Buying a Condo in Bangkok

Buying a condo in Bangkok is the second best decision I’ve made in my life. The best decision was travelling to Bangkok in the first place. Since coming here my lifestyle has changed dramatically and to leave would be absurd. Fortunately I never have to. When I first bit the bullet and put a down payment on the condo I had been travelling back and forth to Bangkok for close to 5 years. It was the only smart option to make the move more permanent. Now 5 years later my condo has gained 30%+ in value and I’ve enjoyed many rent free years. I love the lifestyle, security and options I now have while living here. Here is my experience and guide to buying a condo in Bangkok.

Location Independent Work, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Wind Sukhumvit Condos, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


Buying a Condo in Bangkok (Financial Crisis 2008)

In 2008 I bought a one bedroom condominium in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok. The property was ‘off plan’ meaning construction hadn’t yet started with better prices but of course higher risk. Using the help of Google and guidance from my agent Koong at Acute Realty the processes for buying a condo in Bangkok were simple. Again I can’t recommend Koong more highly, she was amazing and I owe a lot to her help, however having now left the company my more recent experiences with the company have been little better than useless (check bottom for realtor). I never once considered legal advice and rarely worried about my investment. I was buying a condo in Bangkok with one of Thailand’s leading high-end developers Major Development PCL. That being said when I bought a condo it wasn’t the best of times as I found when the 2008 financial crisis hits (known in Thailand as the Burger Crisis as it originates in the US). At this stage I had paid close to 33% of the final condo price. Worries crept in as global trading slowed along with construction progress and deadlines. Other big property players like Raimon Land (The River) were now in question with their finances tied up in the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers. Major Development (and my condo) were at the same time partly financed by AIG and they were also on the brink of collapse only to be bailed out last minute by the US Government. In March 2009 Major Development completed the project. At the time I was reassured that finance was available regardless of AIGs fate (possibly to ensure payments continued and the project stayed alive). I was buying a condo in Bangkok during the riskiest of times and would happily do it again. I now live in luxury in Bangkok while similar money in the UK would have bought me… nothing really.

Building Foundations, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Off Plan Property, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Infinity Pool Construction, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


Managing Exchange Rates

During the financial crisis the British Pound (GBP) was hammered and within weeks exchange rates dropped against the Baht (THB) from 1:70 to under 1:50. When I made full payment (the final 67%) exchange rates sat at 1:52.  It cost more than expected but I was happy to pay. I never considered hedging such a small investment as extreme circumstances would never have been predicted. At the time I always had the option to flip and profit from the initial 33% investment but my reasons for buying a condo in Bangkok was not for financial gain. My only goal was to live in Bangkok. I held onto the condo, paid off my small mortgage (in the UK) and in May 2011 moved to Bangkok, debt free and rent free. All worked out well.

Lifestyle Design in Bangkok, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Wine at Condo Pool, Valentine's Day in Bangkok, Southeast Asia


Buying a Condo in Bangkok from Outside Thailand

With a little help from my friends I didn’t need to be in Bangkok until the final transfer date. I had someone make reservation, I sent documents by mail, made international money transfers and had someone else make inspections. If you expect others to do your work you will need to give them power of attorney (written authorisation to represent you). If you have noone to assign in Thailand your agent may accept this role. You should be there in person for transfer of the condominium unit. Click here for full information on foreigner ownership for buying a condo in Bangkok.

Acute Realty Team, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Constructing Swimming Pool, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


The Process of Buying a Condo in Bangkok (Off Plan)

When making reservation you will pay a small fee (e.g. 30,000). The agreement will then be prepared (English and Thai) and signed by both parties – the buyer and the developer (by post if necessary). On signing the agreement the buyer pays a percentage of the price (e.g. 10%). The agreement sets out a schedule for payments and a transfer date. Payments will be made to complete a further percentage (e.g. 20%) and these will be paid monthly (e.g.  over 15 months). If the development takes longer than set out in the Agreement a small percentage will be deducted from final price. All receipts of payment will be recorded by the developers and a copy mailed to the buyer (very important). The final payment is completed at the transfer date. A one off  sinking fund will be included (reserved for maintenance or replacements) as will up front maintenance fees.

