Companies - April 25, 2022 | 04:36 pm PT

Speculators win some, lose some in property bubble

As prices rise and fall rapidly amid rumors of future development in a "fever" spreading across Vietnam, some people are becoming rich overnight and others are falling into debt.

Hanoi real estate broker Hoang Hiep has been visiting the suburban district of Soc Son almost every day for the last three months as customers have been increasingly asking about property there.

A land lot for sale in Soc Son, Hanoi. Photo courtesy of IQLand

With the city considering building a 113-kilometer ring road 4 at a cost of VND87 trillion ($3.79 billion) by 2027, Hiep and his team have been showing lands in its vicinity to around 15 prospective buyers every day, most of whom plan to buy and sell as soon as prices rise.

Prices have surged by 30 percent in the last three months to VND12 million ($522.58) per square meter, he says.

New brokerage offices have been mushrooming around Soc Son since the beginning of this year.

"I myself have made large profits from my investments here in the last few months, so I know there are still opportunities," Hiep says.

A similar story can be seen in many places across Vietnam where land prices have surged by double or triple digits in the last couple of years amid rising investment due to low bank deposit rates and fears of inflation.

Land prices in Cu Chi District, which is likely to become a city within HCMC, have been skyrocketing in the last few months.

"Investors rush to Cu Chi every weekend, and they include businesspeople to bank employees to artists," Trung Tin, a real estate broker, says.

Prices have doubled since last year to VND4 million per square meter.

"All the good locations have been acquired. People are buying even farmlands with expectations of large profits later on".

A report by property listing website says searches for real estate increased by 23 percent in February.

Sharper increases of 32-41 percent were seen at tourist hotspots such as the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, Khanh Hoa and Da Nang in the central region, it says.

In some southern localities, listing prices have risen by double digit between the first quarter last year and this year, it adds.

Concerns of inflation have caused investors to look to property as a safe haven asset this year, and demand for property is set to increase further, it adds.

Vo Huynh Tuan Kiet, director of real estate consultancy CBRE’s housing marketing unit, says since the end of last year land prices have shot up in many areas, including HCMC and neighboring provinces, the Central Highlands and some northern areas.

The two years of Covid-19 stalled many projects and investment in infrastructure declined, and investors are now hoping to have a foot in early before an expected wave of new real estate developments begins as the economy starts to recover, he said at a recent forum.

"Prices are increasing as people buy and sell back and forth quickly."

Real estate expert Phan Cong Chanh says stock investors who profited from a bullish market in the last two years are now looking for other assets, and real estate is one of them.

"The Russia-Ukraine tension, Covid-19, inflation, and challenges facing business are urging investors to look for assets that are less risky."

With land running out in large cities they are looking for properties in suburban areas and therefore prices are going up, he adds.

The land fever has fetched huge profits to many who have been able to sell at the right time.

In the central province of Ha Tinh, where land prices in some areas have risen by 20 times since 2019, the low-income family of Tran Thi Lan has been able to obtain VND1.9 billion ($83,065) for their 1,800-square-meter piece of land.

She says: "I never thought this piece of land would be priced that high. When I held the cash, my hands shook and I was crying."

A new house is seen in Ha Tinh Province after the owner sells land amid a price surge in March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

In Hanoi’s Hoai Duc District, Minh Huyen saw her apartment value rise by 20 percent in three months and sold it in January, abandoning her initial plan to rent it out.

"There are many opportunities for more profit and so I sold it to buy a plot of land," she says.

But not all investors succeed in making money.

Nguyen Minh Khang, CEO of real estate developer LDG Group, estimates that around 80 percent of land speculators are likely to end up with losses as demand subsides as quickly as it rises.

Hoang Minh in the central province of Thanh Hoa is one such loser.

He bought several plots of land in the province for around VND1 billion each in March last year, borrowing a third of the money from friends and family.

The prices he paid were 40 percent higher than just a month earlier, but by mid-April they had fallen by double digits as the number of inquiries dropped.

Minh cannot sell except at a big loss, so he has been holding on to them, along with the debts, hoping for another jump in prices in future.

Dang Hung Vo, the former deputy minister of natural resources and environment, says the current land fever began in 2020 and is the fourth so far in Vietnam.

"Buying land to just leave it there and wait for a price surge does not create new values like investing in agriculture or industry where new products are made," he said at a recent forum.

Many people get rich by investing in property, and many developers hope for a land fever to sell for a profit without actually developing the project, he added.

Le Hoang Chau, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Real Estate Association, says many of the so-called land investors are just people with money who are new to the market and lack investment experience and industry knowledge.

A property bubble 10 years ago in Dong Nai Province left many people saddled with huge losses when it burst, he says.

"Land fevers rob people with real demand the chance to own property."

The government has repeatedly expressed concern about the phenomenon.

Officials from the Ministry of Construction have warned localities about the risks of real estate bubbles caused by rumors of developments and herd instinct, which could cause social disruptions.

But Vu Cong is unfazed by these warnings and sees his recent purchase of a piece of land in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District for VND80 million per square meter as a timely investment.

"Dong Anh could become a city within a city in a few years, so I will surely make more money."

Dat Nguyen