On the topic of what properties can foreigners buy in Malaysia, a few days ago, a developer asked if I would be willing to do a seminar for them in Hong Kong to explore the possibility of Hong Kong nationals relocating or retiring to Malaysia via Malaysia’s long-stay visa, more commonly known as Malaysia my Second Home or MM2H for short. They also required me to cover the legalities foreigners need to consider when buying a property in Malaysia.
I thought it would be good to share this topic of what properties can foreigners buy in Malaysia on my blog as this question on foreign ownership of land or property in Malaysia comes up frequently.
What properties can foreigners buy in Malaysia?
Malaysia is a federation of 13 states. Land matters are primarily governed by the respective states. Malaysian land law is based primarily on the Australian Torrens system. We do have freehold and leasehold titles. Properties can be purchased in the secondary market or from developers “off plan”. In the latter case, do ensure that you obtain legal advice from your own lawyer to safeguard your interests rather than depend on “freebie legal services” provided by the developer’s lawyers. Do note that in most (but not all) states in Malaysia, foreigners can own residential landed property. The purchase of property by foreigners is subject to the approval of the state authority. This is the equivalent of FIRB in Australia, BOI in Thailand, BKPM in Indonesia.
Below I have summarised the requirements of the main states popular with foreigners, namely Penang (island), the Federal Territories and Selangor.
Penang allows an MM2H visa holder to purchase residential properties for as low as RM500,000. Service apartments don’t qualify because this is seen as commercial. Foreigners without the MM2H visa can still buy properties, provided they are strata properties over RM1,000,000 and landed properties over RM3,000,000.
Federal Territories/Kuala Lumpur
The Federal Territories allows foreigners to buy residential landed or strata properties, provided the purchase price is RM1,000,000 and above. Foreigners can also buy commercial titles used as serviced apartments or SOHO units, provided the purchase price is RM1,000,000 and above. Foreigners cannot buy commercial offices unless they do so through a Malaysian incorporated company. There is no special advantage in holding an MM2H visa when it comes to buying property.
The rules vary depending on the specific area of Selangor and Selangor is particularly tricky especially for MM2H holders so do double check with your lawyer before signing any earnest monies contract, sale and purchase agreement, etc.
Just to give you an idea of the timeline you will be looking at as a foreigner purchasing a property in Malaysia, you can expect to be able to move in within 4-6 months from the date of application. Registration of the title in your name may take a bit longer. Some Malaysian banks do give loans to foreigners up to a margin of 60-70% of the value of the property with the tenure of the loan expiring when the borrower reaches 65 to 70 years of age.
Finally, other factors you need to take into consideration when relocating to Malaysia long term include:
- The Malaysian Income Tax Act, 1967 is source based. I.e. We only tax income derived within Malaysia. Foreign-sourced income brought in by foreigners is not taxed.
- We don’t have Inheritance Tax;
- Do also refer to my FAQ
I do hope this has been useful if you are wondering what properties can people buy in Malaysia. As you can imagine, I’ve cut out a lot of details to keep things short and sweet. The idea is to give an overview of the property purchase/conveyancing process in Malaysia. If you require more details or require clarifications, do drop me an email.
Author: Sam Choong
Sam Choong is a lawyer practising in Malaysia. His areas of practice include estate planning, wills and UK inheritance tax for expats residing or seeking to retire in Malaysia.