Cheap to rent, expensive to buy.
but rental prices are really going up, while sales prices are slowly rising (for the moment). Also, look at the Snooky Ville Blog and SihanoukVille Infrastructure Blog for more info on what's going on around town.
a little more info (but definitely not legal advice of any kind or guaranteed 100% correkt) .... Foreigners in Cambodia CAN NOT own land. There are special circumstances, such as when you invest several hundreds of thousands of dollars (U.S.) in a business or if you make a large donation to a government official, or have good friends here. You can however, aparently get a legal lease for up to 99 years. (most all the islands have been leased off this way). There are new laws coming up that will allow foreigners to own condo units (but not the land underneath)
Beachfront property can not be owned by anyone as it is public property (perhaps 30 meters from the high water line) ... (see above about large donations). However, usually the owner of land in front of the beach seems to have control over the beach directly in front of the land. This is changing however, as the beachfront is being sold or leased out by government officials.
There are a number of mechanisms for foreigners "purchasing" land here, but best to go through a lawyer for any of these methods. Remember, nothing is guaranteed. Sometime soon, you can purchase a building, but not the land beneath the building????
Of the 13 banks in town, (and several new microfinance institutions) most provide loans for land purchases or leases. Paperwork takes about a month and cost about $1,000 if you do it yourself. The land title is held as collateral, and a usually a cash down payment of 20% or more must be deposted.
The most popular purchase / lease lately has been to buy a chunk of land, subdivide it with fences, put up a plot sign, and sell off the plots at greatly appreciated prices and use that money to buy more land.
Also, around Sihanoukville, there are 2 Special Economic Zones, which are attracting interest. These have all the expected tax benefits you would get anywhere.
And then there's land around the SihanoukVille airport. Scheduled to be the main airport for Cambodia in the near future. (far future). Insiders have already purchased most of this land and prices went up several thousand percent overnight. If the airport ever opens, the land might be worth more.
Land prices over the last few years have gone up as much as 9,000%, and dropped by as much as 60% during 2008/2009, so it is essential to get a secure title over the land. Title insurance is hard (impossible) to come by here. There's a reason for that.
Best way to look for land / apartments / buildings / businesses / factories for rent is to come look for yourself. Expect anyone showing you a property to get a one month's rent commission for themselves (from the rentor, not you). However, you will not save any money by finding a property yourself, as the commission structure is so embedded here.
There's lots of building developments, big and small going up in and around town. The biggest are a bridge to the island formerly known as "Snake" Morakot Island, so the island can be developed, a marina/condo/business center, a city within a city behind Sokha Beach (Pearl City) , a second (and bigger) Sokha Resort on Ocheteaul Beach, a housing development with the name "Hilton" in it, and a downtown mixed use property with over 100 units.
The islands offshore from Sihanoukville are also scheduled to be developed, but information on the progress is hard to come by. 2 islands already are completely covered by resort, with rooms going for $1,000+ a night.
The city has 6 casinos, 3 four or five star hotels, and should be the land base for offshore oil drilling.
A large coal fired power plant, with a 3 year construction schedule has started in Steung Hauv, several kilometers outside of town. (really needed here). And we also get electricity from Vietnam.
Recently, a new dam near K'bal Chay waterfall provides public water, and the town has a sewage treatment plant.