In April 2014, I bought a two bedroom condo in Bangkok. It was a huge decision to make, and my friends were divided as to whether it was a good idea. One thing I can say is that it wasn’t always straight forward and there were certainly a few bumps in the road. Overall, I am happy with my decision and I would do it all over again if I was in the same situation.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Before Buying
- 3 During Buying Process / Construction
- 4 After Buying
I did a lot of research online before buying, and there seemed to be a constant negative attitude from many towards buying. I kept reading that the Thailand condo market bubble would burst soon and owning a condo would be financial suicide. I did a lot of research into the market and other attributes related to foreigners buying in Thailand, so the below is a starting point you can use with a number of interesting articles and projections of the Thai condo market.
My first worry was that the market really would burst. I saw there were many new developments being built and thought it could be possible that the market would stagnate. I set about finding out for myself, and although the data I used is two years old, I followed the same path and came up with some data based on 2016. Of course, this may not be relevant for you when buying, so make sure you do your own research!
GlobalPropertyGuide.com has an interesting article quoting the Bank of Thailand as showing condo prices increased between 2015 and 2016 (based on Q1) but at a slower rate – 4.7%, compared to the previous year. The article links to the Bangkok Post which states the IMF recommends Thailand reduce interest rates to reduce inflation and increase demand. Overall, the article paints a picture of economic uncertainty linked, in part, to the current political status.
The fact that I saw growth in prices and demand gave me certainty, but is it possible to continue in the current economic situation and would a change in this affect you in the long run? If you are planning to buy to let then it might, but if you are planning to buy and live in Thailand then the effect might be less evident.
While there are independent condo builders out there, the majority of developments are run by several key players under different brands. Looking around Bangkok, I could see the signs of Lumpini, Life, Noble, Sansiri and D Condo popping up several times. A quick look on these companies’ websites didn’t reveal a lot as most information is only in Thai.
The condos built by these companies fall into the low-/mid-range price brackets. In terms of designs, they pretty much stick to their own patterns; A Lumpini condo in two different locations is almost identical.
If you are looking at the high end market, there are developments offered by leading hotels brands such as St Regis and Ritz-Carlton. These condos come in many variations and sizes. For example, the Ritz-Carlton has five bedroom penthouses available for around $10 million.
As mentioned, there are some independent builders and buildings which offer a little more variety than the standard Lumpini style builds. The downside to these is that it is hard to get feedback and read reviews of them. In the end, I bought my place from an independent company as it was something different from everything else I had seen and ticked all the boxes for me.
Cost of a Thai Condo
It is difficult to say how much a condo in Thailand will cost as prices vary greatly based upon size and location.
Most people compare the size of a condo in meters squared to determine the value and rental potential of a property. CBRE Thailand released an overview of 2016 Q1 condos in Bangkok, and as we can see from their table below, they state entry level is considered anything below 70,000 Baht per square meter. Their report above also gives a good idea of costs and availability in different areas in Bangkok.
|Level||Price per m²|
|Mid-Range||฿70,000 – ฿89,999|
|Upper-Mid-Range||฿90,000 – ฿119,999|
|High End||฿120,000 – ฿169,999|
|Luxury||฿170,000 – ฿249,999|
|Super Luxury||Above ฿250,000|
In terms of new condos, the starting price for a one bedroom, 22 sq meter property is around 1 million Baht (45,000 THB per meter squared). This would be the price of a basic condo away from the BTS / public transport and built by a developer such as Lumpini. A similar sized condo located within a couple hundred meters of a BTS line in central Bangkok could well be over 2.5 million Baht – a huge difference.
Looking outside of Bangkok, prices do vary a lot. Prime locations in Phuket rival the high end Bangkok properties, while condos in smaller towns and cities are similarly priced to those on the outskirts of Bangkok.
My 64 sq meter condo cost 2.6 million Baht which works out at a little over 40,000 THB per square meter. As you can see from the table above, it is definitely in the entry level guide and I would agree with that assessment. My condo doesn’t have a built-in swimming pool, gym or library. It is a simple building with basic facilities, but that is all I need. Sure, my building is a little rough around the edges and the staff don’t wear matching uniforms, but it doesn’t bother me.
If you are looking at getting a bargain then there is the option to buy an old condo. You will often find owners who are willing to drop their asking price to secure a sale. Some buildings have multiple units for sale and are great places to bargain hunt.