Wind Sukhumvit Floor Plan, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Swimming Pool Plan, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


Buying a Condo in Bangkok for Leasing

You will need a Thai Bank account. It is hard to send money out of Thailand and not having one puts off potential tenants. This will need to be set up in Bangkok. Siam Commercial Bank and Bangkok are two of the bigger banks to consider. To open an account you will need to show your condo ownership deeds.

 Thai Property Documents, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia  Inspecting Bangkok Apartment, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


What About Bills?

As co-owner of the building and facilities you will have joint responsibility for general upkeep e.g. cleaning, security wages, management services etc. You will therefore need to pay CAM fees (Common Area Maintenance).  These are often paid annually or half yearly. The fee is calculated as budgeted cost per square meter for the given period (total costs / total sqm). This is distributed evenly between co-owners depending on the condo unit size e.g. 50 sqm x 50 baht = 2,500 baht per month. This maybe be billed 30,000 per annum (x12). Bills for electricity, internet etc. are not normally handled by condo management and will arrive monthly to your mail box to be easily paid at a the 7/11. If you fail to pay for electricity you are likely to be cut off. Water is paid to the condo management. Check here for our full Guide to Living in Bangkok.

Wind Sukhumvit Gym, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Security Guards, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


Furnishing the Condo

After buying a condo in Bangkok you will need to furnish it.  If you have time, a decent budget and a flare for design the best place for furniture is Crystal Design Center (Lad Prao). For unique and interesting Thai pieces try JJ Mall and Chatuchak market. If you prefer to do it quick and cheap try MBK, 5th floor which includes the two large furniture outlets Index Living Mall and SB Furniture. There is also an Ikea (Bangna area). For bits and bobs such as light-bulbs go to Tesco / Lotus.

JJ Market Furniture, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Bedroom Interior Mapping, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


Problems after Buying a Condo in Bangkok

Once the inspection has taken place and ownership transferred all problems inside your condo unit are your problems. The management team have no responsibility other than common areas. Therefore inspection is very important before transfer. One problem I am currently looking into is the responsibility for damage caused after the transfer had taken place. In my case the plastic seal from a window in the empty condo above was loose, hanging down and blowing against my window. This occurred for months while I was not there and left deep scratches across my window. Not an easy problem to fix and after bringing it to the Condo management I was told my condo was outside the original 2 year guarantee. I am still uncertain of this.

Bushmills in Bangkok, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia Celebrations in Bangkok, Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand, Southeast Asia


Leasing and Property Agents

In early 2015 we embarked on new and exciting adventures meaning the condo would have been left empty for pretty much all of the year. As much as we didn’t want to lease the condo, it was the smart option to use it for income. So from our previous experience with Acute Realty we put our faith again in them which was very wrong. Not only did it take 22 stressful days to list the property but in 3 months they failed to turn up to take new photos as said, or find any interest whatsoever. The feeling was that this could go on for many more months with not one potential tenant. Therefore I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to the 2,209 people who clicked through from my site to them in the past and received similar enthusiasm. So after two weeks of nothing I realize putting my eggs in the one, uninterested, basket would be futile and instead I went to free listing websites such as DD Property and Prakard to get things started and I also ask the condo management to forward passing agents to me. This is when things started happening. New tenants were interested at least a couple times a week and in just under 2 months i accept a new tenant on a yield of around 6% of current value including 6 months up front payment from abroad. I’m happy with that. The agency who sourced the tenant was a new, lesser known company called Shambala Realty and more recently a small real estate company called DP-Services. To sum up the experience, I found that the well known companies were complacent while the independent and unknown agencies had a bit of hustle and interest about them. They really work for their money. I wish I could share them all but most contact was by phone so I never got their websites or company names. Although another which I did get help and info from was The Residence Rental. Note, the agent fee is the same with all (1 month rental fee) and they will continue to work as an in between for future dealings with the tenant. All worked well in the end after an idle and frustrating start.

