Buying real estate in Malaysia as a foreigner?

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Buying property in Malaysia as a foreigner: a full guide

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buying property foreigner Malaysia

Everything you need to know is included in our Malaysia Property Pack

Malaysia is a great choice for foreigners looking to invest in real estate. With its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and welcoming locals, it has plenty to offer.

However, buying property in a foreign country can be complicated, especially when it comes to all the laws and regulations.

Fear not! This guide is here to make it easier for foreign buyers to understand the property market in Malaysia. We'll go through everything you need to know in a straightforward and simple way.

Also, for a more in-depth analysis, you can check our property pack for Malaysia.

Can you purchase and own a property in Malaysia as a foreigner?

If you are American, we have a dedicated blog post regarding the property buying and owning process in Malaysia for US citizens.

Foreigners interested in buying real estate in Malaysia can indeed participate in the property market, but there are some specific regulations and requirements they should be aware of.

Firstly, as a foreigner, you can own both residential and commercial properties in Malaysia, but there are restrictions on the types of properties you can purchase.

You're typically not allowed to buy properties valued below a certain threshold, which varies depending on the state in Malaysia. This minimum purchase value is intended to prevent speculation and ensure that affordable housing remains available for locals.

Regarding land ownership, foreigners can own land, but it is usually leasehold, meaning you have ownership for a fixed term (often up to 99 years).

Freehold properties, where you own the property indefinitely, are less commonly available to foreigners. The process and availability also depend on the state's policies and the type of land.

Your rights as a foreign property owner are quite similar to those of a local Malaysian citizen. You have the right to sell, rent out, or even inherit the property.

However, when it comes to selling the property, there may be conditions such as a minimum period of ownership before you can sell.

There's no broad differentiation based on your country of origin. The rules generally apply equally to all foreigners. However, diplomatic relationships and specific international agreements between Malaysia and your home country might influence certain aspects, like tax treatments.

Residing in Malaysia is not a prerequisite for buying property. You don't need to live in Malaysia or have a specific visa or residency permit to purchase property. This makes Malaysia an attractive destination for foreign investors or those looking for a vacation home.

However, you might need to get approval from the State Authority, which is a formality in the purchasing process. This process varies by state and can take a few months to complete.

It's a way for the local government to keep track of foreign ownership and ensure compliance with the state's property rules.

There's also no specific government authorization required, but the purchase process typically involves a lawyer who will help navigate the local legal requirements and ensure that the transaction complies with Malaysian law.

Regarding minimum investment, it varies by state. Some areas have higher minimum thresholds for foreign buyers, particularly in sought-after locations like Kuala Lumpur or Penang.

Can you become a resident in Malaysia by purchasing and owning a property?

Malaysia offers a program called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) that allows foreigners to obtain a long-term visa by meeting certain financial and other criteria, which can include investment in real estate.

This program is particularly attractive to retirees and expatriates who wish to reside in Malaysia for an extended period.

Under the MM2H program, purchasing property can be part of meeting the financial requirements, but it's important to note that buying property alone does not automatically grant you residency.

The program requires applicants to demonstrate their financial capability to support themselves while living in Malaysia. This includes showing proof of liquid assets and a steady income.

The financial requirements for MM2H are subject to change, so it's advisable to check the latest criteria.

Generally, you need to show a certain amount in a Malaysian bank account and a regular income, like a pension or earnings from investments. The exact amounts can vary based on your age group.

As for the property investment part, there's usually a minimum investment value for the property you purchase in Malaysia. This amount can differ depending on the region in Malaysia. Investing in real estate can help in demonstrating your financial capability, but it's one part of a broader financial requirement.

The MM2H visa is initially for a period of 10 years and is renewable. It's a long-term social visit visa, which means it's not the same as permanent residency.

However, it does allow you to live in Malaysia for a significant period, and you can enter and leave the country freely during that time.

Regarding the number of people who have used this scheme, it's been quite popular among expatriates, especially those from countries like China, Japan, the UK, and Australia. However, exact numbers can vary year by year.

This visa does not directly lead to Malaysian citizenship. Obtaining Malaysian citizenship involves a separate and more complex process, and typically MM2H visa holders are not eligible for it just based on this visa.

Citizenship usually requires a more extended period of continuous residency and other criteria like proficiency in the Malay language.

Thinking of buying real estate in Malaysia?

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buying property foreigner Malaysia

Market indicators

You can find fresh and updated data in our pack of documents related to the real estate market in Malaysia.

If we check the the GDP per capita indicator, it seems that Malaysian people have become 5.5% richer throughout the past 5 years.

Actually, this rise in population wealth has the potential to stimulate the demand for real estate, which may translate into price increases in the future.

Looking at the data reported by Numbeo, we can see that residential properties in Malaysia offer yields between 2.9% and 5.6%.

These values for rental yields can be considered as "moderate", which means they fall within a reasonable range and are neither exceptionally high nor exceptionally low.

