Primer Research Report
Mandalay | Property Market
Highway to Mandalay
The city rises as a property investment Destination
The famous poem by Rudyard Kipling immortalized the city, making the name Mandalay more recognisable than the place itself. That situation is now slowly being addressed since Myanmar started the reform process in 2011.
Mandalay, the second largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar, is regarded as the main commercial and economic hub in the northern region as well as a tourist destination.
The city was founded in 1857 and eventually annexed by the British in 1886. In the 1990’s, the influx of Chinese from the Yunan province has led to the city’s demographic diversification. Consequently, the strong presence of businessmen have contributed to the current economic robustness of the region. It serves as the main trading centre with China for the lucrative jade and other precious stones business which has, to some degree, allowed Mandalay to fair better during the sanctions of the last decade than the main commercial centre of Yangon.
Now an emerging metropolis backed with a relatively wealthy population, Mandalay is beginning to attract both local and foreign investments. It is likely to play an important role as the main secondary commercial city in the country with its distinctive character and economy.
The lack of international quality developments amid strong demand prospects suggests that the real estate market in Mandalay is in a nascent stage, geared for expansion.
Mandalay is located 716 km north of Yangon and covers an area of 164 sq km. Based on the 2014 Census, the city has a population of 1.225 million. It comprises of seven townships – Aung Myay Tha Zan, Chan Aye Tha Zan, Maha Aung Myay, Chan Mya Tha Zi, Pyi Gyi Ta Gon Amarapura and Pathein Gyi.
Unlike Yangon, Mandalay’s central townships are well delineated with a block grid city layout. With common distinct features, the townships are further clustered into three major development zones:
»» Chan Aye Thar Zan, classified as Downtown, is considered as the city’s primary business district. The township’s robust commercial and economic activity is reflected by the large presence of hotels, retail centres, and institutional establishments. The majority of Mandalay’s property developments and businesses are presently concentrated in Downtown.
»» The Inner City Zone comprises three townships and represents the main area for commercial expansion of the city. Situated to the north is Aung Mye Thar Zan, being home to Mandalay Palace, the amount of development is restricted. Nonetheless, retail shops and boutique hotels are largely present elsewhere in the general zone. Real estate development has grown further towards the south of Downtown. The southern part of the Inner City Zone, composed of Mahar Aung Mye and Chan Mya Thar Si townships, witnessed increasing number of landed residences and commercial establishments over the past years. Moreover, the first mixed-use development in Mandalay, set to complete in the near term, belongs to the Inner City Zone.
»» The property and economic landscape in the Outer City Zone remains geared towards mostly industrial and agricultural activities. However, the eventual completion of the Asian Highway, along with vast availability of land plots; are of key interest to some investors keen to develop master-planned communities. The Outer City Zone contains Amarapura, Pyi Gyi Ta Gon and Pathein Gyi townships.
At present, there is limited modern real estate development that clearly defines Mandalay’s key city zones. This is most likely to change as the city further develops.
Mandalay compares to other secondary cities in terms of proportion of households living in high-rise properties rather than landed housing. Yangon’s greater density together with the government policy to house civil servants in apartments in Naypyitaw, largely account for the higher numbers for largest commercial city as well as the capital, respectively.
Condominiums are almost in existent; landed residences remain preferred
The supply of notable condominiums in Mandalay is meagre, being solely represented by Mann Myanmar with 300 units. Completed in 2013, the development is the first notable condominium introduced in the market. While there were no new projects delivered since then, business interest in property investments are now beginning to surface. Over the past year, three new projects were launched, leading the stock to more than double by 2017, if completed on time. One of these projects includes Mingalar Mandalay Condominium in the Inner City Zone. Forming part of a 46-acre mixed-use development, the 12-storey two-tower condominium project is set to complete in a three-year span. Meanwhile, the rest of the condominium projects will rise as stand-alone developments.
The condominium design parameters in Mandalay are comparable to Yangon’s: the unit mix tends to favour the two to three-bedroom categories – representing close to 90% of the market; while the average unit sizes of most bedroom types are almost the same in both cities. Buyers tend to be in large extended families that require many bedrooms, while the foreign rental market, with demand for smaller units, is still in its infancy. In contrast, the average selling price is set relatively low in Mandalay, at a discount of approximately 30 to 50% to comparable condominium projects in Yangon.
The sales take-up for condominiums is modest, which ended at 53% in the first half of the year. Overall, private villas are the preferred residences given the vast availability of developable land and probably due to the reluctance to embrace the residential condominium concept. This occurrence is prevalent in the early stages of real estate development in Southeast Asia where high rises are perceived as affordable housing rather than a lifestyle choice. With the increasing popularity of integrated communities, gated residential villas reinforced with retail and other supporting components, are seen to be of high demand going forward. This is evident with the strong take-up rate witnessed in Mingalar Mandalay and Mann Akarit mixed-use projects.
