Rent or Buy in Thailand

I see this issue come up many times on this forum and also others, and I thought I would provide my views for people to consider.

Firstly - an Expat cannot own any property on land (house) in Thailand - period. The best they can do is buy a house and pout it in their Thai partners name and then get an 'agreement' to be able to stay in the proeprty for their life - if divorce or death happens. BUT unfortunately, that legal 'lopphole' is not as strong as some people state it is - it can be (and has been) overturned by a local official/court when the divorced wife or her family after death decide to get the Expat out. In Thailand there is the laws and then there is the law - long story short, nothing is locked down. Each Province has their own laws and how they are enacted and interpreted in every local Office and Court is a case by case scenario which the Expat NEVER wins. 'Title' in Thailand for an Expat aint the same as Title in the west - the whole legal and regulatory framework is massively different and some unfortunate Expats have found that out the hard way. And no matter how much your wife loves you, if she dies then the family will want the money from the property that is in her name. They may well wait for you to pass on, but they also may not - especially if someone is going to lose their farm because they borrowed money for a new truck, or one of the family has lukemia/cancer and they need money to pay for all the treatments. They can sell the property to another Thai and then the new owner can decide to try and 'cancel' your right to occupy, and if they are a wealthy Thai with family members in authority, then all I can see is 'good luck mate'.

And I almost forgot - DOGs - yes dogs - they are a massive problem in Thailand - stray dogs (soi dogs) are everywhere - Thais let them live as they like - they get 'merit' for leaving food out for them (go figure). They sleep most of the day and often bark and fight at night - and sometimes they are very agressive and dangerous when you try to walk past them in day time. We moved once because of just that issue alone - ear plugs only get you so far, and although I am not scared of dogs like some people are, I know that if 2-3 of them attack you, then you are in trouble. In Thailand many people and kids are attacked by dogs, and some even killed - but they still let it go and do nothing about it. Violent and noisy dogs are the 'elephant in the room' when it comes to living long term in Thailand. You wont see them near the tourist resorts - but they are everywhere where Thais live - and they are the main reason why gated communities have walls and guards. And CATS - yes cats too. Thais dont use 'kitty litter' - try to find some in the Thai shops. They let them go 'wherever' - and if your house/condo roof or gardens is where they go, then they will not stop coming over and leaving little gifts - and that urine smell - arrgh. And that is one of the many things that sets off the dogs barking at night. If you do own a property then get a dog - the smell alone will keep most of the cats away.

Yes an Expat can buy a condo (apartment) and own it outright - as long as less than 50% of the total property is owned by Expats. But the dangers and downsides are numerous - far too numerous for me to go into here. The 'property' is the thing to check - look for a place where other Expats own many of the condos, and that has a manager that does the job (not sleep all day). And use an Expat focussed lawyer and an 'agent' that speaks fluent English. Go slowly and be very very careful. And always remember that your 12 month annual extension process that you have to go through with Immigration, takes no account of the fact that you own a condo - none whatsoever. You are legally a 'long term tourist' and it can be cancelled at any time - so stay out of trouble - it is hard to quickly sell a place when you are in trouble. And there are just as many ripoff Expats scamming other Expats, as do the local Thais. As one Thai bloke told me once - 'Bob, we Thais are always scamming each other, so why should we not scam a Farang?'

IMO renting is the best most viable option in Thailand, especially if you are looking at a lower/middle level house to live in. There are so many things that happen to you in Thailand and Expats have little/no legal rights. You can walk away from a rental - but you cant walk away when you own - from the karaoke bar or the small chicken farm that has been started next door - or the neighbours who party on the road until 2/3am many nights - or the pack of dogs who sleep next door in the vacant land - and just wait until someone dies and those 'celebrations' go on for 3-5 days - and Thais have their music up very loud - very very loud. And there are so many other problems that can and do arise now and then when living in Thailand. When you rent then you can up and leave. And if you do rent a good place, then you can stay for many years - and if after some years you decide you want to buy the place, then the landlord will consider that - for the right price.

The truth is that the more you pay for a property, the more 'secure' it is likely to be for an Expat, and the more likely you will be not to have problems with the neighbours and all the other issues as above. IMO the best place to rent a house (and maybe buy in wife's name) is in a middle class gated community that has a manager and guards that patrol the grounds. But remember, that means you have to pay monthly fees, and you have to pay for all the repairs and damages. That is what many Expats dont realise - in Thailand, especially houses - they are constantly in need of repairs. Everything breaks down in Thailand - the weather is extreme and it is very very hard on properties. Thais dont have garages because the doors break down - everything breaks down in Thailand. Own the place and you must pay for all the repairs and damages - new airconditioners are a very common thing. A mate of mine loves his house, but the amount of time and money he spends fixing things (bi-annual painting of the whole house) is a pain that I dont ever want.

