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Why HCMC houses for rent are in a deep crisis

By Trung Tin   March 21, 2021 | 07:31 pm PT
Why HCMC houses for rent are in a deep crisis
Shophouses with for rent and for sale signs on Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Vu Le.
With Covid-19 causing businesses renting townhouses in HCMC to shut shop and switch to online selling in many cases, rents have plummeted and vacancy rates have shot up.

A survey by VnExpress found that townhouse rents have been falling since the pandemic first broke out. In the first quarter of 2020 they fell by up to 25 percent as social distancing was in place and businesses renting houses went belly-up.

The second outbreak in the second half of 2020 caused another 25-40 percent fall.

The third outbreak at the beginning of 2021 drove the rents down another 30-40 percent to their lowest levels ever.

The vacancy rates at townhouses surged as food and beverage and fashion shops, hit hard by the pandemic, ended their leases.

Traditionally, it has been a sellers’ market, with businesses seeking to rent a house in the city center having to queue up outside landlords’.

Industry insiders expect the struggle to continue until the end of 2021.

Talking to VnExpress, Dr Trang Minh Ha of the Institute of Accounting and Business Management said the pandemic has also changed how businesses like restaurants and fashion stores operate.

"During the pandemic, a seafood restaurant [that I know] still managed to achieve sales of VND50-70 million ($2,166-3,032) a day just by selling food online and shipping it to customers.

"If online selling goes well, it is rational that businesses end their lease contract to cut costs."

For 10 years before the pandemic, a shortage of houses for rent in the city’s prime locations had caused rents to skyrocket.

The longer the pandemic has lasted, the more shops have closed.

Online shops on e-commerce platforms such as Sendo, Tiki, Lazada, and Shopee have flourished with revenues increasing by three to five times in 2020.

Nguyen Hong Hai, chairman of VNO Development and Investment Corporation, a company that converts residential buildings into offices for rent, said the fall in rents is due to oversupply.

Whether food and fashion businesses rent townhouses again after the pandemic passes would depend on consumers’ preference, he said.

"This is an unprecedented litmus test for townhouses for rent," Hai said.

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