security guard patrols Pearl Condominium complex in Yangon.
THE majority of people living in and around Yangon, especially
close to the downtown area, choose either condominiums or apartments.
But what is the difference between a condominium and an apartment?
In a legal sense it is an ownership issue: But in Yangon there
is a more widely recognised definition that depends of whether
the building has a lift – if it does the residences are
condominiums; if not, they’re apartments.
One Yangon real estate agent said major development of condominiums
started in 1996-97 and became popular with buyers in 1998. Apartments,
meanwhile, have been trendy since at least 1990.
U Zaw Zaw, manager of Unity Real Estate, explained how some
of the better-recognised condominium complexes got started.
“Construction on condominiums projects like Junction-8
and Pearl Condominium started around 1998.
“In other countries, people who buy condominiums are those
who can’t afford to buy land. And some condominium buyers
in Myanmar are like that too but there are others who want to
enjoy the services that come with a condominium,” he said.
U Zaw Zaw said condominium complexes commonly offer security,
generators and satellite television access in addition to the
elevators that are standard.
He estimated that there are more than 20 large condominium blocks
“If you regard apartments with lifts as condominiums,
there will be over one hundred condominiums blocks in town,”
he said, adding that many other projects are still under construction.
Ma Tharaphu, from Moe Myint Thawdar Real Estate, said it is
the services offered by condominiums that separates them from
“Apartment owners have to take care of security themselves
and most use locked iron doors at the base of the stairway to
keep out unwanted guests.”
But like just about everyone in Yangon, condominium block owners
have to solve the electricity question.
“Although management committees provide services, one
issue they must face is electricity. When the electricity is out,
people living on the top floors want to use the lifts but people
who live on the lower levels are willing to just use the stairways.
“Then, arguments arise and the management committees have
to deal with them,” U Zaw Zaw said.
One kilowatt hour unit of electricity from a generator –
prior to the latest rise – costs about K800. However, 24-hour
electricity for lifts and water pumps can be obtained from the
Ministry of Electric Power (2) but this is yet another cost to
“Sometimes, condominium owners want to sell their apartments
because the maintenance and service charges are too high. Higher-end
apartment complexes that don’t have lifts – like Shwe
Marla, Shwe Patauk and Shwe Sabai – are appropriate for
Myanmar’s unique conditions and have lower costs,”
Ma Tharaphu said electricity supply is a consideration that
many condominium buyers take seriously.
“Those who can afford to buy condominiums look for the
places where there might be regular electricity supply: Foreigners
prefer Shwe Hin Thar, while locals choose Pearl, Pyiwa and Blazon
“But if tenants have to pay extra diesel charges, the
demand for these places falls during periods when the electricity
isn’t reliable,” she said.
Ma Tharaphu said people try to look for either apartments or
condominiums close to their workplaces when possible.
Another difference between condominiums and apartments is water
supply: Condominiums use a central water supply system, while
apartment owners deal with this individually.
U Zaw Zaw said: “During electricity shortages condominiums
complexes operate electric pumps to move water to apartments and
those on the lower levels get water first, while those higher
up must wait.
“Now developers have anticipated this problem and build
underground tanks for ordinary apartments that contain enough
water for the whole building,” he said, adding that this
trend started in 2005.
Ma Tharaphu said apartments are usually cheaper to buy and have
lower fees but U Zaw Zaw said there is more to the issue than
“The problem is building quality; apartments just are
not as well-made as condominiums.”