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A different kind of real estate is in demand in Vietnam, in the high-rise buildings popping up across that communist nation. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.

(Soundbite of construction site sounds)

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: Bui Vu Thi has a new apartment in a good neighborhood in Hanoi, and she's more than happy to give a couple of visitors a quick tour.

Ms. BUI VU THI: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: It's got two bedrooms, one bath and a great view of the lake. She bought it three years ago, before it was even built, and moved in in November. She paid $92,000 cash with some help from her parents, and today, she says, it's worth three times that.

Ms. THI: (Through Translator) My husband did not want to buy it. He felt it was too expensive and wanted to look for something cheaper, but I insisted. Now he's very glad I did.

SULLIVAN: In Ho Chi Min City, formerly Saigon, the market is even hotter. Last month, developers put a 580-unit building on the market. The cheapest apartment cost $280,000. And the entire building sold out in less than a day. More than 5,000 people showed up that day, deposits in hand, for a chance to buy.

Mr. JONATHAN PINKUS (Senior Country Economist, United Nations Development Program): It's a lot of speculation. People who have liquidity for various reasons, who have cash and the most viable investment outlet for them - people with cash - is real estate.

SULLIVAN: Jonathan Pinkus is senior country economist for the United Nations Development Program in Vietnam.

Mr. PINKUS: You could buy gold, I guess, but gold is at record high prices. For a while people were putting money into the stock market, but that didn't do so well last year. So what choices do people have, if they do have cash to invest?

SULLIVAN: And there's lots of cash in Vietnam today and more coming, in foreign capital and in remittences from Vietnamese living and working overseas -remittences worth an estimated $5 billion a year. A lot of that money is flooding into the property market, pushing prices up. That's good news for people like apartment owner Bui Vu Thi, who's seen her apartment triple in value. But it's bad news for people like Nguyen Anh Tuan.

Mr. NGUYEN ANH TUAN: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Tuan is 48 years old and a security guard at a state-run school in Hanoi.

He says he's been looking for a modest, two-bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood for about a year now. He's got about $50,000 he's saved or borrowed from family and friends, but it's not nearly enough.

Mr. TUAN: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Tuan says he's not a speculator, just a guy who wants his own place, something to leave his children. His agent, Quynh Nhu, says there are a lot of people like Tuan who are getting squeezed out.

Ms. QUYNH NHU (Real Estate Agent): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: I think it's happening more and more, she says, to people who work for state agencies or other ordinary people. Today, she says, almost everyone dreams about buying their own place. But for many of them, she says, it's a dream that's getting harder to realize. Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Hanoi.

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