Skyrocketing rents make life difficult for Hanoi house hunters

By Quynh Nguyen   November 2, 2022 | 12:15 am PT
For almost two months Ngoc Lan has been looking for a new place to stay, but these rooms are small and the rates are 20-30% higher than her current one.

Since her company moved from Ha Dong District to near Thong Nhat Park in Dong Da District, the 28-year-old office worker has been spending three hours getting to and from work.

"I want to find a place to live near the new office because it is tiring to drive more than 15 kilometers during rush hour," she says.

She currently pays VND1.8 million (US$72) rent for a 30-square-meter house in Ha Dong, and is willing to move into a smaller apartment as long as the rent is not much higher.

But she was disappointed to find that a 10-square-meter room, only big enough for a bed, in Dong Da with a shared toilet cost VND2-2.5 million.

The rent for bigger, well-equipped houses starts at VND3.5 million before utilities. That is unaffordable for her since she only earns VND8 million a month.

A room in Hanois Dong Da District is for rent for VND3.2 million per month. Photo acquired by VnExpress

A room in Hanoi's Dong Da District costs VND3.2 million a month. Photo acquired by VnExpress

Like Lan, Hong Anh, 26, in Cau Giay District is also having a hard time finding a new place that does not cost too much.

She wants to move out after her landlord said he would raise the rent by at least VND1 million next month for her 45-square-meter mini apartment.

She says: "My two roommates and I have already cut back on spending to be able to pay the current rent of VND7 million, which does not include utilities. If the rent goes up, there's no way we can pay it."

She has tried every source for cheap accommodation, including in online groups, ads and recommendations from friends, but has not been able to find one because rents have gone up by at least 20% in many places.

Apartments like hers cost VND9-12 million.

Tenants also have to pay a month's rent as deposit and three months' rent upfront.

"I am stuck with my current apartment and cannot find a suitable place to move," she laments.

According to realty website Batdongsan, Hanoi apartment rents increased by 8-16% in the third quarter.

Demand increased by 13% from the previous quarter, and rents rose by 8-10% in and near the downtown area such as Hoan Kiem and Hai Ba Trung districts while a little further away, in districts like Cau Giay and Nam Tu Liem, they were up 14-16%.

A real estate agent said rents in and near the downtown have increased recently by VND1-2 million (US$42.5-85), and a two-bedroom apartment in Sky City Lang Ha now costs VND16-18 million a month.

Three-bedroom units in an old apartment block on Nguyen Co Thach Road in Nam Tu Liem District cost VND9-10 million.

According to the General Statistics Office, Hanoi’s per capita monthly income in 2020 was VND5.98 million.

A survey by VnExpress found there are not many signs advertising rooms for rent, even in places like Xuan Thuy, Tran Thai Tong, Cau Giay, and others that have a large number of rooms for rent.

Ngoc Mai, 47, who owns a property on Cau Giay Street, says demand for rooms is high.

"I have more than a dozen rooms for rent in my house. All were booked by early August."

"Even though I do not have a ‘Room for rent’ sign any more, I still get a call or two every day asking if I have vacant rooms."

All the houses and apartments for lease on her street are now occupied. In fact, as soon as someone puts up a sign in front of their property saying they have vacant rooms, someone moves in immediately. The rent goes up by at least VND300,000 every time this happens.

She thinks the influx of students and workers into Hanoi is the reason why rents have shot up though inflation is also a cause as always.

Hoang Linh, a real estate agent in Hanoi, says since the school year starts in September and October, rents tend to go up by 10-15% then.

But this year they went up by 30–50% because several new housing projects have been put on hold due to the Covid-19 outbreak, he says.

"The rooms available in the market now are only enough for workers and college students who came in 2021 or earlier. This makes it hard for many college freshers and recent graduates joining the workforce to find a place to live. Since demand is high and supply is low, many landlords have raised their rents."

Rooms for rent advertisements on a wall in Hanois Cau Giay District are smudged after

Posters offering rooms for rent on a wall in Hanoi's Cau Giay District. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Linh believes that by the end of the year rents might go down.

Anh thinks that students should have no trouble finding a place because they have a lot of time to search and their needs are fewer.

"Working people like me are not likely to find a good place because we can only look in the evenings and on weekends."

In its third-quarter market projection report, a real estate trading and leasing firm in Nam Tu Liem District says even though the number of people looking to buy homes is going down somewhat, the rental market will remain strong. It in fact estimates demand for leased housing will rise by 58%.

Suburban areas are also experiencing a similar shortage.

Le Van Hoa, 38, the general director of a firm that specializes in low-cost housing in Hanoi, says his company has rented out more than 1,000 rooms in many outlying neighborhoods such as Van Canh and Tan Tay Do.

"The number of persons contacting us to ask for a tour of available houses and renting them has been steady since late July."

Quynh Trang and her husband, both 33, moved into a new tenement in Ha Dong District earlier this month and are paying VND3 million a month for a 30-square-meter room.

They were previously renting a 20-square-meter room in Nam Tu Liem District for VND2.5 million, but had to move out after their landlord suddenly decided not to rent out his property any longer.

They looked for places in Cau Giay District that had clean air and was spacious, but those that met these conditions cost VND6-7 million a month payable every half year.

"In that case, I'll need about VND50 million to pay the deposit and rent in one go. Since our budget is limited, we have to rent a place further out of the city though it would mean having to commute more than 10 kilometers extra and coping with traffic jams."

Binh An, 32, did not want the hassles of finding a new home, packing stuff and finding a neighborhood with a good school for his three-year-old daughter, and so decided to extend his contract with his current landlord and pay VND7.5 million a month for their two-bedroom apartment in Nam Tu Liem District.

He also paid in advance a year's rent in advance.

Earlier the price had only been VND6.5 million and he only had to pay three months' rent upfront.

"Spending VND90 million at once surely puts a financial strain on my family. But rentals have gone up everywhere, and I am not sure I will be able to find a cheaper alternative and relocating will take a lot of time."

Though it costs more now, the place is convenient for members of his family to commute to school and work, he says.

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