Positive signs for Preah Sihanouk’s real estate landscape

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A sign reading ‘The Khmer can do it’ greets motorists on the way to the coast, in Preah Sihanouk province. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

The real estate market of Preah Sihanouk province is beginning to show more positive signs after a subdued period, following a double whammy shock of an exodus of Chinese nationals in the wake of an online gambling ban, and then the Covid-19 crisis, observers have said.

In a bid to develop the Kingdom’s largest coastal province into a “multi-purpose model special economic zone”, the government in June issued a sub-decree establishing an inter-ministerial technical committee to develop effective and sustainable land management and use policies there.

Additionally, the National Assembly (NA) last week approved a draft Law on Investment, and two others authorising the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the bilateral Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA).

The new legislation is expected to further encourage foreign investment, especially after the Covid-19 crisis eases to a significant extent.

Im Seng Hour, branch manager of Century 21 Zillion Holding in provincial capital Sihanoukville, told The Post on September 15 that the real estate market there is slowly edging towards recovery, with local investors starting to buy and rent properties to do business.

He attributed the improvement to a combination of factors, such as an uptick in tourists, the effectiveness of Covid prevention and management, progress in coronavirus vaccination drives and developments in road infrastructure and the airport, as well as rising investment in the islands.

“The real estate market in Sihanoukville has revived, especially the rental market [for both land and buildings], and prices have changed a little bit compared to the beginning of the year,” he said.

He portended that the rental market for business purposes by September 30 will have grown about 20 per cent versus the first quarter.

The market will gain considerable steam in the near future as the government strengthens its grip on Covid-19, compelling a flurry of investors to “rush to invest” in Preah Sihanouk, he maintained, highlighting the appeal of the overall offer of the province.

The province’s tourism industry and key seaport also present a plethora of avenues open for investments, he commented.

The Ministry of Tourism noted in a statement that Cambodia plans to host the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 in the province on January 16-22, under the theme “ASEAN – A Community of Peace and Shared Future”, to outline a map for tourism recovery, regional reopening and rebuilding a more resilient, sustainable and responsible future.

Global Real Estate Association president Sam Soknoeun similarly pointed out that the general recovery in the real estate market and broader economy has been aided by Covid prevention efforts, coronavirus jab drives and last week’s NA approvals.

Real estate transactions in Preah Sihanouk will be in higher growth mode for the foreseeable future, he speculated, adding that prices now are relatively high and unlikely to see any 2018-2019 level jumps soon.

“The market is starting to resume again and it will be more vibrant when Covid-19 is under control. The government’s measures and efforts to develop and amend investment laws will boost Cambodia’s economy in all areas,” he told The Post.

He added that the under-construction Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway will also be an important growth driver for the province’s real estate market.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said the 190km expressway was 55.05 per cent complete as of June 11, and is scheduled to be completed by the end of May 2023.

According to Seng Hour, the value of land in commercial areas of Sihanoukville can vary from $1,800-3,500 per sqm, or $250-300 in suburban residential areas, plunging by 20-30 per cent over 2018-2019.