Cambodia is one of the smallest and least developed countries in Southeast Asia and continues to attract overseas investors, due to various reasons.
Its ease of doing business, openness to foreigners, and economic growth are undoubtedly fueling the demand.
Investing in strata-titled residential real estate is comparatively easy to buying commercial real estate, like condos. This is the only option foreigners have in countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
However, Cambodia’s commercial real estate market becomes increasingly interesting, a reason why we have written this article.
Topics covered in this article:
- Can foreigners buy commercial property in Cambodia?
- Commercial Property Types Available to Foreigners in Cambodia
- Cities to Invest in Commercial Property
- Commercial Property Taxes
Can foreigners buy commercial property in Cambodia?
Foreign individuals can only buy strata-titled units and apartments in Cambodia, typically new condominium units. This is the standard in other Southeast Asian countries.
With that said, Cambodia still offers some of the best ownership regulations by comparison.
Foreigners can get freehold ownership of residential property and buy up to 70% of the units in a building. In Thailand, the cap is set to 49% and in Vietnam to as little as 30%.
To better understand how ownership regulations work, we have to review how it works for individuals and companies when buying real estate in Cambodia.
As mentioned, foreign individuals can buy up to 70% of the units in strata-titled projects, including condominiums. But, foreigners also have the opportunity to invest in strata-titled commercial units.
One example of projects where foreigners have bought strata-titled commercial units is The Peak. The process is hassle-free and I recommend you to read our separate article to understand more how it works.
Investors often enjoy guaranteed rental incomes which provide good cash-flows for years. The Peak, for example, offers a 55% guaranteed rental income over 10 years.
Setting up a local company to acquire commercial real estate is suitable in Cambodia. Again, this is common in neighboring countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
You can either set up a private limited company or a limited liability company with a local partner. Just bear in mind that you can only own 49% of the entity, the rest is dedicated to locals.
Opening a landholding/real estate trading company can set you back more money compared to other company types. But this is generally not an issue if you act on behalf of a large client or work for an investment firm.
Commercial Property Types Available to Foreigners in Cambodia
Before you invest in commercial property, you must get a good understanding of how the market performs.
Below I’ve listed the most common commercial property types and what makes each of them interesting.
Hotels & Resorts
The number of visitors increased by around 10% from 2018 to 2019 in Cambodia and the tourism industry is set to grow in the coming decade.
Thailand is currently dominating the tourism industry in Asia, but countries like Vietnam and Cambodia have plenty of room for expansion.
Hotel prices are still significantly lower in Cambodia and the government projects that as many as 15 million people will visit the country yearly by 2030.
Worth mentioning is also that Phnom Penh has overtaken the position as the most visited city, now ahead of Siem Reap.
It’s not strange as we see a greater influx of investors who visit the capital for business opportunities. Previously, we mainly saw tourists visiting famous landmarks such as Angkor Vat.
We see increasingly more activity in the high-end segment that accounts for around 40%. The mid-tier market, on the other hand, accounts for around 38%, and economy-budget at 22%, according to Knight Frank.
The most popular cities for hotel investments include Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap.
If you look for office space, then Phnom Penh should be at the top of your list.
The office space market might not be as big as in neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, but we do see great growth as many foreign companies set up operations in Cambodia.
According to Knight Frank, the growth of office space was set to double by 2021 (this will most likely due to the pandemic). We see most of the office spaces in the following areas:
- Daun Penh (CBD): (32%)
- Chamkarmon: 25%
- 7 Makara: 17%
- Boeung Keng Kong: 15%
- Toul Kork: 4%
- Sen So: 4%
- Meanchey: 2%
- Chroy Changvar: 1%
Worth mentioning is that Chinese companies are the growing source of office demand in Phnom Penh at the moment.
The Chinese accounts for the biggest amounts of expats and China play an increasingly vital role in Cambodia’s economy as a whole.
The retail property market is doing fairly well in Cambodia, despite being smaller than that of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.
In the coming years, we will see more malls and shopping centers opening and the supply of retail space was at 338,505 square meters of net leasable area in the first half of 2019.
This number was expected to increase to more than 1 million square meters by 2021. Again, this number will probably be reduced significantly due to the pandemic.
Industrial Real Estate and Warehouses
Manufacturing is growing steadily in Cambodia and we see a greater demand for industrial real estate. In the previous year, we saw a lack of supply for both factories and warehouses, as the Cambodian economy continues to grow.
The textile industry is the biggest in Cambodia and brands like Nike and Adidas all have factories here.
Some of the most interesting areas are Dangkor, Prek Pnov, and Sen Sok districts as the industrial zones are moving there. Industrial vacancies remain low and rentals are expected to increase.
Cities that suffer from congestions and with an increased amount of vehicles can be interesting for investments in car parks. Some examples include Hong Kong, Korea, and Thailand.
With that said, Cambodia is not that interesting when it comes to investments in car parks (yet) as it’s still a frontier market that needs more room to grow. This might become more interesting far ahead in the future.
Cities to Invest in Commercial Property
Phnom Penh is the biggest city in Cambodia and where most political and business decisions take place.
The city isn’t as big as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, nor Jakarta, but has indeed one of the most interesting commercial real estate markets regionally.
Office space, hotels, and industrial property can all be found here and the city doesn’t only rely on tourism or agriculture.
Sihanoukville, on the other hand, relies heavily on tourism and investors primarily target investments in hotels and resorts. The city has some of Asia’s most beautiful beaches, especially if you visit less crowded areas.
The tourism industry is set to grow in Sihanoukville and it can be worthwhile exploring the hotel market. That said, the market has become crowded in the past years due to the many Chinese who invest there.
Siem Reap attracts many tourists as it’s the home of Angkor Vat, a temple complex, and the biggest religious monument in the world.
Phnom Penh just surpassed Siem Reap in terms of annual visitors recently, Siem Reap still remains one of the most popular traveling destinations in Asia.
Cambodia is also the home to various upcoming but less known cities, including Poipet and Battambang, that are located close to the Thai border. Casino gambling and agriculture are the main sources of revenue here.
Commercial Property Taxes
Foreigners and locals are treated the same when paying property taxes. This is particularly true if you open a local company to invest in real estate.
So how high are the rates? Below you can find some of the major commercial property taxes and fees you have to pay in Cambodia.
A transfer tax of 4% of the property value is charged for the Title Deeds Transfer.
The annual property tax is 0.1% and paid annually. A tax of unused land of 2% also applies and is multiplied by the size of that land.
Rental Income Tax
The rental income tax is 14% and paid annually.
Capital Gains Tax
A capital gains tax of 20% is paid by corporations and when selling property.
Worth mentioning is that individuals don’t need to pay any capital gains tax.
Below you can find some commonly asked questions and my replies.
Is Cambodia a good place to invest?
Cambodia has some of the most preferable foreign ownership regulations in Southeast Asia, it’s easy to open a local company, and to get hold of long-term visas. Not to forget, it has a young workforce and one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.
Cambodia attracts more and more foreign investors, but it can be difficult to navigate the market unless you work with experienced partners and business contacts.
Can US citizens buy property in Cambodia?
Yes, US citizens can invest in strata-titled units, just like any other foreigners. If you want to buy commercial property, you have to open a local company first.
How much does land cost in Cambodia?
Land prices can be surprisingly cheap in Cambodia, you can even find good beachfront land plots that cost as little as USD 30 per square meter in places like Sihanoukville.
According to data, the average land price across 12 districts in Phnom Penh is as low as USD 5 and stretches up to USD 12,000 per square meter.