system of property ownership in your own name I would be building a nice house here tomorrow. I would be employing people and buying materials. I would also be investing in some business ideas I have that would work here.

I love it here, it's a great place to live, but until the laws change, I'll be keeping my money in an Australian bank.

Yi En, European, Binh Duong Province

I'm totally not surprised about the fact that only 0.5 per cent of the foreigners and overseas Vietnamese own an apartment in Viet Nam. Although I have lived and worked in Viet Nam for over eight years now (and intend to continue for the next few decades), I can hardly come up with one good reason why I should participate in the possibility of buying an apartment. However, I can easily come up with over 50 reasons why I shouldn't.

It's a combination of a lot of elements related towards real estate as well as general Vietnamese society, which I experience as non-desirable and full of conflicts. I consider a property in Viet Nam (under the current conditions) as a total waste of money. Please don't interpret this as if I'm looking for an investment in a financial way. No, my investment focuses on life quality in the broadest sense of the word, which isn't necessarily luxury. I don't need a house close to a golf course, as I don't play golf. But I need a good kitchen as I cook, and I need a bedroom with window. I don't need three toilets in my house. One is enough. However I appreciate a bath tub. I don't need those shiny ceramic tiles on which one can see the dust immediately and I don't need those cheap and ugly aluminum doors and windows. I also don't need those fake Chinese materials, which break the moment you look at it.

The general living conditions are far below the minimum ones of Europe, and yet the price, which has to be paid, is much higher.

If I buy a house, then I have the intention to live in it. The real estate market doesn't focus on that. Speculation is their main goal. Four years ago, I could buy land (via an avatar) for VND200,000 (US$10) per sq.m, now the prices in that area went up to VND8 million ($400) per sq.m. This is ridiculous. It only illustrates how we should evaluate the real estate market with disbelief.

As long as I cannot purchase under the same conditions as Vietnamese can, I have no intention of buying, as this also involves settlement. Meaning I should be able to own a house (not only an apartment) as well as purchase a land plot. And this not only for a period of 50 years but forever. So when I die, my children can inherit it. If I can do this in other countries, why should I go for less in Viet Nam?

Steve Porter, Australian

In relation buying houses here in Viet Nam, there are several reasons that a lot of people can't be bothered. I think the first is the price, housing in Viet Nam is totally absurd when you look at the average wages earned here by locals. It's better buying and better returns in other countries. The whole leasing issue is just a joke as Vietnamese can buy in other countries without a time frame put against them, so why not do the same here. Paperwork, my God, what a complicated system they have here, and nothing is easy when dealing with the Government. As your name can't go onto the deed of title you are at the mercy of the person who has the name on the title, not an easy thing to deal with when a problem arises.

I think for Viet Nam to move ahead, the Government has to change its thinking. Foreigners are not able to take the house and land with them overseas, it will always remain here. The Government and its people must get the "us and them" mentality out of their heads. Viet Nam could move ahead and become strong financially, but it's the old thinking that is holding it back. I hope for Viet Nam and its people the country does change some of its out-of-date policies.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

After three years of teaching English in HCM City, I finally made the jump to Ha Noi and into another hotel. I could pretend that I am rich or am in the league and likes of real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Now that I have rented an apartment and settled down, I am second guessing my choice.

Forget vague quotas or byzantine paperwork regarding foreign ownership. I think it might be time to return to a hotel. I know an American teacher, fluent in Vietnamese, who was strongly discouraged from moving into a particular neighbourhood in HCM City by the local registering police.

I have had enough problems regarding employment, contacts and visas to start worrying about home ownership headaches. There are too many variables. As much as I would like to be a good neighbour and have good neighbours, I am afraid that the real estate market in Viet Nam is not yet sufficiently mature to warrant my mortgage. —VNS

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