I did a financial spreadsheet on renting versus buying a $200K (4.5M Baht) house in a gated community. When investing the $200K I found that the returns over time will pay for the rental - and up to about 12 years I am in front based on NPV. If the analysis is done over 15 years then buying is usually the way to go. Under 10 years then rent - over 15 years then buy. The costs to buy and sell a property in Thailand can be a fair emount of money that most Expats dont include in their thoughts (like maintenance) - the taxes and duties and agent fees and lawyer fees are not cheap at each end - plus all the other Govt fees and charges. When I showed the wife how much money she would have after we bought and then she sold after I passed on, versus investing that money in a Superannuation account in her name that she can draw down upon at any time (small or lkarge amounts), she no longer wanted me to consider buying a house. That was despite any tweeking up or down of those 3 main factors - within reason.

However, having said all that if the AUD to Baht changed to 40 Baht per AUD overnight (now 23 - average is 26), then buying is the best option because at 23 Baht the 4.5M Baht is 200K, but at 40 Baht that amount is only $112K - that is a huge 'discount' not to be passed up. The ideal situation is the rent while the AUD is low, decide it is a great place to live, and then buy when the AUD increases massively to highest ever levels :)

Rent for a while - 2-3 years - fully check out the location and the property and what other options exist - then think closely about whether you really want to buy and own all the negatives and positives - and check out the exchange rate before buying.  Except for the USD, the Thai Baht is at historically (25 yrs) high rates against all the main currencies. IMO it will drop back down once the Junta is no longer in power - now is not the time to buy for most Expats who have money, but not lots and lots of money.

Thank you that is a lot of good information.

On the other side of things can you lend any

Insight as how to go about selling a condo?

I live in Patong, Phuket and own a 41 sqm


looking to come to hua hin for 3 weeks from 6 jan, is there a decent local website for apartment/villa rental to use please

Hello gatorman320,

You can check the Housing in Thailand section where you will find a list of properties for rent.

You can contact the owners/agencies if you find anything that interests you.


Yoginee team


Greetings from Pattaya, Thailand. forgot the other way to get rid of the debt or the obstacle in the way of getting the house... kill that person. Extreme yes, but Thai will "often" kill another thai in order to remove a debt or get that property. Sadly.. even sons killing parents! Occasionally foreigners are also killed for the same reason.

@scbrock I would approach one of the Expat focussed agents that are owned and/or employ Expats. Right now property prices in Phuket are going up, so maybe wait a little bit. I figure next year, all things being equal and Thailand post election is OK, then Expats will start to return to Thailand. Thais are reluctant to buy a place owned by an Expat - and selling it by yourself in Thailand can be very difficult and complicated.  I would find an agent that is focussed on Expats, and of course get an Expat focussed lawyer - one independent of the agent. I dont know anything much about Phuket properties etc. but there is an Aussie who has lived long time in Phuket, Tim Newton. He is an honest guy and he has a youtube channel adn a website - maybe approach him via email for some advice.

@gatorman320 Agoda or Expedia work fine in all of Thailand.  You could try Airbnb but they are a risk in Thailand and IMO not worth it for a short holiday. 

@1happykamper  Unfortunately that has happened in Thailand to Expats. It is very rare, but it does happen.  And the local Police are often as useless as the proverbial on a shovel - they will take an envelope to 'look the other way,' or right it off as suicide as it would be too much work to investigate.  Be very very careful of living with and marrying the wrong Thai girl if you are an Expat. The vast majority of Thais are good people, but there are some very bad ones, and with the slack/incompetant police and courts in Thailand, they can get away with ripping Expats off, and they can even get away with worse sometimes.

@AussieBob99 FIRST, thanks for all of the insight.  I'm tempted to buy at this time with the value of the baht being what it is.

I had a lawyer SPECIFICALLY, tell me that the LAND must be owned by the Thai spouse, but that the EXPAT can actually OWN the house (physical building).  That concept would be great for getting financing from home under that condition.  HOWEVER, now I am confused.  How can I get clarification?

We were talking about building in Chiangmai.  I assume rules and laws are the same everywhere in the country.