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Real Estate Perception of Cambodian Investors.
AREA Press Release No. 257/2017: June 29, 2017

Dr.Sopon Pornchokchai, Ph.D. Dip.FIABCI, MRICS
President, Agency for Real Estate Affairs (AREA)

What do Cambodian real estate beneficiaries perceive about property markets in Cambodia? Dr.Sopon conducted a survey and would give an answer.

The Survey
On June 24, 2017, Dr.Sopon Pornchokchai, President of FIABCI Thailand, Thai Appraisal Foundation and Agency for Real Estate Affairs went to give a speech on "the 20 Years of Housing Markets in Bangkok in Comparison to Phnom Penh" at the Cambodian Real Estate Convention and Expo 2017 for the members of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association (CVEA) at the Phnom Penh Sofitel in Phnom Penh. During his presentation, he conducted a survey of real estate beneficiaries on property perception in Cambodia.

There were some 300 participants. However, around 150 of them responded to the questionnaire distributed to them on that day. Those respondents were brokers 39%, developers and contractors 30%, consultants (valuers, architects and engineers) 14% and investors 17% This implied that this convention had a diversity of participants who could generally represent the property beneficiaries in Cambodia.
 

The Economy

On the perception to the economy of Cambodia in 2017, some 21% said that the economy in 2017 is a  lot better than 2016, some 40% said it was slightly better. Only 29% said it was similar to 2016. Those who perceived that the economy this year was slightly worse than last year or a lot worst were only 7% and 2% respectively. Cambodian economy were of high hope for the beneficiaries.

In addition for the 2018 economy, still some 14% said it would be a lot better than 2017, 26% said it could be slightly better than 2017. Those who saw it the same were 38%. However, there were some 19% said it could be worse in 2018 than in 2017. This also implied that even for next year the economy of Cambodia would be on the rise.

In sum, for Cambodian economy, those who perceived that the economy in 2018 would be better in 2017 could be altogether 59%. Those who thought that the economies in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were somewhat similar were only 23% and those who believed that the economy would be worsening could be only 18%  On the whole, Cambodian economy was in high hope for the beneficiaries.
 

The Property Markets
Considering property markets in Cambodia. Some 19% of the respondents said the markets were a lot obetter in 2017 than in 2016. The largest proportion of 41% said it would be slightly better in 2017. Those who perceived it would be the same as in 2016 was some 27%.  Only 12% and said that it could be slightly worse than in 2016.  None said it could be a lot worsening than in 2017.

In the case of 2018, Cambodian beneficiaries still perceive positively. 18% said the markets would be a lot better than in 2017. One fourth (25%) said it could be slightly better than in 2017. 31% said it would be similar to 2016. However, there were one fourth (23%) said it could be slightly worsening and those who perceived very negatively were oly 4%.

On the whole, the majority (56%) said that property markets in Cambodia would be better in 2018. Those who believe that the markets in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were unchanged, constituted some 22%  and only 22% said the market could be worsening in 2018 or next year. In sum, the beneficiaries believed that the markets are still growing significantly. Investors could consider Cambodia as a good place for investment.
 

The Attractive Sectors

Different sectors of properties were listed and allowed the respondents to choose the first, second and third sectors which were considered the most attractive ones for investment. For the weighing, No.1 was multiplied by 1.5, No.2 was multiplied by 1.25 and No.3 was multiplied by only 1. The following are the results:

Which sector is best? Percent
Residential 33%
Land 27%
Rental Apartments 15%
Shopping Centres 10%
Office spaces 8%
Industrial properties 7%

Residential development particularly owner-occupied residence including detached houses, semi-detached, townhouses, shophouses and condiminiums are voted the most attractive sector for investment at some 33%. Buying land (serviced or raw land plots) were the second in the priority at 27% Dr.Sopon visited some land subdivision projects and found that some could make some 200% profit!

In addition, rental apartments were listed as No.3. The fact was that there are a lot of migrants who moved from upcountry to work in the city particularly Phnom Penh. Therefore, the needs for rental housing were high. Other sectors mentioned were shopping centres, office space and industrial properties. However, these sector were more risky and need a lot of construction.
 

Investments Aborad

A question was raised if they could buy properties abroad, which countries were of their most preference. A rank of No.1, 2 and 3 were allowed them to mention. Similarly, tor the weighting, No.1 was multiplied by 1.5, No.2 was multiplied by 1.25 and No.3 was multiplied by only 1.

Which country can buy Percent
Singapore 30%
Thailand 21%
Australia, NZ 18%
Malaysia 13%
USA 12%
Eurpope 6%

Singapore was among the most attractive country to buy for the respondents. This was because it was very neat and of high standard. However, a foreigner had to pay some 15% for the transfer fee in advance. Every year, they had to pay property tax equal to some 1% of the market value.  This would be big burdens which were not realized by many buyers at the beginning.

Thailand was the second in the priority. It was believed that quite a large number of wealthy people in Phnom Penh bought a house or condominium unit in Bangkok and many other major cities in Thailand. Bangkok was at some 1 hour flight from Phnom Penh only. People among the two countries were also very friendly. In addition, Australia and New Zealand were ranked No.3 in the priority. Malaysia was also quite attractive. However, ideally, USA and Europe were among some definite destinations for investors from Cambodia as well. 
 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Cambodia economy and property markets were on the rise. There were still high hope for betterment in the future.  In a detailed analysis, those brokers had a more positive view than others. Developers were also quite positive. However, for other consultants and individual investors, they were more cautious. The proportion of these groups who believed that the situation next year would be a lot better than this year, was significantly lower for them.

An implication is that Cambodia would be a great destination for foreign investors. However, prior to the penetration into the markets, one should study the markets thoroughly. A good partner is also needed. According to Dr.Sopon's experience in surveying property markets in the ASEAN Region, Phnom Penh was ranked the third in the priority after Jakarta and Manila.

Wealthy Cambodians could go to invest abroad as well. Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia were among top destination for investment. Therefore, Phnom Penh can be a destination of the roadshows of properties belonging to developers in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.  Cross-border investment could prevails in the future.
 

The Writer

Dr.Pornchokchai has had experience in real estate research and valuation since 1982. He is the President of FIABCI Thailand Chapter, the Thai Appraisal Foundation and the Agency for Real Estate Affairs, IAAO representative to Thailand, the Director of Thai Real Estate Business School, and a member of the Global Valuation Forum of the Appraisal Foundation (USA). His research master pieces include the discovery of 1,020 slums (1985), CAMA (computer-assisterd mass appraisal) modeling (1990), forecast of 300,000 unoccupied housing units (1995 and 1998), study for property information centre (2000), the roadmap for valuation profession for Ministry of Finance, Vietnam (2006), the consultancy service to Ministry of Finance, Indonesia (2008), World Bank Indonesia (2010), the consultancy service to Ministry of Finance, Cambodia (2012), UN World Cities (2015), ASEAN Property Surveys (2017), and Global Municipal (2017).