Most of our first week in Yangon was spent on house hunting. A remarkable experience as many buildings are suffering from the intense weather conditions and are quickly falling apart.
Picture: British colonial building down-town Yangon
Many expat families end up living in one particular neighborhood, called ‘Golden Valley’. A suitable name as until one year ago rental prices for a simple three-bedroom family house were sky-high, starting from 5,000 USD per month. Outrageous, considering the fact that Myanmar is still one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia with only 34% access to grid electricity.
Things can however turn quickly in the housing market, also in Myanmar. With progressive Economic Development in the country and due to the massive construction of new apartments in town, Yangon is becoming a buyers market and prices are already going down.
During the hunt we discovered that the houses are not made of gold, such as the name Golden Valley suggests. Many of the houses we visited were out-worn, with broken-down sanitary and kitchens.
Again others were built in a neo-classical style (read: massive Roman pillars, bedrooms the size of ball rooms and shiny fake marble tiles on all floors), combined with impressionist details (read: bright colored interiors).
The weirdest thing we discovered during our house expedition was a huge fish pond in the center of the entry of a house, pimping the stairs. It smelled like a swamp and was all green. We thanked the owner for her hospitality and took the house off our list.
At the end of the week, only two houses were left. They were more simple, had a garden to play in and would not flood during heavy rains; a common thing in town.
Eventually we choose the one with the best aura. This was recommended by our kid who felt the house we eventually did not pick was the home of old bad spirits. As no-one of us felt like living with new room-mates, it became an easy choice.
Picture: Tree spirit next to a house in Yangon
Next step is to negotiate the contract. A challenge, also because of the dual role of the broker who helps us looking for a house but is being paid by the house-owner. In other words: there is no strong incentive to bargain the price for a broker.
And perhaps we should not bargain to hard at all, because the key take-away from this house hunt is that we foremost want to keep the spirits of this house at peace the coming few years and enjoy the house, its green garden and kind neighborhood.