5 Best Cities in Asia to Buy Real Estate


Last updated January 5th, 2024.


When buying a house in Asia, choosing the correct city is perhaps even more important than the country.

This may sound confusing, but we have a reason.

Real estate markets are usually driven by local factors such as employment opportunities and housing supply.

Therefore, a nation’s broader economic data, which analysts typically use to determine how well the country’s doing, isn’t going to be relevant to the performance of its property market.

For example, if you purchased a luxury condo in one of Bangkok’s central neighborhoods ten years ago, your asset would have doubled in value since then.

However, if you bought a similar property in Pattaya, a world-famous seaside town two hours’ drive away, then you’d be facing a buyer’s market due to oversupply problems and weak tourist numbers. Your asset probably wouldn’t have appreciated much, if at all.

And your results in neither of those cities would correlate with Thai GDP growth or any other general economic indicator.

Returns depend on the specific location you’re buying in. But that doesn’t mean choosing a country isn’t important; property laws are determined at the national level, and the country’s geopolitics stability can also affect the nation’s economy.

Still, appreciation and rental yields will mostly rely on the precise city or neighborhood.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying properties as a lifestyle choice or buying to obtain residency.

Buying a house in Asia simply because you’ve fallen in love with the city and genuinely want to spend your time there is pretty common.

However, we’re more interested in returns than residency here at InvestAsian, and that’s what we will cover in this article.

Keeping all that in mind, below are Asia’s five best cities to buy real estate, listed in no particular order.

The cities are judged based on appreciation prospects, demographics, rental yields, and various options available to foreign investors.


Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities. Just in 2023 alone, over 28 million foreign travelers visited the city.

During a typical year, its annual tourist arrivals outrank favorites like London and Paris.

Thirty-five million foreigners visit the “Land of Smiles” each year on average. Naturally, this means Thailand is often people’s first experience with emerging Asian markets.

It’s probably no coincidence that surging Chinese tourist arrivals occurred around the same time as rising condo prices and transaction volume in central Bangkok. The city quickly became Asia’s top destination for Chinese property buyers abroad.

Some areas in Bangkok, such as Ratchada Road, have also become well-known as the new Chinatown. Restaurants and service providers in the area have equipped themselves with Chinese language menus and speakers, readily welcoming the incoming crowd.

Thus, Bangkok’s property market is perhaps your most liquid choice in Southeast Asia because of its plethora of realtors and fresh flow of foreign buyers.

Remember also: you aren’t just investing in a house or condo unit when buying offshore real estate; you’re holding a stake in the currency your asset is denominated in, too.

It’s therefore worth mentioning that Thailand’s Baht is among Asia’s best currencies lately. Since the turn of the century, the baht outperformed currencies frequently used as a storage of wealth, including the Singapore Dollar and Japanese Yen.


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, while often overlooked in favor of Bangkok, arguably has the region’s most open and competitively priced real estate market.

In fact, foreigners are allowed to own freehold houses in Malaysia, making it Southeast Asia’s only country where non-citizens can legally buy land under their own name.

Foreign property owners can even get a long-term visa through the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program.

Malaysia is ASEAN’s third wealthiest nation, right after Singapore and Brunei. Upon hearing that, you might assume that property in Kuala Lumpur would be more expensive than other cities on this list, but it’s quite the opposite.

In KL, you can buy a luxury condo right in the city’s center for around US$4,000 per square meter, though the price is about the same as in Manila and definitely less expensive than in Bangkok.

These factors make Kuala Lumpur one of the best cities in Asia for real estate. Malaysia’s lack of foreign ownership restriction, good value for money, and residency opportunity make it a complete package deal.

For all these reasons, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is undoubtedly one of the most versatile cities to purchase a house in Asia.


Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Due to strong urbanization and a healthy birth rate, Phnom Penh’s current population of two million will double by 2030. Indeed, Cambodia’s capital is ranked among Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing cities. 

A steadily increasing population, along with Cambodia’s rising middle class and other growth drivers, equals greater demand for central real estate in the long term.

Phnom Penh’s finance district hosts more than a dozen global banks, such as ICBC, Bank of China, and ANZ.