Types of Condo
There are many different types of condos you can buy. Properties range from studio rooms to five bedroom penthouses. For more in depth information, take a look at Karsten’s article on accommodation in Bangkok.
There are two pieces of advice I want to pass on about the type of condo you buy.
The first is that studio rooms are cheap, but I can tell you from experience that it is soul destroying to live in a condo where you do everything in the same room. It feels like a prison cell. I lived in a studio for three months when I first came to Thailand, and I tried to spend as much time as possible away from that room. If you only have the budget for a studio or a room with just a screen between the bedroom and other areas then I honestly implore you to think again if this is how you really want to live.
Secondly is that a lot of one and two bedroom condos suffer from a lack of natural light. I have lived in one bedroom condos where the only window is in the bedroom and you need to have the lights on in the living room even during the middle of the day as there is no natural light coming through. It can become a problem and was the reason I decided to buy a corner room condo. I now have windows on two sides of my condo compared to just one in normal condos. It cost me about 500,000 Baht more than a standard room but the benefit is huge.
Important Laws for Foreigners
There are many laws that foreigners have to consider when buying a condo in Thailand. At the time of writing these are the key points, all of which will be covered in more depth later in the article.
- All money for the purchase of a condo must be sent to Thailand from a foreign country in the original currency. Without proof of this, a foreigner cannot register the condo in their name.
- Only 49% of rooms in a development can be owned by foreigners.
- The building needs to be governed by the condominium act.
There are of course many other laws and regulations which I will go into in more depth later and give you examples of what they could mean to you.
Buying in Foreigner or Thai Name
One big decision which many Thai/Foreign couples need to decide on is whose name the condo should be registered under. While it is possible to register the condo under a foreigner’s name, there are several factors to consider.
We have already talked about financing a property and the fact that a Thai citizen can get a mortgage from a Thai bank so long as they have a good credit history and a salary of at least 15,000 Baht a month. Because of this, some foreigners decide to register their condo under their Thai partner’s name. It makes the process easier and monthly mortgage payments can be made. However, if the condo price is over 1.5 million Baht, the Thai partner will need to earn over 30,000 Bat a month to get a loan that big, which could prove an issue for many couples.
Next you have to consider that Thailand doesn’t allow foreigners to finance a property for their partner and then claim that the condo is theirs. Any money given to a Thai partner will be considered a gift and that you claim no right in terms of ownership of any property purchased. This means that any condo funded this way will remain the property of the Thai national, and they have the legal right to kick you out and maintain ownership even if they didn’t pay a penny of their own money for it.
Putting the property in a Thai person’s name might be the only option for some couples, and in the end it comes down to trust and the stability of your relationship. It is true that some people have been burnt and lost their property, but there are also many who are happily reaping the benefit of purchasing this way. In the end, if you aren’t sure then my personal advice would be just to rent somewhere. You can save up over time, and in the future, the banks might offer foreigners mortgages which are affordable and accessible.
Buying a Thai Condo while Living Abroad
It is possible to buy a Thai condo while living abroad, and most of the steps above are the same. The only difference is you will need to employ a lawyer and give them power of attorney to agree to the contract and act on your behalf when transferring the property.
I wouldn’t recommend buying a property while living abroad, as I would want to see everything first hand and check on all the little details before I signed the contract. The cost of a one week trip to Thailand would probably be only slightly higher than the legal fees of hiring a lawyer to do all these steps for you.
Do You Need to Buy?
Buying a property is one of the biggest decisions we make in our lives. It is a commitment to a building, an area and a lifestyle for a prolonged period of time.
When buying a condo in a foreign country, it also means making a commitment to living away from home and having to jump through a number of hoops. Thailand doesn’t make it straight forward for a foreign national to buy or sell a condo, so you need to be sure of your desire to be here for the long term.
There are countless articles on the benefits of renting vs buying a condo in Thailand (such as these on The Thailand Life.com and Thailand Property Gate.com), and it certainly makes sense to read the arguments for and against. It is interesting that the majority back renting rather than buying, which makes me think, “Who are the types of people who buy condos in Bangkok?”
Without wanting to stereotype all buyers, I would suggest the following are categories of people most likely to buy a condo in Thailand.
- Foreigners married or in a long term relationship with a Thai national
- Buy to let investors
In terms of my decision to buy, there was the feeling that I would be staying in Thailand for the long term and also that buying a property in Thailand would be much easier than doing so in the UK. I saw it as being a base where I could stay and, after a length of time, would be living rent free.
