Real Estate Agents in Thailand
I read with some interest your experiences and comments on Bangkok rental agents, some of which I can empathize with but some points I disagree with regards agents. As in any other service industry there are good and bad, and I must admit it is difficult to find a good Thai real estate agent but they do exist…believe me! The problem is we from the west are used to higher standards of service and best advice whereas the Asians operate on a much more ‘relaxed’ basis.
Those people working as ‘agents’ without an office, without websites are freelancers (including many foreigners, the ‘beer bar property experts’, who are desperate to stay in Thailand but the immigration police are now getting more aware of these guys) and are a constant pain in the ass for those of us who go along the correct legal channels with office, staff, work permits and overheads. Most freelancers have little or no ethics so will do ‘whatever they have to do’ to get a deal done quickly, be it sales or rentals. They then disappear as quickly as they appeared leaving you on your own to sort out any problems that may arise, whereas any reputable agent will continue to work with you offering free advice and services.
A client was recently looking to purchase a pool villa in one of Pattaya’s more up market developments and had seen one he liked on a website whilst surfing. He called the contact number to see if it was still available. Yes and the Thai female freelance agent could show him the next day. He called into our office and showed me the website it was listed on. We had the very same villa listed, yet on this Thai’s freelance website it was priced 2 million baht above the true sales price we had it listed for. Whilst looking through the website I noticed there was no office address, no office telephone number, no email address shown, just the freelancer's mobile number…and someone somewhere would be handing her a 10% deposit (whilst keeping their fingers crossed) for purchasing an already handsomely marked up property! Our client cancelled the viewing for the next day and re-arranged to view with our company.
There are already websites where property owners can place their property for sale or rent. However, these sites are a constant target of freelancers and for want of a better word, ‘dishonest people’ who they place adverts of property for sale / rent (mainly holiday lets) which they do not even own. By the time it comes to the notice of the webmaster, after being bombarded with complaints from irate ‘renters’, the freelancers have already collected several booking deposits for properties that either did not exist or they were not the owners and disappeared with the deposits! So buyers / renters should always be aware – things may not always be as they seem when dealing direct online with private individuals.
Some people think by not using an agent they can save money (this is their prerogative), even though a professional agent's services are free to the buyer / renter but unless the buyers / renters are totally ‘on the ball’ as regards the legalities of property purchase / rental then they are likely to face unscrupulous sellers / landlords who sense when they can gain extra. One example was several years back when we sold a condo of a Thai lady married to a farang. The deal was successfully concluded at the Land Office but within an hour a horrified buyer was in our office explaining that the beautiful sofa, the luxurious bed and the new flat screen TV had all been replaced with old second-hand furnishings. Part of our Listing Agreement states ‘That no furnishings, electrical appliances, fixtures and fittings should be removed from the property by the SELLER between the date of the BUYER viewing the property and the date of property transfer unless such items are specifically stated in the sales contract’. We showed the sellers the Listing Agreement they had signed and after an hour or so negotiation, the farang reluctantly agreed to put back in place the sofa and bed but argued the TV was the same as when the buyer viewed. It wasn’t, as I accompanied our client on the original viewing. However, to make sure the buyer was 100% satisfied we purchased a new LCD TV for him out of our sales commission…just one example that by using the free services of a professional agent you greatly reduce the chances of getting screwed!
Another example of people who choose not to use the services of professional agents, (I can go on here on this subject for days!), three years ago a farang dropped by our office and asked if I could advise a very good lawyer. I asked why and he went in to a conversation revealing that on his last visit he had paid a 2m Bt deposit to a Thai lady and her farang boyfriend to purchase some land and now on his return they claimed he had only paid 1m Bt. ‘Surely you have a sales contract and receipt’ I asked? ‘Well no I didn’t bother with a contract as I’ve known them for the last couple of years, eaten in their restaurant and regard them as friends’ (the receipt was in Thai saying he had paid them 1m Bt deposit). I had to be honest and told him that even the best lawyer in the city would struggle to help him in this. His choice was either to bite the bullet and admit his naivety had lost him 1 m Bt and pay up the rest or walk away and put it down to experience. I felt really sorrow for the guy and couldn’t believe anyone could be so stupid but then this is LOS and man and his money are easily parted.
