Cambodia experienced a boom in the construction and real estate industry since 2000, but construction activities and real estate prices defied reality particularly from 2016 to 2019. Between 2000 to 2018 alone, Cambodia’s Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction (MLMUPC) approved 43,136 construction projects with an estimated investment value of USD 43.3 b. But according to the National Bank of Cambodia’s estimates, MLMUPC approved USD 11.4 b worth of new construction projects in 2019 alone. The residential, commercial, and industrial segments accounted for about 46-50%, 30-35%, and 14-15% share of new projects respectively.
Most of the money going into these projects was locally sourced, with China accounting for most of the foreign investment. Real estate companies estimated that the total number of condominiums in Phnom Penh alone jumped by 120% in 2019 and 300% in 2020, with foreigners on average accounting for 60-70% of condominium sales in Cambodia. If the cityscape of Phnom Penh has changed drastically, then the port city of Sihanoukville has been transformed beyond recognition as the coastal provinces of Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk were also changed with numerous tourism and mixed development projects.
However, following the global economic slowdown in 2019, Cambodia’s ban on online gambling in Aug 2019 (effective 1 Jan 2020) had a chilling effect on the construction frenzy and frothy real estate prices. The total value of approved projects dropped to just USD 7.8 b in 2020, a YOY fall of 26.9%. This was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic which wreaked havoc in the global supply chain and caused unprecedented travel restrictions to be imposed, severely disrupting the availability and pricing of construction materials and labour, as well as shutting out buyers, investors and businesses. In 2021, the total number of approved projects was 4,303 at an estimated total investment value of USD 5.33 billion.
However, given Cambodia’s high vaccination rate where nearly 90% of its population have been fully vaccinated and the bold steps are taken to reopen its economy by lowering quarantine measures for vaccinated travelers to the Kingdom, the construction and real estate sector in Cambodia should rebound in 2022. According to NBC’s outlook for 2022, the latter will eventually catch up with its economic growth, supported by the inflows of domestic revenue and investments to Cambodia. In tandem with the rapid growth of the construction and real estate sector, the number of agencies and service providers in real estate, property management and maintenance has also grown. In particular, real estate agency services have witnessed a larger footprint in the online and digital space, although it will require more international players and brand names such as Century 21 to be the benchmark the market in terms of the level of professionalism, value-added service, transparency in information, and the quality of customer and after-sales service.
Share of Approved Projects by Sector by Surface Area in 2020 (left) and Import of Construction Materials 2016-2020 (right)
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If you are looking for a more nuanced insight or advice in terms of other indicators/observations not commonly found in publications for a better understanding of how a business or investor can navigate the local environment or seek out collaboration opportunities and trustworthy partners, get in touch with our team at Aquarii. Ask to speak to our CEO if you wish to know why he has decided to make Cambodia his 2nd home, perhaps the strongest testament of his conviction in the potential and opportunities in the Kingdom.