There is no denying the attractiveness of Chiang Mai. Witness the many tourists who come to this gem of Northern Thailand again and again; and the many foreigners who are increasingly seeing it as a retirement or long stay haven.
Those who wish to stay here for more than a few weeks, however, need to look into their accommodation options carefully. The basic question is: do you rent, or do you buy?
The idea of owning your own piece of Chiang Mai property is certainly very appealing, especially when you consider that you can buy a three bedroom house for a fraction of the price it would be in your home country. However, you need to be aware of some potential pitfalls.
Firstly, in Thailand an important distinction is made between land and what is built on it. No foreign individual can actually own land in Thailand, and this cannot be repeated often enough. It is certainly possible for an individual foreigner to own an apartment in a condo building, but it is not possible for a foreigner to own land in his or her own name. Land can be bought in a Thai spouse’s name, or in a company’s name, but you need to consult a lawyer for advice on this. Plus, you need to remember that freehold title in Thailand is not nearly as straightforward and transparent as it might be in your own country. Be warned.
Secondly, land and houses do not always appreciate in value in the way they might at home. Land is plentiful, there are no zoning regulations, houses here are not really built to last, and most Thai buyers prefer to buy new. This is something you need to take on board if you are looking at property as an investment. And if you’re thinking of letting property here, remember that while property prices are low, so are rental incomes.
This brings us to the alternative route: renting property. Here there are two main options to consider: renting a house in a gated community or moo baan, or renting an apartment in a condo building. Condos have the great advantage of normally being situated right in the heart of things, within easy reach of amenities and entertainment. The moo baan are normally situated some distance from town, which usually means the purchase of a car. The great advantage of the moo baan, however, is that rents are normally a lot cheaper. You can rent a fully furnished two or three bedroom house for the same price as a studio apartment. Both condos and moo baan normally have good security. It is not really recommended to rent a house in the countryside, as security can become an issue.
So; rent or buy? The obvious recommendation is to ‘try before you buy’. Rent first. Apartments for rent in Chiang Mai can be rented by the month, but owners of houses usually insist on an initial lease of at least one year.
Hope to see you here soon..!