Business Foyer Meeting. Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok Phrom Phong Em District Bangkok Heineken City Edition Central Bangkok

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  • johnny

    great article ,ate!

    • Cheers Johnny. Heard your pad’s pretty swank 😉

  • mr.cox

    awesome article. thanks for sharing

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  • Isabel

    Allan! I’ll be studying in Bangkok starting in January (I leave in 7 days) at Thammasat. I’m from Texas and have never been to SE Asia. I came across your blog while trying to make a budget plan. Great stuff! Are you still living in Bangkok?

    • Hi Isabel. I’ve known a few students to pass through Thammasat, they tend to be a bright bunch 🙂 Yes I am based in Bangkok but we’re currently in Xian, China doing a lot of eating. One of the perks of living in Bangkok is a quick flight brings you to some amazing places.

  • peijin

    so that whole having to buy after incorporating as a company or through some Thai national’s name is over? You can do the whole thing as a foreign individual now?

    • Buying property, incorporating as a company etc. is only necessary for houses and land. Foreigners cannot own land. It is no problem to own a condo as it is joint ownership of the land where it is situated. There is a certain % of the entire condo block. I think at least 50% of the units / space within a building must be owned by local Thai so there are limitations which are almost never met.

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  • freddy

    Do not buy in BKK – always rent.

    • Hi Freddy. Interested to hear why? I chose to buy and have gained 50% on my original investment. Other perks incl. initial rental income covering my loan interest and of course never having to pay rent. I’ve had other expats say similar but was only told “popular expats said not to”. The only argument I’ve found online is cost of capital which obviously depends on the individual cost of capital. Also are you talking in relation to investment strategy or lifestyle purchase?

      • samalolo

        Can you explain the initial rental income. Did they actually rent out your unit to someone else until you took possession?
        Very cool looking building by the way, is this Wind on Sukhumvit 23?

        • Hi Samalolo. This will be a separate service through the agents. Once the transfer is completed you can list the unit for lease through the agency. This normally costs one month rental per year for this service and is payable at the beginning out of the up front deposit paid by the leasee. I actually leased to friends of mine so cut out the middleman here. Yup Wind 🙂

  • Thomas Ow

    Hi Allan,

    just a quick question. Can one bring cash in baht into BKK physically to pay for the booking fee + downpayment 30%?

    Also, is there any hidden fee that you can advise? How about lawyer fee? is it included inside the selling price of the unit you pick?

    • Hi Thomas. I am not 100% on this (things may have changed or there maybe loopholes) but I do not think cash can be brought in and all receipts of payment must be recorded from abroad. From my experience I never found any hidden fees which weren’t set out in the the original quote by the agency (acute realty). This may differ with others and If not working with an agency you may need to pay an independent lawyer. Hope this helps 🙂
      A

      • Thomas Ow

        Hi Allan, thanks for the quick response.Have you heard of Plus Property as my agent is from there? Any feedback? I was looking at my quote, it is quite a simple and straightforward quote, which only list down booking fee, contract fee(30%), transfer fee(70%), maintenance fund, sink fund, pretty much that’s all. The agent also told me I can pay by cash for my booking fee as well as contract fee (30%).. wonder how true is that.

        • Sounds like the norm. Maintenance Fees (monthly payments) can change in the future but it’s no biggie. I am new to Plus Property but they do look legit. Maybe only the 70% is to be transferred from abroad, at the time I did this with the full payment. Worth a double check.

