Buying Property, My Experiences
The recent article about buying property in Chiang Mai has prompted me to report on my experiences of buying property in the Pattaya area. Over the last four or five years I have owned a couple of condominiums and a three bedroom bungalow with pool. I
have found both the purchase and sale of these properties to be very easy. This, of course does depend to a large extent on 1) engaging the services of a reputable (read foreign run) agency and 2) choosing the right property!
If you drive around Pattaya, particularly the area inland from the Sukhumvit Road there is a large number of housing estates, many with as many as 100-200 houses in each! Whilst
there certainly are some very nice, individually styled properties with gardens and pools etc, there is a very large number of basic properties of a common design which I think would be very difficult to pass on in a few years time as there simply are
so many of them! Additionally there is a huge number of properties / estates currently under construction. Clearly a large amount of foreign investment is flowing into the area and fueling a boom that one day surely might turn to bust? Whatever
you do, being cautious and do not get too carried away with the idea of 'living in Thailand' is advised!
Back to my own story . . I first came for visits of a month at a time and stayed in hotels, usually paying around 600 – 800 baht per night. After several trips (and knowing I was becoming a 'regular') I decided to rent a small studio apartment for 3,000 – 4,000 baht. At first I enjoyed the contrast of living in such simple accommodation, (i.e., 'Asian' toilet, a bucket and scoop for a shower, etc). The downside was noisy Thai neighbours. Almost always a problem in the cheaper areas. I moved away and upgraded apartments a couple of times before finally deciding to purchase a condominium in Jomtien.
My initial experiences were similar to the writer of the previous submission about property in the north. I also do NOT recommend using a Thai company. To be blunt, I was messed about, my time wasted and even downright lied to. Thai companies also usually quote a higher asking price. Very unprofessional.
Once I found the right (UK owned and run) agent it became a breeze. Proper appointments were made – and kept! – and everything ran smoothly. It's worth pointing out; when you buy a condominium you obviously have a big interest in the rest of the building and its amenities and facilities. You need to be quite certain in your own mind that the management and day to day running is up to scratch. I decided to look at condominiums built by a large company that had already completed several other projects that I could see were being properly run and kept in good condition. I never regretted this, and subsequently never had any problems or cause for complaint.
The apartment I chose had been tastefully decorated and furnished and fitted nicely within my budget. I was able to buy the condominium in my own name but had to pay around 60,000 baht in property registration fees and local taxes. This is a typical amount one would have to pay to the local land registry office, though note that this is only if the property is to be registered in your own name. More on that later.
I was very happy living there for a period of over eighteen months before I decided to buy a house. Having checked out the company who owned and managed the apartment complex prior to sale I already knew that there was a good resale value and that the apartments were well sought after. An obvious but important point not to overlook. Consequently, I sold my apartment within two months of it going up for sale. After all commissions and expenses were paid I made about 50,000 baht profit – not bad, I had lived in Thailand for one and a half years free of accommodation charges. Add back rental (or hotel bills) over the period and that's a big saving!
I then found a beautiful three bedroom bungalow with pool that had been built under the watchful supervision of an expat (Manchester, UK). He went to great pains to explain how he had been involved in every level of construction and that you cannot turn your back or leave anything to chance. From the level of detail he went into it was clear that he was telling the truth. There was nothing he did not know about that house! It was in an excellent position, beautifully designed and not situated near to any noise generating businesses! I knew within two minutes that I had found the right property. I had to set up a Thai company to purchase the property . . something many people are scared of . . but this was absolutely no problem whatsoever. The basics are that a foreigner is legally entitled to own a company in Thailand and that company can then legally own property or land. Of course, anyone reading this should take their own legal advice, but it is worth noting that there are many thousands of properties (and foreign owned businesses) that already own land and property in Thailand using this method. The amount of money that flows into Thailand for property purchase is simply enormous and no government would surely turn their back on such large sums?
The house turned out to be everything and more than I expected and was extremely happy there, though as I travel regularly, after a year or so, I realized that the extra commitment of having to take care of a garden and plants and having to clean the swimming pool, etc was imposing restrictions on me that I did not need. I'll briefly talk about employing Thais to get work done.
I was lucky at first and found an elderly Thai gentlemen living locally who looked after the place while I was away. He was a fine chap, honest and hardworking and perfectly reliable. Unfortunately he and his family moved away rather suddenly (I never found out why) and his replacement was worse than useless. I came back after a month away to find the water in the pool was discoloured and there were branches growing out through the gate! The amazing thing is that this guy expected payment (which of course he did not get) and I think it was rather fortunate that I moved away from the area shortly after. I am sure there would have been repercussions from this, it's not a good idea to upset anyone (no matter HOW right you are) when you are a sitting duck in your own house! I did not need to carry out any work or repairs on the house while I was there but I watched as other residents struggled with Thai 'tradesmen'.
The biggest problem when owning a house in Thailand is trying to find someone or a company to carry out work or repairs. I never found it necessary, but I have personally witnessed that it can be a nightmare . . if and when they turn up! I recall a neighbor rang a company to repair his pool's circulation pump for example, he ended up doing the job himself while the guy from the company idly stood next to him. This pork chop clearly had no training whatsoever and by the look on his face didn't even know what day it was! (I am dictating this and 'poor chap' came out as 'pork chop'. I think it fits in rather well!). I have also observed workmen hanging around doing nothing half the day, making a mess and not cleaning up, even causing damage. However, it's interesting / entertaining to witness the group dynamics, especially that of the pooyai 'Boss-man' and his minnows. They amount to little more than a bunch of 'face' conscious over-grown kids. NOT the kind of people you'd want to employ or pay money to!
Back to my story. Again I had no problems selling the house within a couple of months. When you own property in a company name you simply include the company with the sale of the house and transfer ownership of the company. The company is still the registered owner of the property as before so therefore the land office does not need to be notified and there are no taxes to pay! The cost of transferring ownership of the company is 10,000 baht and, in Pattaya, involves a trip (carried out on your behalf by your lawyers) to the company registration office in Chonburi. The whole process takes just one day.
I made a few hundred thousand baht profit after all expenses had been paid which meant that living in that wonderful house had cost me absolutely nothing! Apart from water and electricity, there were no other costs or local taxes to pay! Compare that to the UK, for example.
I hope this helps. My experience of owning several properties here in Thailand has been perfectly trouble free. Choose carefully, perhaps do any work yourself, don't put the house in the girlfriend's name, and you should be OK. As prices have been rising over the last few years I have made money too! I would have been happy in merely saving the cost of rental or hotel rooms, but for me things have turned out much better than that.
I'll add just a couple more points that underpin the information above.
That perfect dream home, your love-nest for ever and ever, could turn into your own personal prison. Nothing is forever, especially in Thailand. Many people end up bored and fed up. Retirement is not all it's cracked up to be. People change, you can change. Don't bring over any more money than you can afford to lose. I was shown around many houses where I could sense an air of desperation. Someone imagined it was all going to be so perfect . . and now all they want to do is get out . . but they cannot. That 'relationship' didn't last – or for whatever reason – they need to get away.
If you aren't sure, err on the side of freedom. Don't invest too high a % of your capital . . better still, be sure that you could walk away if you had to. Don't think that swapping a heap of bricks in your own country for a concrete cave over here is necessarily going to make your life any better. Sure, it can . . but not always. I would guess there are 00's if not 000's in Thailand that have learned that to their cost. Some people get swept away and go way beyond their means. Despite my positive experiences, I must agree with Stick's comments which I guess he makes because he realises – getting 'in' is always a whole lot easier than getting 'out'!
When in Thailand, you're on holiday. Period. Take care not to spoil it!