The ultimate guide to buying property in Thailand.
In this definitive guide, we show you how you can plan and successfully buy property in Thailand as a foreigner.
By Teerawin (Win) Thaviwatkhongsin
Read our definitive guide before buying property in Thailand
We all know about the temptations that Thailand has to offer, including exotic beaches, great healthcare and local food that cost nothing compared to home.
It’s not surprising why so many foreigners decide to purchase a property in Thailand to use as a retirement retreat, or just a place to spend a month or two every year, keeping it as a substitute to savings in their bank.
Maybe you have already decided to purchase a property or just want to learn more about real estate in Thailand. Whatever your goal might be you need to do some due diligence beforehand.
In this article we will cover all the items you need to know, before making any decisions to buy property in Thailand.
Can foreigners buy property in Thailand?
Indeed foreigners can buy property in Thailand, lets look at the types of property a foreigner can buy and their procedures.
Buying a condo or villa?
Foreigners mostly prefer to purchase a condo or an apartment in Thailand because it's easy and straightforward to own them as freehold.
The benefits of condos are often general worldwide:
- They are easy to maintain
- Easy to rent out and sell
- Less expensive than houses with land
- Have access to facilities such as a gym, pools, and supermarkets.
Condo or apartment ownership in Thailand in general, and in Phuket specifically, is efficient and easy to understand. Every project will have a percentage quota for Freehold and Leasehold:
- at least 51% of the project will have to be owned in Leasehold Ownership or by Thai citizens;
- remaining (up to a maximum of 49%) of the project can be in Freehold Ownership by Foreigners
This quota is calculated by the total area of the project (square meters).
As a foreign buyer, you can choose either Freehold or Leasehold ownership. Each property buyer will have 2 choices regarding their ownership when purchasing property in Phuket or in other provinces of Thailand.
This option is where you own your property outright forever and you are able to sell your property to the next buyer in Freehold Ownership.
Some buyers get confused, so to avoid further confusion:
If you own property in Freehold Ownership, you own all 100% of your property solely as a foreigner in Thailand.
The ownership fee will cost each buyer in the region around 300,000 THB (less than US$10,000) paid one time with most projects. The registration fee when the unit is transferred from the Developer’s name to the buyer’s name is calculated at 3.3% of the purchase price.
For those who are not familiar with what a title deed is, it’s a document showing that you own the property and all the rights it brings.
Strata title is used for multi-level apartment blocks with common areas, such as pools and gyms.
If you’ve ever been to the UK, you might be aware of the Commonhold, or if you have been to the US where they have the Condominium systems.
Buying and Selling Off Plan
Many condo units are sold by the developer before or during the construction period. Buyers enjoy steep discounts by doing this, and the developer provides easier payment plans along with the ability to say that their project is “selling out”.
It usually takes two to four years for a condo building to finish construction from the time sales first begin. Because of this, there’s a market for buying units off-plan and selling them at a profit when the building is closer to being finished.
To reserve a unit and sign the contracts, you usually need to:
- Make a reservation fee of a few thousand dollars
- Make a down payment of 15-40% after the first week.
- Pay the remaining amount in three to five installments, that is usually linked to the construction progress
- Make the final payment of 5 - 20% with getting the key to your new condominium
Some developers in Bangkok, especially big ones, can provide a payment installment plan.
Also, in some cases, you may have a right to transfer the condo unit during construction or just before it was finished. This is an option to flip your purchase contract to another name. Please refer to "Pre-Sale & Flip"
Over a period of several years, property values can appreciate significantly. There have been cases of people buying units off-plan and selling the contracts before completion by as much as a 100% markup.
Purchasing a Villa
For foreigners who want to reside in less bustling areas, maybe closer to the ocean, a villa can be a preferred choice. We also hear from some customers, that they prefer a villa just because they used to live in a villa in their home country. This is a question of habits and lifestyle.
