[This is essentially a copy of my blog post titled “Yangon Housing Primer” from last September. It’s a bit dated now.]
So it’s been a while since I’ve talked about housing. Some of you have probably wondered what my plan are on that front, and others have asked for help navigating the housing market. Having just gone through the process, I can share some thoughts (please keep in mind that this is just a few data points from my experience and should be used as just one reference point).
Units: Mostly two-bedrooms or larger. Be prepared to find limited supply of one-bedrooms or studio apartments. I only saw one (on Yaw Min Gyi), and it was a pretty beat-up sublet.
Timeframe and Payment: One year is standard. Six months is a stretch and limits your options. Full-term payments are required on day one (there aren’t credit checks). That means you need to have thousands of dollars in Kyat (Burmese currency) on you at the point of transaction.
Seeing bricks of cash in transactions is not uncommon in Yangon (note: this picture is not from an apartment transaction, and I’m not sure exactly how much money this is, but the bills are probably 1,000 kyat each, or about $1):
Pricing Trend: Skyrocketing. Demand is massive, particularly in Bahan/Yankin from what I’ve seen. I’ve heard prices are going up substantially.
Popular Areas & Prices: Expat central is a street called Yaw Min Gyi. It’s just above the downtown area. This is where chic cafes, restaurants, and shops have been popping up. It’s a pretty small street with a lot of traffic (apparently it’s dead at night though). There is a lot of construction happening here with new apartment buildings and offices going up.
Price Point: I only looked at one sublet that was going for $750/month short-term lease (monthly). Fifth floor of a walkup with Betel Nut stains (think chewing tobacco spit) and trash thrown in the corners of the stairwell. The apartment was about the size of a conventional studio apartment in the U.S., but a partition was put up to create a makeshift bedroom in the middle (walls didn’t go all the way to the ceiling). Almost no furniture, no tight seal around the door (I think tape was used at the bottom), and a bed-bug net around the mattress which was right on the ground. Street noise was clearly audible.
Nearby I saw a place for around $800/month (6 month, furnished, two bedroom, one bathroom) that was right in the heart of a very local neighborhood. Not terrible, but an older place with a train running near the back (I’ve been told the trains may run through the night here).
Bahan/Yankin is another popular area. This is more of a local experience. Inya Lake is close, which offers nice strolls along the water. There is also a lot of construction happening here, with a huge new commercial complex underway called New Yangon.
Price Point: Newly renovated 2 bedroom units in an apartment complex with a gate is around $1,000 for a year and $1,200 for 6 months (furnished). I believe the complex is called Shwe Ohn Pin. We’re not talking high-end complex here, but a nice, relatively clean building. (note: I’ve been told that Burmese don’t like stairs, so the higher the floor, the lower the cost)
There’s another area where apparently many of the employees of foreign multinationals stay (I forgot the name), but I didn’t look there. I’ve heard units in a serviced, gated, elevator building can go for $3,000-$5,000 per month.
Brokers/Resources: I used two brokers, which were both very helpful. Be prepared to pay one month’s rent for the broker fee.
- David Ney with York Road Realty. Western guy with Burmese partners. It’s a family business (plus him).
- Sabe, who is Burmese and speaks little English. Super nice but you’ll need someone to help translate. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like more info.
The Google Group “Yangon Expat Connection” (YEC) has an active member community, many of whom post sublet availability and roommate requests.
Short-Term Options: Besides sublet’s that come up on YEC, I also looked into the hotel scene. Due to massive demand, the hotels I checked out near Inya Lake weren’t offering long-stay discounts, and the rooms still ranged from around $50-$75 per night. One appeared to have rooms in the $30/night range, but here’s the beginning of the first review I saw on TripAdvisor (reviewed last week): “Very old, very dirty and very disgusting. Just walking into this place made me feel like I had crawled through a dozen pig sty’s and then through a dozen sewage works.”
I found a new hotel called York Residence (via Airbnb) in Yaw Min Gyi for around $35 per night. New rooms, flat screen TV, western bathrooms, just opened a few weeks ago. How could it be at $35 when another place down the street was apparently at $70? Well, I come to find out it is a stone’s throw from a massive construction project (I’ve seen work continue at night here).
Summary: Unless you are prepared to pay more and move into something like one of the Shwe Ohn Pin cookie-cutter units, there doesn’t seem to be a standard situation for housing in Yangon. There’s usually some tradeoff between location, cleanliness, noise, size, and price.
A quick glimpse at some housing options that I looked at:
Here are a couple pictures of my current apartment (keep in mind this was rented as essentially a concrete box and custom-designed, including furniture, from the ground up):