Why I’ve started using real estate agents in Cambodia

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote a post called ‘Why you shouldn’t look for an apartment in Cambodia before you arrive.’ In it, I explained why it’s best to wait until you’re in-country to begin your house hunt, but I also gave a good deal of space to disparaging the Cambodia real estate industry.

the interior of a Phnom Penh apartment

Looking for an apartment in Cambodia? The times they are a-changing.

It’s true that not too long ago using a real estate agent or letting agent in Cambodia was probably the worst way to look for an apartment. But just like everything else in Cambodia, this is quickly changing, and for my most recent house search, I used a real estate agent.

What’s changed? The market, for one. The expat demographic in Cambodia is changing, and changing quickly. More and more young professionals are moving to the country, and they don’t want to live in an apartment with squat toilets and moldy rattan furniture. An increasingly large pool of landlords are catering to this new market.

In my post last year I complained about how only the savvy landlords knew to list properties online. That’s still true, but there seems to be a new wave of young, wealthy landlords–many of whom have lived abroad–who have a better grasp of what is required to make an apartment in Cambodia worth $1,000. As such, the prices listed are finally starting to make sense. A year or two ago a property listed online would have been the same as one that wasn’t, just twice as expensive.

I spent some time looking at apartments in Phnom Penh recently and while the ones I saw through a new agency, all of your burning real estate questions here) were definitely not the low end of the market, the apartments were outfitted to a higher standard than anything I’d see on my own before (and I’ve been house-hunting in Cambodia many, many times). And perhaps most surprisingly, the prices were commensurate with the quality of the property.

If you’re looking for a Cambodian-style apartment in Phnom Penh (meaning: fluorescent lighting, tiled walls, no counters in the kitchen) and are looking to spend less than $250ish a month, you may still be better off walking around and looking for ‘for rent’ signs in the area you have your eye on, enlisting the help of a tuk tuk driver, or trying to find something through word of mouth.

But if you’re looking for something a little nicer, using a good agent can save you headaches. That doesn’t mean that all agents in Phnom Penh have magically become honest or that all of the prices you see are going to be reasonable and fair, but the odds of finding a mid-range or high-end home through an agent is higher than the chances you’ll find one on your own.

In Siem Reap, even the least expensive apartments and houses seem to be found most easily through an agent, although a large number of the agents in town are, to put it kindly, a waste of time. After trying several others, we ended up finding a place with Rich Cam Globe Realtor and were very happy with their services.

So how do you know if you can trust your agent? A good way to start is by telling them your specifications. If you say you want to spend a certain amount or live in a certain location and they only show you things that are outside your budget or in a completely different neighborhood, that’s a bad sign. A good agent will care about what you are looking for and will help you try and find just that, or explain why what you want might not be feasible. Either way, they should be able to have a conversation with you about it. For our most recent house-hunt, we went with several agents to many properties, and it became clear very quickly which agents were actually listening to what we wanted.

And if all else fails, feel free to email me some photos or property listings–I’d be happy to give you my opinion!

23 Responses to Why I’ve started using real estate agents in Cambodia

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  1. Nick says:

    Very interesting read…. as an expat still working but would like a petmanent base, im torn between the Thai and phnom penh.
    I have many friends in Bangkok that only rent,and because as they say, its cheap and they can move on when they want.
    Both thai and PP are progressively getting more expensive, but as one of your forum stated, everywhere else is too. Thats progress!!!
    As a smoker, i will probably opt for the happy pizza option :)) and gladly pay extra for the life in the city.
    One option not mentioned, for aging guys such as myself, with a little less than 7kgs of worldly goods, is doing monthly / long term deals with hotels in both countries….

  2. Johan says:

    Having had long experience here as both a tenant and a landlord, I can tell you the industry is a real cowboy world. It is cut-throat, most agents are always looking to steal deals from each other, and do, and there is some very unscrupulous business going on. Some agencies rip off new comers who don’t know better, especially in sales, their salespeople often don’t share in these “spoils” so the sales people cut deals with buyers to rip off their employers, when busted or when they grow tired of the game, they go off and start their own companies. If you knew how many real estate agencies right now in Phnom Penh are owned by former Rooftop salespeople it would make your head spin.

    I am buying and selling homes, and am renting out a number of flats, and I have never heard if Elevated Realty before. Just had to google them now.

  3. James says:

    Vincent — Do you have more info on the properties you were talking about near Wat Bo Road? They sound great and are right in my price range. email me @ [email protected] if you can help further. Thanks!

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