The Price We Pay For The Life We Live
After reading Stick's piece about his experiences regarding real estate agents and trying to find suitable place to live, I was thinking this subject is very real to most people living or trying to make a life in Thailand. I find it somewhat disturbing that anyone can claim to be a real estate agent without any qualifications and responsibility. Being responsible seems to relate only to getting the money out of a client in most cases and when the motorbike lights head for the sunset the guarantee is void.
Well, this is reality in LOS. There are no guarantees and even in the best cases having all the paperwork done properly and so on, it might backfire and then what? Going to a court of law in Thailand is something I would personally try to avoid as best as I can. It can cost more and bring more problems than the actual lost money or property. At least I would very carefully consider whether or not it is worthwhile to bring me in to the mercy of the Thai court system. There are no guarantees, you know…
I remember a very upstanding guy dealing in the real estate business in UK coming here for a very large development. He was a family member of a close friend. He thought he had agreed everything beforehand and just came to sign what had been agreed earlier. With him he brought a lawyer who was helping him running his business. When they sat down at the table and started actually reading the papers that the Thai partners pushed in front of them, they realized that nothing was as it was supposed to be. That was it. This business guy stood up, closed his files and left. A business deal that starts to go wrong from the beginning promises nothing good in the future. The Thais called him and tried to get him back to the table but he had principles and no way was he going to participate in something that was what was not as had been agreed. I take my hat off to him.
There's another guy I know, a Belgian. He used to run a relatively successful company and fell in love with a Thai lady. He spent 20 million baht building rental properties here in Isaan. Now he is in court with the ex-wife and seeking to save at least half of his money. The wife has been threatening him with all kinds of things. How was it? Love and business don't seem to mix very well, is all I can say. This just proves my point, one never really knows how things are if your only guarantee in business is trust. Believe me, it makes your life so much better to sort out the legal framework first.
I am not much a guy to speak about real estate agents since I have never used one. Sorry…I once almost bought a house in Pattaya from one but going to his office and him being late over 15 minutes, I just walked away. I can't understand people trying to benefit from me and being late. It baffles me actually… Another previous experience was in Spain and I had very specifically told him what I wanted since I had lived on that area in my childhood and knew the area well. Against my wishes he took me to a new development and that was that. I actually took the time to complain to his office of unprofessional conduct. If one wants an old house near the sea and city center and he is offered a new condominium near the mountains and on the wrong side of a very wide motorway (no chance of living there without a car and I did not have one), how is one supposed to react? It seems incompetence is not limited only to Thailand. I just wonder…if I go to a car dealership and I am looking for a brand new red Ferrari, would they try to sell me a gray, second-hand Toyota instead? Or the other way around? I think not.
Unlike Stick, I have built a house for myself and my family. I just got fed up with the owners that I was renting from and since I needed a sizable office for myself, I decided against all common sense and old hand wisdom that I would build a house. I didn't really do my homework since at the time I was so busy with work. I hired someone my family knew and despite the budget going over and few other design flaws that needed fixing later, it actually went pretty well. To finish, I needed to draw my credit cards to the max and had a bit blood pressure thinking about how to pay for it alls. Well, finally it all went well. That was four years ago.
After that, I have actually made my studies what costs what and have successfully built rental rooms and a few separate buildings to let. That is due to knowing people and I always buy all the materials and stuff myself. No middle hands, you know, and I get what I want. The builders that I use have been working for Thai building companies and some of them have work experience as far away as Israel. Most of them are in their 50s so we are not talking young men. The foreman is young but he has formal training as a builder and can read drawings and specifications and come up with very nice work. I pay them well. I pay approximately 25 – 40% more than a Thai company would. And that saves me money, so much so that there is a profit margin in new developments. On top of that they get 50 baht for food every day. That might not sound too much but when there are quite a few of them it makes a hell of a difference what they would get otherwise. After seeing what I have completed with them I have helped some of my friends with their projects as well. Since doing all sorts of building jobs I know quite a few structural engineers, architects and even a few guys from the office where one gets building permits. These kind of papers one could pay quite a bit more for if you did not have any knowledge of what is actually required.
Now I know that many don't have a clue about building work or real estate in Thailand, but I'd like to give my take on it. First, ask questions and don't limit your informants to your bar mates or girlfriend's family or someone they know. One can talk even to the real estate agents since I firmly believe that one can spot a good one from the bad one. A guy trying to help you for a couple of months to find that dream house for you is probably the one that is genuine. The ones acting like he (or she in Stick's case) is doing you a favor and gets upset when you don't take on the first offer is not conducting a proper business. Also, there is heaps of information on the internet, just read when you are able to do so. Second, when it comes to builders or owners of properties, it doesn't hurt to talk to the neighbors or other knowledgeable people. Thais like to gossip and I have found a lot of information needed just talking to them direct or with someone talking for me. Don't take anyone's advice as the truth, question it. Third, don't let people or any information take control over your decisions. It is your dream and project. Don't get too worried but remember that it is YOU who is in control or at least is supposed to be. Too many let their dearest take control and head for the inevitable problems. Remember, you are paying for it, you must make the decisions too. If not, blame yourself!
I perhaps have been living here too long. I have become much harder than I was in a decade ago entering Thai soil. However, I have not become cynical or jaded. I quite like my life here. The thing is that I take things as they are. I don't go blindly trusting people with my money and I like to find out the price of things before making any purchases or agreements. And when finally doing so, I consult my Thai lawyer (she's married to an English lawyer) and let her go through all the legal aspects of my dealings. Lawyers are not expensive in Thailand. Spending few hundred dollars using their services can save a lot of trouble – and money.
We are in a new environment – if you were not born or raised here, that is – and we need to learn the ropes. Eventually, we all will have some problems and misunderstandings and maybe even the odd case where we loose our money in a situation that we would not like to be in but this is called life. It comes with a price. That is the price we pay for the life we live.
Absolutely agreed that the advice of a *good* lawyer is necessary, especially if you don't have local knowledge.