To know more, you can also read our dedicated article: is it a good time to buy a property in Malaysia?

The expat life

The life of an expat in Malaysia is vibrant and full of opportunity.

Malaysia is a diverse and welcoming country, making it an ideal place for expats to call home. Expats in Malaysia can enjoy a range of cultural attractions, from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and Batu Caves to the historical cities of Melaka and George Town. Expats can also take advantage of Malaysia's healthcare, education, and transportation systems. Malaysia is a great place to live, work, and play, and the expat community is vibrant and welcoming.

Malaysia is especially renowned for its food and culinary scene, and expats can enjoy a wide range of cuisine from all over the world.

There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars to explore, and the nightlife is vibrant and exciting. Expats can also explore Malaysia's many shopping malls and markets, which offer a wide range of international and local products. Malaysia is also home to numerous parks, beaches, and other outdoor activities, making it a great place to spend time outdoors.

The cost of living in Malaysia is relatively affordable compared to some other countries, and expats can benefit from a range of tax breaks and incentives.

Expats can also enjoy a range of social activities, from networking events to sports teams and clubs. Malaysia is a great place for expats to make new friends and explore new cultures and experiences. Overall, life as an expat in Malaysia is full of opportunity and excitement.

What are the best places to invest in real estate in Malaysia?

This table summarizes some of the best places to buy a property in Malaysia.

City / Region Population Average Price per sqm (MYR) Strengths
Kuala Lumpur ≈ 1.8 million 5,000 - 15,000 Capital city, economic center, cultural diversity, vibrant city life
Penang ≈ 1.8 million 4,000 - 12,000 Historical city, UNESCO World Heritage Site, popular tourist destination
Malacca ≈ 800,000 3,000 - 8,000 Historical city, UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich cultural heritage
Johor Bahru ≈ 1.1 million 2,000 - 8,000 Close proximity to Singapore, developing economy, affordable housing
Ipoh ≈ 750,000 2,000 - 6,000 Historical city, culinary destination, limestone caves and hills
Kuching ≈ 700,000 2,000 - 6,000 Gateway to Borneo, diverse wildlife, cultural and natural attractions
Kota Kinabalu ≈ 500,000 2,500 - 7,000 Gateway to Mount Kinabalu, pristine islands, ecotourism

Do you need a lawyer to buy real estate in Malaysia?

When purchasing a property in Malaysia, engaging a local lawyer can be essential to navigate the legal requirements and ensure a successful transaction.

One crucial document they can assist with is the Sale and Purchase Agreement, a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale.

The Malaysian lawyer can also help with conducting a Property Title Search to verify the property's ownership status and identify any potential legal issues or encumbrances.

Moreover, they can guide you through the process of obtaining necessary permits and approvals, such as approval from the local Land Office or relevant authorities.

They will ensure that all applicable taxes and fees, such as the Property Transfer Tax and Stamp Duty, are paid correctly and in compliance with Malaysian laws and regulations.

What are the risks when purchasing a property in Malaysia?

We've got an article dedicated to the risks associated with purchasing property in Malaysia.

1. Bumiputera Quota and Restrictions:

Malaysia has affirmative action policies that prioritize the Bumiputera (indigenous Malays and other ethnic groups) for certain types of properties.

These policies include quotas and restrictions on the sale of properties to non-Bumiputera buyers. Buyers should be aware of these restrictions and ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.

2. Leasehold and Freehold Tenure:

Properties in Malaysia can have either leasehold or freehold tenure. Leasehold properties have a specific lease period, after which ownership reverts to the landowner, while freehold properties grant indefinite ownership. Buyers should carefully consider the remaining lease duration for leasehold properties and understand the implications on property value and potential resale.

3. Strata Title Management and Maintenance:

In Malaysia, many residential properties, particularly high-rise buildings and gated communities, are governed by strata title ownership. Buyers should assess the management and maintenance of the common areas, such as facilities, shared spaces, and services. Understanding the strata rules, fees, and the financial health of the management committee is crucial to ensure a well-maintained living environment.

4. Property Financing Risks:

When financing a property purchase in Malaysia, buyers should consider the risks associated with interest rate fluctuations, loan affordability, and eligibility criteria. Changes in interest rates can impact monthly mortgage repayments, and failure to meet financial obligations may result in financial distress and potential foreclosure.

5. Government Policies and Regulations:

The Malaysian government actively regulates the property market through policies and regulations to manage affordability, foreign ownership, and property development. Changes in government policies, such as cooling measures or housing regulations, can impact property prices and market dynamics. Buyers should stay updated on government announcements and policies that may affect their property purchase.

6. Property Market Speculation:

The Malaysian property market has experienced periods of speculation and rapid price increases in certain areas. Buyers should exercise caution and conduct thorough market research to ensure the property's value aligns with long-term investment goals. Additionally, buyers should be wary of unscrupulous practices or misleading marketing tactics that may artificially inflate property prices.

