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Deciding to buy a property

In Thailand, it is against the law for foreign nationals or expatriates to purchase land.

The most common choice is for the foreign national to obtain a long-term lease (under 30 years) on an area of land, then apply for a construction permit to build a house. This means they would own the house and have a secure lease on the land. The lease enables the buyer (if specified) to reassign the land or to sublet and also have an option to purchase the land, if in future the law changes. Another possibility is to set up a Thai Limited Company, which can own the land on your behalf.

If you are considering buying land in Thailand, it is strongly advised that you seek legal guidance and make yourself aware of any potential property problems. You should ensure that a title investigation is carried out by the Land Department and have a lawyer approve the contractual agreement between you and the seller. The recommended lease type for this situation is a Freehold Land Title (also known as ‘Chanote’).

If you are a full-time resident, it’s possible to own a condominium in an urban development, but there is a maximum cap on foreign nationals per development of 49%. Again, seek legal advice before committing to any sale. You should also bear in mind that there are no regulations governing the real estate industry.

There is a thriving rental market in Thailand, offering a myriad of different types of property in disparate locations, from apartments, villas, condos, and seaside huts to suit high-octane city living or a quieter rural life. Make sure you look for somewhere close to your work or the school your children are going to attend, alternatively somewhere with excellent transport links to these places, because traffic in the cities (and Bangkok in particular) can be incredibly congested.

Searching for property

If you’re looking independently, local newspapers are a good place to start, and searching for available properties on the internet is another good source of up-to-date information. Alternatively, visit the area you’re interested in, spotting available properties with boards for sale. Estate agents will have great local knowledge, but it’s a good idea to arm yourself with information beforehand and know what you’re looking for. For rentals, some estate agents receive a commission from landlords, so you may not have to pay for their services. Be wary of property scams.

Renting

An average one-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Bangkok will cost around THB 20,580 per month, with the same type and size of apartment in Chiangmai Mai costing around THB 11,140 per month. The rental property is a varied one, with plenty of agencies and landlords advertising many different kinds of properties in various locations. In downtown Bangkok, many expatriates will choose between serviced apartments or non-serviced apartments — the former resemble hotels and are staffed and often have leisure facilities, the latter are cheaper but often come with longer-term leases. Bargaining is not an option, even if you are in Thailand for a short time, and some rentals, particularly in Bangkok, will be cheaper the longer the lease term. Agreements are not always formal — you should always have an agreement drawn up to protect yourself and make sure all terms are clear before moving in. To protect your deposit, it’s advantageous to take an inventory with photos (ideally with the landlord present) to avoid any problems when you leave. Tenants have less recourse against landlords than in many other countries.

Buying

In comparison to other Asian countries the average cost of a city centre apartment per square meter is low at USD $3,952 (THB 127,007), with an equivalent condo outside the city costing around THB 49,000 (USD 1,404.03/GBP 1,145.120) per square metre. If you’re looking into acquiring a long-term lease with a view to build, make sure you have the correct type of lease — the Chanote. You need to be a long-term resident in Thailand and, depending on the type of property, there may be other requirements for you to meet before you can make the sale, e.g. investing in Thai government-authorised investments for a certain period of time. Be careful of property scams and always consult a trusted lawyer.

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