Cambodia’s real estate sector is set to bounce back at a blistering pace after this year’s Covid-19 slowdown in growth, according to newly-appointed Century 21 Cambodia chairman Richard W Davidson.
Davidson, a 30-year real estate veteran and industry thought leader, spent more than 10 years working as president and CEO of US-based global iconic brand and franchisor Century 21 Real Estate LLC, which operates in more than 84 countries and territories around the world. The previous holder of the position was Kuy Vat, who is also the owner of VTrust Group Co Ltd and the master franchiser for Century 21 Cambodia.
Davidson sat down with The Post’s May Kunmakara for an exclusive interview to discuss his views on the Kingdom’s real estate sector and his strategy to lead the national master franchise.
What led you to choose Cambodia over other countries where Century 21 operates?
Well, it was brought to my attention that Phnom Penh has seen rapid growth in the past five years, especially its real estate market where the construction of high-rises is skyrocketing.
This rapid growth in the Cambodian capital is similar to New York’s dating back to 15 years ago. Over the two past decades, Cambodia’s economy has sustained an average annual growth rate of around seven per cent, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Cambodia’s investment climate is earning the trust of international investors, and as a result, they see opportunity here in the fast-growing economy.
My wife and I visited Cambodia last year and I’ve had a chance to learn of its rich history, accompanied by the very warm welcome we received from the Cambodian people.
So, when Mr Kuy Vat asked me to take the role as chairman of Century 21 Cambodia, I was humbled and excited to be part of the continued growth of the brand and real estate market in such a prosperous country.
Now in your new position, what is your goal for Century 21 Cambodia and its affiliates?
My goal is to lead on multiple fronts, leveraging my global network and leadership skills to advance a clear strategic vision and propel this organisation forward through the next stage of growth, while solidifying our position as the country’s largest real estate organisation that Cambodians, Southeast Asians and the world can trust and rely on.
With years of experiences and know-how at the global stage of the real estate industry, I believe I will be able to draw back the curtain by bringing more potential investors to come and seek investments in Cambodia’s real estate market.
How do you think your world-class knowledge and experiences will benefit the Kingdom’s real estate sector?
The professionalism of the Century 21 Cambodia’s brokers and agents has already reached high levels. And the service provided to customers has set the standards that the rest of the industry needs to strive for.
The works being undertaken by Century 21 Cambodia to bring great opportunity and improve access to would-be real estate consumers are innovative and well able to continue to drive the marketplace forward.
I could not be more proud to play a role in progressing the growth and development of Century 21 Cambodia, of which I have been appointed as chairman, allowing me to play a part in the company’s leadership as the country’s real estate market continues to evolve.
How has Covid-19 affected the real estate sector here this year and what are your expectations for 2021?
First, it should be clarified that Cambodia wasn’t the only one struggling to contain the disease this year.
I have learned from my colleagues at Century 21 Cambodia that sales of property priced above $2 million have seen a bit of a drop during this time due to travel restrictions that have limited the inflow of potential buyers from countries like Japan and China.
But transactions for property priced below $2 million have been business-as-usual, thanks to Cambodians with a surplus of cash that continue to buy property for land banking.
Construction project approvals are still on the rise this year and almost all mega-project constructions are progressing actively.
I think the Cambodian real estate market will bounce back next year, buoyed by a soon-to-be-available vaccine and easing international travel restrictions.
It should be noted that, even during the period, our Century 21 Cambodia offices still received a lot of enquiries from clients that seek opportunities to invest in Cambodia. They have the capital and see Cambodia as a place to generate profit from real estate businesses and are ready to inject funds into the Cambodian market.
Where do you see Cambodian real estate in five years and beyond?
In five years’ time, Cambodia will be much more developed and the real estate sector will be more booming. In Phnom Penh, Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) district will remain an outstanding Central Business District (CBD) with a lot of high-rises.
At the same time, Tuol Kork will come closer to becoming the second (CBD) in Phnom Penh as the district is developed at a faster pace. The district is now very quickly shifting from residential areas to commercial zones with more supermarkets, retail businesses and high-rises springing up.
While the asking price of land in Tuol Kork was just $1,850 per sqm in 2018, that price has now jumped to $3,500.
So, five years from now, Phnom Penh will be more developed with more high-rises, and many potential provinces will boast additional development projects such as holiday-villa homes, resorts and many other such projects.
Land prices in some major provinces are set to see a two- or three-fold increase within the next five years.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.