Since owning a villa means also owning land, there is no straight way to have freehold ownership of a villa by foreigners in Thailand. So, what are the options?
You can own a villa in leasehold ownership, in a very secure way.
Leasehold ownership is where you own your property for at least 90 years - 3 periods of 30 years each. Each buyer will go to The Land Department every 30 years to renew their ownership. There is no ownership fee to pay with the Leasehold option and if you did decide to sell your property then the new buyer would take on your property as Leasehold Ownership. The registration fee when the unit is transferred from the Developer’s name to the buyer’s name is calculated at 1.1% of the purchase price.
Buyers that are planning to have their property for a long time will often opt to go with the Freehold option. Buyers that have the intention of selling their property within the first 10 years will often go with the Leasehold option as it is cheaper. Both options are safe and very convenient for each buyer.
Buying property with the help of a spouse
Another option is to let your Thai spouse/husband buy the land and in turn, let the person lease the land to you.
This might feel safer as you have a more close person to rely on. However, beware that if you file for a divorce, your property might be treated as a separate asset from your Thai spouse.
Setting up a limited company to buy property
Another option is to set up a limited company in Thailand, like in the US. The property can thereafter be purchased by the company you opened.
The issue, also, in this case, is that foreigners cannot own more than 49% of a limited company in Thailand.
This specific option is not straight forward and there may be a lot of details. For example, some nationals, like the USA, can own a company in Thailand fully. Another option is to have a BOI (Board of Investment) license, which also provides a right to own a company by foreigners. We strongly recommend advice from qualified property consultants and or a lawyer, who can suggest the best solution for your specific case. Sometimes it’s worth putting in that extra effort if you plan to stay in Thailand for a longer time and want to investigate different options and destinations for the right decision.
Buying land as a foreigner in Thailand
A foreigner cannot own land outright. Owning land is similar to owning a villa since a villa comes with land. Please refer to the above sections.
How Much are Property Taxes in Thailand?
Unlike some European countries such as Spain and Cyprus, there are no general residential property taxes (capital tax on property imposed by the government) in Thailand.
As a foreigner owning property in Thailand, you pay ZERO property taxes.
However, there are cases where a property tax does come into effect as described below:
Properties put to commercial use (residential houses not 'owner occupied' and commercial buildings) must under the Building and Land Tax Act pay a 'rental' tax at a rate of 12,5 % of the annual rental value or the annual assessed rental value, whichever is higher. The annual assessed rental value is based on a calculation method over the appraised value of the property (land, house, apartment). If anyone leases property at a rent lower than a reasonable rent, the amount could be adjusted and the lessor could be taxed on what the rent should have been.
It is the property owner's responsibility to inform the local authorities (Or.Bor.Tor or local municipality) and pay building and land tax before the end of February each year
Owner-occupied residences are exempt from building and land tax (only for the first property, the second or more properties are not automatically exempt). Not regarded as owner-occupied is a situation where a foreigner owns the property through a Thai juristic entity (Thai limited company) and uses the house as his holiday home or residence. If the land and buildings or any other improvements are owned by a company and used for residence by the foreign director the company is required to pay building and land tax, irrespective if the company receives any income out of it.
Condo fees, maintenance fees, common expenses
The expenses of the condominium under the Thailand Condominium Act relate to maintenance fees and are each owner's share of the costs incurred by the condominium juristic person in maintaining and managing the condominium. It relates to the common expenses of the condominium.
Why do owners of condos or apartments in Thailand have to pay condo fees? Because common expenses, maintenance fees, or condominium fees are the payments each owner makes to cover their share in the management and upkeep of the condominium. It covers the use of electricity in the common areas, window cleaning, pest control, pool, concierge, security, insurance, etc.. The condo fee for each owner is based on the size (square meters) of the owner's unit (the Condominium Act describes it as the ratio of the freehold in common property). Larger units in the condominium building have a higher monthly fee than the smaller-sized units.