  • Zweibel

    I would like to do a similar thing, but am wondering whether my budget of 3-4 million Baht is sufficient. I would like to buy a single-bedroom or studio (off-plan) somewhere in the Sukhumvit area. Would you mind sharing some information on prices?

  • deedee

    Hi Allan, thanks for sharing. Would like to find out about your immigration status in Bangkok? Are you a resident and under what visa? I am looking to relocate to Bangkok to enjoy the lifestyle you describe, but am still in early stages of research.

  • Garrett Nothern

    Hi there. So I’m 28, and me and my girlfriend may be just about to come into a pretty decent bit of money (let’s say for sake of discussion 50,000 USD), and are starting to become really interested in investing this money in a long-term or vacation rental, and we are in love with Thailand, and consider it our “true home”. Having never invested in real estate, much less in a foreign country, I’d love to do this but am nervous. Do you still consider it a wise choice? Where can we turn to for help. I checked out the realty page you linked, and am not seeing your agent listed in staff. Are you still working with her, or the agency? Totally green here, any pointers would be much appreciated.

    • Garrett Nothern

      Also, we’ve looked at what look like some amazing places for about 2.7m. In your experience, can this secure a place that is structurally a sound investment, or am I falling under the spell of the furnishing and great photos?

      • If you can’t see yourself (as I couldn’t buying off plan) be sure to buy with a reputable company or developer. Otherwise it’s a risk. Just spoke to koong and she’s no longer acuterealty. She’s happy to point u in the right direction of the better there, let me know and I’ll send her email.

        • Garrett Nothern

          Awesome thanks for the tips so far. As we get closer to our return to Thailand in the next few months I’ll be gearing up, may definitely want to get in contact with her soon.

          In your experience, do you see a lot of places that mask structural sketchiness with flash? This caught my eye, but the price seems oddly low. Promise this won’t turn into me throwing you ten links to look at a day, just seeing if I can glean any insight on how it works over there with an example.

          http://www.letapartment.com/propdetail.php?id=5518

          • I’m honesty clueless with these things, the main reason I went with a reputable company. Some of the main developers, off the top of my head, from luxury to budget “Raimon Land, Major Development, Sansiri, Golden Land, Ideo, Lumpini”. My personal favourite developers would be Noble.

          • Yeah, that listing is confusing. Looked a bit closer and the size is 23 sqm which is tiny. Seems it’s only a bedroom maybe within that complex. A 1 bedroom condo should be roughly 50sqm +.

    • When I originally bought it was more of a lifestyle purchase than investment.. but it did turn out as a good investment. Sounds like your considering this from both a lifestyle and an investment opportunity, for lifestyle I would say definitely, for investment alone I’d be 50/50 right now, this normally depends on cost of capital etc. which doesn’t seem an issue for you. I’d say yes do it, but don’t blame me if it goes wrong 😉 Having done it myself it’s made my lifestyle unimagineably better. I would hold off however and watch the current political situation, the economy and Thai Baht are taking a hammering right now so confidence is low. If the political situation gets back on track you could probably snatch a place while the exchange rates are in your favour. Hope this helps 🙂 A

  • Jerry

    Hi Allan, I am looking to invest in a ppty in Bangkok. Could you refer me to Koong?

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    I have no expertise in coding but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways,
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  • newarrior

    spammed

    • newarrior

      As a final word of caution, I ran this article by someone who had been in the industry in Thailand and this is what he had to say. These are his unedited words. “I wouldn’t buy ANY property in Thailand. Of course, I could never say that when I was in the realty business!” Can you ask for any more vindication than that?!

      • Note I am in no way telling people to buy property just talking about my own experience and answering if people ask. Re your realty friend, I know many people who work and have worked in real estate that also own property(s). Your friend would need to provide more details on reasoning.

