Vietnam’s commercial property market has performed well since it opened to foreign investors in 2015.
The outlook for the coming years looks positive as the Vietnamese become more affluent, the tourism increase, younger people urbanize, and foreign companies move production to the country.
However, it’s important that you do sufficient research beforehand to avoid any unforeseen pitfalls. Therefore, I have written this guide where you’ll learn the basics when investing in Vietnam commercial real estate.
In this article, we review the following topics:
- Can foreigners buy commercial property in Vietnam?
- Regulations for Individual Investors
- Regulations for Corporate Investors
- Vietnam’s Commercial Property Market
- Cities to Invest in Commercial Property in Vietnam
- Commercial Property Taxes
Can foreigners buy commercial property in Vietnam?
Foreigners are generally not allowed to buy commercial property. This is a problem that investors encounter in many other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Investing in condominium units is basically the only option available to foreign individual investors. This is a reason why condo prices have skyrocketed in some of Southeast Asia’s capitals in the past years.
Notice that I write ‘individual investors’ as you’ll have more investment options if you open a local company to acquire property.
Regulations for Individual Investors
You can only buy condominium units in commercial projects as a foreigner in Vietnam (that means, you cannot buy local flats, for example).
Commercial property (such as office space) is not available to foreign individuals.
Condominiums come with strata-titles and have hundreds, or sometimes thousands of units that are owned by individual investors. Here, owners share common areas such as swimming pools, gyms, BBQ pits, and other amenities.
New projects are built by local or foreign property developers and come with brand names. The projects are managed by large property management companies, such as Savills, and you need to pay a monthly management fee for the maintenance of the facilities.
Regulations for Corporate Investors
Vietnam’s commercial property market is one of the fastest-growing in Asia with a promising outlook in the coming decade. If you want to buy and sell commercial real estate in Vietnam, you must either:
- Open a real estate trading company
- Form a joint-venture with a Vietnamese shareholder
Let’s review both options.
1. Opening a Foreign-Owned Real Estate Trading Company
The general requirements to open a real estate trading company are as below. Keep in mind that regulations change over time, it’s important that you get help from a local company formation agent to clarify the latest regulations.
- The minimum legal capital is VND 20 billion (around USD 850,000)
- You can construct commercial and residential property for sale or lease the units to third parties
If you don’t open a real estate trading company, you can also lease land from the government or from an industrial park. If you construct properties on that land, the property types must be in accordance with your business operations.
For example, logistics and trading companies can build warehouses, but not condominiums.
2. Forming a Joint-Venture with a Vietnamese Shareholder
Another option is to set up a joint-venture with a local Vietnamese company. This is common among large corporations that invest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand. This will give you the right to buy or lease:
- Residential property
- Complete buildings
- Real estate projects for the construction of buildings
If you decide to open a joint-venture, work with a reliable Vietnamese partner to avoid common pitfalls. Company formation agencies can also help you to set up local joint-ventures by using their local entities.
Vietnam’s Commercial Property Market
The commercial property market is predicted to grow where most of the new office space will be allocated to District 2 and District 9 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Previously being a flat swamp, District 9 now resembles the industrial area of Minhang in Shanghai some years back. Here, you can find many factories and offices belonging to companies like Samsung and Intel.
Hanoi is also performing comparably well and much office space will be allocated to the Western parts of the city. We also see increased investment in surrounding cities close to Hanoi such as Bac Ninh.
With increasingly more outsourcing of production to Vietnam, the industrial property market is set to thrive and the exploding eCommerce market will have a positive impact on the country’s logistics sector.
Having said that, the flexible workspace market is predicted to grow significantly in Asia. It’s even said that 30% of all commercial office space will be flexible workspace by 2030 in this region.
The tourism industry is growing at a steady pace in Vietnam, a reason why the hotel market has seen an impressive demand growth in the past years.
In the first eleven months of 2018, the number of international tourist arrivals increased by as much as 21% from 2017, which is self-explanatory.
At the same time, the infrastructure will improve in a number of coastal cities and islands, including Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, and more.
Well-known companies such as Movenpick launch new branded projects, having villas, condos, and water parks.
