Retirement, Property And Thailand
I know Stick often comments that buying property in Thailand is not such a good idea but an answer to that might be that ‘it all depends’. I know many foreigners who have invested in houses or condos in the Pattaya area over the last few years and most of them have done very well. In many instances, values have risen by well over 50% and some have even doubled during that time. For example: If one had carefully chosen a condo in an established and well run complex a few years back, a 42 square metre studio apartment in Pattaya or Jomtien would have cost something around a million baht. Now – admittedly at possibly the peak of the market – the same unit costs in the region of 1.7M or more. I know that for a variety of well publicised reasons there is a distinct lack of purchasers around which is making selling difficult at the present time, but as long as the seller can hold on and ride the market this should resolve itself over time. The value of property will never sink to absolute zero and recouping the original purchase cost should be viable no matter how bad the market gets. But then also consider that the owner has had use of the asset throughout the period with the only outgoing costs of water, electricity, cable TV and annual management charges, all of which would add up to around 1,200 baht per month total in most cases. Factor in that the majority of apartments are sold fully furnished and kitted out and you’ll realise that overall this does add up to some pretty cheap living here in the land of smiles.
As a way of comparison, a similarly appointed hotel room might easily cost 1,200 – 1,500 baht per night – or 30,000 baht plus per month, and note that these prices have been and are still rising. Renting this type of apartment would cost around 15 – 18,000 baht per month <42 square metres in Jomtien or Pattaya? You'd pay less, believe me – Stick>. Do the maths and after even a few years the purchase option does make sense IF you intend to be around for a while. It’s a matter of choosing carefully and not jumping in at the deep-end, as unfortunately I have seen some people do to their cost. Get over that hurdle and even if the property market does stagnate or takes a tumble you could ride things out and live cheaply and comfortably in the meantime.
Property is a medium to long term investment so unless you have a reasonable guarantee that you will be able to stay here then ownership is probably a pipe dream – though this does not deter some people, often to their cost! Everyone is talking about the new visa restrictions, but if you are over 50 and have 800,000 baht in a Thai bank, which must have been there for 3 full months BTW, then even if you arrived on a 30 day visa the immigration dept in Jomtien, will convert that to a 1 year retirement visa in just one day. I know because I did it. Check with them first as there are a couple of easily obtainable documents you’ll need to accompany your application. There are set up charges which are very reasonable and you will have to pay for a re-entry permit if you wish to leave Thailand within the visa’s validity period but again, these charges are not excessive.
Next, don’t invest more than you could afford to LOSE or to walk away from. It’s doubtful you’ll ever need to do that but it sure takes out the strain and worry. Unless you can afford it, forget that impressive apartment with the gold taps and Jacuzzi. There are people out there who are sweating because they talked themselves into buying more space or more expensively than necessary. I’d recommend spending no more than 5% of your available funds and keep the rest safe and secure.
Things can go wrong or quickly turn sour in this country; this is well documented in Stick’s readers' subs pages! In addition to the almost inevitable ‘women’ problems many encounter there could – albeit unlikely – consequences through upsetting Thais – and certainly – becoming pissed off with the different attitudes, culture and ways of doing things in this country. By not committing yourself to too much you can easily take off for a while, travel, discover new places, etc. then come back to base when you are ready. I’ve travelled and left the apartments I’ve had for up to 3 – 4 months at a time quite safely. (You’ll need to make arrangements for bills to be paid in your absence though, or expect disconnections and meters taken out when you get back!)
I know more than a few people (myself included) who after a while are literally screaming to get away from Thailand! It does get like that, as reading some of the recent subs confirms. I’m writing this from Australia, have been touring in a Motorhome for several months and am loving the change. If you can cheerfully afford a few weeks, months or longer for travelling in Asia or beyond then you won’t end up feeling bored, frustrated and trapped. I assure you that many people living here, IF they were HONEST, would tell you that is precisely how they are feeling.
I’d say the trick is not to stay here too long or at least allow yourself the opportunity to be able to occasionally escape. It’s the best of both worlds to have a base to come back to. If you do stay here too long your circle of friends will change, the subjects of conversations will narrow and you’ll develop different habits and ways of thinking to the norm. The local TV constantly broadcasts ads for eating, drinking, cavorting and playing pool – and not much else. The news features mainly local theft and violence, horrendous PREVENTABLE accidents. It’s depressing and can grind you down. Pattaya advertises watersports and golf but the daily reality for many is more likely to be sitting on Beach Road looking for new arrivals or checking out Royal Garden, Carrefour or Big C for the same thing. Evenings, it’s the bars (what else in Fun Town?): Your route is 2nd Road, Sois 7 and 8, . . . Then will you saunter up to Soi 6 or head down to Walking Street. On the prowl. Almost every day of the week.
The next stage of staying too long is to ‘get a regular girl in’ when you’ll be sharing the delights of pidgin English, misunderstandings and the loneliness of not being understood or understand. At least it keeps you off the streets, but you’ll constantly be playing off the merits of having a girl as opposed to being free and single in a place where free and single is what it’s all about, but you tried that and have learned for yourself it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Intellectual stimulation in Fun Town runs from the internet to the Pattaya Mail / Bangkok Post. The Editorial and postbag sections (just about the only thing most people read in the nationals) in the main cover the gripes and moans and criticisms of a corrupt country going to the dogs. Not very uplifting or enlightening!
So, property in Thailand? I’d still say yes, but treat it like a second home. I wouldn’t argue that there are people living long term in Pattaya and enjoying active, varied and successful lives, but look around and judge the percentages for yourself. It’s really a matter of deciding what you want and how you wish to spend your time and hard-earned cash. Keep your options open (and maybe your sights a little higher?). There is a lot more out there!
The second half of this article really does sum up things well. It is more than just what the property market is, but the lifestyle people lead in Pattaya and whether that is for one or not.