What you need to know about buying property in Cambodia

If you’ve wondered what the deal is with buying property in Cambodia, you aren’t alone. Today we talk to Leah Valencia, one of the co-founders of Elevated Realty*. Leah filled us in on what’s required for a foreigner to buy property in Cambodia and explains the difference between a hard and soft title.

Small house on Koh Rong

Considering buying a house in Cambodia? Here’s what you need to know.

Can a foreigner own property in Cambodia?

“Yes, foreigners can own property in Cambodia but there are restrictions. Foreigners can only own properties on the first floor or higher (not the ground floor), up to 70% of any one building, however this only applies to buildings with a strata title. A strata title is a type of hard title that allows an owner to divide a building into multiple individually saleable properties, this is also known as the “condominium law”, it is generally only granted to new condo buildings that are being built for this specific purpose.

Alternatively, foreigners can own 49% of private property, with or without a structure, if they are partnered in a Cambodian legal entity. A Cambodian legal entity is defined as any legal entity that has 51% or more of its shares held by Cambodian citizens. So as long as you own the property in conjunction with a Cambodian national, you can own any type of property you desire.

Currently, this law is not being regularly enforced, this is why you will hear stories of people who hold titles to properties around the city. There is a level of risk assumed with acquiring property in this way as it is subject to enforcement at anytime.”

What are the requirements for a foreigner to own property in Cambodia?

“To purchase property in Cambodia all you need is a current passport and visa. However, I would strongly recommend that you have someone advise you through the process, such as a real estate agent or a lawyer. It is important to conduct a title search before purchasing property. The title search will confirm who holds the title to the property and reveal registered mortgages or other encumbrances. Bear in mind that there can be other impediments to transferring which are not visible through a title search, e.g., a claim by a senior politician to the property. The buyer will not be given the actual title to conduct the search, because this is the sellers’ only evidence of ownership. The buyer will instead get a copy of the title, and it is important to confirm that it is a recent copy.”

Phnom Penh apartments

If it’s not the ground floor, you’re good to go.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of long-term leases over buying?

“Long-term leases, lasting between 15 and 50 years, are an alternative way for foreigners to invest in Cambodian property. Prior to December 2011, leases could be granted for up to 99 years in accordance with the Land Law (2001). However with the entry into force of the new Civil Code, the maximum term of a lease has been reduced to 50 years. Leases granted prior to December 2011 will still be respected, up to a maximum of 99 years.

A clause can be inserted into the lease requiring the owner to get the lessee’s permission to sell, and/or entitling the lessee to convert to full ownership with the lessor’s cooperation. In addition, a ‘block sale notice’ can be registered with the Land Office, instructing the office not to sell the property without the lessee’s permission. Also it is often possible to put a renewable clause in the agreement.

Long term leases can now be registered at the national Cadastral Office and noted on the property title deed. In addition, a separate certificate may be issued to the title deed noting the lessee’s interests in the property. This Certificate of Perpetual Lease of Private Unit can be used as security to obtain financing. Additionally long term leases are assignable, sellable and bequeathable. This makes them similar to a freehold property but only for a limited time, which has both an advantage and disadvantage.”

What is the process if a foreigner wants to buy a ground-floor apartment or land in Cambodia?

“During the Democratic Kampuchea regime (1975-79), the Khmer Rouge abolished ownership of property and destroyed all existing official property records in Cambodia. At that time, all property belonged to the State and there were no private owners. After the Khmer Rouge fell, and for the next ten years, the right to own property was still not recognized and all property was owned by the government. In 1989 a Land Law was issued which established a framework for the recognition of property and property rights throughout Cambodia. In 2001 the Land Law was updated in an attempt to further clarify property ownership.

Under the Land Law property can be registered in two ways, systematic registration and sporadic registration. In the systematic system, the government targets plots of land to measure, register and title, this will continue until the whole country is complete. In the sporadic system, the owner initiates the title registration through the central Cadastral Office. There are currently two types of titles legally recognized in Cambodia, soft titles and hard titles.

A newly built house in Cambodia

Or, you can buy land (or 49% of it) and build your own.

The majority of property in Cambodia is legally held under a soft title. Property held under a soft title is registered at the local sangkat (council) or district level but not at the national level. soft title documentation can take a variety of forms, such as a letter of transfer from the previous possessor stamped by the sangkat or district office, a possession status certificate from the local sangkat or district office, or a building application. Buyers wanting to purchase a soft title property should conduct their own due diligence, at the sangkat or district office to confirm whom holds the soft title to the property. Similar enquiries should be made with the property’s neighbours. The property boundaries should also be carefully checked, as borders are often not properly demarcated and overlaps can exist. Often a soft title is prefered due to the taxes, fees and the processes involved in obtaining a hard title. However, the option to convert from soft title into a hard title is a right, either when systematic registration occurs or via sporadic registration.

