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Young Cambodian couples aspire for modern living

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Sorn Sok Kheang (r) and her husband dream of living in a villa in the near future. Photo Supplied

Young Cambodian couples aspire for modern living

Newlyweds are always bogged down with the dilemma of housing.

In Cambodia, young middle-class couples – often in their mid-to-late 20s – are no strangers to the stressful habit of pooling in their monthly savings, searching for affordable starter homes, taking out bank loans, and weighing the options of staying by themselves or with their parents.

Taking into account the fiscal situation, most newly married couples undertake bank loans and instalment payments when purchasing their first home.

Sorn Sok Kheang, a journalist at CNC TV who recently got married, said she and her husband – both of whom are in their late 20s – can now only afford to buy a basic flat in Phnom Penh.

“However, our ideal house is a villa-type home in a borey that is preferably traditionally Khmer-decorated, with a big garden for my children to play around, and a garage to park our car,” Sok Kheang added.

An average flathouse in Phnom Penh ranges from $150,000 and above.

“After marriage, my spouse and I planned to buy a new house right away but I want to look after my mom first,” she said, adding that she and her husband are now religiously pooling their savings together every month.

“We hope to get a new home in the next two years; I might have to either take [out] a bank loan or an instalment plan, and I would also want a trustworthy agent to help me buy the right property without making any first-time homebuyer mistakes,” she continued.

With solid planning, serious saving and practical expectations, the couple is on their way to possess the house of their desire. What helps tremendously, noted Sok Kheang, is that they are lucky enough to have a good joint income.

Also recently married, Sovattey Mith, a deputy operations manager at Monument Books and Toys, together with her husband, earn approximately $2,000 a month. Their plan is to move into their ideal home in the next few years.

“It is probably an easy goal for us to achieve as we already have some land and a sizeable amount of savings,” she said.

The couple has been staying in a $155,000 flathouse in the Phnom Penh Thmey area for the past year and a half, but yearns for a home with more space. “Our ideal house is a villa-type house with a large space and modern living.”

An alternative to actually purchasing a villa home in a borey, said Mith, would be to “build our ideal house on our land.”

Otherwise, as those with land do, they would sell off their land at the best possible time in Cambodia’s at-times volatile property market.

A freelance filmmaker, who declined to be named, is also on the bandwagon for the ideal house being equipped with more space to make a small garden and a playground for her future children. Having just gotten hitched last year, she and her husband have set a five-year mark to reach this particular life goal.

“Our total average income is from $1,500 to $2,000 a month. With savings in the bank, we can easily own a house but we want a modern villa, so this would take a while longer to save up for,” she said.

Aside from aspiring to own villas and homes in boreys, there are young, middle-class Cambodian couples on the other end of the spectrum who prefer simple flathouses.

“After I get married, I will move into my in-laws’ house, so that I can save on rent. Our big plan is to open our own business, and that is why we would rather purchase a normal flat once we are ready to move out of my in-laws’ place,” said an Electricité du Cambodge staff, who also declined to be named.

He and his wife are in their late 20s.

“Although we have a good joint income, I have not considered taking up any bank loans yet,” he said, adding that it would be a big step in their newly married lives.

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