Burma

Buyers Remain Cautious as Condominium Law Approved By Parliament

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 25 January 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s outgoing Union Parliament on Friday approved a new Condominium Law, clarifying some property regulations and making 40 percent of units available for foreign purchase.

Three years in the making, the law is expected to breathe new life into a stagnating real estate market, though industry professionals predict foreign investors still await more reform.

Under the new law, foreigners will be able to buy units on the sixth floor or higher, but are not allowed to manage properties. Buyers will acquire shared ownership of the land on which the condos are built, viewed as an improvement over previous property laws favoring landowners over apartment owners.

The law also outlines criteria for condominiums, detailing the number of floors, units, parking places, facilities and security required. Condominiums must be more than ix stories high with a footprint of at least 20,000 square feet.

Lower House lawmaker Khine Maung Yi, of the National Democratic Force party, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the bill had been passed by both houses and that “details will be announced after the President [Thein Sein] approves it.”

Real estate professionals expect to see an uptick in sales, especially in the commercial capital Rangoon, where supply has exceeded demand amid a construction boom in recent years. The property market has also slowed since 2014 due to skyrocketing prices and concerns over political stability.

“There are many condos waiting to be sold in Rangoon, but the market has cooled down as many investors take a ‘wait and see’ approach to the country’s political situation and laws,” said Than Oo, vice chairman of the Myanmar Real Estate Association.

“But now I expect many developers will be happy, as foreign investors will come,” he added.

Some investors still remain cautious because of Burma’s as-yet incomplete tax reform agenda, according to Zin Min Swe, managing director of Mandalay-based CAD Construction. A number of lawmakers have proposed raising property and sales taxes, and enforcement is expected to become more stringent in the years to come.

“I am concerned that the government will try to control the property market with the tax laws; they will reassess the property taxes for these buyers,” Zin Min Swe said, explaining that until investors see a clear and fair tax policy, they are unlikely to rush in and buy residential properties.

In addition to vague and likely impermanent tax laws, investors want to see a number of other refinements to related policies.

Tony Picon, managing director of the US-based real estate firm Colliers International, said that buyers will be waiting for a clearer land titling system and changes to parking requirements, “which are hindering the condo sector.”

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