I understand the idea that the value of a Thai condo will not rise in the same way that UK property does, but I felt that I could still find a good deal and make some money if I decided to buy in the right area. The location I chose to buy in was earmarked for the pink line transport system, which should start construction in the middle of 2017. Another identical room in my building has just sold for over 200,000 Baht more than I paid for mine, so things are looking promising in this regard.
I also knew that buying a condo meant I could rent it out in the future should I need a place with more space. Similar rooms in my building are going for 12,000 Baht a month, which is enough to get a good three bedroom house in the local area. When the sky train is finally launched, this figure will likely increase a little bit further too.
After living in three different rented properties, I also felt that I wanted somewhere I could decorate and furnish to my own standards. The places I rented were nice enough, but I kept getting blocked in requests for improved furnishings or changing the decor.
On the other hand, it is worth looking at some of the benefits of renting. I certainly didn’t hate renting and I had no thoughts of buying during my first year. I guess the main benefits of renting are quite clear:
- Flexibility of movement
- Monthly payments
- No maintenance worries
If I wanted to move from my place, I would either have to sell or rent it out. This might take a few weeks or a few years. The ability for renters to give notice is a major benefit, especially if your circumstances change. Even if you need to move to a different area of Thailand, the worst that will happen is you lose your security deposit which is normally one or two months rent.
Monthly payments mean you don’t need to have a lump sum and can normally move into a place for a relativity low outlay. First month’s rent and two extra months are normally needed to sign a contract.
I haven’t had a burst pipe or cracked window, but if it happened and I was renting, I would be happy to know it wasn’t my responsibility to pay and fix it. As long as you have a good landlord, you shouldn’t have too many problems getting things done.
Location is a key factor when buying a condo in Thailand. From bustling Bangkok to chilled Chiang Mai, there are plenty of locations around Thailand to find your dream place. Pretty much every city and town will have condos, but there are a few key areas where most expats buy.
Bangkok is the condo center of Thailand, and there are several hot spots where you will find premium developments. The BTS and MRT attract developers and that means you will find a condo development near every single station on the line.
Away from the central zone of Bangkok, you will find more reasonably priced condos, especially away from public transport. Areas around motorway junctions are now becoming popular in the outskirts of Bangkok when it comes to buying a property.
Outside of Bangkok, the next most popular location for condos is Chonburi which includes Pattaya and Jomtien, the (in)famous beach resorts. Being by the beach is a huge pull, especially for retirees who are looking to avoid the big city lifestyle that comes with Bangkok.
Also worthy of mention are Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and Phuket, which have many condo developments. In fact, every large town will likely have condos, but unless there is some sort of family tie, the options listed above will be the key areas for you to focus on.
Future BTS and MRT lines
Future BTS, monorail and MRT lines in Bangkok mean developers are starting to buy up land near proposed lines and building condos.
The green line extension and new pink line are prime examples of how you can find new properties in locations where there will be new lines. These properties will provide transport convenience but are still considerably cheaper than condos along the current BTS / MRT lines. One thing to note is that these proposed lines will take a minimum of three years to be built, so if you buy now, you will have to make do with other transport forms. Although most of them are scheduled to complete within 2021, it is better to wait for official government announcements rather than just relying on hearsay about proposed lines.
There are plans for improved public transport such as monorails in Phuket and Chiang Mai. These mean that traveling in these areas will improve and could lead to an increase in condo developments and sales.
New / Old Condo
Another key decision when buying is whether you want to buy a new or an old condo. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
The key selling point of a new condo is that it is brand spanking new. You will be the first person to live there and everything will be fresh. The hallways and common areas will be decorated in a modern way, and the rooms will have the latest appliances and technologies. The condo itself should be built using up to date construction procedures and with high quality materials.
The downside of buying a new condo is that you don’t know how things will work a few years down the line. The initially helpful, polite staff might have a change in attitude after a while and services like cleaning and repairs might not be as frequent as in the first couple of years.
The major benefit of an older condo is that the price should be lower than a new unit and you can get a bargain. From talking with many Thais, I feel that the majority would rather buy new than old which means that there is often an oversupply for old condo units. You can get a good price for a room that is only a few years old. With condos in this category, you can also get a better idea about the build quality.
The downside is that the room has been lived in, which means you potentially have to do work to update it and decorate if things aren’t to your taste.
