My wife Vivien and I bought a beach-town home in Thailand’s Royal resort, Hua Hin. It had been a long-held dream to retire early overseas but purchasing our house wasn’t all plain sailing. So here’s some lessons we learnt along the way…
1. There’s no multi-listing websites like we were used to in Australia. Here, most estate agents, have their own website and list all available properties they can find—even if they are not the authorised agent. Owners may also list their property with several agencies. This means agency websites are often not an accurate reflection of what’s actually available.
2. New houses or apartments are priced at a premium. Thai people, where possible, prefer to purchase property new. We assume this premium pricing is targeted to them—or foreigners with limited knowledge of the local system. If you are happy to look at ‘pre-loved’ properties then there are lots to choose from.
3. Get to know the informal marketplace. Local “Buy & Sell” type Facebook groups are very effective. Expat communities rely on their connections to find out what’s happening and to spread the word. These are also invaluable sources for rentals or properties for sale.
4. Prices are always negotiable so look around and get a good sense of what styles and ages of properties are worth and negotiate accordingly. The developer’s reputation locally will also give you a good idea of the build quality.
5. Stand-alone houses like ours that are not in a gated community are usually connected directly to the town water supply and the electricity grid and invoiced as per the meter directly from these companies. In gated communities the developer puts in the water and electricity infrastructure as part of the development. Water may be from a local bore or their own dam and the development may not even be connected to the town water supply. Electricity supply comes through meters overseen by the community’s mangers who then invoice residents at an inflated rate. Residents of these gated communities often have additional fees for the maintenance and upkeep for the overall facilities. All of this adds up to significant extra costs above purchase price and normal yearly cost.
6. At the outset, make sure you engage a solicitor who is fully conversant with Thai laws and the legal system and has your long-term interest as a focus throughout the whole purchase process. We’ve heard stories of local solicitors who happily ‘tick the boxes’ to get the paper work done but do not actually do the ‘due diligence’ they have been engaged to perform.
7. And although we were not so good at following advice—we were looking to buy after only a few months in a rental property—we still believe people should rent first to get a sense of the marketplace.