With so many new developments being launched in Pattaya and Jomtien (must be well over 20 this year alone), the area is littered with huge glossy banners promoting them and luxurious ‘show houses’ springing up on virtually every corner along with the glossy brochures. Potential buyers have never had so much choice. However, just how many of these buyers are aware of each developer's past track record of successfully completing projects, the standard and quality of past projects, the reliability and quality of the developer's ‘after sales’ maintenance service and importantly who is supplying the financial back-up for the project, is it a bank or private investors. Which development is in a ‘Grade A’ location or a ‘Grade B’ location, which building is considered a ‘Grade A’ building and which are considered ‘Grade B’ buildings. These are valuable points that every buyer must consider as this will affect future re-sales and values. Any reputable agent who is not connected to one particular developer will know all the above and will offer the buyer unbiased advice, particularly which projects to be cautious about investing in.
However, as an agent it does seem to me that at times there are some people you just cannot help, despite all our best efforts to offer them the best impartial advice.
Last year an Australian couple of Italian descent in their late 50’s and obviously not short of money called into our office stating they were interested in buying two or three condos for rental investments. After an initial chat to determine their needs we visited three or four developments that I thought would be most attractive to renters due to the location, quality of the building and offer the best return of investment for the buyers. After the viewings we returned to our office and whilst discussing the options available they asked why I had not shown them a newly launched development XXXXXX. I explained to them that I did not want them to lose money and it was my firm opinion that this project would never be completed or maybe not even started due to the past record of the developers who had already two other projects that were several years behind schedule (at least 3!) and on one of the projects work appeared to have stopped completely. They said they were in town for a further three days so would take the opportunity to view other projects before making a final decision and let me know.
After a couple of days they called into our office to say they were leaving for home the following day. When I asked what project they had decided to buy in, they replied that they had visited independently and then signed sales contracts for three units in XXXXXX. This was the very same development I had warned them against investing in! My face must have told its own story as they gushed ‘the show room was just out of this world, a real 5-star finish and the sales manger assures us everything is on schedule’. I was almost lost for words but did ‘wish them the very best of luck’ with their ‘investment’ and unfortunately I think they will need it as now, sadly, one year on there is still no sign of any construction starting on XXXXXX.
Regards your comments on the Thai agents taking you to property outside the locations you had given, this works both ways, believe me. On more than a few occasions we’ve had clients looking for a property ‘must only be in the Jomtien area’ so according to their wishes taking them on selected viewings to listings within Jomtien. When I make a follow up call later the client declares he’s purchased a property with another agent in Huay Yai, 7 km away from Jomtien and we had the same property listed. So it works both ways!
I also take clients to view a property that I haven’t seen before. The reason is simply because there are three of us who carry out the listings (these are additions to direct email listings) so at any one time it may be that I have only seen 33% of properties planned for viewing. For example, it isn’t practical to go view two condos with a client in Naklua, then arrange to meet a second agent in Jomtien to view a third which she had listed and finally meet a third agent in Ban Amphur to view two more properties that she had listed.
Finally the ‘magic number’ of 4 you mentioned. The reason most agents show only a handful of properties at any one time is because if you show a client more, the majority of clients cannot remember all the properties shown and usually end up somewhat confused about what they have viewed and where the location was. On pre-planned viewings we take details and photos of each individual property in a portfolio for the clients to retain. This does help them to keep in mind the properties they have viewed.
Stick, I hope the above experiences help answer some of your questions and alleviate frustrations of searching for property!
Any ‘Stickman’ reader looking to buy / rent property in Pattaya or Jomtien please feel free to drop me an email or drop by our office located in Soi 5 Immigration, Beach Road, Jomtien for an very informal chat. You’re always welcome.
Kevin Hurst – Managing Director, Pattaya Jomtien Property