When I set out to buy my condo, I never really thought about buying a used condo. There were so many new developments that it seemed the obvious thing to do. In the end, the condo I bought is a bit new and a bit old. The building itself is around 12 years old, but the condo is completely new. The owners had planned to make the top floor into two huge, 1250 sq meter penthouses but never got around to completing the project. After a few years, they instead created thirty-two 64 sq meter condos and launched them in 2014. I got mine in 2015, and now around half of the units have been sold on my floor.
How to Find a Condo
There are many different ways to find a condo, and depending on whether or not you are in Thailand, you should look at as many of these as possible.
I found my condo by looking online. The site I always use is DDproperty.com as it has a good English version and allows you to search by neighborhood or transport line. It has a huge database and gives you the chance to compare many properties. As my condo wasn’t designed by a large developer, they decided to use DDproperty to promote it, and without this site, I wouldn’t have found it. Some developers do use DDproperty to promote, but the majority of properties on the site are either old units or units to rent.
Other useful sites include HipFlat which again has English, Japanese and Russian versions. There are also many other Thai sites which promote new and used condo units, but in my opinion, they are inferior to DDproperty or don’t have an English version so I give them a miss.
One online source which I don’t use to find condos but which has actually promoted a few is the Bangkok Post news website. They often have high end condo developers advertising on news articles and banners, so you might find something interesting there while reading the latest news about Thailand.
Offline your best bet is to hit the streets in the areas you like and pop in to the show rooms of new developments, or speak to the office staff in older buildings to find out about purchase options. Most condos under construction will have purpose built sales rooms with showrooms for you to look at. This is better than looking online in my opinion, but remember that it is unlikely that the decorations and all the facilities will be included in the final price, so make sure you check.
Many condos will have information boards where owners post photos and information about their properties available for rent or sale. You can even hire a motorcycle taxi to guide you around the area with many condo buildings.
Condo Shows / Events
Condo shows and events are great ways to get information on multiple developments. Often events are held in shopping malls which will showcase local developments. You can look at promotional videos, get price lists and also ask the sales reps any questions you have. If you are sure you want to buy a particular condo then you will also likely get a special discount or promotion for buying on the day. The downside is that you will probably find yourself pressured into putting a deposit down at every stall you visit.
I have visited a couple of these events at the Fashion Island shopping mall, and while the staff are happy to give out leaflets, they lack the English skills to answer all my questions. If you go with a Thai partner, it will be much easier for you to get the information you need.
There are also a couple of house/condo shows a year held at the IMPACT Mung Thong Thani and Queen Sirikit convention centers. The date does vary, so check out their websites and you can find out more information about upcoming shows and dates. These are the largest condo events and have some of the best pre-sale discounts for buying off plan.
I personally know more than ten people who have used an agent to help them find a rented property but not one who has used an agent to find a property to buy. Agents often attach themselves to sellers and promote used properties on one of the many property websites. This means you are only likely to have to deal with an agent if you are buying a used condo.
When you rent a condo, an agent can be your best friend as they push for a discount on the rent or get the landlord to add extra furniture or electronics. When it comes to buying a property and dealing with an agent of the property, remember they only make money when the property is sold – they get a percentage of the fee from the seller. This may lead the agent to become pushy and trying to rush you into a purchase using annoying sales techniques. I wouldn’t say avoid using agents or looking at properties offered by agents, just remember they might seem helpful but in the end they are doing it for their own 3% of the sale.
Unless you are lucky enough to have enough in cash or savings to purchase your Thai condo then it is likely that you will need some kind of finance. When buying a property in your home country, you simply save enough for a deposit and head to your local bank to apply for a mortgage. Buying in Thailand, the same rule doesn’t apply.
Although it isn’t impossible to get a loan from a Thai bank as a foreigner, it is very difficult and unlikely that you will be accepted regardless of your length of stay in the Kingdom or the monthly salary you take home. The very select group of foreigners who get accepted usually have permanent residence status or a wealthy Thai guarantor with a long history at the bank.
A key issue, which we will come to later, is that for a foreigner to register a property in their own name, they need to transfer funds for purchase from another country. This means even if you can get a loan, you would have to transfer the money out and then back into Thailand.
This leaves you with a few options if you require a mortgage to purchase your Thai condo.
The first is to look at a bank such as UOB or Bangkok Bank, which have branches overseas, and apply for a mortgage in USD and then transfer it to Thailand. The downside to this method is that you will pay higher interest rates and often have to pay a deposit of around 50%.
