Deputy Minister of construction Nguyen Tran Nam said that this is a change from the previous decree, which has been in force since 2001, which stipulated that only selected groups of people of the Vietnamese origin could own unlimited property.
The new decree stipulates that overseas Vietnamese eligible to buy houses in Viet Nam may also enjoy other privileges, such as the transfer of land-use rights when selling; using credit organisations to mortgage their land-use rights; or leasing out the property.
This change promoted further equality between overseas Vietnamese and Vietnamese citizens when it came to property ownership in Viet Nam, said Truong Thi Hoa, a lawyer from the HCM City Bar Association.
Nam said this decree also provided specific guidance about the papers overseas Vietnamese were required to present to prove their eligibility to buy real estate.
"All the requirements are more concrete and transparent than before, which will hopefully pave the way for better implementation of the law at local levels," he said.
One of the major hurdles for overseas Vietnamese that hindered them from purchasing property in Viet Nam was the procedure to prove their origin, Luong Bach Van, chairwoman of the Overseas Vietnamese Committee in HCM City, said.
"If they lose relevant papers, which is often the case for people who have lived abroad for a long time, the whole process may come to a standstill. For those who have already prepared the necessary certificates, it still takes at least three months to verify them," she said.
Chairman of the Overseas Vietnamese Businessmen Club Nguyen Ngoc My said that many overseas Vietnamese commonly got around the red-tape procedures by putting their real estate transactions under the name of a Vietnamese citizen.
Nguyen Thi Thu Van, who owns an auto dealership in San Francisco and divides her time between Viet Nam and the US, said she had bought several houses in Viet Nam but asked her relatives to register for ownership.
"This is much quicker, but I am luckier than other overseas Vietnamese who may not have trustees in Viet Nam. The new decree is a good signal for all of us, but I am a little bit concerned about its implementation in practice," she said.
My, a Vietnamese Australian, said he bought a house at the beginning of this year but was still waiting for his property ownership certificate.
"I hope the changes in relevant legal documents will help procedures go more smoothly, which will in turn make it easier for overseas Vietnamese to take part in Viet Nam’s property market," he said.
Deputy minister Nam said the new regulations would provide incentives for overseas Vietnamese to return to the country to buy houses, which would help boost the real estate market in Viet Nam.
He also refuted the concern that overseas Vietnamese could utilise the loosened regulations to find their way into real estate speculation, potentially leading to a housing market bubble.
"In fact, property prices in Viet Nam are comparatively high and the housing market is not that attractive," he said.
Nguyen Quang Tuyen, head of Ha Noi Law University’s Land Law Department, said the new regulations may create more demand in the housing market but not enough to create a boom because the relevant administrative procedures were still not working very well.
"Many circulars to instruct law implementation at local levels are not sufficiently comprehensive and specific," he said.
According to Ministry of Construction statistics, only 140 people have purchased property through official channels in the nine years since the policy to encourage overseas Vietnamese to buy property has been implemented
It is estimated that about 70 per cent of the 4 million overseas Vietnamese around the world still maintain their original citizenship.
The previous decree on implementation of the Land and Housing Law restricted unlimited property ownership to selected groups of overseas Vietnamese. The groups included: overseas Vietnamese who made direct investments in the country; those who were recognised as contributing to national development; scientists and cultural experts; those who were invited to work in Viet Nam because of their distinct skills; and those who were married to Vietnamese citizens living in Viet Nam, said Nam.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News