Overseas Vietnamese remain wary of home purchases in their own names

2 Feb
Hundreds of thousands of Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) return to Vietnam in January or February each year to celebrate Tet in their former homeland. Typically, that’s also a time for them to find and purchase houses in Vietnam. This year, however, reports Saigon tiep thi, it seems that the number of Viet Kieu who plan to buy houses here is rather modest.

Officially, only ten Viet Kieu bought houses here last year

According to the HCM City Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, a lot of Viet Kieu, especially Viet Kieu from the US and Western Europe, have come recently to ask about the procedures to purchase houses in Vietnam. However, the ‘open door policy’ on allowing Viet Kieu to purchase houses in Vietnam has not yet created a buying wave.

According to Tran Hoa Phuong, Deputy Chairman of the HCM City Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, since 2006, only about 140 Viet Kieu have purchased houses in Vietnam. One hundred of these were in HCM City.

In 2009, only ten Viet Kieu are officially recorded as buying houses in Vietnam, mostly in HCM City. These numbers are clearly ‘modest’ relative to the more than four million Viet Kieu living abroad.

Pham Quang Hai, Head of the Real Estate Transaction Division from Vinaland Phu My Hung confirms that very few Viet Kieu used his company as a consultant on real estate purchases last year.

“Many people asked for information but they did not buy,” he said, adding that in previous years, many Viet Kieu purchased houses at the Phu My Hung project in South Saigon, including some who bought five or six houses as rental properties.

The director of a HCM City real estate company believes that the global economic crisis has reduced the incomes of Viet Kieu. Therefore, they have less to spend on purchasing houses or making investments in Vietnam.

The director said problems in the policies relating to real estate trading have discouraged many potential buyers.

The case of Nguyen Hang My Hoa, now living at 224 My Kim 1 Street in Phu My Hung, typifies the complicated policies relating to Viet Kieu house purchases.

Hoa bought her villa in 2002, but in her nephew’s name. “The policy was so complicated, while I really wanted to have a house to live because I decided to return to Vietnam. I had no choice but to use my nephew’s name,” she said.

Finally, Hoa’s name was written down in the house purchase documents after she regained Vietnamese citizenship in 2003. However, Hoa is still waiting for her house ownership certificate.

Though official statistics show that only a modest number of houses have been sold to Viet Kieu, the number of houses owned they own is in reality relatively big. Real estate brokerage offices in Phu My Hung say that almost all Viet Kieu buyers continue to purchase homes in the names of their relatives.

Still awaiting guidance

According to the National Committee for Overseas Vietnamese under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that some 500,000 Viet Kieu are expected to come to Vietnam to celebrate Tet this year.

In 2009, kiều hối (remittances by overseas Vietnamese) to Vietnam is estimated to reach about 6.3 billion dollars, only 87 percent of 2008 remittances.

Chairman Ngo Duong Hoang Thao of Dai Dong Duong Consulting and Investment Company observes that a large number of Viet Kieu have assets of upwards of five hundred thousand to one million dollars. For them, Vietnamese real estate is a favored investment.

“The profitability of real estate investments is really attractive. Further, if they buy houses in Vietnam, Viet Kieu will have houses to live in when they return here,” Thao explained

Thao notes that notwithstanding the expansion of the right to purchase houses in a law passed by the National Assembly last June, there are still some unclear provisions in the policies relating on Viet Kieu house ownership.

The current laws specifically allow virtually any Viet Kieu to purchase houses, but don’t mention purchasing land. “Can Viet Kieu purchase land and then build houses themselves, then? There is no guidance about this.”

Phuong, the HCM City official, points out that the Government has yet to issue concrete guidance to officials who implement the new policy on Viet Kieu house purchases, though the law went into force on July 1, 2009.

Typically, he said, Viet Kieu do not know which agencies they need to contact to obtain necessary documents to be able to purchase houses.

Source: SGTT

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