The next is to look at getting a loan from your home country. With condo prices starting at around 1 million Baht, it could be possible to get a loan or remortgage another property you have. The likelihood of being accepted depends on your credit history, but it is a viable option with most banks covering up to 80% of the appraised property value.
The final viable option is to speak to the developer and see if hire purchase is an option. Hire purchase works where regular payments are made totaling the final amount, at which point the condo is then registered under the buyer’s name. This means you are, in theory, renting the property until all payments are made. Bear in mind though that all payments need to be remitted from outside of Thailand and when registering the property, you will need to get evidence of all your transactions. As an example, a foreign engineer working in the gas industry in Thailand will likely be paid in their home currency and can then remit this to Thailand on a monthly /quarterly basis to the developer.
Another option which is seemingly popular is to get a mortgage under a Thai partner. We will look more about the implications of this a little later in the article…
In my case, I was lucky enough to have savings which covered the deposits and first years payments to the condo owner and then borrowed the rest from family. I still pay them back monthly at around 30,000 Baht and will be squared off in around three years.
Buying Off Plan
Buying off plan is an option that many people take up when buying a condo in Thailand.
This option means you have to rely on pictures and blueprints provided by the developer to imagine what your future condo will look like. I have seen a few condos in this circumstance, and the beautifully furnished showroom isn’t always what you get. Often the ceilings will be lower in the real room and the expensive extras wont be included. It is more important than ever to read your contract and know what you will get for your money.
Buying off plan does have a couple of advantages. At this stage of the development, you can normally get the lowest prices as the developer is looking for deposits to cover the costs of starting the building work. It is possible to make savings of around 5-10% of the final price, and many developers throw in free gifts such as iPhones or tablets for early purchasers.
The other thing that attracts people to buy off plan is the ability to flip the unit and make a quick profit. I just want to say that this is highly risky and shouldn’t be seen as an easy way to make money – if things go wrong then you can lose a lot and be stuck with a condo you don’t want or can’t afford. Condo flipping is where early buyers take advantage of initial low prices and put a deposit on the condo. When all the rooms are sold out or the price increases a lot, they can then sell the deposit on to another buyer at a decent profit. As I said above, the price can be 10% lower buying off plan, so a 5 million baht condo can go up half a million – the seller can then ask for 250,000 or more to get a sale from a desperate buyer who really wants a room in the building.
Before making a financial commitment, many condo buyers in Thailand decide to discuss their options with a lawyer.
Lawyers can help explain the legalities of buying a condo and do background checks on the seller or building. In my case, the condo was part of a building owned by a large company, so I didn’t feel like I needed to do any background checks. I did get a lawyer to run through the contract with my girlfriend and everything was above board and as explained to me previously. The local lawyer charged around 2,000 Baht for an hour consultation.
If you don’t have a Thai partner or want to have an international lawyer, then you will need to recruit a lawyer from a large firm. Take a look at the in depth guide to lawyers website on this site to find out more about finding a lawyer in Thailand. As you will see, the cost starts from around 40,000 Baht for a lawyer to work with you throughout the whole process.
A little later in this article I will run you through the process of transferring the condo to your name. I didn’t use a lawyer at this stage, although you might consider doing so to avoid any problems or the seller trying to pull a fast one and make you pay fees that aren’t your responsibility.
During Buying Process / Construction
So now you have decided to buy a condo and have to start doing all the paperwork and arrange for the finances to be in place. In this section, I’ll give you information and observations based on my personal experience.
Rights and Obligations
It is important that you know your rights and obligations when it comes to buying a condo in Thailand.
The laws and processes will likely be different than your own country, and it is at this time having a lawyer will be very helpful. The main reason for this is it is likely that the contracts you will sign are going to be in Thai. Sure, the seller will explain it to you in broken English and maybe even stick it through Google translate, but in the end, you won’t be signing anything legally binding in English. Your lawyer can go through the contract with you and ensure everything is clear and above board. In my case, I did this and also had my girlfriend go through it too just for extra piece of mind.
An important point to note is even though the seller might seem like they are being helpful, they are trying to sell the property. You can’t believe everything they say 100%; they will bend the truth a little and can hide behind the contract which you sign even if it is different from what you talked about during the purchase period.
A key thing to triple check at this point is that the condo can be registered under the foreign quota of 49% of the total rooms. If the condo has already reached the limit then you will not be allowed to register it and could be forced into using a Thai partner to complete the purchase. This is especially important to check when buying an old condo from a Thai citizen as they may not actually know the real answer to this question. Always check with the condo office.
