Saigon Property Search

Previously written but forgot to post.

Sometime before the COVID-19 crisis began, your mother and I had considered buying an apartment in Vietnam, which government regulations aside, is equivalent to buying a condominium in America. We visited many properties in and around Saigon. I thought making a reasonable effort was important. Your mother and I agreed at the onset to make a decision based on consensus because I wanted to ensure that both of us were content. Buying an apartment is a commitment. Few apartments were nice and some were okay but none of them stood out enough on their own to begin negotiations. Here’s part of the reason.

• DIAMOND ISLAND (Đảo Kim Cương)

These apartments were among my favorites. Many of the two- and three-bedroom apartments have large floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the District 1-Binh Thanh skyline. Each has an open concept design and the rooms are relatively spacious with 9 ft. ceilings. The property offers a resort-style ambiance. Hallways are open, allowing for seemingly endless cool, refreshing breezes, and it has many pools. Since Diamond Island located on an island, it didn’t feel like we were still in the city and, for what it’s worth, most of the towers are named after tropical islands — Maldives, Bora Bora and Hawaii, for example.

From a quality-of-life perspective, as much as the resort-style ambiance was appealing, it was even more unappealing to us. Your mother and I enjoy going out often. If it’s not into the city center, we spend time at small cafes. Even though Diamond Island is located in District 2, it’s faraway enough to disrupt our lives. Plus, it’s isolated. We’d either have to buy a car or motorbike or rely on a Grab or taxi to go almost everywhere. That’s a bit stressful, comparatively. Not having to take care of a car has been very pleasant. One less thing to think about.

Also, I found issues with the location and build quality. Saigon is sinking and the developer was aware of it. Each building has a parking garage, but unlike other apartments in the city, it was built above ground. Since Diamond Island is a smallish island, an underground parking garage would have been prone to flooding. Thinking out into the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if the on-going cost of securing the property from rising water levels would fall on the owners. Then there’s the occasional typhoon or heavy downpour. Aside from being stuck, who knows how those events would impact the total cost of ownership. I wouldn’t be so sure you’re protected by either the purchasing contract, insurance or property’s bylaws. It’s Vietnam, the legal process doesn’t favor the small fish and Vietnamese businesses and the Vietnamese people lack integrity.

Regarding build quality, I found signs of a substantial water leak in one of the city-facing apartments that appeared to be coming from a crack in a concrete wall. Not only would we have been on the hook for the water damage in that apartment, we’d likely be on the hook for any water damage caused in the apartment below as well. Both our agent and the owner didn’t mention anything when I closely examined the wall and flooring damage that spanned two rooms.


This property offers the best community for a family, by far. Although the selection of quality restaurants is lousy and the shops aren’t very shoppable, the 35-acre park more than makes up for its faults. We could easily spend a couple hours walking around it and the community while making several stops on the way. Every time we had visited the park between the lockdowns, happy families with smiling kids could be seen all around. For a family with a small kid, that’s invaluable.

From an investment standpoint though, I found issues in every apartment across multiple towers. If you don’t like insects and rats, Vinhomes Central Park is not the place for you. There was evidence of an ant colony in all of the apartments we had seen and mouse droppings in a couple of them. You don’t even have to see an apartment to discover those issues. Just take a look at any of the ATM rooms adjacent to each bank. There are so many active insect infestations along the walls that it’s obvious no one cares. Or spend some time walking around the grounds between the Park Towers and I’d bet money you’d catch a rat running through the shrubs. Those are the biggest rats I’ve ever seen outside of Osaka.

Build quality is also suspect. The mid-to-upper sections of most, if not all, towers have a lot of wear-and-tear. There was noticeable cracking and discoloration. As we were viewing a 40th+ floor apartment, I noticed a guy waterproofing a section of the outer foundation wall of another tower hanging from a rope tied to a water tank on its roof. He paid particular attention to the area around the window. Like the infestation issues, you don’t even have to see an apartment to discover them. Just walk around the grounds. There are settling issues, cracked concrete tiles, broken signs and damaged light poles everywhere.


Thảo Điền is an awesome area. It’s hip. It’s trendy. It’s alive. There are a lot of cafes, restaurants and shops nearby. The ambience reminds me of Bali, excluding those shady Balinese men that hide in dark areas and taxi thieves. But, although pricing was reasonable, we didn’t like the floorplans and I didn’t like that Masteri, and the surrounding area, is home to a large expat community. Better options are available for the same price point.

The three-bedroom apartments featured a large common area, which is nice, but the placement of the bedrooms made it feel small. With the master bedroom on one side of the common room and the other two bedrooms on the opposite side, there isn’t any separation between the living and sleeping space. None of the common floorplans have a hallway. Each apartment feels like being in a square box.

Living in an area known for its large expat community isn’t appealing to me as well. It’s too comfortable. I find the thought detracting. But, if push came to shove, I don’t think it’d matter. Actually, had there been a hallway that led to the two or three bedrooms, Masteri would have been a frontrunner.


Its location is the best feature. City Garden offers direct access to the most realistic Saigonese lifestyle amongst the luxury, top tier properties. Many real Vietnamese restaurants, cafes and shops are located just outside of the property, which once would have been ideal for your us. Additionally, we liked City Garden’s proximity to Nguyễn Huệ and its spacious floorplans with virtual panoramic city views. Some of the three-bedroom apartments nearly occupied an entire side of a floor in one of its four towers.