A hard title is an ownership certificate which is issued by the Cadastral Office and recognized at the national ministerial level as well as at the sangkat and district level. A hard title is the most secure form of ownership, its registration should be the only evidence required of an indefeasible title.

There are pros and cons to both hard and soft titles. The most recent numbers accounting for title types in Phnom Penh found that currently only 10% of properties have hard titles, whilst 82% have soft titles, and 8% have no title at all. That being said, it is obviously much easier to find properties with a soft title, processing is faster, goverment fees are excluded, and it can later be converted to a hard title. hard titles on the other hand, though they include fees and take longer, offer you indisputable ownership, the history of the property, and leverage for bank financing.”

If a property only has a soft title available, is it still worth considering?

A soft title is definitely still worth considering, depending on what you intend to do with the property. Current trends in Cambodia include “flipping” property – buying, renovating, and reselling at a higher value. Also very popular, is buying and reselling to locals for development. In both of these scenarios the intention is not to hold the property, but rather resell it in a relatively short time period. In this case, regardless of the title type, with conditions as they currently are you should have no problems selling your property in the current market. However, If you plan to live on the property or invest a great deal of money in hopes of value appreciation, then a hard title would be the better choice, as it is more secure and will stand the test of time through varying market conditions. soft titles are currently the norm, and are being bought and sold without any problems. However, they do not hold the same security that a hard title does. ”

*Elevated Realty is no longer in business.

36 Responses to What you need to know about buying property in Cambodia

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    KK Luk says:

    I’m going to buy a off plan property, should I need to hire a lawyer by myself? The legal firm and lawyer of the developer, I could not find it in the list of legal firms in cambodia in the web. Will it be a problem. Please help. Thank you.

      Chamnan says:

      There are may companies and lawyers here who can help giving you advice on how to own property. You may leave your contact info here, I will contact you.


    Deepak says:


    I want buy a farming land in province, how much it costs?

    A. Adam says:

    I would like to buy a condo or villa and see that foreigners cannot buy a hard title outright. Is that correct, because I have seen many properties around the country that talk about foreigners buying outright with the change of law last year. Could you clarify this point, as your article is excellent, but does not see to cover this new change in the property law. Many thanks

    Dara says:

    I am From Siem Reap and I living in the Angkor Zone or other word is Apsara Zone, I wish you can help me out of this misunderstanding of Soft Title and Hard Title, what I got now is Soft Title. So can I transfer my Soft Title to Hard Title, Because I am in the Angkor Zone.

    Thank you very much, any advise are very helpful.

    Nixbovennegen says:


    With respect to the different titles you cannot make a proper lease agreement without having a hard title on the land as the lease agreement has to be issued by the ministry. Can you confirm this statement? Many thanks. Cheers

    Kit says:


    Thanks for the information.

    The article mentions that foreigners can own flats in buildings that have strata titles, and that these are normally new condo blocks.

    However, the picture shows a traditional Cambodian street probably in Phnom Penh with a caption “If it’s not the ground floor, you’re good to go”.

    I am interested in buying a unit in such a street. Not in a new condo block and want to know whether its possible.

    Do residential blocks in such streets have strata titles?
    Can foreigners buy property above the ground floor?
    Are hard titles available for such properties?

    Many thanks

    Ron says:

    Hello can I purchase a residential property 51/49 % without a visa as I don’t propose to move to Cambodia ?

    Also to obtain hard title and being a foreigner jointly buying with a Khmer national how long should we negotiate for settlement?

    Cristian Todorut says:

    Hello there
    I found your article really interesting and useful so thank you for the time and energy you put in just to help us with all the info!
    I plan to find a nice land somewhere on a beach and try to buy/lease/whatever is the legal option for opening a hostel in Cambodia.
    What are my real options and how would you recon I shoul approach this?
    Thank you in advance if you find time to help me out with this.
    Have a great day!
    Cristo ?

    Frank Ritchie says:

    Hi, I don’t understand the part that I would only own 70%. If the condo is e.g. $100k, do I only pay $70k and the bank (or someone else) pays $30k? Can I not own a condo 100% (on the first floor or higher)?

      Jeffro says:

      I believe the 70% refers to the building itself….70% of the building units can be purchased by foreigners but none on the ground floor.

    Okat says:

    Hello I would like like to know if we foreigner are alllowed to have free hold if we buy properties in cambodia. I have plan to buy a 3 story property with estimate land area or 230 sq meters. Thanks for any reply. By the way im from Japan.

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