Vietnam is considering changing the amended Housing Law, which is under discussion, to make it easier for foreigners and Vietnamese expatriates to buy houses in the country.

Out of 126 foreign home-buyers, 80 percent are individuals while the rest are businesses. The low figure is attributed to the fact that buying a property is currently more expensive than renting.

Once foreign nationals own a residence, they are not allowed to sublet the property; even it is not fully occupied or left vacant when their employees return home. This is one of the reasons why many foreigners are not interested in the market.

In the meantime, several enterprises build residential areas specifically for their employees to cut costs and manage their staff better.

Home-seekers in some cases find it hard to find suitable apartments near their workplaces.

Of the buyers, foreign nationals married to Vietnamese citizens make up as much as 80 percent, while individual investors or business executives account for only 15 percent.

Foreign individuals with bachelor degrees and employment represent a mere 5 percent. So far, no foreign nationals possessing the special skills and merits honoured by the President and Prime Minister have bought homes in Vietnam.

The home property market is showing signs of recovery, mostly in the mid-range, whereas a majority of high-end residences remain empty.

Therefore, drawing foreign capital inflows into the real estate market is seen as an immediate on-the-spot export, Deputy Construction Minister Nguyen Tran Nam said, adding that this would make Vietnam more competitive with regards to housing ownership policies for foreign nationals.

The expansion of the housing purchase regulations for foreign individuals and organisations has received public approval. It would encourage foreign investors to acquire and own houses in Vietnam, attracting investments and mobilising resources, expertise, and technology, as well as contributing to the domestic property market and international integration process.

However, in order to “open” the sector without losing control, regulations must be put in place at all stages, from issuing policy to monitoring implementation.

Regulations on residency in Vietnam and other legal provisions to prevent speculation and manipulation of the property market, as well as money laundering, will be tightened and a legal framework and jurisdiction will be set up.

Foreign individuals and organisations, who purchase and own houses in Vietnam, are subject to the same entitlements and obligations as their Vietnamese counterparts. In addition, they must also comply with certain provisions.

Accordingly, owners who are foreign nationals are entitled to lease their properties for purposes permitted by Vietnamese laws, but they must pay income tax on their rent and give written notice to housing management authorities at provincial levels.

In addition, owners who are foreign organisations are only entitled to use their houses for accommodating their personnel. Subletting the property or using it as office space is prohibited. Financial transactions for purchasing or leasing the property must be completed via financial credit institutions legally operating in Vietnam.

According to the draft law, foreigners, excluding diplomats and those who work for non-governmental organisations, will be allowed to buy and own property in Vietnam once they obtain a work permit.

Foreign invested-enterprises, branches and representative offices of foreign firms, foreign investment funds and foreign banks shall be also entitled to purchase and own houses in Vietnam.

In addition to apartments, foreign individuals and organisations shall be permitted to own villas or townhouses as part of commercial housing development projects where foreigners are not restricted and prohibited to live as stipulated by the Ministries of Defence and Public Security.

Foreign individuals shall have the right to own houses for no longer than 50 years from the date of receiving the house ownership certificate. Extensions will be allowed, but must be in compliance with existing laws. Long-term and permanent ownership of houses are subject to foreigners who have conjugal relationship with Vietnamese citizens.

Meanwhile, organisations shall be allowed to own houses for no longer than the term stated in the investment certificate they are granted, including an extension. The house ownership term starts on the issue date clarified on the certificate.