Real Estate Investments in Thailand

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Poppey
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 9:35 pm

Buying and Selling Thai Condos Off Plan

Many condo units are sold by the developer before or during the construction period. Buyers enjoy steep discounts by doing that, and the developer gets easier access to loans along with the ability to say their project is “selling out”. It usually takes between three to five years for a condo building to finish construction from the time sales first begin. Because of this, there’s a market in buying Thai condo units off-plan and selling them at a profit when the building is near completion. You can purchase and transfer the right to buy a condo unit after construction is finished. It’s not necessary to wait until construction finishes before offloading your property. Or at least its sales agreement.

To reserve a unit and sign the contracts, you often only need to make a down payment of 10% along with another 10% gradually over the course of a few years. Installments are payable on a monthly basis. Across a period of several years, property values can appreciate significantly. There have been cases of people buying Thai condominium units off-plan and selling the contracts years before completion at premiums above 100%. But it also has inherent risks. The worst-case scenario is that you must abandon the contract, lose your down payment and any installments.

That could theoretically happen if, for example, Thai property values fall substantially or you don’t have enough liquid cash available to complete the transfer. While the second scenario would be ones’ own fault, the first one happened en masse during the Asian financial crisis.

Additional Expenses

A condo in Thailand doesn’t have an annual property tax payable on them. With that said, any condominium will have an annual management fee for the building’s upkeep, electricity costs, staff and cleaning. It’s not a tax. Yet that’s still money you must pay every single year when owning real estate in Thailand. The precise cost of a management fee depends on your building’s size, density, and standards. If you’re buying a mid-range Thai condo, expect to pay about 500 baht per square meter every year.

When transferring property, there’s a 2% fee based on its government appraised value (which should be lower than the price you paid for it). Typically, half that fee is paid by the buyer and half by the seller. A stamp duty of 0.5% must also be paid upon transferring any real estate in Thailand. Stamp duty is usually paid by the seller.

However, if a property is sold within 5 years of being acquired then a “Specific Business Tax” of 3.3% is instead payable. If a specific business tax is payable, then stamp duty does not need to be paid and you’ll instead pay that higher 3.3% fee.

If you choose to rent out your property in Thailand, rental income taxes are extremely low as there are many deductions. Your exact amount of tax payable will depend on any deductions allowed. More often than not though, rental tax isn’t greater than 5% and sometimes far less. If you ask most local landlords, they will probably say they don’t calculate or pay the tax and no one ever bothers them.

Security Issues

Thailand has rather strong property ownership laws (at least compared to most other places in the region) and a secure, computerized title system. So you shouldn’t have any issues with the government. If a problem is going to come up at all, it’s going to be from the condo development company, real estate agent, or seller.

There are about two dozen large property developers in Thailand with a solid reputation and many completed projects under their belts. You likely won’t have major issues with developers of this type – at least not a problems that they won’t eventually fix. But you’re in more dangerous territory if you’re dealing with smaller companies. Any developer should have at least a completed project or two that was built to good standards with satisfied customers.

I strongly recommend getting a third-party inspector after your property is built and ready to be transferred. It’s rare for a condo unit to be transferred in perfect condition with absolutely no problems at all. Thai inspectors will know what to look for and can add value worth far more than what you’ll pay for their services. If the inspector finds defects, the condo developer will fix them free-of-charge. Almost all condo developers give a warranty period of at least a year or two. Yet they are eager to fix problems if you mention them when money is still on the table, before transfer occurs.

Where to Invest in Thailand Real Estate

Thailand is a rather large nation of almost 70 million people. As such, there are hundreds of cities, towns, and resort areas that you can purchase real estate in. Keep in mind that foreigners may only own condo units which leaves out smaller towns and villages for non-Thai property investors. However, you still have many options elsewhere.

Bangkok, a city of more than 16 million people, is the capital of Thailand and the largest city in Indochina. If anything happens or business, economic, or political importance, it goes through Bangkok.

Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, also isn’t a bad place to buy real estate. But while a lot of foreigners are scooping up condos in resort destinations like Pattaya and Phuket, I think investors should completely avoid tourist areas for reasons discussed further below.
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Poppey
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 9:47 pm

Bangkok Lumpini Park Area
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Bangkok Real Estate Investments

For centuries, Bangkok has served as a main entry point for foreign traders and businessmen into Southeast Asia. While the city has obviously changed since the 1700s, its current status as one of Asia’s most important cities is no different. Bangkok is so large that several of its neighborhoods have their own “sub-markets”, each with their own norms, occupancy rates, prices and outlook. Centrality and access matter more than anything. So buying a property in Bangkok’s suburb of Bangna is completely different than buying one in the prime-city center area of Lumpini. It’s not practical to cover every one of Bangkok’s neighborhoods in a single article. Thus, only a select few areas will be mentioned. General rules exist for buying property anyway in Bangkok though.

Real estate located closer to a BTS Skytrain station will be worth a premium as high as double or triple that of a similar property which isn’t. Condominiums located next to the MRT subway line also go for a premium, albeit not as much when compared to a BTS station. A condo unit that’s located 100 meters from a central mass transit station is unlikely to be sold for below 200,000 baht per square meter. When a condo building is located 500 meters away or above from a mass tranport station, the price premium is reduced by as much as half. It vanishes altogether for property more than a kilometer away.

Lumpini Park

As arguably Bangkok’s most exclusive area, Lumpini Park and its surrounding streets (Wireless Road, Soi Langsuan, etc.) are also some of the most expensive neighborhoods of the city. New property developments on Wireless Road, for example, have been known to reach prices as expensive as 500,000 baht per square meter. The reason for these high values is that Lumpini is incredibly central, yet also rather quiet and leafy. Streets are manicured while Lumpini Park – inner Bangkok’s largest green area – adds a sense of calm hard to find elsewhere in the CBD. Wireless Road’s embassies help make the neighborhood safe, less noisy, and spacious too. The American, Vietnamese, and British embassies among others are all nearby. But Lumpini is located between prime areas despite its relative serenity. Namely, the business districts of Silom and Sathorn, the commercial center of Siam, and the many dining options of Sukhumvit. You won’t ever have problems finding a BTS station in Lumpini, needless to say.

Silom | Sathorn

Silom and Sathorn districts are where most of Bangkok’s finance institutions and multinational companies are based. As such, the areas are popular with both wealthy locals and expats who work in Bangkok. Because it serves as Bangkok’s main central business district (CBD), prices are obviously high. Those who live in Silom and Sathorn enjoy easy access to the rest of the city center though. A variety of international restaurants and other amenities are always within walking distance. Real estate values on the part of Silom that’s north of Narathiwat Road are among Bangkok’s most expensive. Yet prices become cheaper if you’re looking west or south of the Narathiwat intersection.

Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit is one of the longest roads in the world. It not only extends from Bangkok’s core to its outer suburbs, but eventually runs all the way to the Thai-Cambodian border. However, Sukhumvit is more famous for its portion that lies in downtown Bangkok. Specifically from Nana up to Soi Ekkamai and its BTS station. That strip of Sukhumvit is certainly Bangkok’s most popular expat area. Countless restaurants serving up everything international from Argentine to Japanese food helps Thonglor, Asok, and Ekkamai’s “hi-so” reputation. Moving southeast along Sukhumvit towards On Nut, these Thai neighborhoods become much more local. You can own a condo located in outer Sukhumvit for under half the price of those in its “downtown” section. With all that said, suburban Bangkok is experiencing an oversupply of one-bedroom units. So you’ll probably do better buying a large condo downtown.

Ratchathewi

Ratchathewi is arguably Bangkok’s most central district. They have three different BTS stations going through the neighborhood along with an airport rail near the corner of Sri Ayudhya and Phyathai Roads. Furthermore, Ratchathewi district is directly north of the Bangkok’s commercial hub of Siam. It’s also directly west of Thailand’s political center of Dusit. Despite these factors, prices here are lower than in other core locations. Occupancy rates in Ratchathewi are some of the city’s highest too. The feel of Ratchathewi is a lot more local and you won’t find as many expats as you would in Sukhumvit or Silom. Yet the area is close to government offices like the United Nations and is just a stone’s throw from elsewhere in central Bangkok. Victory Monument and the nearby Soi Rangnam in particular is Ratchathewi’s most desirable residential area. The King Power Complex, Bangkok’s biggest duty free mall, is on that street along with dozens of restaurants and stores.

