Not all is lost, says one of Cambodia’s real estate’s most prominent moguls

Sear Rithy maintains a bullish outlook on the real estate market.
Sear Rithy maintains a bullish outlook on the real estate market. Moeun Nhean

While the property bubble in Cambodia has been wavering and showing signs of bursting, Sear Rithy, founder and chairman of WorldBridge Land, remains bullish, pointing out how the flow of real estate purchasers have not been cut off completely. He shares with Post Property why strategising is vital from the very start in order to retain clients’ interest and appeal to prospective buyers.

What are the challenges that your company faces?
WorldBridge Land’s projects, The Bridge and The Peak, are geared towards the high-end market. So we have yet to face any decrease in sales within the first three months of 2017. Sales have gone as normal.

In short, our development still attracts a lot of attention from customers because we specifically designed the project for the local upper-class market. Additionally, our first project, The Bridge, is keeping to our scheduled completion date, and we recently had our topping-out ceremony, so our customers have a lot of trust and faith in our company. Besides, I work closely with our partners from Singapore, and our location is desirable.

As the commune election is approaching, can you predict how the real estate market in Cambodia will pan out this year and how this will affect ongoing and potential developments?
There won’t be any problem. The property market will always move forward well because this is merely a lower-level national election. There won’t be any drastic changes.

If we examine major development projects, which are the equivalent of $200 million upwards, 60 percent of them comprise foreign investment, especially from China. With most of their developments, they have studied the market meticulously and set their goals. They have existing foreign customers that align to their needs.

If we examine a development from a construction perspective, there needs to be a three to five-year window for a project to be completed, and the construction has begun years prior. Therefore, the lower frequency of construction sites, coincidentally during the commune election, does not pose any threats. Developers should also study the category of development according to the markets.

What are some of the new projects leaping into the market?
Early this year, further away from Phnom Penh, we can see a few new projects, which are located in Sihanoukville – the beautiful coastal part of the Kingdom.

Foreign developers are very experienced, especially Chinese developers. They are brilliant. They know that their customers already own luxury houses in the city, so to reap additional benefits and create convenience for the customers, the investors have to develop new projects in resort areas to diversify and introduce something new to satisfy their customers. One of the prime areas in this category is Sihanoukville, which will be a destination for the property market in the coastal area.

At the same time, the government is paving the way for the developers through infrastructure developments, including roads, water, electricity, and other transportation systems to main areas, which will maximise interest from developers.

Will this year see any major foreign investments in the sector?
Cambodia’s property market is marching forward as I stated, since the construction takes from three to five years, so in the long run, Cambodia will have a sustainable system in the property market.

From my understanding – and limited disclosure I can give – in the second quarter, there will be three major developments which will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. The projects will re-energise Cambodia’s property sector. I will merely hint that the first project is from Hong Kong, the second from Taiwan, and the third a mixed development project from China and Malaysia. Two amongst these three projects include local developers, too.