If you’re looking to purchase land or real estate in Asia, you have come to the right place.
This article will showcase the best countries to explore where foreigners can purchase pieces of land in the different parts of Asia, and the regulations that come along with it.
When you say “land,” what does that mean?
“Land” is very vague, and while many people constitute condominiums with strata titles to be considered such, they are not considered land. If you are looking to buy land, it must be freehold, meaning that you have unrestricted ownership over the property with no strings attached. You will also need to make sure that you are purchasing land within the legal framework of the particular country in which you wish to purchase.
So, where can foreigners purchase land in Asia?
Depending on the country, foreigners may or may not have complete access to purchase land. Below is a comprehensive list of countries in Southeast Asia where foreigners can buy land:
Thailand is one of the countries on the list whether you’re going on vacation or opening up a business and Bangkok is a bustling area where you can have both business and pleasure.
There are two common options to go about buying your own land in Thailand. Firstly, foreigners can buy land by forming a Thai company. Through this process, foreigners can indirectly own the land under the name of their business.
Secondly, you can nominate a local Thai citizen residing in Bangkok to be the land owner on your behalf. You can enter into a Trust Agreement with that person, where you are listed as the beneficiary of the land and they are managing it in your name.
Jeju Island, South Korea
South Korea is the land of opportunity, as it offers foreigners a favorable climate and high property values. It’s also one of the few countries in Asia where buying land is both legal and straightforward for foreign investors.
Why not consider Jeju island? It’s a perfect place for foreigners to buy land as it offers a high property value, excellent infrastructure, and a favorable investment climate. As one of Korea’s nine provinces, Jeju City is the capital of the self-governing island of Jeju. Foreigners, primarily Chinese, as well as local Koreans, favor this destination. Except for the military, heritage, and cultural land, foreigners can purchase land in any region of Jeju.
There are several documents you must provide in order to complete the purchase, from the signed contract to sell to the title transfer to your own name. Once you have completed and submitted them, all that you have to do is wait for the title transfer process and the land will be all yours.
Singapore is an excellent country to live in as it offers all the amenities and stability that a modern economy demands. Not only does the country boast a strong economic base, but its cleanliness and efficiency are also renowned worldwide. As far as buying land is concerned, the only place where foreigners can purchase land is Sentosa Cove.
To purchase land in Singapore, you must be a permanent resident for at least 5 years (with a valid passport and work permit) and contribute significantly to the economy. The best options for these are by incorporating a corporation or creating a private equity fund. If you aren’t familiar with the paperwork, you should consider working with a reputable and reliable resource who knows the regulations in Singapore.
Among the other Asian countries, Malaysia is a great place for foreigners to buy land as property investment as the country has a diverse landscape that includes tropical rainforests and mountains. Unlike Singapore where you’ll need residency status to purchase land, foreign ownership of land in Malaysia with minimal restrictions.
Foreigners can purchase any of the following lands: residential commercial, agricultural, and vacant land. You may do so as long as the property:
- is valued above RM 1 million;
- isn’t built on Malay Reserved Land;
- isn’t defined by the State’s authorities as low and medium-cost residential units; and
- isn’t state-allocated for the local Bumiputera community
Once you have chosen the type of land you want to buy, ensure to have it surveyed. Moreover, having a concrete set of plans for your land ownership will help with your ROI.
If you are looking for real estate investment in Asia with a relatively straightforward acquisition process, Japan is another country to consider. Surprisingly, foreigners can own freehold land, considering the limited amount of habitable land in the country. In fact, you can buy a piece of land in several prefectures across the mainland – including Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Moreover, if you purchase an apartment or condominium, the unit ownership comes with a portion of the land beneath it.
Full ownership of land based on the principle of freehold, unfortunately, isn’t allowed in Cambodia. However, you can have control of your chosen land through a contractual setup. Similar to Thailand, you could opt to nominate a Cambodian as the holder of the land title, while you own full rights to use and occupy the land. You could also establish a holding company where you can own 49% of shares, while the remaining 51% are allocated to local Cambodian citizens.
