Buying a house in Bangkok, or Thailand in general, is trickier than purchasing condos and apartments. In order to purchase a house in Bangkok, the buyer must also purchase and own the land, and because certain property laws forbid non-nationals from owning land in Thailand, many obstacles arise in the process. However, an expatriate market for purchasing houses and land exist.
With the help of professional legal advice there are smart and workable ways around Thai property laws. Increasingly, foreign expat families are moving in to gated communities on the outskirts of Bangkok. Foreign buyers with Thai spouses are the second-largest group (after middle class Thais) in the movement of buying property and houses in high-end communities on the edge of the city.
Setting up a 30-year lease with the Thai landowner is a viable option that is quite popular among foreign buyers. Forming a company that is majority owned by a Thai nominee or partner, while control remained with the foreigner, was a common method that has recently come under scrutiny – technically, it is not possible for a non-Thai to own land. Many become de facto owners through their Thai spouse, but true ownership, as interpreted in a court-administrated dispute, remains with the registered Thai owner.
Many foreigners have lost control and ownership through this, particularly when falling out with the Thai wife or husband. A firm legal agreement leasing the house long term to the foreigner is a good safety net, with the provision that if the Thai owner should ever sell the property, the leaseholder is contractually entitled to a share of the income.
When buying houses in Bangkok, land availability isn’t abundant in the centre of the city; therefore, more of the high-end real estate developments are on the outskirts. Of course, buying homes in the centre of Bangkok will prove to be a pricier feat than buying property farther away from the city centre.
These plush estates are the hallmark of success in modern Thailand, as the middle class seek to assert their upwardly mobile status by buying into a luxury lifestyle. These come complete with security, impressive entrances and a brochure packed with facilities that include sports and social club with pool and fitness centre, exercise parks, restaurants and convenience stores. A lot of foreigners are now joining this suburban bliss, especially mixed-nationality families.
With property developers in Bangkok firmly targeting deep-pocketed foreigners, they have devised stable methods for ownership. Typically, there is a premium for belonging to the prestige of these ‘moobaans; usually around 30 per cent more than a conventional house.
The land areas are smaller too, but you are almost guaranteed quality and avoid the hassle of rubbish builders. Those who have been here a while and have the confidence to build, can achieve much better value for money. Investors with a solid means for purchasing land or houses (such as individuals with trusted Thai partners) can do well, buying into these and renting them to expat multinational employees posted to Thailand.
Prices do range significantly depending on land area, proximity to highways and public transport, and whether or not you choose to stay in the burgeoning number of housing estates. In one of these, 45 minutes drive from the city centre, a 300 square-metre house on a quarter of an acre of land will cost from 6-10 million baht (about US$200-300K).
Land is measured in wa (4m2), with 400 wa making up a rai (1,600m2). Putting a value on land along the Sukhumvit area is difficult, but it’s certainly out of reach of all but a few wealthy families or consortiums, and limited to Thai ownership.
While buying houses or land on the outskirts of Bangkok seems to be a growing trend, as it offers tremendous value for money, it still poses large problems for those that must commute daily to work. With the unpredictable traffic, commute times can often last hours.
Consider location and possible commute times, along with the price, when deciding where to buy property in Bangkok. There are numerous real estate agents (including Westerners working in the city) who can help seek out good houses in the Thai capital.
Assistance from Property Report – Asia’s leading real estate magazine.