Conversely, City Garden’s location is also its worst feature. Although many real Vietnamese places are within walking distance, the surrounding roads are not walkable for a family with a baby. Sidewalks, if any, are a joke and there’s congestion on the roads most of every day. Criminals aside, it’d be too dangerous having to look out for the constant flow of cars and motorbikes coming from all directions. Since we, you and me, take hour-long walks every day when leisurely going outside isn’t illegal, they’d be limited to the property. Even if we walked the inside perimeter, we’d probably pass the pool 15 to 20 times per hour. That’d suck.

Also, while the apartments are more spacious than other comps, they are all oddly shaped because each tower is ovular. Rooms and spaces are uneven, especially near corners, and possibly made the ceiling feel a bit lower than its actual height. A darker and depressing feeling hangs over my memories of each apartment.


Although it was among my favorite properties, Millenium Masteri was among your mother’s least favorites. Developed by the same contractor, Masterise Homes, as Masteri Thao Dien, Millenium Masteri has a more open and spacious feel. I liked each of the apartments we saw. They have a large common room with extra-long sliding doors that offers expansive city views. Their rooms are also connected via a hallway, each with comparable views. Being located within walking distance of Nguyễn Huệ, its location is convenient.

Your mother, however, felt differently. She doesn’t like the area because many gangs operate there, which I hadn’t known beforehand, and that definitely wouldn’t be a good environment for a child. Soon later, I also found out there’s a lot of drug use in and around Millenium Masteri. Your mother also felt the property is unkempt. With that being said, Millenium Masteri never stood a chance.


In theory, it’s possible that we could have settled on one of their three-bedroom lofts in the Altaz tower but we never had the opportunity to walkthrough them since the tower’s handover kept getting delayed. We liked the two-bedrooms lofts in the Berdaz tower but their view was obstructed by the ugly back-side of Waterina Suites and the land directly across the street was undeveloped. Both non-starters for me.

The property itself is acceptable though. Superficially, nothing was particularly bad about Feliz En Vista, which is a good thing. But sometime later we heard from an owner that at least one of the towers has foundational issues. Fortunately, by the time the Altaz tower was ready, I had lost interest in buying an apartment in Vietnam. My dislike for most things Vietnamese was greater than ever before.


We thought about buying an apartment in Sunwah Pearl for a couple of months but eventually lost interest. My preference was for an apartment facing District 1. Those sold at a premium because of the view. Having looked at the surrounding area time and time again, I grew increasingly concerned that another building would obstruct the view in the future since only a driving range and some older Vietnamese row homes occupied the land across the street. If that seems far-fetched, just look at Saigon Pearl. Most of the apartments facing District 1 had their premium view obstructed by Sunwah Pearl. Rather than seeing the city’s skyline, a giant, boring structure now towers over them. I’d be pissed if that happened to us.

The sales agent also didn’t inform us of the other two-bedroom layouts available, which were different than the model. Could that have made a difference? Possibly.


I strongly considered buying an apartment in Thủ Thiêm. Real estate agents are calling it the next Shanghai, specifically Pudong. The area itself will very likely be amongst the most desirable in Vietnam in the future. As much as that’s the value proposition, I didn’t care. Let’s assume Thủ Thiêm is developed according to the plan. It’ll be the financial center of SE Asia and home to the tallest building in Vietnam. While that sounds great, I probably won’t care. I’ll be an old man in 2040 and, if we had bought, who knows how the condition of those properties will fair with time. Vinhomes Central Park is only around three years old but looks much older.

Vietnamese people also knowingly overcommit but underdeliver. Just across the river from Thủ Thiêm stands One Financial Tower, a partially completed high-rise building in the heart of District 1. Its skeleton has stood there for 20 years. You might not have noticed it because it’s usually cut-out of pictures of Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline. The government’s current plan for Thủ Thiêm might only be just a vision. A marketing ploy to sell land for above market rates.

Given COVID-19, we’re lucky that we didn’t consider Empire City, which is the first of the three riverfront properties to open, even as a rental. Although its newness is definitely nice, there’s not much around it. Sure, we could walk along the river and gaze at the city but that’s about all we could do. With no major food stores located at or nearby Empire City, we’d struggle.


It’s too far. With traffic, it’s much too far. Some real estate agent was trying to sell your mother a two-bedroom apartment there for 9 billion VND (~$400,000 USD) a couple years ago. I thought that was crazy since Vinhomes Grand Park is an hour outside of Ho Chi Minh City, but he convinced your mother it was the market rate. She eventually realized the real estate agent was lying once we started looking at properties in the city. 9 billion VND is 7 billion VND above the market rate. Fucking scam artist.

• AND…

There were a few more properties that we had visited in other districts, including some Vietnamese ones where most, if not all, residents are locals, but none of them were noteworthy and, concerning the Vietnamese ones, you’ll probably get what you pay for or worse. The properties, and apartments, above are the best of the worst with some exceptions. Had you asked me about the likelihood of buying an apartment at the start of our search, I’d have said that it’s likely. I was still relatively new to Vietnam back then and cautious about jumping to any conclusions. But buying an apartment became more unlikely with time. It wasn’t just because of my issues with the frontrunners. Some of them could have been overlooked for the right price. Rather, I had little confidence in the process as my opinion of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people grew increasingly negative. While buying an apartment in Vietnam is still an option because this is where you and your mother come from, we’d have to be presented with an opportunity that’s hard to turn down.

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