Chiang Mai is a city of temples, art, and the rich Lanna culture of northern Thailand. It’s also my home, and the home of tens of thousands of other retirees from all over the world.
Not many people know that the domes you see scattered around the city—called stupas or chedis—are actually reliquaries. They have a secret bell shaped chamber just before the spire in which ancient Buddhist relics are kept.
The more time spent in Chiang Mai, the more secrets are revealed.
Some chedis are simply crumbling brick-like structures. This is one of the reasons that the architecture in Chiang Mai is so fascinating. Structures can be over 700 years old or yesterday’s freshly painted latest thing.
Over the last eight years there has been a building boom, in and around the Old City. Just a short decade ago, there were only a few large-scale condos but today there are many. The market is driven by Japanese, Korean, Chinese, American, English, and Australian investors.
Some folks buy condos to live in, taking advantage of the non-immigrant yearly retirement visa. Others rent their condos to other expats as a passive investment and some have made a killing flipping older condos, adding new bathroom tiles, a lick of paint, and a washing machine.
The Nimmanhaemin area, named after the main street, has been the hottest district for property for years now. It has a boutique village style feel and is very popular with expats and short-term renters. The area is packed to the brim with trendy bars, cafés and is overflowing with gorgeous yet affordable dining experiences.
You can still find older style condos, with more floor space but that are architecturally a little dated. More and more you’ll find new one-bedroom condos in buildings with small gyms and cute lap pools. Older condos in the area go for as little as $52,000 with a rent of $272 per month and the newer buildings, usually one bedroom are selling for around $75,000 with a rent of $450 per month.
As Nimmanhaemin has become established and trendy, the smaller area close by called Santitham is now gentrifying. It’s on the cusp of becoming the “new” Nimmanhaemin. The shop fronts are not so fresh but it is reminiscent of an older, more charming Thailand. Restaurants are very cheap and just a few new condo developments are established. A small, one-bedroom apartment with all the mod-cons will set you back $60,000 and there is a steady stream of renters who will happily pay $300 per month. These condos also come with a resort-style communal pool and gym.
Another popular area for investments among expats is the Changklan Road area. This street contains the lively Night Bazaar and it’s a hub of tourist activity. New luxury condos are a feature and are in close proximity to expensive resorts and hotels. Also handy are markets, blocks of sizzling street food and a wide choice of music venues. Small one-bedroom apartments are selling for around $90,000 and are extremely popular with expats who are prepared to spend more money for a touch of class. Rentals average at around $700 per month which include roof top gardens and swimming pool.
Before making any decisions, it is well worth investigating the body corporate strata fees. The older style condos have annual fees beginning at $300 and more modern condo strata fees can be up to $550.
Prospective buyers should also look out for value for money with regards to the fees. A good corporate management will use the fees for regular general upkeep. So when you are looking to buy, look at the details. Are the gardens well maintained? If there is a pool, is it clean and hygienic? Has there been a fresh lick of paint in the foyer/entrance? These are all indicators that the management is putting your money back into the building.
It’s a standard feature that properties come with furniture. Even at the most basic level you should expect a fridge, microwave, bed, and TV included in the price. More contemporary condos may even include a washing machine and dishwasher.
The best news is that all prices are negotiable. It is customary to banter over the price and that includes government taxes. In most cases, the owner and purchaser pay the taxes 50/50. The taxes vary depending on the age of the unit and on average you would expect to pay under $4,000.
Last thing, you’ll also find great bargains just a little bit outside of the city, say 10 minutes’ drive. It’s possible to get a studio apartment for as little as $22,000 but if your plan is to rent it out think twice. For investors looking for a passive income, locations close to food, shopping malls, and the Old City will fare better.
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