Riverside

Some foreigners, retirees and second home owners in particular, choose to live on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. You can enjoy scenic views from luxury condos located on the riverside. Generally, the west side of the Chao Phraya has lower prices. This is because of easier access to Bangkok’s central business district (CBD) from the east side. Residents living on the river’s west side also must either drive across a crowded bridge or take a boat in order to get to Bangkok’s city center. Bangkok’s river has malls, hotel branded residences, and some of the city’s soon-to-be tallest buildings being built on it right now. However, occupancy rates along the riverside are already low even without them. In the meantime, both the public and private sectors are rejuvenating the area with countless developments of all types. Time will tell whether they can bring the river back to life.

Chiang Mai Real Estate Investments

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city, yet it’s significantly smaller than Bangkok with just around 2 million people. As such, the sheer variety of condo projects you would find in Bangkok (remember: foreigners can only own condos in Thailand) don’t exist. Most local buyers in Chiang Mai live in houses or other low rise structures. Nonetheless, Chiang Mai is one of Asia’s most popular small cities for retirees, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads in particular. Even though you’re unlikely to have well-paid tenants working for multinational companies. Chiang Mai and its property market is arguably better for Airbnb and other short term rentals than Bangkok is. If you’re willing to put forth additional effort and don’t mind the hassles from essentially being in the accommodation industry, it could prove fruitful here.

Pattaya | Phuket Real Estate Investments

Our guides usually don’t include destinations we don’t recommend investing in. Yet due to the popularity of investing in Pattaya and Phuket, we’ll give an opinion on their real estate markets as a foreigner. Even if our opinion on these two resort cities isn’t a positive one. People oftentimes come to Thailand as tourists, visit Pattaya and Phuket (among other places), and decide to buy a condo in one of these two cities. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying real estate in Thailand most popular beach areas if you want to live here. Don’t be mistaken though: Real estate in Phuket and Pattaya is not the best way to invest in Thailand at all.

You may not lose money buying in Phuket – although that’s a distinct possibility as well. It’s just that tourist areas are too subject to “flavor of the month”. Southeast Asia enjoys plenty of beaches. The sole factor distinguishing Pattaya from Kui Buri (a quiet beach 50 km south of Hua Hin) is where people chose to live and vacation. Pattaya | Phuket have off-seasons and are often plagued by low-occupancy rates. They lack the “staying power” of Bangkok which has multinational companies and a steady flow of well-paid expats. Again, there’s nothing wrong with buying a condo in Phuket or Pattaya if you only want to live here. But the primary purpose of an investment is to make the most money possible with the least risk. Doing otherwise is a huge mistake.

Fearful of a repeat of the 1997 financial crisis, the central bank has tightened regulations on mortgages. The Bank of Thailand has put a brake on the property market, with a focus on speculative buyers to prevent a repeat of real estate crises. On April 01.2019 it started enforcing a tougher set of rules on real estate mortgages called the LTV – loan to value ratio – requiring buyers of second and third properties to put more down-payment on their purchases. The LTV ratio on an individual’s first property purchase remains unchanged at 0-10 per cent so that first-time buyers of houses and condo units are not affected. But the ratio on a second property purchase is raised to 10 per cent in the event that buyers have been paying instalments on their first mortgage for three years or longer.

If the payback on the first mortgage extends less than three years, the ratio on the second mortgage is raised to 20 per cent as a means to mitigate the credit risk, especially among speculative buyers. For a third property purchase, the LTV requirement is raised to 30 per cent when the buyer still has to pay back the first and second mortgages.

Obviously, these new rules are friendly to neither property developers nor speculators, whether Thai or foreign, but they are seen as a preventive measure to curb the development of property-market bubbles.