Still a lack of modern retail facilities; more is required
Mandalay’s retail space lags far behind Yangon. At present, the city offers only two shopping malls, namely Diamond Plaza and Ocean Super Centre. The latter, located in Mingalar Mandalay, is the most recently completed retail facility in the market. Both malls represent 25,700 sq m of leasable space. Meanwhile, shopping malls in the Outer City Zone are non-existent and department stores in the whole city is very limited.
Despite the introduction of Ocean Supercentre, the city still lacks modern retail facilities. On the other hand, small-scale retail strips and shop houses continue to dominate the market. These local retail centres are considered poor in quality with the majority being seen in main thoroughfares such as along 73rd street in the Inner City Zone.
As at the end of H1 2015, the city-wide shopping mall occupancy rate was at 81%. Though Ocean Supercentre reached fully occupied level, the substantial vacant spaces in Diamond Plaza drove the overall rate down. Meanwhile, the average rental rate is almost on a par to Yangon at USD 20 per sq m monthly.
Given Mandalay’s increasing urbanization coupled with the market’s high purchasing capacity, an expansion in retail footprint should come as a welcome opportunity to many developers. At present, the city’s total retail space versus the population is still considered low at 0.03 square metre per capita, despite being higher than Yangon’s 0.02. Nevertheless, smaller retail centres could be successful in Mandalay than Yangon due to easier traffic conditions and the widespread use of motorbikes allowing far greater mobility.
In the long term, the demand for traditional retail spaces and shop houses is seen to be relatively strong. However, the introduction of quality shopping destinations will change the course of the market’s buying patterns, eventually driving further growth in the sector.
Tourist arrivals to keep up with surging hotel supply
With the country opening up, backed by political and economic reforms, the tourism and business interest in Mandalay have likewise strengthened over the recent years. The number of foreign arrivals reached more than 240,000 in 2014, a substantial increase of over 50% since 2012. With a tourism road map now being developed, coupled with the growing business interest in Mandalay and more airlift, the number is anticipated to further increase. However, despite the upward trend, the sudden rise in local hotel developments, could potentially outweigh the current demand, posing greater challenges for new hotel market entrants.
Data from the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism reveals that as at the end of 2014, there were 134 registered hotels in Mandalay, representing 5,933 keys in total. The number grew dramatically by 77% since 2011. The substantial increase in supply was mostly driven by the surge in local small-scale hotels in the past years comprising a large majority of the market.
On the other hand, the presence of upper-scale hotels remains thin. Completed in 1996, Mandalay Hill Resort was the first high-end hotel introduced. This was followed by Sedona Hotel the succeeding year with 247 keys. To date, the number of upper-scale hotels has grown to five with the addition of Rupar Mandalar Resort in 2005, Red Canal hotel in 2007 and Best Western Premier’s Hotel Shwe Pyi Thar in 2012. Five new projects are currently under way including branded hotels Pullman by the Accor Group and Hilton; a 30-storey new hotel along 84th street in the Inner City Zone, and a 160-room hotel named the Prome Mandalay.
Commercial office market is untapped despite signs of growing demand
Given the small presence of foreign companies in Mandalay, the demand for office space is characterized as domestically driven. As a result, many developers lack the incentive to construct proper office spaces which in fact is currently inexistent in the city.
Local offices come in retail units, shop houses or apartments, being largely present in both Downtown and the Inner City zones. The commercial demand for such office requirements seem high with many of these facilities being fully occupied. For instance, Shwe Phyu Plaza, initially constructed as a department store, is now fully leased out as an office space. The same has been observed among shop houses being utilized for both office and retail operations simultaneously. These alternative offices, considered low in quality and lacking proper utilities, charge rental rates between USD 8 and USD 24 per sq m per month.
Meanwhile, some international firms have established a footprint with offices based mostly in hotels. Hotel landlords dictate as high as USD 60 per sq m per month for the use of these commercial spaces.
As in many secondary cities in South East Asia the preference is for businesses to use such alternatives and it takes time for dedicated offices to play their part unlike in main commercial centres.
In the near term, Mandalay is expected to have its first dedicated commercial office building to be located in the mixed-use development Mingalar Mandalay.
For more information please contact:
Research & Advisory
+95 (0) 931 336 099
Adrian Soe Myint
Research & Advisory
+95 (9) 976 895 535
Managing Director | Myanmar
+95 (0) 942 103 4026
Unit 7/C (6th Floor)
White Cloud Building,
No. (138/142) Thein Phyu
Road, Botahtaung Township
TEL +95 (0) 931 491 678
Source: Colliers International Myanmar