You or your lawyer also must also check the building is registered under the condominium act and as such can be registered in your name.
If buying a condo off plan then you will likely be given a projected finish date rather than a firm one. As the project goes through different stages and gets closer to completion, the date should become more concrete.
When signing a contract, there will often be clauses related to delays in construction. Most state that if the delay is more than X days then you will be due some form of compensation. There will also likely be a clause based on the cancellation of the project, so make sure you are aware of this and if you will receive money back that you have paid.
As a rough guide, a medium sized condo project should take around eighteen months to be completed. This is based upon three condos in my area that I visited before construction started.
Deposits and Payments
The deposit and payment schedule will depend upon many factors such as whether you’re buying off plan or a pre-built condo.
With off plan condos, you will often pay an initial deposit followed by small monthly sums during construction until the end where either the balance is paid or a mortgage is taken out. The initial deposits are often very low, perhaps only 10-20,000 Baht and monthly amount can be as low as 5,000 Baht for a property valued at around 1 million Baht. I once looked at a 6 million Baht condo in Ladprao and was quoted 200,000 Baht as a deposit and three further 200,000 Baht payments over the following 9 months before the condo was due to be finished.
If buying a prebuilt or used condo then there is often a small deposit paid to get an agreement and then full payment made prior to the registration of the property. There are no legal requirements in terms of timing, but it seems normal that from the deposit being paid most sellers expect completion within 30 days.
There are a few very important documents you will need during the process of buying and registering your new condo.
The first is your contract. This should be signed by you and the developer if buying a new build condo. It contains all of the information regarding registering, payments and procedures. This is your fallback on all matters related to the building, fees and timetables.
Next you will need FET forms (Foreign exchange transfer forms) which show money for the purchase has come from abroad and been transferred upon arrival into Thai Baht. This point is very important, the money must arrive in Thailand in your own currency and then be converted by the Thai bank. You are not restricted to only being allowed one FET form. If you have made multiple transfers, this is allowed as long as you have a form for each payment.
You will also have to have your passport and any other official documents (work permit, visa, marriage certificate etc) photocopied and come with the originals too when buying and transferring the property. I found the following link on ThailandLawOnline.com pretty helpful when getting my documents together.
If buying under a Thai person’s name then they will need to bring their ID card and normally one other form of ID when registering a property.
Taxes and Fees
At the time of transfer, there are fees to pay and they should be included in your contract and explained to you prior to purchase. This article on SamuiForSale.com was the site I used to see that my only obligation was towards the transfer fee. Stamp duty and business tax is the responsibility of the seller, and as such, as a buyer you shouldn’t be expected to pay a penny for these. In terms of the transfer fee, I agreed to split it 50/50 with the seller and paid just under 30,000 Baht.
When you move in, you are required to pay into the sinking fund – a fund of initial monies paid by new residents in a condominium. For me, this was around 12,500 Baht and was a one off payment at around the same rate as one years worth of maintenance fees (see below). I also had to pay 6,000 Baht for installation of a water and electric meter, although these are refunded when I move out.
When all taxes and transfer fees are complete, you will receive a Tabien Ban book – blue for Thais or yellow for foreigners. This book shows the resident of the unit and is an important document and is needed if you plan to sell the condo in the future.
It is also at this time the title deed will be changed to your name and the buying process is complete!
For me, having adequate home insurance is really important. I want to know that my property and belongings are covered should the worst happen.
Technically, the building owners are responsible for all external walls, floors and ceilings as well as the common area if the fault is their own.
In terms of insurance, you should look to get a policy which covers contents and damage to the building. I personally use the AXA smart condo insurance which covers all my basic needs and has optional extras. The total cost is 2,700 Baht per year and gives me peace of mind. The major benefit of this policy is it covers damage caused to other units through fires or leaks from my unit.
There are many other companies that offer insurance, and you can either use a broker or shop around online. I chose AXA because they are recognized internationally and their website and customer service is all in English. I entered my details and everything was paid for and completed within ten minutes.
There are many other insurance companies, Thai and foreign, you can use and by going through a broker you can find other deals. I tried a broker, and to be honest, they didn’t seem to care about quoting me for a condo so I gave up and Google showed me the way to AXA.
Karsten also wrote a detailed health insurance guide. Although it is a different type of insurance, you should get a good idea on how it works in Thailand.
