A Guide To Buying Your First Property in Thailand

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Buying a property in any country can be quite daunting, especially if it is country that is relatively new, but here in Thailand things aren’t as complex as they are in some other countries in the world.

However, it is important to understand some of the fundamentals before you go diving in head first. Firstly, it is important to understand the concept that a foreigner cannot buy LAND in Thailand in their own name.

So, we have established that a foreigner cannot purchase land but they can purchase, freehold, personal name, units in a condominium building. The foreign quota in a condominium is always set at a maximum of 49% with 51% remaining in Thai ownership.

This 49% is the living area of the condominium and not the total area and this can be a common misconception. What this effectively means is that common spaces such as corridors and entrance halls are not included. And for the purposes of this article will focus primarily on condominiums for living or investment purposes.

CHOOSING YOUR LOCATION

Regardless of where you are in the world, the property location itself is always a very important factor.

If you are looking to purchase a property as the end user, in other words, you intend to use it as your home or second home, you will be looking for something that suits your own personal needs.

This could include locations such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai or Phuket so obvious choosing the city that addresses what you are looking for.

Once you have done this, you perhaps need to consider the local amenities and transport links, especially if you are not planning on driving in Thailand.

In Bangkok this may be choosing somewhere close to the BTS or MRT, in Pattaya it maybe close to a baht bus route and in Chiang Mai it may be in the old city.

Only you can decide what your main priorities are but discussing them with a knowledgeable local agent means that there can source to the best suited properties for you.

Obviously, your primary goal is to tick as many boxes as possible so it may be worth drawing up a list in priority order.

TYPES OF CONDOMINIUM

Once you have decided upon your location you then need to consider the type of condominium that you require.

Initially, you perhaps need to decide if you have a priority of a high-rise or low rise building, sea or city view….. Once you have addressed this you then need to consider the type and size of unit that you are interested in. Units vary in size from small 22sqm studios up to 6 bedroom penthouse with everything in between.
You need to think practically here and not just about cost.

If you have been living in a 4 bedroom, detached house moving to a 22sqm studio perhaps isn’t the answer so once again think what suits you and be realistic on all fronts.

Cutting corners or being overly extravagant could cost you in the long-term.

COST OF A CONDO

There is no getting away from it, the cost of the property will be a huge factor in your decision.

It is very hard to give an accurate guide covering Thailand as a whole as prices vary greatly based around location and size.

For instance, properties in Chiang Mai are cheaper than a comparable property in central Bangkok.

As a very broad guide, a property can start at as little as 700,000 THB in smaller Thai cities for a starter property, but in Bangkok, you would be looking at two to three times this amount.

Remember, loans and mortgages from banks are very hard to obtain so don’t base your decision on western principles.

NEW VS OLD CONDOMINIUM

The next point that you need address is whether you wish to purchase a new build property or an older property. Naturally, there are advantage and disadvantages with both of these options.

If we look at new condominiums first, the key advantage is that they are exactly that, brand new. Everything will be modern, in good condition and include the latest appliances whilst not forgetting that the building itself will have been made with the highest quality materials and using the latest techniques. Another advantage is that if you buy ‘off-plan’, you are likely to pick up a unit a reduced cost as an incentive with a payment plan spreading the cost over the course of construction.

The downside is that newer condo units tend to be smaller in size. You also have no idea how things will work in a few years.

When you look at older condominiums it is certainly possible to pick up a bargain. Fire sales are relatively common but often the properties are cheaper in the first place anyway.

Some areas have experience oversupply in the past and this has led to stagnant prices so you are effectively buying something for the same price as it was five years ago.

The downside is that they have been lived in before and as such, are unlikely to be decorated to your taste. Also, appliances and beds may need replacing before the unit is ready for you to move in.

This is an additional cost that definitely needs be factored in when you are considering your purchase.

DEVELOPERS

This is primarily a consideration if you are buying a property ‘off plan’ but it is worth considering whatever your situation. It should be obvious that you are looking for a builder with a proven track record, one who has completed a number of projects and completed them on time.

Sadly, over the years we have seen too many smaller developers go bankrupt before a property has been completed.

This has led to individual losing money so doing your due diligence is absolutely vital. A reputable agent will be able to assist you with this.

It is also worth considering how these properties fare a few years down the line. Are they well maintained, do they have solid management teams and do they maintain their value are all questions that you should be asking.

This can give you a good idea of what you can expect after a few years’ of ownership.

FINDING A CONDOMINIUM

Generally, people find a condominium one of two ways, through an agent or independently, usually online.

Both have their advantages as well as their disadvantages. Firstly agents, a reputable agent, and that is the key factor, will bring experience and knowledge to the table. They will know the properties, the developers and often private owners too and can offer invaluable advice that can really help you to find the property that you desire.

They will assist you from the word ‘go’ right through until the final transfer has been completed with many offering aftersales services as well.

The downside is finding a reputable agent. Sadly, in cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket there are some agents who aren’t familiar with the market and are purely commission driven. Once again you need to do your due diligence to find an agent who has your best interests at heart.

Buying privately can potentially be cheaper as there is no commission involved, although prices are often increased to the same price anyway by the sellers. The deal could potentially be completed quicker as there is no middleman, although this could mean that the correct checks aren’t carried out, and the transfer could be smoother with private terms agreed.

However, you are not receiving any advice nor are you receiving any assistance and getting ‘ripped off’ is a very real possibility if you don’t know the seller or what you are doing. This is perhaps a route only experienced buyers should adopt.

DOCUMENTATION

There are several documents that are required to firstly cover the buyer and the seller and also from a legal point of view.

It should go without saying that a contract should have been drawn up before the sale is completed as this covers all parties.

Secondly, you will need to have transferred the money from overseas to complete the process. Proof, known as a Tor Tor 3 (Sam) or FET (Foreign Exchange Transfer), will need to be issued by the receiving bank.

A copy of your passport and chanot (title deed) will also be required along with the originals which need to be taken to the Regional Land Office on the day of transfer.

If you are unfamiliar with this process, it is certainly wise to use the services of a reputable agent who can guide you through the whole process.

TAXES AND FEES

The taxes will be agreed by the Land Office and are determined by THEIR valuation of the property, not what the property was purchased for.

Transfer taxes and fees are usually split 50/50 between the buyer and seller and paid in cash.

AFTER COMPLETION

Once you’re the proud owner of your new property you will be responsible for paying an annual maintenance fee.

There also may be restrictions on what you can and can’t do to the unit so speaking to the Juristic Manager prior to purchase is always wise.

The building will be insured but your individual unit won’t be so insuring your property is always recommended.

We also always recommend that you keep the chanot and other legal documents in a safe place.

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