As mentioned, the demand for office space increases in the bigger cities, including Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The co-working space market becomes increasingly interesting as both small and large companies look for convenience, efficiency, and flexibility.
According to Savills Vietnam, the office market around Ho Chi Minh has grown stably in the past 5 years, seeing increasing rental prices and areas, during a time when supply was expanding.
The retail property sector flourishes and has seen a stable demand and growth in the past years. Given the rapid urbanization, increased disposable incomes, and economic growth, the retail property industry is set to continue expanding in the future.
According to local analysts, food, beverage, fashion, and lifestyle products will contribute much to the growing retail property market.
Industrial Real Estate and Warehouses
The industrial real estate market has grown at an impressive rate and is projected to follow an upward trajectory in the coming years.
Vietnam has become a destination for manufacturing operations thanks to its low labor costs, reasonable rents, and preferential corporate income tax, according to Nguyen Dinh Cung, CIEM director.
In the first quarter of 2019, foreign direct investments (FDI) increased by as much as 36% compared to a year earlier. Most of the investments were allocated to the industrial property market and through mergers and acquisitions, according to Hanoi Times.
Even if foreign companies have started to invest in car parks in places like Thailand and Korea, we haven’t seen that much interest in the Vietnamese market.
I guess it’s too regulated and the profit potentials low compared to other industries.
Cities to Invest in Commercial Property in Vietnam
Below I’ve listed interesting cities where we will see strong growth in Vietnam’s commercial property market in the coming years.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh is the fastest growing city in Asia that receives most of the foreign direct investments in Vietnam. Thus, this booming city deserves the first spot in this list.
Some of the most interesting districts are District 9 and District 2, as the city expands towards East and to cities like Bien Hoa and Dong Nai. There’s also plenty of vacant land area here.
Other districts you should check are District 10, District 3, and Than Binh District.
Hanoi’s commercial property market has grown at an impressive rate and surrounding areas become increasingly interesting.
This mainly boils down to that foreign companies look for industrial properties, as well as residential properties being located conveniently to these facilities.
Large foreign companies, many coming from Korea, see Hanoi as one of the prime destinations for overseas manufacturing. More (government) offices and operations will move to the Western parts of Hanoi, which makes this area of Hanoi increasingly interesting in the coming years.
Having said that, the capital is the political center of Vietnam (similar to Beijing in China) and with far fewer skyscrapers and commercial activities than Ho Chi Minh.
Many foreigners who reside or visit Vietnam often say that “Hanoi is great to visit, but I rather stay in Ho Chi Minh”. Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam’s true financial center that attracts the most investments.
Da Nang has a significantly high amount of Korean investors, at least in its residential property market where Koreans account for almost 50%.
Da Nang grows at an impressive rate and we see increasingly more manufacturing operations being allocated to this comparably smaller city.
Da Nang is clean and surprisingly well-developed with public Wi-Fi available in some of its central districts. Having said that, it’s not as interesting as Ho Chi Minh City, which gains the most attention and investments.
Commercial Property Taxes
If you buy commercial property in Vietnam, you’ll most likely do so through a company. Below you can find different corporate taxes that the government levies when you buy, hold, and sell commercial real estate in Vietnam.
Stamp duty of 0.5% to 15% is levied for real estate transactions.
There’s no transfer tax when acquiring commercial real estate.
A non-agricultural land tax increases progressively from 0.03% to 0.15%.
Capital Gains Tax
Capital gains are taxed at the corporate standard rate of 20%.
Below I have included some commonly asked questions and my replies.
Can foreign companies buy property in Vietnam?
Foreign entities can acquire commercial real estate in Vietnam by setting up local real estate trading companies or joint-ventures with local entities.
Can Singaporeans buy property in Vietnam?
Singaporean individuals generally don’t have any issues buying residential units in condominiums, as long as less than 30% of the units have been sold to foreign nationals. Singaporeans can open companies or form joint-ventures in Vietnam and invest in commercial real estate.
Where can I invest in Vietnam?
The top cities to invest in Vietnam property are Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Da Nang, and Nha Trang. If you buy commercial real estate, you can also have a look at cities with much manufacturing, such as Bien Hoa, Dong Nai, Bac Ninh, Can Tho, and more.