Every year, there will be an AGM which covers many important factors such as the financial status of the condo, repairs needed and proposed rule changes.
A couple of weeks before the AGM, you should receive financial statements related to the condo. In theory, this should give you time to read through the information and prepare any questions you have. You will also receive a list of proposed topics and votes that will take place which will again allow you time to digest the information.
I will be honest and say that my condo only provides the information in Thai and even though the financial information is in English, I still don’t understand it fully. The AGM itself is entirely in Thai, and the building owner gives me a quick update in English at the end of the meeting. In the two AGMs I have been to, there have only been minor votes such as to keep the maintenance fee at the same price and to employ an extra security guard. It is possible that major decisions could be taken such as remodeling or structural changes, which perhaps means the owners are required to make extra payments.
Based on my condo, I would say that the turnout for AGMs isn’t very high as there are normally only around 50 people, even though there are about 400 rooms in the building. Most important votes require a percentage of voters to pass, so perhaps if there was a key decision to make, more people would turn up.
Rights and Obligations
As an condo owner, there are several rights and obligations that you will have.
The first is that you have the right to see the condo accounts and attend and vote at the annual AGM. You should also be aware that you will be bound by the decision of the AGM. This might mean an increase in maintenance fees or a one off payment to cover a large project.
You should also have the right to lodge complaints and have them dealt with. In the same way, you are obliged to cooperate with your condo management if you have caused any problems.
New condos are sold with furniture in 99% of cases, but you often need to buy a few extras over the basics which are provided.
As an example, a friend of mine had to buy a fridge, hob, extractor fan, the ACs and TVs for his new condo. On the other hand, my place came with pretty much everything included, I just bought a towel rack to finish things off. As I said earlier, you need to check with the developer if everything you see in the show room will be included in the final price.
If you buy an older unit then there is the chance that the owner will want to take the furniture with them, so either check to see if it is included or whether you can make an offer for any items you want.
If you are in need of buying / upgrading the furniture in your condo, there are lots of options in all price ranges.
If you are looking for bargain basement deals then you will often find local shops which sell furniture at rock bottom prices. These shops are normally located on most major roads and will be independent places with furniture spilling out onto the street. From sofas to fridges, they have the lot; some things are new, others are secondhand.
If you have a higher budget and are looking for something with a bit more quality then your first step should be to the furniture stores found in pretty much every shopping mall. Index, SB and Homepro are the three main players in the market and will have everything you need to kit out your new pad. You can buy online, but it is so easy to find a branch all around Thailand that you should really go into their shop. They are very much mid range and the quality is acceptable, but I have my doubts that they will still look great in 5+ years time.
My place is full of Index furniture and it looks fine, although a few items are looking a bit worn and I will need to replace them. I had a quick look, and as an example of the prices, my sofa was 8,000 Baht, kitchen unit 30,000 Baht, dining room set 11,000 Baht and coffee table 1,750 Baht. I would estimate that you could furnish an average one bedroom apartment from one of the above shops for around 80 – 100,000 Baht.
If you have a large budget for furniture then you have a few more options. The first recognizable name is Ikea which has a shop in Bangkok and pickup point in Phuket. They are slightly more expensive than the likes of Index and the quality and variety is better.
Another good option is to to head to the Crystal Design Center, often called CDC, which is located between Ramintra and Ladprao in Bangkok. It is a huge shopping complex which specializes in furniture. They have all the normal brands but also specialists who import European, American and Japanese furniture. Prices can reach eye watering levels, but if you want the best, this place is where you should head to.
Finally, another option is to import your furniture from your home country. I understand that people grow attached to their beds, kitchen units and other items around the house, and if you sold your place to move to Thailand, it could be an option for you. I am not an expert on this, so I did a little research and found this useful thread on ThaiVisa.com where some people shared their experience of doing this. Have a look yourself, but the overriding sentiment is not to import furniture unless it is some family heirloom or something you really can’t live without. The cost, hassle and waiting time makes it a bad experience.
Most new build condos will come at least partially decorated. The walls will be painted and the bathroom tiled. You will of course be able to add a few of your own touches and the good news is that decorating is simple and quite cheap to do.
If you buy an old condo then there is the possibility it will be quite dated and in need of a new lick of paint to smarten it up. The good news is there are plenty of options, both offline and online, to make the decoration process a piece of cake!
When it comes to shopping for decorations, there are loads of great options. Your basics such as paints and wallpaper can be found in shops like Homepro in all the big shopping malls. There are also local DIY shops in most major towns which carry these items.