Indonesia is a land of many opportunities, with its mixed culture and rich history, the country has been known for centuries for its agricultural production as well as its spice trade.
Owning freehold land in your name isn’t allowed. Of course, you can nominate a local to buy land on your behalf. But a more secure way is if you put up a PT PMA company, which is a Limited Liability Company. This way, you won’t have to worry about a deed of sale not being recognized by authorities in Indonesia.
Vietnam is a thriving nation with a booming economy, making it an attractive destination for foreigners looking to invest in real estate. Property ownership by foreigners is strictly regulated and foreigners cannot really own freehold land. However, if you happen to take a Vietnamese as a spouse, you can access land based on freehold ownership. A villa built on land may be owned, even if you aren’t allowed to own the land itself.
Taiwan (Republic Of China)
Taiwan is another option for foreigners looking to buy land. It’s just around 100 miles off the coast of mainland China. However, there are a few conditions to be aware of when purchasing land:
- If your country of origin grants Taiwanese citizens the same entitlements and privileges, you can purchase land in Taiwan;
- the purchase of land that is considered to be forests, resources of water, military areas and other, salt and mineral plants, hunting land reserves, and land near the frontiers are not allowed; and
Once you complete the process of owning land in Taiwan, you may use this for a variety of uses. This includes commercial, residential, and industrial buildings. You may also put up other buildings such as schools, offices, factories, hospitals, and churches.
Are there alternatives for an Expat to buy freehold land in Asia?
If freehold land seems obscure or is unavailable, foreigners can purchase long-term leases from the government or local landowners. Long-term leases give foreigners the legal right to use the land for their business activities. Furthermore, foreigners can invest in condominiums and apartments in buildings that provide strata titles. These options are a great way to access the real estate market in Asia without having to go through the hassle of buying freehold land.
Here are a few Asian countries that offer foreigners the opportunity to buy land:
Just like in Vietnam, all the land in Laos is owned by all the people but is controlled by the country’s government. The only option you have to access land here is through leasing either from the government or a Lao citizen. You may, however, opt to buy physical structures such as a house or condominium.
A fair warning, though: there is no clear policy on strata titles and the separation of ownership between the land and the structure built. That said, unless the lease is renewed, the owner of the freehold land may end up owning the structure erected on the said land.
Owning freehold land in the Philippines is prohibited by foreigners, but they can buy property through a corporation that is 60% owned by Filipino citizens. This is the mechanism used by foreigners interested in purchasing real property in the country.
Alternatively, foreigners may legally own houses or buildings in the country, so long as they don’t own the land on which the structure was built. Moreover, foreigners have the right to own condo units with strata titles. This is a viable option if foreigners are only interested in buying residential units in the hopes that it would be a source of income that will produce rental yields. You can simply find a reputable real estate agent who can assist in giving your more information on the housing market in the Philippines.
Foreigners aren’t allowed to buy and own real property in Sri Lanka. The only time you would end up being an owner is if you are included in the last will and testament of a local and indicates you as the heir of that property. Of course, that still needs special permission and the property must be registered with the government.
However, foreigners are allowed to purchase and own apartments and condominium units, as long as the condominium corporation has been registered with and approved by the government. Additionally, foreigners may lease land in Sri Lanka for up to 99 years if they use it for agricultural or commercial purposes.
The Asian move
For foreigners looking to invest in real estate, Asia can be an attractive market with immense potential. With emerging markets and a strong economic outlook, the real estate market in Asia has been a popular destination for foreigners looking to purchase land.
Despite what you may have heard, it’s possible for foreigners to buy freehold land in only a handful of Asian countries. The process may differ from country to country, but the resources available for foreigners on this matter can help make it a much easier and more rewarding experience.
Alternatively, purchasing a condo or apartment may be a viable foreign investment for a non-citizen or non-resident to generate revenue through commercial establishments or rental income.
In conclusion, foreigners interested in buying land for their personal or business activities or investments should do their research to determine the most suitable country and process to follow. Whether you live in a foreign country like the United States or Australia, connecting with the right professionals to discuss the different real estate transactions can make the process much smoother. After all, real estate is an investment and as such, you want to make sure the decision is well-informed.