Property Law - What You Need To Know About Buying And Leasing Land In South East Asia.

Legal News & Analysis - Asia Pacific - Construction & Real Estate

19 June, 2020


The laws surrounding buying and leasing land are not the same everywhere. For instance, Americans need to do some research before investing in South East Asia. Real estate is a valuable commodity in the region and foreigners may not be able to buy land.


Lessons to Learn


There are two types of land titles in South East Asia, freehold and leasehold. Freehold titles are what Americans are used to. Buyers own the land outright and may pass it on to their heirs. On the other hand, a leasehold property is leased for a certain period of time. Investors in leasehold properties may not be able to sell or pass on the property. It's advisable to consult with an attorney at Kelly Legal Group, PLLC before investing.




Singapore officials welcome foreign investors. However, it's one of the most expensive markets in the world. Further, most foreigners can only buy condos. On the other hand, buyers have to apply to the government to buy land. In addition, the government levies a 15-percent tax on purchases made by foreign investors. The tax was levied because residents were upset about an escalation in real estate prices. Prices were going up because so many foreigners were investing.




Foreigners may buy land and condos in Malaysia. Officials use different tactics to keep land prices down for natives. Foreigners are only allowed to purchase pricier real estate. Malaysia may be a good place to invest as land prices are cheaper than in neighboring countries.




Laos is a communist country so all land belongs to the people. Citizens may have land use ownership rights but the country always owns the land.


Foreigners may never own land but they can lease. Leases generally last thirty years but there are exceptions:


  • Leases for residential use last for 30 years
  • Leases for business and investment last for 50 years
  • Leases for certain economic zones last 75 years
  • Leases for diplomatic reasons and international organizations last 99 years


Investors can apply for a lease extension.




Vietnam is a communist country like Laos. Foreigners are not allowed to own land. They may lease land and own certain improvements on the property. There are exceptions for anyone that lives abroad but was born in Vietnam. Laws are changing to give them the right to lease land like residents. Foreigners who are legal Vietnamese residents may buy 50-year leases for apartments. These residents are generally employees of Vietnamese firms or married to a citizen. In addition, foreigners can invest in Vietnamese real estate in partnership with a local firm. Interestingly, all real estate transactions in Vietnam must be done using gold.




Foreigners are banned from owning land with a few exceptions. For instance, foreigners may lease land for a maximum of 30 years. Thai citizens, married to foreigners, may buy land in their name only. They may be asked to sign a statement swearing that the money used to buy the land was their separate property. The government wants to prevent the foreigner from making a claim on the land in the event of a divorce.


Foreigners may invest and lease land and condos in South East Asia. However, don't look at the investment as permanent. The laws are designed so the land returns to the country. Basically, foreign investors are at the mercy of the government.


Magnus Kjelland is a guest post manager at GLobex IT Solutions  His job is to ensure all guest post projects are completed on time and according to client’s requirement.