Home Ownership

Ten Quick Steps to Plan for Home Ownership in Thailand

The truth is that there are a few people who didn’t plan and whoare perfectly happy about it.  They jumped on an airplane ina cold, industrialized place where they had lived all their lives,showed up someplace in Thailand, pulled out the checkbook, bought ahouse and never looked back.

If you’re not that kind of person who can do this, you may alreadyknow who you are. At the supermarket does it take you fifteen minutesto decide which tomato? Do you find it impossible to pick a shade ofpaint for the dining room? There is, however, a vast group in betweenthe two extremes already mentioned, who want to make rationaldecisions, but don’t want to spend years doing it.  Ifyou’re thinking of buying a house in and maybe even living inThailand, what do you take into consideration?

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” George S.Patton (1885 – 1945)

Forgetting the violence, which was Patton’s stock in trade, theidea is to come up with something practical that won’t take lifetimeto implement.  So we’ve come up with the top ten-planningissues that you should focus on while you’re going through the processof buying a house in Thailand.
They are:

1.  Do you want to live outside your home country?
Talk to your parents and your kids about this.  Are some ofthem so full of life emergencies that you can’t afford to be away fromthem for long periods? Are they too frail to visit you on the otherside of the world? Do you have lifelong friends you don’t want toleave? It is important to know with whom you will be associating as anexpatriate.  While you’re here looking it over you shouldget to know people in the local community.  Theprofessionals you meet should be able to introduce you to people likeyou who have been here a while. Make the effort to get to know some ofthese people in an informal setting.  They will be able totell you a great deal about what it’s like to livehere.  And what they don’t say is even morevaluable.  What kind of people are they? And if you don’twant to be stuck in an enclave of foreigners, ask your professionalsto introduce you to Thais in your profession or church or with similarinterests.

2.  Can you afford to?
Budgeting is an art and the more time you spend on it the moreaccurate it will be.  At a bare minimum, you should take thefollowing into consideration: First, calculate your income andsavings.  Then factor out: a) Yearly internationaltravel.  How many trips to your home country do you plan tomake? b) Health insurance.  Does your home country health orretirement plan cover you? If not, for full coverage here in Thailandfor a healthy person, figure around 5,000 baht a month.  c)Cost of the house you will buy.  d)Utilities.  For a single telephone line, water and lightsfor a three-bedroom house in Thailand, figure 6,000 baht a month,mostly in electricity.  e) Localtransportation.  If you will buy a car you should expect payone-third to one-half up front and then a monthly payment of 15,000 to25,000 baht for an inexpensive new car.  If you’re usingtaxis or tuk-tuks figure 7,000 to 10,000 baht a month per person. f)For food, figure 20,000 baht a month per person.

3.  Visa.
If you’re over fifty, you can get a retirement visa to Thailand simplyby showing that you have 65,000 baht a month in income or 800,000 in aThai bank. If you’re less than 50 or plan to work you should get awork permit. If you’re married to a Thai, you can reside in Thailand without working,but must have a work permit if you plan to work.

4.  Visiting houses.
Don’t consider buying unless you’ve visited more thanfive.  Try everything in those you’re interested in, lookingfor all defects.  If there are defects, note them and havethem fixed as part of the purchase contract process.  If youaren’t sure, ask someone to introduce you to a local builder orcontractor (not the one who did this house) to inspect it for you andcompare it to others in the price range and area.

5.  Don’t forget the neighbors.
When seriously considering a house talk to at least two closeneighbors about the city, the development and the houseitself.  If they are Thai, get someone to translate foryou.  Neighbors are amazingly forthcoming-about everything.

6.  The developer.
Ask anyone in town-professionals, the neighbors, foreigners you meeton the golf course about the builder and the seller. Our experience isthat feedback on developers is like that on lawyers-for their ownreasons practically no one wants to rave.  But if you talkto enough people, you can get a realistic picture of whether thisperson or company is fair, stands by its commitments and is timely.

7.  Get a land title report.
It should tell you who has title, so you can make sure you’re payingthe right person, and can register what you buy with the landoffice.  It should also give you an idea of the assessedvalue of the property.  Also, any expropriations, such asplanned roads through it should be covered.  If there areclaimants to the property, the report should reflectthis.  Details of the building permit and the zoning shouldalso be included.

8.  The contract.
If it’s a lease, it should provide that if you die during the term ofthe lease, your heirs will inherit the lease, otherwise it may revertto the landlord.  It should also provide that you can assignthe lease and, if the taxes are paid, the lease with extensions startsrunning anew.  It should also say that if Thai law changesand allows foreigners to hold land on a freehold basis that thelandlord will allow you to change to this, provided you pay theexpenses involved.  The contract can provide that you ownanything on the land, including a house, even if you are a foreigner.

9.  Registration.
A lease isn’t enforceable beyond three years if it’s not registeredwith the land office.  Thus yours should be registered assoon as you have paid for it.  The registration fee for alease will be about 1.1 percent of the entire lease price.

10.  Change.
“It is a bad plan that admits of nomodification.” Publilius Syrus (~100 BC)
Change is one of the immutable features of life,anywhere.  You must, therefore, try to look to thefuture.  Where will you be in ten years? There are so manyfactors that may affect this reality: marriage, divorce, health,frailty or death of a loved one, to name only a few.  Itisn’t that you can cover all bases in this regard, just know and beready for change.  If, for example, you have to move back toyour home country for a few months to take care of an aged relative,who will handle your affairs here? What if you die in Thailand? Willsomebody take care of your affairs, your assets and your Home Ownership? All of this is better done with a little advanced planning than at the lastminute.  Once you are living here, establish a circle of friends and professional contacts that will enable you to respond tothe challenges of life. That’s the way to achieve affordable housing

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