Should You Buy a Property in Thailand?

South East Asia has always had a special appeal for me. I first began spending time there about 5 years ago. I love the organised chaos of the roads in Bangkok, the food that is cooked right in front of you, and the haggling at the markets. Amazing.

Altogether I have spent over 3 months in Thailand and I have so many fond memories, add to that the fact that it is halfway to Australia and QANTAS offers a stopover of only 45 minutes which gets you to Oz quicker. It’s a great destination.

I usually spend a week stopover on the way back to the UK. It gives me a break after 2 gruelling weeks with the family and friends and the 2 hour massages for around £7. What more could you want? 🙂

So naturally l thought if I’m spending so much time here l might as well buy a property. Then naturally if I am prepared to buy and have done extensive research why wouldn’t my investors also buy as well?

Having looked into Phuket property before the tsunami, I thought I would check out Pattaya (pronounced “Pat-e-ya”) which is only around 1 hour 20 minutes drive from the new international airport in Bangkok (the capital).

Pattaya is a seaside town (tick-These ticks and crosses are my due diligence) with a new highway which will mean it will only take around 45 minutes to get to and from the airport. (tick).

Pattaya has 3 distinct property markets.

The first is the local market. The properties are priced between 1 and 3 million Baht (70 Baht to £1) So £15,000 – £45,000. Sounds good right. Well maybe not. Unless you are a local it’s unlikely you would buy at this level.

You could only rent to locals and the investment returns I don’t feel would be great enough. (Cross)

The second and most interesting market is the 20 to 30 million Baht. £285,000 – £430,000. Incredible you say? Well thats what I thought too. In fact forget incredible — l was downright shocked. But this is the market of the off plan speculators. In my books, another word for ‘speculator’ is ‘gambler’ and hopefully you know by now what I think of gamblers.

I do believe you can make money on these, but only by ‘flipping’ before completion but obviously there are no guarantees with prices already so high. Incidentally, this market has seen an incredible amount of growth so that waterfront apartments are as expensive as central London, Sydney or New York. (Cross)

I feel that this market has been driven by paper gains rather than underlying fundamentals. I see this happen quite often, and it’s one of the reasons I deal in properties 99% of people would rent.

The final level is the 5 to 9 million Baht. So £70,000 – £130,000. This is the retirees’ and expats’ market. You would be more than happy with these houses. 3-4 Bedrooms, large open spaces, ensuites, parking and best of all – air conditioning.

These I feel would be ideal for investment and present your best opportunities. (Tick)

Rentals are great as a lot of major multinationals have offices in Bangkok and the expats are happy to commute up daily or it’s cheap enough to rent a place in Bangkok during the week while spending the weekend home in Pattaya. (Tick)

As an investor in Thailand the first thing you have to realise is that you cannot own land (Cross) so at present you have two choices: either buy in the name of a Thai company and have Thai nationals who own it (but you have a signed deed saying you can replace the Thai nationals at any time). It’s a reasonably secure way of buying.

The other way and the way that is becoming more accepted is a freehold/leasehold similar to what we are use to in the UK. A lot of new builders are structuring ownership this way property for sale in Phuket Thailand.

BUT… The Thai government has an unfortunate habit of changing laws so you may find yourself at the wrong end of a change. They made a decision early in 2006 that effectively stopped or severely curtailed foreign ownership (Cross) and the stock market began to spiral downwards so rapidly that they changed the law back by day’s end. This sort of government backpeddling is a potential warning sign. (Cross)

The problem Thailand faces is that the King is getting old and may one day pass the throne onto his young son who is renowned for irresponsible antics. So no one really knows just how he will take to the position of King or whether the people will take to him. This could cause an instability in the investment market. (Cross)

One of the biggest things overlooked when inexperienced investors seek out exotic new investment regions is how to get your money back. Oftentimes the capital growth is fantastic, so your £20,000 investment doubles and doubles again (so you now have £80,000). This is a paper profit until you actually sell it or remortgage it.

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