Life in Thailand is generally easier. Everything is cheaper, slower, and the weather is better. Investing in property is something that many do, and many succeed in, but buying here is not without risk. Let’s look at whether it is better to buy or rent in Thailand.
The law is not set out in favour of foreigners, as we are not legally entitled to own land. We can however own the house that is built on the land, and a lease for the land, but what good is that in the long term as an investment if the Thai owner can reclaim it 50 years down the line.
Foreigners can own condos, which is good, but unless you get something in a prime location with a sea view, they generally don’t hold much resale value, as Thai people like to buy new, and there is always new development going on. If you are looking for a well maintained environment with great facilities however then this may be for you. What you gain in amenities is often lost in privacy and general ‘space’ however.
The key in buying property here then can boil down to trust. If you find a wife you can trust then buying in her name is a piece of cake, although much anecdotal evidence suggests that finding a Thai wife you can trust is a lot easier said than done. You will also have to consider what happens in the eventuality that the worst happens. If you break up its all hers. If he dies before you, then you will be given a year to stay in the house, and then after that you’re out.
There are also legal ways around it, where a lawyer will set up a Thai company for you that you own 49% of and the other 51% is owned by your ‘business partners’ who are usually a collection of random village people who lend you their social security number for the sake of legality. They then relinquish any of their rights to the company and you, or your lawyer hold all the power. I know this works, but it all feels a bit fishy and is questionably against the law.
There is also the issue of where to buy, what type of house, what will be a sound investment in the long term. There are many gated communities, or ‘moo baans’ that come with a good price, shared pool and fitness, and regular maintenance. However this maintenance cost can be comparable to if you were renting anyway, and what happens when a few people in your village stop paying the maintenance. Their plots start to look weathered and overgrown, and that has a direct effect on your properties resale value.
The best bet if you can afford it, is to buy land and then build yourself. Again this comes with risks such as cowboy builders, language barriers, and quality of construction. If you are building the house you will stay in for the rest of your life, then it is perfect. If you are building with a plan to sell, then you may need a bit of luck.
Or you can skip all this hassle altogether and rent. The property market in Thailand is less than sound, and a lot of the value depends on location. There are plenty of people who have done all the hard stuff for you, and renting is affordable and gives you time to decide if Thailand really is for you. The number of people who come here and then leave succinctly is pretty damn high. Furthermore, you can move around at your own behest. Spend a few months in Hua Hin with a pool and find you actually don’t swim that much, then downsize and save a few pennies. Realise that Phuket isn’t for you and you need somewhere quieter and more secluded, then try out Koh Phangan for a bit. Flexibility is key with renting and the variety on offer is astronomical.