Meanwhile, AEON Group from Japan recently built two huge malls out in the suburbs, with each of them achieving 100% occupancy and several thousand visitors per day.


Japanese conglomerate AEON’s largest mall in Southeast Asia is located in Phnom Penh’s northern suburbs – a testament to the city’s growth potential.


The city is an emerging tourist hub as well. Phnom Penh International Airport handled over 6 million inward arrivals at its peak pre-COVID-19.

While the number has yet to reach the same level, the steady climb of almost 4 million tourists in 2023 – a 156% surge from the previous year is still impressive.

But despite the potential for appreciation and high rental yields in Cambodia, prime real estate in Phnom Penh still costs below US$1,000 per square meter in many cases.

Property values in nearby capital cities like Jakarta and Hanoi, where foreigners can’t even own freehold land, are beyond US$4,000 per square meter in comparison.


Manila, The Philippines

Manila is already one of the biggest cities on the entire planet, with over 25 million people living in its metro area.

And it will only get larger. Manila is expected to have at least 35 million inhabitants by 2050, which should rank the Philippine metropolis above the likes of Tokyo and Beijing.

Similarly, the Philippines’ population will increase from 105 million to 150 million by 2050. This immense population boom will almost inevitably lead to higher real estate prices in the long term.

Manila’s prospects are comparable to other cities on our list, such as Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh. Yet a difference between Manila and its rivals is the city’s sheer size – both currently and regarding its future potential.

Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh, while undergoing rapid transformation themselves, probably won’t become megacities or top global business centers anytime soon.

Manila has the necessary weight to become a “Tokyo of the 21st Century,” as implausible as it may seem now.

Unfortunately, a negative aspect of buying Manila property is the lack of options available to foreigners.

You can own freehold condominium units in the Philippines as non-citizens but aren’t allowed to purchase houses or land. That means you can’t buy a house in Manila as a foreigner.

Don’t worry though: several other cities on our list make it easy to buy land as a foreigner.


Seoul, Seoul Korea

The sole (get it?) East Asian city on our ranking, Seoul boasts solid demographics and foreign-buyer-friendly laws in stark contrast to China and Japan.

In fact, along with Kuala Lumpur, Seoul is one of the very few capital cities in Asia where foreigners can own land and houses on a freehold basis. You won’t encounter any limitations as a foreign buyer in South Korea.


Seoul Skyline

Buying freehold property in Seoul is an option, even if you’re a foreigner. South Korean real estate is denominated in a historically stable Korean won and should enjoy strong appreciation over the long term.

Seoul is also the only developed city on our list and, despite the situation with North Korea, probably the most stabilized one. But in exchange for stability, you will not get outsized returns here like you would in Manila or even Kuala Lumpur.

With that said, Seoul enjoys far superior prospects compared to nearby Tokyo, which will suffer from population decline throughout the 21st century. Korea’s population is aging slower, and in general, its economy is better than Japan’s.

Are you seeking yields or wealth preservation? If the latter, real estate in Seoul is a good blend of growth and safety.

Yield-seeking investors might want to consider buying property in Asia’s frontier markets instead.


Best Places to Buy Property: The Common Factors

You might have noticed that, except for Seoul, all of the cities on our list are either in an emerging or frontier market economy.

Such countries often benefit from strong demographic trends. A growing population and rising urbanization rates generally mean demand for prime, city-center real estate will increase over time.

Furthermore, each of these cities allows foreign investors to own freehold property in some form – whether for land or condo units.

It’s generally harder to buy land in Asia as a foreigner compared to elsewhere in the world. Yet, there are a select few countries that make foreign real estate ownership easier than others.

Thailand and the Philippines, for example, will let you buy a freehold condo but not own land. Malaysia and South Korea, by contrast, generally don’t place limits on foreign land ownership (except maybe on agricultural land or in areas of historic/cultural importance).

Outright ownership of your property is vital because leasehold property is a depreciating asset. Think of it as a timer on a countdown from 70 years or however long the leasehold term is.

With leasehold property, you’d have to resell the property long before the lease term expires to make any profit. Either that or somehow generate rental yields high enough to make up for the fact that, every year, the property is closer to being worth nothing.

In short, the best cities to buy property all benefit from natural, demographic-driven growth combined with open foreign ownership laws.


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