        Read that SM article which was full of generalizations, talking about situations from 10 years ago and goes back and forth between Bangkok and Pattaya. It concludes with that expat general paranoia ‘don’t put money into Thailand’ as everyone is out to pinch their hard earned pennies. He says why he wouldn’t in his circumstances and I think his main point is cost of capital where the near 10% interest he was offered was a little absurd. Mine was a 1/3 of that and many buyers may have cash in hand. The main argument for investment. He then says there will be no capital gains which is very wrong in Sukhumvit and other locations (maybe not Pattaya). My condo has gained near 50% in 5 years just 1 example. The other point he makes is selling condos can be tricky but again this post is about long-term not short term investment, and with the right location it’s not really that hard. Supply / demand etc. In short the SM argument says if you’re paying high interest, have no long term plans in Thailand, and are clueless about location, then it might not be the best investment, and I couldn’t agree more. But every circumstance is no doubt different.

        • newarrior

          Allan: All good points..I’d be looking at a condo as something too live in when I get old “if” I settle in Thailand and an investment..When I am back in the States I’d like to rent it out; when I am back in BKK I’d live in it..Thoughts ? Dave

          • I’ll know more about this soon (January). We’re planning to lease our condo and use the rental income to live in different parts of the country. In theory we could retire with property income in places like Chiang Mai where rental prices are 1/4 of central Bangkok. We are expecting an approximate yield of 7% pa before agency fees and tax but how long it takes to find a tenant remains the main factor holding us back. We’re fortunate to have other property (out in the sticks of Thailand) to live during this time. Will add a full post on this at a later date. A.

  • And how much did you actually pay for the apartment (all together)?
    Its always bether to took in numbers 🙂

  • Zion

    I am only 24, I have a thai girlfriend. She’s staying in chiang mai. Will be visiting her in the Feb. I am intending to purchase a condo in bangkok but under my ownership. However, does they allows installment or do we need to pay a lump sum? I am very interested in getting the condo by this year.

    • Hey Zion. Apologies for late response, we’ve been travelling in China. I think when buying off-plan property it is normal to pay in installments, otherwise I think you’ll have to pay the full sum up front. The best way to pay installments is probably through a loan or mortgage. Hope this helps. A

  • Guido Crpax

    Hi Allan, you condominium building has 220 units, of which 40 units are currently for sale and 60 for rent according to hipflat.
    There seems to be such a huge oversupply on the condo market. How can you be confident that anybody could actually sell anywhere near their asking price?

    • My condo is up for lease, and potential sale at the moment, but not on Hipflat, so this could be a low estimate. At the same time Hipflat looks to be a free listing service where people can list and lease, then never bother returning to update the status. I’ve seen similar with Prakard, DD Proprty etc. where listed condos are no longer available. Regardless the asking price has risen 30% since completion and it continues to rise. From what I’ve heard speaking to management the turnover is normally between one and two months for lease the condo and they told me I should get more than I had planned on leasing for leasing condos and the management have nothing to gain, they just manage the building. I think with agents (over hipflat etc.) there is more chance of creating sales as they are more proactive. Regarding sales, I’m a bit clueless with the current situation but the demand for these areas will always higher than elsewhere in the city. Will update how I get a long on this. Fingers crossed. A

  • Chris

    How negotiable are the developers with prices (off plan) with 20 months to completion?
    Can you haggle at all?

    • It will depend on the developer but I managed to get a small percentage down although they did need to “speak to their manager” etc.

  • Pailin

    Condo For Rent The President Sukhumvit , Near BTS Onnut, Building B, 7th Floor, one bedroom, 34.75 sqm. 17,000 Baht/Month.

    Fully
    Furnished – Built-in kitchen, hood. , 2 air conditioners, washing machine,
    refrigerator, TV, microwave water heater, Sofa, bed, mattress, pillow,
    wardrobe, desk

    Facilities –
    swimming pool/ fitness / parking/key card

    Contact 089 924-2855
    or 092 693-3232

    • Hi Pailin. I’m not going to take this post down as I haven’t anything against you advertising independently but, please remove it once the condo is leased.

