Feb. 16, 2017, 12:49 p.m.
Edmond Lim Yao Zen, Project Head, Cambodia Group Division Director @ Absolute Division of PropNex Realty Pte Ltd, has for many years been bringing investors from Singapore and around the region to the Kingdom to survey real estate investment opportunities.
In an exclusive Q & A, Realestate.com.kh caught up with Edmond while he was last in town to find out more about his investor tours and get his thoughts on the progress of the Cambodian real estate market past, present and future...
1) Tell us about yourself, your experience and your relationship with Cambodia?
I started my real estate career 17 years ago in Singapore. At that time, my job included the normal agent roles - like selling, leasing and property management, as well as hotels and building acquisitions. I first came to Phnom Penh in 2012. I was introduced by a good friend, Mr. Tan Teck Kee, COO of Worldbridge Land, to visit Phnom Penh at that time.
My good relationship with Cambodia started then.
I was with Jones Lang LaSalle Singapore at that time and we started off with a major event entitled "Cambodia Real Estate Night." The first of these investment nights was held in 2013 at the Sofitel Hotel, and was jointly organised with Bonna Realty Group. We had 200 guests who graced the event.
Nowadays, I am with PropNex (in partnership with JLL), in charge of managing the sales of all partner projects in Cambodia. Besides taking care of all salespeople's sales training about Cambodia, I also join as a speaker at various hotel events (marketing Cambodia investments) around the region.
2) How long have you been involved with Cambodian real estate, and in what capacity?
Since September 2012, I have traveled to Phnom Penh every month.
As well as real estate investors, I bring business prospects other than just property investment clients to Phnom Penh and assist them in investing in the country. The first two years I had more difficulty getting investors to come here as they generally stereotyped the country, based on the lack of potential of the economy and the history. In 2016, it is much easier...
3) Tell us about your investor tours? What is the inspiration, and how do they work in practice?
I believed in educating the investors about the country, first and foremost.
I don't just talk about properties to them - I share with them information about the economy, the people, the culture and my opinion about the potential future of what this country could transform into. I get them to spend time in the country doing enjoyable things like shopping, eating in a local eatery, spa and promoting to them some charities available for them to contribute too. They really understand more after my 4 days/3 nights trip. Past guests always introduce more investors to us too.
4) Why is coming to Cambodia, physically, so important for investors?
Some savvy investors need not visit Cambodia physically, as they only look at the numbers and facts we show them. Some request to visit to experience the market personally before they invest. It depends on individuals.
5) Why is Cambodia such an exciting real estate market - in your opinion?
Cambodia to me has been exciting since 2012. My beliefs started then.. And the passion is still burning high for me now.
The property market for Cambodia is more transparent compared to Myanmar, Vietnam or Laos, if we are comparing emerging markets. And according to the FDI restrictiveness indexes of the whole of ASEAN, Cambodia's 0.049 is second to Singapore's 0.047.
Even if its population is not the highest in the region, the FDI coming into the country is very promising for investors. Furthermore, the country allows 100% foreigner owned equity/corporations - which is highly beneficial to expat entrepreneurs too.
6) In your opinion, what steps need to be taken to boost the Cambodian real estate market to the next level?
I believe that the country should look into raising the vocational standards of the whole real estate industry. Then the efficiency and professionalism can complement the thriving market - especially now with the mass influx of foreign investors.
Despite the mass supply raising up in 2018, I believe that the government is exploring and opening up more industries and other business sectors to lift the economy standards to another level.
You can see from the FDI coming from China, Japan, Taiwan and others that there will be more expat professionals moving to the country. We will need the infrastructures and housings to cater for these people.
We can't wait for demand to come and then build supply - rather, the country has to be ready for it.
7) What is some interesting feedback you have had from people who have joined your investor tours?
They always say that they didn't expect Cambodia to be so attractive and that they enjoyed every moment of the itinerary I planned. They thought of the past where you might get bombed, gunned or other things related to the past conflict here. But instead, I show them my healthy legs and my ballooned belly from all the delicacies I have eaten in the country. Now a lot of them have also registered with me to visit Siem Reap and the beautiful beaches in Sihanoukville...
Learn more about investing in Cambodia!