First rule of Thailand:
NEVER tell anybody how much money you have.
Please understand that a person out of college, with a 4 year degree, works about 13-14 hours a day, 6 days a week, for about B6500 a month ($200 usd).
When people work all day for 100 baht - 200 baht, they really don't want to hear that 10 dollars (300 baht) is not much money to you.
Next, Chiang Mai has great living environments. The Area I would recommend for you is near the airport and going from there head to Ban Tavai. You will love Tavai and road enroute.
Currently, many hotels in Thailand are converting into serviced apartments, but, they were not designed to be serviced apartments, so the rooms may be a bit small. But the amenities are great. You should expect to pay a rate of 20-30,000 baht a month including maid service, breakfast, and utilities (phone, TV, Cable, Internet) included.
A "budget" of 700,000 usd for a lifetime? That is a lot. Budget about 1,000-1,500 usd a month for thailand. This is quite comfortable.
Any real property that you purchase will be difficult to sell later, so don't be too eager to buy. You can rent.
Renting in Thailand has many avenues. The best way to rent is to ask around and learn the prices. Thai's will try to milk you at first, it's fun for them. rent, and if you want to buy, ask around. The other thing you should do is get a law office to help you, answer questions, and advise you. Hiring an attorney out the door is a good idea, and will save you a great deal of money and mistakes later.
Oh, in Thailand, foreigners cannot own land. The exceptions are limited to what I explain below:
1. Americans only have an Amity Agreement, which allows us to own corporations in our name. The corporations can own Land.
2. Royal gifts and decrees, such as BNH Hospital in Chiang Mai is a royal decreed land ownership to foreigners. Since the King is above the laws, and they honor past kings decrees, land has been given in Thai History to foreign ownership. This can be.
3. According to Thai Law, if you marry a Thai woman, and she owns land her name, which has been acquired by her own money, no tricky money, but HER money, she can bequeath the money to you in her will, and you can own the land in your own name for the children you two had. This is Thai Law, but the LTO doesn't cooperate and it's never been done, to anybody's knowledge.
4. You can own a condo in your name, but only if the total ownership is greater than 50% Thai ownership. So, if it is now, or will be later, an expat owned building, you might have problems.
5. Renting is possible, but if you sign a contract with a Thai for 30 years, and they need money, they can transfer the paper to another person, who can void your contract with the first person in order to protect their financial interests.
6. You will need to be fluent in written and oral Thai to get Thai Citizenship, and go through a process which is not easy or guaranteed to succeed.
7. You are entitled to own a "house" in Thailand, but it won't include the land upon which it sits. When something happens, you can always go dismantle your house and take it someplace else (which has been done many times), but the land will remain. The house itself can be yours.
8. Renting from a Thai is always a good idea. You can rent very nice houses in Chiang Mai for 10,000 baht or less, per month. Don't pay more than 15,000 for even a very big house. Serviced apartments run expensive. Also, when it is hot in Thailand, you will want air-conditioning, which means you will live in one room which you can afford to air-condition during the day and probably many nights, so the size and beauty of your home may be a moot issue. Also, water on your property, like fountains and pools will only attract mosquitoes, and may be more of a pain then you imagine.
We want to retire in Chiang Mai in few years, coming from France.
Can anyone advice us about the best places around Chiang Mai to build our future home ? Our budget is about 700 000 US$.
We'd like to be close to a golf and a wellknown international school. We like quiet place, but not too much isolated...
Olivier & Lydie