How to Invest in Malaysia: The Easiest Place to Buy Land

How to Invest in Malaysia: The Easiest Place to Buy Land

Last updated February 11th, 2024.


Buying land, along with real estate in general, is one investments you can physically touch and see with your own eyes.

Not every investor cares about this sort of thing. Yet some people do, and “physicality” remains an attribute that stocks and bonds don’t have.

Every so often, we’ll encounter an investor who wants to buy land in Asia. They will usually have their own reasons and won’t settle for anything else, insisting on physical land only.

We almost always end up advising land-loving clients that they should buy property in Malaysia.

Not many countries in Asia allow foreigners to buy real estate – even condos and apartment buildings. China, India, and most other places in the region ban foreigners from owning any type of property.

A few countries, such as Thailand and the Philippines, may allow foreigners to buy property such as condominiums, but the ownership always comes with some limits. Foreign ownership of an actual piece of land in Asia is truly rare.

Malaysia, however, is more accepting of foreigners buying land than most. The country is now a destination for land investors because of its simple-to-understand property laws and a general friendliness toward foreign buyers.

Although it’s true that Malaysia doesn’t have the greatest economy compared to the rest of Asia, its additional, more positive attributes help make up for that.

Here are two main ways you can invest in Malaysia as a foreigner, specifically by buying either property or stocks.


Buying Land, Houses, and Condos in Malaysia

Property investment in Malaysia is worth considering as a foreign investor, mainly because non-citizens have nearly identical ownership rights as locals when it comes to owning land.

From a legal standpoint, this is a rare occurrence in the region; Malaysia’s neighboring countries all stand as testament to how difficult it is to buy land in Asia as a foreigner. Particularly on a freehold basis.

However, foreigners buying property in Malaysia still encounter restrictions, namely on buying low and medium-cost housing.

Properties priced under RM500,000 (~US$125,000) cannot be owned by foreigners at all. Some states, such as Penang and Johor, have an even higher minimum requirement of RM1,000,000 (~US$250,000).

This minimum purchase policy is aimed at separating the high-end sector from the rest of Malaysia’s housing market.

It sort of does make sense. Otherwise, wealthy foreign buyers would drive Malaysia’s land prices up beyond a range where locals could afford it. Especially considering Malaysia is a small, fairly open country with China and India right next door.

Furthermore, some types of old heritage buildings are only open to local buyers. Ethnic Malays or “Bumiputera” also usually get a discount of up to 15% on all new purchases.

Our guide to buying property in Malaysia also includes detailed information about such topics and countless others if you’re interested.


Foreign buyers can own houses, land, and bungalows in Malaysia, albeit with minor restrictions. Of course, that’s in addition to condo units.


Buying Stocks in Malaysia as a Foreigner

Malaysia also enjoys Southeast Asia’s third-biggest stock market in terms of market cap.

Unfortunately, opening a bank or brokerage account in the country is not easy. You must be a Malaysian resident before any bank will let you open an account with them.

There are still other options. Brokerages in Asia will often let you trade on all equity exchanges throughout the region. You aren’t just limited to buying stocks in the country your broker is in.

United Overseas Bank (UOB), located in Singapore, is one of the Asian banks and brokers we can recommend.

Are you not living in Asia? Then, your first choice is to remotely open a bank account in a place like Hong Kong through the mail.

The second one is trading stocks in Malaysia through a brokerage based in your home country.

However, we don’t suggest the second option. Brokerage firms in the US and Europe charge incredibly high commissions for buying and selling stocks in Asia. You’ll substantially reduce fees by opening a local account.


Should You Invest in Malaysia?

There are far better options if you’re seeking returns. Malaysia’s economy has done rather poorly over the past several years.

Places like Cambodia and the Philippines are growing noticeably faster and boast even greater long-term prospects.

Buying land in Malaysia is practically the only option in Southeast Asia for foreigners to own houses, villas, and mansions on the same terms as a local citizen while easily living in the country.

The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program, a longstanding government initiative, even gives investors a renewable 10-year multiple-entry visa.

If you’re considering property investment in Malaysia, including buying houses and land, then it’s also worth applying to the program.

With the recent announcement of the changes to the criteria, foreigners under the MM2H visa program can apply for visas for their family members, including their parents, and bring their furniture and even a live-in maid to Malaysia from another country completely free of tax.

In short, you should think about property investment in Malaysia if you want to own land in Southeast Asia, as well as an opportunity to relocate your family. But if you’re seeking more profit or rental yields, then you will want to consider elsewhere.


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