      • Bernard Tan

        its been 2 years! I hope its leased.

  • Jerry

    Hi Allan,

    thank you for all the information you have shared here. Very insightful. I have a couple of questions here and I was hoping to hear your opinion on it.

    1) how do you know that your condo value increased 30%? Is there some thai valuation property website that estimates this for houses in thailand?

    2) I read that foreigners can only own up to 49% of a condo project. In the event that you wish to sell your condo one day, does this mean u can only sell to a foreigner?

    Cheers,
    Jerry

    • Hi Jerry. With the 30% I just used historical value (when I purchased) against the present value.
      With foreign ownership no more than 49% can be owned by foreigners (needs to be majority Thai ownership). Rarely will it be this high anyway. You can sell to anyone in other words if you are foreign it will make no different to the %s. There can be 0 – 49% foreign ownership etc.
      Sorry about late reply btw. Was nipping around in Japan. A.

  • Simon

    Hi Allan,
    I recently bought a condo at Sathorn and now it’s listed for
    leasing it out. However, I have been waiting for 5 months kept my fingers
    crossed but nothing is happening by far. I find your experience quite
    inspiring so therefore I am hoping to seek advice from you. I have already sent
    emails to Shambhala and Theresidencerental. Are there anymore agents that you know are more interested in renting out my condo? Sorry to bother
    you, but it’s been 5 months already…

    • Hey Simon. I was sweating after 2 months so fully understand. Think the best thing to do is contact the condo management team and ask them to share your property with agents looking at other units. They’ll already have people interested in the condo.

    • SLOBeachboy

      Try airbnb. That seems to be what everybody else is doing these days. In fact there are so many listings on there in places like Phuket an Pattaya that it would take days to go through them all.

  • Steve
  • أحمد حنفي

    Thanks Alan for the insights.

  • FredT

    Hi Allan,
    Great blog! Very useful information even if it’s a few years old. Like to know if you are familiar with Selling of Condos? I purchased a new unit from Sansiri about a year ago and am thinking about selling it instead of leasing.

  • SLOBeachboy

    Its nice to finally see a positive article on buying a condo in Thailand – as well as one that is focused on buying one to live in rather than just as income property. Most of the stuff I’ve read has been pretty negative and it is always geared towards investors. Apparently the huge majority of people who buy condos in Thailand are just buying them as an investment and not to live in.

    Anyway, in the past I’ve always rented when living in Thailand but when I retire there in a few years I am planning to buy a condo. Of course, the way I see it I don’t really have any other choice but to buy. This is because I have calculated that over a 30-year period (assuming I live that long) I would pay at least twice as much in rent as it would cost me to buy a similar condo and I simply don’t have that extra money. So if I were to rent a place I figure I would either have to die 15 years sooner than expected or I would have to pay much less in rent, which means living like the average Thai person does.

    The other reason I have to buy is that I will be living on the coast and unfortunately 99.9 percent of all the units I see in these areas in my price range are hideous eyesores that I would never be comfortable living in. And they are often laid out in a manner which suggest that the designer had no understanding of even the most basic principles of architecture or interior design . This means that I would have to completely gut any unit that I buy and redesign it myself from scratch. And naturally I cannot do this unless I am the owner.

    I don’t know why there are so many well designed ultra-modern looking condos in Bangkok that I would be happy to live in but then when you go someplace like Pattaya, or even Phuket, you have places with such ugly interiors that it actually makes me nauseous. I guess they figure that the kinds of people who want to live near the beach are just not very discerning or sophisticated people.

    Well actually you can find some nicely designed places in some of the new condos that are currently under construction in these areas. Unfortunately the units in my price range are way too small in these building though (I need at least 60 sq. meters). Also I don’t really trust the developers to finish the project the way it looks in the renderings, or to finish it at all for that matter. Its sounds like you had very good luck with your developer though.

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