Vietnamese abandon dreams of buying city homes

By Pham Nga   February 28, 2022 | 05:56 am PT
Vietnamese abandon dreams of buying city homes
Apartment buildings in Hanoi. Photo by Shutterstock/Yeon Bak
Instead of taking out a loan to buy a house, Thu Hoai decided to buy a car worth nearly VND1 billion (over $43,000) and keep sharing a room with friends.

After more than eight years of working, the 32-year-old tour guide had accumulated over VND1 billion.

Hoai's initial plan was to buy an apartment in the capital and have her mother move in with her.

The apartment she wished to purchase cost more than VND2 billion.

Hoai intended to borrow more than VND400 million from the bank, with an interest rate of 10 percent a year for the next five years. If Hoai takes the loan, she would have to use up half her monthly salary - nearly VND10 million - to repay the interest and part of principal every month

During the first two years of the global pandemic, her income dropped while the price of apartments in early 2022 increased by another several hundred million dong.

Feeling that the harder she tried, the harder it became to buy a house, Hoai ended up buying a car with half her savings after the Lunar New Year in early this month.

She put half of the remaining money in a saving account and in stocks.

Hoai is among many Vietnamese citizens who've had to give up on their dreams of owning a house in big cities because of prices rising to unaffordable levels and their incomes getting slashed by the pandemic.

According to real estate services provider Colliers Vietnam, the average prices of apartments in HCMC increased by 15 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of last year, the fastest rate in the country. Meanwhile, the prices of apartments in Hanoi rose by 5-10 percent, with most new ones being developed in the west and east of the city.

In an early 2022 VnExpress survey, 76 percent of the respondents said they had delayed their home-buying plans due to Covid-19. Among them, 45.6 percent said the delay would be long term, while 30.4 percent said it would be short term.

The main reason for delaying the house purchase plan was financial constraints. Twenty-five percent of the respondents said they do not have enough capital, 8 percent were concerned about interest payments and 11.4 percent said they neither had neither capital nor income to afford interest payments.

Thu Hien, a 31-year-old real estate broker specializing in selling and renting affordable apartments in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, said 40 percent of customers contacted her company last year with rental inquiries though they could buy a house.

"Instead of taking out a loan to buy a VND2 billion house or apartment, customers use their savings to invest in securities or put it in banks to earn interest.

"The interest they get back from the bank alone is more than enough for them to rent out a mid-range apartment for their family to live comfortably and at a good local location for them to conveniently travel around," said Hien.

Nguyen Van Dung, 32, and his wife from Hanoi's Cau Giay District also decided to postpone their plan to buy a house after many friends had sold their newly bought apartments due to outstanding debt payments.

To have more income, Dung worked two jobs at once. For many weeks in a row, he came home at 2 a.m.

After three years, they saved more than VND800 million, reaching the milestone they had set.

Though the couple embarked on a property search, in recent months, Dung had felt dizzy and experienced stress. The doctor concluded he was overworked and suffered from lost sleep. He was advised to reduce his workload and take some time off.

After the doctor's examination, Hoa, Dung's wife, gave up on buying a house.

Minh Hong and her husband from Nam Tu Liem District also gave up their hope of buying a house after realizing they couldn't afford the loan interest.

To save money, Hong’s daughter suspended her extra English classes.

"We will try to increase our income and reduce expenditure as much as possible until we can afford a home," she said.

But when Covid-19 hit, the couple, who both work as teachers, could no longer earn an extra income from tutoring.

According to the General Statistics Office, the average income of workers in 2021 dropped from VND7.03 million to VND6.5 million compared to 2020.

"Thinking about the interest I have to pay each month, I ended up giving up my dream of owning a home," Hong said.

After a few days of rest, Dung's health has stabilized. He chose to rent an apartment located closer to his workplace for VND7 million a month. After office hours, Hoa cooks for the whole family while Dung plays and teaches his children to study, instead of working until two in the morning.

This year, they plan to take a trip inside the country or travel abroad.

"Life is too short. It's best to avoid unnecessary stress. Instead of working hard to earn money to buy a house, when you're young and can still walk, you should take advantage of going here and there to create more memories," he said.

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