Finding accommodation in Myanmar is likely to be one of the most significant challenges facing expats. There are several factors house hunters will have to consider, and for expat parents proximity to an international school and public transport networks will be high up on the list.
The country also faces frequent water and electricity outages, so newcomers must ensure the property they choose offers access to a generator or alternative energy.
Fortunately, construction in the real estate market is booming and expats will find a range of luxury options available. Though, competition for accommodation in Myanmar’s major cities is rife owing to increased foreign investment.
Types of accommodation in Myanmar
Expats moving to Myanmar will typically stay in one of its major cities, which include Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. Foreigners living in Nay Pyi Taw are required by law to stay in hotels. Otherwise, expats will be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation in Yangon and Mandalay. Landed properties with gardens, villas, condominiums and serviced apartments are among the popular choices for expat families in Myanmar.
Though Myanmar’s major cities are generally safe, we recommend that expats renting landed properties hire 24-hour security as the political situation in the country remains volatile.
Renting accommodation in Myanmar
Most expats moving to Myanmar choose to rent rather than buy property, as most newcomers are in the country on a short-term assignment. Additionally, foreigners are not allowed to own land in Myanmar but can own property, which also makes it an unattractive choice for expats. Myanmar’s property rental market is unregulated, meaning expats will have to be careful traversing the rental process to avoid falling victim to scams.
Finding rental accommodation
Finding suitable and affordable property in Myanmar can be difficult as a result of the discrepancy in housing demand and supply. The best place to start the property search is online, as expats can familiarise themselves with the market while they are still in their home countries. Rental property websites such as Shwe Property and iMyanmarHouse are some of the most notable property portals that provide information on what expats can expect to find at different price points and areas.
Real-estate agents are likely to be the best option for expats, as they can eliminate the language barrier when engaging with landlords. They are typically also highly knowledgeable about local real estate and can show expats properties that are not yet on the market. Expats should keep in mind that real-estate agents will require commission equivalent to one month’s rent.
Furnished vs unfurnished
There are both unfurnished and furnished housing options in Myanmar, with the latter being the priciest. Most of the long-term accommodation in Myanmar is unfurnished, but will typically be equipped with light and bathroom fixtures. Unfurnished accommodation also typically doesn’t include appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, ovens and water heating units.
Furnished properties, typically serviced apartments and villas, will include everything from beds and sofas to appliances and cutlery. However, the furniture and appliances may not be as modern as new arrivals are used to. Expats must note that ovens and dishwashers are generally only provided in high-end properties.
While furnished properties may be on the pricier end of the market, these are mainly the most convenient option for expats who are in Myanmar for the short term. That said, expats who are keen on furnishing a property simply need to negotiate with the landlord to have the existing furniture removed.
Short lets and temporary housing
Short lets and temporary housing are favoured by the expat population in Myanmar. These allow newcomers to enjoy the comfort of home while enjoying luxury hotel amenities, such as cleaning services and access to swimming pools. There are a few temporary housing providers in Myanmar that are available in major cities, including AirBnB and MagicStay.
Signing a lease
To secure a rental property, expats will need to sign a lease agreement. Rental agreements in Myanmar are typically signed for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 months. A contract extension can be negotiated at the end of the term. To avoid early contract termination by tenants, landlords require rent upfront for the full term and most of them will only accept cash payments in US dollars, although this is slowly changing.
Most landlords will also require one month’s rent as a holding deposit should expats want to secure accommodation before arriving in Myanmar. This is non-refundable should the tenant decide against moving into the property. Expats will also have to pay a one-month deposit. The disadvantage that comes with paying the rental fee upfront is that real-estate agents and landlords generally become unresponsive to a tenant’s needs after receiving full payment.
Expats should take a full inventory including pictures before signing a lease agreement and ensure it is clear who will be responsible for utilities and maintenance. Newcomers looking to rent accommodation in Myanmar must provide proof of their legal right to live and work in the country.
There are a few pet-friendly service apartments in Myanmar. Expats who rent landed properties and villas can negotiate with their landlord if they would like to keep a pet on the property. It is important to include these details in the rental agreement.
Utilities such as water, electricity, internet and gas are typically for the client’s account unless expressly stated otherwise in the rental contract. Expats should budget carefully for these as they are quite costly in Myanmar.
Termination of the lease
Landlords in Myanmar are legally required to give tenants two months’ notice if they wish to terminate the lease early, and leaseholders must give the landlord at least one month’s notice.
Tenants should leave the property spotless, remove their possessions and take all meter readings to avoid forfeiting their deposit. It is recommended that expats are present for the final inspection to return all the keys and ensure that the landlord begins the process to return the deposit. This will depend on whether there is damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear, and the deposit will usually be returned within two weeks.
Are you an expat living in Myanmar?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Myanmar. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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