In 1997 Thailand plunged into its worst financial crisis in recent memory, largely triggered by the bursting of economic bubbles, including those caused by over-investment in the property sector. Lessons were learned and precautionary measures were prepared to prevent another crisis that might be prompted by a systemic credit risk left unchecked. According to the central bank, 2012 and 2013 were the golden years for the Thai property sector, whose profits and returns on assets as reported by listed real estate firms jumped to a high of 9-10 per cent per annum, up from the previous 6-7 per cent. High profitability led to the entry of new players and further expansion of existing ones, while the relatively low interest rates in Thailand also played an encouraging role in boosting the supply of homes.

For property developers, the cost of funding was therefore favourable to launching new projects. For speculative buyers, there were opportunities for short-term profits. Since 2012, most players have been reluctant to slow down because their market share could suffer, resulting in the unstoppable accumulation of more homes waiting to be sold. The last two or three years have seen a buyer’s market, with developers going all out to chase less affluent and lower-income buyers with all types of sales promotions. In addition, developers have begun tapping more foreign buyers, especially the Chinese.

So the demand side has dwindled, leaving developers with second- and third-tier potential buyers as well as speculators whose capacity to borrow and buy is comparatively low, while those with actual demand had already purchased amid rising household debt. Banks have also been struggling to maintain or boost their profits, competing aggressively for mortgage loans despite the rising credit risks. Some lenders have given customers loans beyond their full value (with an LTV ratio above 100), plus an additional or top-up loan. While the lenders’ risks have significantly risen, some believe property prices will continue to rise and the collateral will be sufficient to cover bad debts. That could be wishful thinking. As of now, prevention is probably better than forging recklessly into another crisis.


Hua Hin | Real Estate Investments

With everything said about Pattaya and Phuket above, most of those things don’t apply to Hua Hin. Perhaps you’re wondering why. Hua Hin is much less built up than other Thai resort cities. It will probably stay that way due to the nearby Royal Palace. Most importantly, it’s also a lot better fed by local demand. Take it from someone who got his business degree at Thailand’s best university and can speak Thai: the wealthy locals (there are more than you might think) love having weekend homes in Hua Hin. Yet the locals are less likely to own real estate in Phuket which is too far away, or Pattaya which is too rambunctious. Quite simply, if Chinese and Russians stopped vacationing in Pattaya then its property market would die. Hua Hin boasts a type of sustainability and domestic growth that other Thai beach destinations don’t.
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 10:15 pm

Thailand Property Investment | Visa and Residence

It is possible to get a one-year investment visa, renewable indefinitely, by investing at least 10 Million THB in a Thai condo. You can also qualify though buying stocks in Thailand, bonds, mutual funds, or a combination of any of those assets. In fact, I’ve applied for and received a Thai property investment myself. Bangkok serves well as a regional base in order to travel to different frontier markets such as Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Thus, I invested in Thailand and received a long-term visa.

With that said, Thailand’s investment visa is not the best residency program in Asia. Malaysia’s MM2H visa program is less expensive, simpler, and grants you more benefits. Meanwhile, you can live in Cambodia indefinitely and get a visa there for only $300 per year. However, I didn’t go through the program solely for investment reasons. I bought property in Thailand because I enjoy spending time there. It’s a convenient hub considering what my job is, along with the amount of time I spend in frontier markets.

Conclusion

Thailand’s strategic location puts it an hour flight from four different high-growth economies. Specifically, those frontier markets are Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. Such a fact not only makes Thailand a great base for the Southeast Asia region,. It also benefits the Thai economy itself by letting them “piggyback” on less developed, fast-growing neighbors. Property in Thailand might not have the best capital appreciation prospects in Asia (we believe this title belongs to Cambodia). With that said, the real estate market has proven very resilient over the past ten years or so. Furthermore, Thailand’s Baht has been one of Asia’s top currencies. It has fluctuated even less than established currencies such as the Singapore dollar or Japanese yen in the past decade.

Property in Thailand, along with the nation’s currency and economy, has a rather low tendency to crash in a recession too. That makes it ideal for risk-averse investors who nonetheless seek exposure to emerging market assets. Thai real estate values held their ground throughout the 2008 Financial Crisis. Prices have even doubled in certain areas of downtown Bangkok like Ratchathewi and Thong Lor since the coup back in 2013.

Interesting times lie ahead in Thailand’s future. Yet the nation’s economy boasts a long history of bouncing back and reinventing itself. This was true during times much more uncertain than now.
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