Vietnamese increasingly buying homes in US

By Dang Khoa, Long Nguyen   May 3, 2022 | 05:29 pm PT
More and more Vietnamese and people of the diaspora in the U.S. are buying houses in that country as they grow increasingly affluent.

Hailey Phan, a realtor based in Seattle, Washington, works around the clock to keep up with Vietnamese clients' brisk demand for buying homes.

She says they include both American and Vietnamese nationals.

Every day for the past few months she has been spending the morning writing contracts for customers who have closed deals, compiling a list of new home offers for posting on the website, reading about housing trends, and answering inquiries from new customers.

Then she spends the afternoon and evening meeting and taking prospective buyers on house tours before wrapping up her day at around 1 a.m.

"The demand from the Vietnamese community to buy a house is booming."

Every month she gets around 100 calls from Vietnamese customers, including from out of state and from Vietnam, to inquire about house prices in the Seattle neighborhood.

"I have two assistants who help me provide house tours for clients, including during weekends."

Last month she helped two Vietnamese-Americans sign a deal to buy a four-bedroom, three-toilet home in the Renton City for US$1.05 million.

Hailey Pham poses for a photo in front of a house she just closed the deal

Hailey Phan poses for a photo in front of a home in Renton City, Washington, before handing over the key to a Vietnamese family on April 27, 2022. Photo courtesy of Phan's Facebook

She also says that many Vietnamese-Americans go on house tours on their own during weekends when many listed homes have open house.

The demand among Vietnamese to buy U.S. property is soaring, fueled by the rising incomes of the diaspora and a growing middle class back in Vietnam that wants to park money in the U.S. housing market.

A report, ‘Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate,’ published by the U.S. National Association of Realtors, says Vietnamese rank among the top 10 foreign residential property buyers and spent $1.7-3 billion on U.S. properties between April 2016 and March 2017.

It adds that they prefer California, Florida and Texas states, where most Vietnamese-Americans live.

The percentage of homeownership among the Vietnamese diaspora is higher than other East and Southeast Asian groups.

In 2019 the rate was 67 percent for Vietnamese against 59 percent overall, according to a study published in April 2021 by the Pew Research Center.

Nha Cua My (American Houses), an online group with more than 49,000 members living in both Vietnam and the U.S., has been formed along with others on Facebook to share information about and experiences in buying homes and how to prepare financial documents.

Many have shared their stories about becoming first-time homebuyers, paying taxes, hiring house inspection services, etc. Realtors from the Vietnamese diaspora also come here to look for new clients and sell houses.

Why are they buying?

One of the reasons for the surge in home buying by Vietnamese-Americans was that many were presented with rock-bottom mortgage rates during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phan claims she closed four to five deals per month on average last year. She mentioned that she had 24 Vietnamese clients who paid an average of $800,000 for a house.

A few made video calls to their families back in Vietnam to give them a house tour and seek their opinion.

The pandemic, which forced many people to stay at home, also many to make massive changes to their living spaces.

Phan says many of her Vietnamese clients are IT workers who realized they wanted a bigger house with a home office.

"Since IT workers have high salaries and can work remotely, they don’t mind moving out of the city center and buying bigger houses."

She says she is currently assisting a couple working in IT find a four-bedroom house in the suburbs.

A For Sale sign is posted outside a residential home in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 14, 2021.

A "For Sale" sign is posted outside a residential home in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 14, 2021. Photo by Reuters

Though demand from Vietnamese-Americans has subsided after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on home loans, she still has high hopes since "many Vietnamese believe that a house is a fairly safe place to park their money."

Vietnamese believe that owning a home is the first step to a happy and stable life, and so prefer to own a place to live rather than rent.

Dinh Van Anh, who has lived in California for nearly 10 years, and her husband decided to buy a house more than a year ago after saving enough money for a 20-percent down payment of $770,000 on a house measuring nearly 1000 square meters in Orange County.

The 32-year-old, who works in accounting and finance points out that "most Vietnamese in the U.S. are hard-working, and so owning a house is within their reach"

"Vietnamese want to buy a house when they have a suitable and stable job and stick with it until they completely pay off the house.

"By the time I am done with my 30-year home mortgage, it will be time for me to retire".

Furthermore, many Vietnamese believe a house is a worthy investment since they can pass it down to their children in future, and so are willing to sacrifice some of their personal needs and save money to own a home.

The percentage of Vietnamese renting homes is lower than other Asian groups, with 33 percent doing so against 41 percent overall in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center.

In Fairfax, Virginia, Le Thanh An, 41, has been looking for a house in the last few months with more than $600,000 in his bank account.

He says, "My parents in Vietnam always said they will never be happy if their son does not own a house in the U.S."

Le Thanh An (R) goes on a house tour with a realtor in Falls Church, Virginia in March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Long Nguyen

Le Thanh An (R) goes on a house tour with a realtor in Falls Church, Virginia in March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Long Nguyen

For nouveau riche Vietnamese, buying an American home is a way to flaunt their affluence.

In the last few years several wealthy people have wanted to buy houses near universities in the U.S. to prepare for their children’s education abroad.

"My son will be studying abroad this fall so I have bought a house there for him," Bui Minh Loc, a HCMC businessman who recently bought a house near Houston, Texas, says.

He believes it is a smart financial move, saying besides saving on rentals, he can also make a profit on the house after his son graduates.

As of June 2021, there were 25,816 Vietnamese students in the U.S., according to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

Vietnam ranks fifth in the number of students in the U.S. and the trend is upward.

In Washington, D.C., Nguyen Minh Anh, 21, moved into her $1 million apartment last year after two years of moving from place to place in the capital.

"I was not happy with those rental places, so I kept moving and moving. My parents later decided to buy me an apartment so that I could focus on my studies."

Vietnam’s rising per capita income means more and more people are investing in the U.S. housing market to diversify their holdings.

Property consultancy Savills Vietnam said 10 years ago only people with close relatives abroad bought property to live near them in future. But now there is an increasing trend of wealthy parents sending their children to study abroad, and also investing in overseas properties.

Phan reveals that of seven calls she received this month from people serious about buying a house, one is an EB-5 investor, one is a Vietnamese international student currently living in the U.S. and one is a student about to arrive soon.

"Before the pandemic, summer was usually the busiest home-buying season. But that is no longer the case now since realtors are working nonstop all year round to meet rising demand."

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