Asian countries have some of the most prominent and promising real estate markets in the world. While some foreigners prefer to buy condos, villas, or apartments for investment or self-dwelling purposes, you shouldn’t neglect the opportunities to buy land.
Personally, I believe that foreigners believe that it’s too hard to buy land, and for traditional reasons. But more and more people ask what opportunities they have when buying land in Asia. Unfortunately, there are not so many options available.
In this article, I list the 5 countries where you can buy and own land as a foreigner in Asia. Let’s have a look.
As explained in previous articles, Malaysia has some of the most favorable foreign ownership regulations in the Southeast Asia region. The system is transparent and there’s a comparatively low risk that you’ll end up in ownership disputes.
You’re not only allowed to own strata-title properties, often referred to as condos, where you share common space and amenities with other unit owners.
You can also own land on a freehold basis, which is unique, even if some land types are not available to foreigners.
What land types available to foreigners?
First of all, let’s have a look at the land types that exist in Malaysia:
- Agricultural land
- Vacant land
- Commercial land
- Residential land
- Bumilots (allocated to Bumiputera interest)
- Malay reserved land
Where foreigners are generally allowed to buy:
- Vacant land
- Commercial land
- Residential land
Agricultural land can be bought, under certain conditions, but it’s rare.
Keep in mind that you need approval from relevant state authorities, and regulations often differ between states.
Many investors claim that you have better options to choose from than Japan.
Sure, the yields might not be the best, but Japan is still a major power to count with, and many foreigners buy property in places like Hokkaido for personal reasons, like skiing. There are also promising investment opportunities if you do your research.
Property ownership regulations are favorable to foreigners and the same as for locals. Japan is famous for having a transparent system. Political and legal ownership disputes are not a common practice.
The countryside in Japan is astonishing and many foreigners buy traditional houses for personal reasons.
You have no particular restrictions to own land, on either a leasehold basis or a freehold basis. The main issue is the lack of real estate agencies speaking English, which is more frequently seen in places like Thailand and the Philippines.
It’s not strange that you mostly see developed countries on this list, including Korea.
The US was highly involved in developing Korea decades back and helped the country with land reforms. Many don’t know that Korea was less developed just decades back.
Foreigners don’t have any particular issues to buy and own land in Korea. The system brings some similarities to Japan’s.
Worth mentioning is that if you’re a non-resident foreigner, you need to comply with the following regulations, in case you plan to buy land in Korea:
a. The Foreigner’s Land Acquisition Act
b. The Registration of Real Estate Act
c. The Foreign Exchange Transactions Act
For more information about these acts, I recommend you to read my separate article that explains how foreigners can buy property in Korea.
Interesting cities include Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island, for example.
4. Taiwan (Republic Of China)
Taiwan might not be the best place to invest, from an ROI perspective. In fact, prices have increased much over the years and the price-to-income ratio is getting close to Hong Kong’s.
Rental yields are also comparatively low.
Still, Taiwan, and especially Taipei, are great places to live and stay, people don’t always buy property to maximize yields and capital appreciations, but for personal reasons.
A benefit of buying property in Taiwan is that you can legally own land as a foreigner.
Some important regulations include:
a. You can only buy land in Taiwan, in case your home country offers the same privileges to Taiwanese citizens.
b. You cannot buy land for forestry, water resources, military base and areas, salt plants, hunting reserves, mineral deposits exploitation, and land close to the frontiers.
c. You can use the land for residential purposes, business sites, shops, churches, factories, office buildings, schools for children of foreigners, hospitals, diplomatic and consular buildings, organizations that promote public welfare, and cemeteries.
For more information about the criteria that apply, I recommend you to visit the Department of Land Administration’s website.
If you plan to buy land, you need to make an application to the Land Registration Office (LOR), with documents shown on the Department of Land Administration’s website (see link above).
I’ve put Singapore in brackets as there are a number of criteria that apply before you’re capable of buying land as a foreigner.
This small prosperous nation is famous for having a more stable housing market than Hong Kong’s, with protectionist regulations to protect its citizens and economy.
So what are the criteria that apply?
First of all, the Singapore Land Authority makes the following definition of non-foreigners:
- A Singapore citizen
- Singapore company
- Singapore limited liability partnership or
- Singapore society
If you plan to buy land in Singapore and don’t fit into any of the above-mentioned bullet points, you need to meet the following conditions:
a. You need to make an application to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA)
b. You need to have permanent residency for at least 5 years
c. You need to make significant financial contributions
If you are not able to meet any of these criteria, the easier choice is to buy non-landed properties, such as condos.