7. Land Encumbrances and Legal Issues:

Before purchasing a property in Malaysia, buyers should conduct comprehensive due diligence to identify any encumbrances or legal issues that may affect the property's ownership, such as outstanding loans, liens, or disputes. Engaging a qualified lawyer and conducting land searches can help uncover potential risks and ensure a smooth transaction.

8. Construction Quality and Defects:

While Malaysia has established construction standards, there have been reported cases of construction defects in residential properties. Buyers should conduct thorough inspections, engage professionals to assess the property's construction quality, and review the developer's track record before committing to a purchase. It is advisable to include provisions for defect rectification in the sales and purchase agreement.

real estate Malaysia

Everything you need to know is included in our Malaysia Property Pack

What are the documents needed for a real estate transaction in Malaysia?

When buying a property in Malaysia, the documents that are needed include:

1. Title Deed – this document is issued by the Land Office and contains details of the property such as the size, location, and owner.

2. Sale & Purchase Agreement – this document sets out the terms and conditions of the transaction and should be signed by both the buyer and seller.

3. Loan Agreement – if the buyer is taking a loan to finance the purchase, this document will be required.

4. Memorandum of Transfer – this document is prepared by the lawyer and will be used to transfer the title of the property to the buyer.

5. Quitting Possession Agreement – this document is prepared by the lawyer and will be used to transfer the possession of the property to the buyer.

6. Certificate of Fitness – this document is issued by the local authorities and certifies that the property is in a fit and habitable condition.

We review each of these documents and tell you how to use them in our property pack for Malaysia.

How should you approach negotiations with individuals from Malaysia?

When purchasing a property in Malaysia, it is crucial to understand and respect the cultural norms and expectations of the locals.

Showing respect and courtesy is vital since Malaysians place great importance on politeness and harmony. It is customary to greet others with a warm smile and a handshake. Addressing individuals using their proper titles, such as "Encik" (Mr.) or "Puan" (Mrs./Ms.), is considered respectful.

Gift-giving is not as common in Malaysian business culture, but if you choose to offer a gift, it should be modest and appropriate. It is advisable to avoid items that are overly extravagant or too personal. Instead, items such as local delicacies or a small token related to their interests or hobbies can be appreciated.

Additionally, building trust and establishing personal connections is crucial in Malaysia. Taking the time to develop relationships and engaging in casual conversations can help foster a positive working environment.

Furthermore, Malaysians value their families and communities. It is beneficial to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for their culture, customs, and traditions. Taking an interest in local festivals and celebrations can contribute to establishing rapport with the local community.

Lastly, it is important to familiarize yourself with local laws, regulations, and property ownership policies. Engaging the services of a reliable local real estate agent or lawyer is highly recommended to ensure a smooth and legally compliant property purchase.

If you have any other countries in mind that you would like me to adapt the text for, feel free to let me know.

Can foreigners obtain a bank loan in Malaysia?

Foreigners can get property loans in Malaysia, but the eligibility criteria and requirements vary depending on the lender and loan terms.

Getting a property loan in Malaysia as a foreigner may require a valid residence permit, proof of income, and meeting the specific requirements set by the lending institutions in the country.

Maybank, CIMB Bank, and Public Bank are among the Malaysian banks that have the potential to offer mortgages to non-resident individuals.

Finally, please note that in Malaysia, the current mortgage rate, varying between 2% and 6%, is considered fairly average in comparison to global norms.

What are the taxes related to a property transaction in Malaysia?

Here is a breakdown of taxes related to a property transaction in Malaysia.

Tax Description Calculation Who pays
Stamp Duty Tax on the transfer of property ownership varies from 1% to 4% of the property value or consideration, whichever is higher Buyer
Property Assessment Tax Annual tax charged to all property owners by local district city halls Ranges from 2% to 9% of the property's annual rental value, depending on property type and location Owner
Rental Income Tax Tax on rental income generated from the property A progressive rate from 0% to 30% of gross rental income Owner
Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) Tax on the gains from the disposal of property 5% to 30% depending on the holding period Seller

For a deeper dive into the calculation, refer to:
- the KL Property Navi's website

What fees are involved in a property transaction in Malaysia?

Below is a simple breakdown of fees for a property transaction in Malaysia.

Fee Description Calculation Who pays
Real Estate Agent Fee Fee charged by real estate agents for their services Usually 2% to 3% of the property’s selling price Seller
Legal Fee Fee for legal services related to the property transaction Between 0.5% and 1% based on the property value Seller or Buyer
Valuation Fee Fee for property valuation services Varies from 0.04% to 0.25% depending on the property value Seller

Buying real estate in Malaysia can be risky

An increasing number of foreign investors are showing interest in Malaysia. However, 90% of them will make mistakes. Avoid the pitfalls with our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner Malaysia