The Thai man handed me the keys and I opened the door. I had just bought a condo in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I almost couldn’t believe I had done it!
The room’s white tiled floor made it feel large and cool. The queen-size bed, generally standard in condos in Chiang Mai, had a simple bed head, which would work with any style of decoration. There was also a modest dining room table for two, a fridge, microwave and a white tiled shower/toilet.
Being on the ninth floor meant that I could see a cityscape and some distant mountains. My own safe world in a foreign country. It was blissfully exciting. It was a 38-square-metre studio apartment and it was mine.
That was 10 years ago. Little did I know it back then but this street was set to become one of the most popular in Chiang Mai. I paid $28,000 for my condo and for years it lay quiet, save for our occasional family holidays.
Eventually, I realised that I could rent it out and make a modest income. These days it rents out for about $380 per month to Westerners who are planning to live in Chiang Mai for at least six months. This adds up as I usually let it sit in the bank until I need the money for travel and such.
I have always had a passion for real estate. I imagine it comes from an old Australian tradition of looking at property. I recall as a child, my grandparents urging me to jump in the car to look at a new estate being built nearby. Years later, property became my route to early retirement when my husband and I sold up in Sydney and bought more property in Thailand, including the townhouse where we now live. The units we rent out provide us with an income stream that lets us live a great life here.
There were over 600 condos built in and around Chiang Mai last year alone. Although I am not looking to buy any more property, I still love checking out the latest constructions around the area. For me, one of the most fascinating features of rental properties in Chiang Mai is that they all come furnished and more often than not, that includes cutlery, plates, linen, cooking appliances and a T.V. Renters really get their bang for their buck here.
Nimmanhaemin Road is an upmarket part of Chiang Mai where lots of expats choose to live. There’s a major shopping centre, Maya Mall, close by and what seems like a billion groovy eateries in the area. Rentals here can be found for as little as $160 per month—but that’s for a small studio that won’t have a kitchenette but will have a ‘dorm room’ kind of feel. An average price is more likely to be around $400 per month for a studio which includes a pool, kitchenette and often WiFi too. For something in this range, check out Hillside 4 on Huay Kaew Road.
If you’re looking for a two-bedroom condo, the price increases to around $720 per month in this same area. The Sky Breeze condo complex offers a green view—it’s close to the leafy campus of Chiang Mai University—a marble bathroom and flooring, a galley kitchen, balcony and pool. This complex is about 15 minutes’ walk from Nimmanhaemin, but it’s a pleasant stroll.
The advantage of the Nimmanhaemin area is the hub of eateries and vibrant feel. It’s popular with tourists and the university students lend a youthful vibe to the area. The downside is that it happens to be under the flight path of Chiang Mai Airport. I’ve lived in the area and it really didn’t bother me, however I had friends to stay that did not appreciate the noise one bit!
An area that seems to go unnoticed but is well worth a look is the Changklan Road/ Ping River area. It’s possible to get a lovely unit here with river and mountain views. There is a large local market nearby for fresh fruit and vegies and the prices are competitive. I particularly enjoy this area because of the old feel of the aged teak buildings along the Ping River, it feels like ‘old Thailand’ and the food scene here—a great blend of street food and high-end eateries—is thriving. The disadvantage of this area is that the streets can flood in the wet season, but the worst-case scenario is that you’re forced to stay in your apartment for a day, until it subsides. Hey, it’s all part of the Asian adventure!
Doi Ping is an older condo, but in a slower-paced area near the river. A large, one-bedroom 64-square-metre unit here will set you back a mere $740 per month. The complex includes a pool and gym and the apartments feature Western-style kitchens. It’s located near the tourist night markets— but far enough away for you to enjoy a quiet life—so there’s plenty to occupy you in the evening.
So often I meet new expats at the Chiang Mai Expat Club breakfast and they always ask me where’s the best place to live. I smile because I have lived in about five different condos around the city and I have absolutely loved every single place. Wherever you choose, you will find a 7-Eleven close by to buy bread and milk and a little fruit and vegie market just around the corner.
My best tip is to only sign a six-month lease until you explore things a little more. You just might choose to head into the country or decide that a small house in a moo baan (an enclosed estate) might be more to your liking…especially if you want pets…