Negotiating my Vietnamese home

15 Aug

NEGOTIATING MY VIETNAMESE HOME Dealing with real estate agents can be difficult in Australia, so imagine the troubles I have had trying to rent in communist Vietnam. I arrived in country with intentions of renting a room in an existing sharehouse, but quickly realised share houses are few and far between. So my friend Suriya and I set out to create our own new expat residence instead. We secured a place within just one week but negotiations with the landlord seemed to last for eternity.

The living room of my new Vietnamese home.

The house fills all of our criteria.

Safe and secure. Many houses in Vietnam are located down a series of laneways which can only be accessed on foot. We found a house which can be accessed directly from the street so taxis can drop us right at our door when it’s late at night. It also has great big security gates to keep motorbikes and bicycles safely away from the street.

Embracing the culture. We found a typical Vietnamese house that has been occupied by a lovely local family for years. It’s four storeys tall, has a great big living room, modern kitchen, five bedrooms, six bathrooms and a rooftop terrace. It’s very spacious because Vietnamese homes usually house three generations. I preferred this type of homely local abode over a stale, small apartment.

Ideal location. Located north of the CBD in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s in walking distance of my office, local markets, restaurants, shops and a short taxi ride from many tourist attractions. In addition, it’s not one of the renowned expat districts.

The difficulties occurred during our third meeting with the landlord and their family. We had already negotiated terms of the contract and were due to pay the deposit and sign the lease – a meeting that would only take 15 minutes in Australia. However, the landlord and the real estate agent proceeded to argue about the commission rate for two hours. We were just about to forfeit the house when they finally reached an agreement about the agent’s cut of the money. But then all of the terms of the contract were negotiated again, from the size of the beds to be supplied to the number of water heaters and fans in each room. We also discussed the currency of rent and had to promise we are of Christian faith and not Buddhist.

It’s standard for houses and apartments to be leased fully furnished, including beds, air conditioners, fans, washing machines and kitchen appliances. However, it’s also the norm to negotiate. And we had to negotiate absolutely everything, even if it was only for the sake of going through the process.

It took a few hours but we eventually achieved success. So in one week I will move into my new Vietnamese home and will finally start settling in properly, even though Ho Chi Minh City already feels like home.

By Marissa Toohey

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