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The Life and Death of Buildings in Cambodia

The Past

Whether you realise it or not, most buildings have a property manager.  In a family home, it is often the men who take on this role with varied levels of enthusiasm and success.  In a school, a care taker, and all the way from a family home to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, there are property managers taking care of their properties. 

This has not been the case in Cambodia where property management has been a widely neglected task.  Developers have frequently forsaken property management in the belief that lower running costs will increase profits margins.  This can be true in the short-term or if the property is small enough and someone is willing to invest his or her own time to maintain the building, but, more often than not, this is not the case and the mixture of a sub-tropical climate, low quality materials, sub-standard construction techniques and poor maintenance, sees the building age rapidly. 

This has led to the shortened life-span of buildings throughout Phnom Penh.  Buildings less than 10 years old look over 20 and buildings 20 years old, look closer to 50 (granted though, these buildings have endured much tougher times).

The Future

Moving forward, more attention needs to given to maintaining Cambodia’s buildings.  Whether you like it or not, buildings help define a city and buildings greatly affect the overall image and character of place.

With the emergence of Phnom Penh Tower and in the near future, Vattanac Capital, investments in property are no longer short term.  Large capital sums are being invested across all real estate sectors with developers planning ahead for the upward turn of the global economy and growing local market.  Cambodia and especially Phnom Penh will see new retail, office, residential, hotel and leisure developments springing up across the city and country in the years to come.  However, without careful property management, the life-span of these developments will be much shorter-lived than they should be and shorter than developers anticipate and day-to-day operations will suffer much more.

While some developers, such as those developing multi-storey office complexes, are aware of the need for good property management, the majority of developers in Cambodia are not and remain focused on short-term profit margins.  For example if you drive around Boeung Keng Kang today, you will see an ever growing number of 6 – 8 storey developments (why so many stop at 8 storeys is related to planning policy and permits).  The majority of these developments are destined to become serviced apartment complexes where the market is almost exclusively driven by expatriates and long-stay visitors.  This target audience expects high quality services, accommodation, facilities and maintenance, yet the majority of developers neglect property management.  Without good property management, the aesthetics of a building, the services such as; customer service; maintenance & repairs; internet provision; cleaning and; security will suffer, as will facilities such as; lifts; gymnasiums; spas (no apostrophe) and; swimming pools and it is likely health and safety will almost be completely neglected.  Effective property management will always benefit a building and is a good way to retain tenants!

Poorly managed tired looking properties will quickly find they cannot compete as newer, shinier developments come along and developers and investors will see their revenues erode, (rents and occupancy rates fall) and the value of an asset diminishes.  Thinking long-term, one skill property managers would bring is the ability to plan out maintenance schedules for major equipment.   This activity increases the life expectancy of equipment and will save landlords significant sums of money.  These maintenance schedules predict what components will wear out first and by doing so prevent broken parts rendering entire machinery and equipment inoperable.  Property management is about being pro-active not reactive, hence preventing issues from occurring before costs spiral.

What is required in Cambodia is a change in the attitudes of developers and investors towards effective property management, for the benefit of the buildings and for the profit margins of the developer, but also and importantly, Cambodia needs to develop its own skill set in the national population, more education is required for Cambodian nationals to learn about and engage in property management and real estate.

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