If you plan on living or spending a substantial amount of time in Thailand, you’ve probably thought about buying an apartment. Now, I only mention an apartment as, in most cases, foreigners are not allowed to buy houses in Thailand only apartments, so that’s what most of us end up doing. Before you do decide to buy an apartment though, consider these important things.
Cost of Renting vs Buying in Thailand – Depending on where you buy an apartment, the cost can be expensive. If you’re in a smaller Thai town, and not in Bangkok or one of Thailand’s main tourist areas, you can buy a cheap apartment. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other tourist areas however, buying a western-style apartment can be cost-prohibitive when compared to renting. For instance, in Bangkok, an average two-bedroom apartment is now in the range of 5.5-6 million baht ($171,000 to $188,000).
When you compare that to renting an apartment, something similar can be rented in Bangkok away from the tourist areas for 16-18,000 baht a month ($500-$560) a month. Factor in the cost of buying an apartment, and can rent one for 30 years for the same cost as purchasing a low end one. As rents rarely go up in Thailand, your rent would stay around the same too. Put the rest of the money in the bank or invest it, and you’d make more money from the capital than you would from buying an apartment.
Purchase of Furniture – Many apartments you buy in Thailand, come without furniture. Or, if they do come with furniture, it may not be to your taste. Add another 300,000 baht ($10,000) to your purchase price for outfitting an apartment you purchase in Thailand.
When you rent, almost every apartment in Thailand comes fully furnished and some of the newer apartments are beautiful. With no outlay for furniture, you save thousands of dollars you can spend on other things or save.
Maintenance of an Apartment in Renting vs Buying – Many properties in Thailand are not constructed to western standards. After you buy an apartment and move in, you’ll start to notice all kinds of little and sometimes large problems, you have to get fixed. In new apartments, you’ll be covered under a warranty for a year for most things, but the hassle of getting a maintenance man to come and fix the problem can be very annoying. You’ll also end up paying for other maintenance problems as your apartment ages.
In a rented apartment, all maintenance is taken care of. In the higher priced buildings, where many westerners rent, maintenance is excellent with most maintenance problems being taken care of immediately and, of course, at no cost to you.
Security of an Apartment, Renting vs Buying – In many cases, buying an apartment gives you more security than renting one. You don’t have a landlord, so you can’t be asked to move and the price you pay every month won’t increase like it can in an apartment (although in Thailand it rarely does).
On the other hand, many westerners live in rented apartments in Thailand for years and feel completely secure. However, of course you’ll feel more stable in an apartment you own.
Thai Laws on Renting vs Buying – Thai laws are discriminatory for foreigners buying property in Thailand. Foreigners cannot own a house (as you’re not allowed to own land), and apartments can only be purchased by a foreigner if they’re above the third floor in an apartment building and in one that has less than 50% foreign ownership. Nobody seems to know why these apartment purchase laws are in effect for foreigners, they just are. Thai laws are known to change quickly too so, it is possible you’d buy an apartment than have a law change which makes it difficult for you to continue owning.
As for renting, foreigners can rent an apartment anywhere and these laws haven’t changed in hundreds of years.
It’s up to you whether you decide to buy or rent an apartment in Thailand. There are pros and cons to both. Living in Thailand though is a wonderful experience, so whether you decide to buy or rent – enjoy.