If you are looking for interesting items to add some character and style to your room then you are in luck. Thailand is full of markets which have wonderful nicknacks to brighten your place up and make it unique. When buying things for my place, I normally head to one of the train markets in Bangkok such as the Ratchada train market, or go into JJ market where you can buy anything you can imagine.
When you have your items, you need to actually decorate. When it comes to painting, wallpapering and other physical changes to the room, you have the option of doing it yourself or hiring a decorator.
There are two aspects of maintenance that I want to discuss in this section.
The first is the maintenance fee, which is a monthly amount based on the square meterage of your condo that you pay to the condo management to cover staff fees, communal areas and other shared costs with other condo owners. As I said, this amount is based on the size of your unit and the amount varies depending upon the services your condo offers.
My current condo charges 14 Baht per square meter while others could charge up to several hundred baht. Talking to other condo owners in low-mid range condos, I have found the average to be around 25 Baht per square meter.
The second type of maintenance is the repairs you will need to carry out in your place. When you rent, you can call the landlord and they will fix the leaking tap or replace the broken AC unit, but when you are the owner these things fall on you.
I have owned my place for around twenty months and so far, I have had to replace two taps, the shower unit and the toilet hose. Overall, it has cost around 2-3 thousand baht, but there will be a time when the kitchen units need changing or the fridge packs in and that is a serious cost to bear. Just remember your shiny new condo wont stay like that forever and you will need to budget a large amount to replace and repair things especially after the first few years.
Renting Out Your Condo
GlobalPropertyGuide.com showed in 2015 that rental yields in Bangkok ranged around 5-8% in areas close to the BTS and MRT lines. It seems like a reasonable investment but I would still be wary when it comes to buy to rent in Thailand.
The main issue with renting out your condo is that it is likely that there are a huge number of other units in your building which are up for rent, which leads to high competition and lower rental prices. Five minutes from where I live is a Lumpini condo, and a quick look on DDproperty.com shows that 127 units are up for rental, each of them identical in terms of size, price and decoration. The main point is that if you want to easily rent out your condo at a reasonable price then it needs to be something a bit special and should be located in a desirable location.
If you are living abroad and trying to do this, it becomes even more difficult. One of the condos I rented was actually owned by a Malaysian businessman who used one of his employees in Thailand to do all the leg work for dealing with the rental contract and communication with me. Most of us don’t have Thai employees to do this for us, so a lot of people look into agents.
Agents will promote your property and show potential renters around. Thai agents normally charge a fee of 1 month’s rent when they get you a tenant. For me, I think it is reasonable enough, but remember they often have many properties so you might need to keep them sweet by offering a bit more so they push your condo over the others.
You do have the option of privately promoting and renting out your condo. It is free to post on the majority of rental sites (list here) and if you have something unique or in a highly desirable area, you can find someone reasonably easy. One thing you might find more difficult is drawing up a rental contract. Agents provide these but if you don’t use an agent, you will either need to be more informal or copy a rental agreement from someone. It isn’t ideal but if you are renting to a friend or someone you trust, it might not be a huge issue.
The final issue is the reliability of tenants. I am ashamed to admit I bailed on my last rental property after four months to move into my current place. At my office, I know a lot of people who have gone home or moved and just not informed the owner. So after spending months trying to get a tenant, you can find them walking away and you have to start the process all over again.
Sure, you keep their deposit but you also paid a months rent to the agent, so you don’t really get a lot. Also if you rent a place and get 10,000 Baht a month, it means it needs to cover your costs and the ongoing maintenance of the place – it isn’t easy to do and make decent money long term. The only exception is if you have a high end unit that you can rent out for 50K+, but that unit would cost a lot in the first place.
As I have said already in this article a couple of times, it can be difficult to sell a condo in Thailand. With the seemingly never ending supply of new condos, people tend to buy new. Unlike in the UK where people look at older properties as having “character,” the older condos here are seen as the last option unless you have a unique place in a desirable location.
The best bet is to use an agent to help promote your property across many different platforms and languages. Agents normally charge 3% when the property is sold. You can find an agent through either your condo manager or by looking online at the numerous property sites and dropping them an email.
You can chose to sell it privately either online or by word of mouth, but it might prove difficult to do if you are outside the most desirable areas.
So there we have it, my experience of buying a Thai condo. Hopefully I have answered all your questions but feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you!