Typical maintenance fee in Thailand is in the range of 40 - 80 Baht per square meter.
The condo's sinking reserve fund
A reserve fund or sinking fund is set up by the condominium juristic person to cover major repairs and upgrades of the building. The reserve fund in Thailand is at the start of the existence of the condominium in Thailand a one-time payment (separate from the monthly fee). This fund is meant to cover the major repairs and upgrades of the building.
Property Purchase And Transfer
While there are several preliminary steps, the most essential step is the transfer of property from the owner or developer to you. Often the contract for the purchase of the property will specify how the property is to be transferred. The property transfer will generally take place at the land office where the ownership of the property will be registered upon the conclusion of the transaction.
If you buy property from a developer before development is completed, the transfer of property takes place upon the completion of your property. If the property has already been built, the transfer of property takes place once the installment payments have been completed in accordance with the signed contract. The remaining balance of the purchase price is usually paid on the day of transfer at the land office.
Taxes And Transfer Fees
In addition to the balance of the purchase price, you may also be liable to pay certain taxes and transfer fees.
Generally, the Buyer will be liable for the Transfer fee and the remaining types of taxes are borne by the Seller. However, it can always be negotiated between the parties how the total amount of payable tax and duty is rationed among them.
- Transfer taxes - The land department levies 2% of the property value based on the value registered.
- Withholding tax - 1% of the appraised property value will be levied (explained below).
- Special business tax - This is only payable if the property is sold within its first 5 years of ownership and is levied at the rate of 3.3% of the appraised value.
- Stamp duty - A total of 0.5% of the registered value will be taxed.
- How much of these taxes will be paid by the seller and how much will be paid by you, the buyer, should be negotiated before going to the land department and written into the sales contract.
Income Tax (Withholding Tax) From The Sale
Income from the sale of the property is subject to Thai income taxation. The land department will withhold a prepayment of the property seller's gain from the transfer of property registered. The rates differ between natural and juristic persons when:
- the property seller is a company, the withholding tax is 1% of the sales price or 1% of the assessed value, whichever is higher.
- the property seller is an individual, and the withholding tax is calculated on a progressive income tax scale.
Is Buying Property in Thailand Safe?
Thailand has rather strong property ownership laws (at least compared to most other places in the region) and a secure, computerized title system. So you shouldn’t have any issues with the government.
If a problem is going to come up at all, it’s going to be from the condo development company or seller. Therefore its always best to conduct your due diligence and ensure that the development company adheres to regulatory standards and provides the following information :
- The development is EIA certified (possesses a building permit)
- What are the rules and regulations of the condominium in question
- Who manages the condominium and what are the management charges
- Project portfolio (previous development constructions)
- If there is an adequate quota for foreign freehold ownership (remember only 49% of the condominium block can be owned by foreigners)
- How long has the developer been developing properties in Thailand and what is the developer's registered share capital
- What is the payment schedule and are payments held in escrow till transfer (payment to the developer prior to delivery has risks and disadvantages)
- Which architectural company has for example been appointed to design the property and which construction company has been contracted to build the condominiums
- How many condominiums are being built in the project and could the view be blocked by new construction
- What are the building warranties?
There are certain pitfalls when buying property in Thailand. Some of the are:
Failure To Conduct Due Diligence
Every financial transaction requires some sort of due diligence on behalf of the purchaser to verify that it is a sound investment. You should check with the previous buyers to see if they are satisfied with the quality and time frame of the construction. If you don't have time to spend on checking the history of the developer, a qualified local agency or lawyer near the development will know or can check the project, who its directors are, and their performance history.
Buying Without A Lawyer
It is often possible for individuals to purchase a property in Thailand without the services of a local law firm. This may be risky unless you are familiar with the country, the language, and its legal system. Contracts in Thailand do not always adhere to the international standards that we are used to backing home and may seem quite unfamiliar to us hence why prior to purchase you should take the time to sit down and discuss the purchase process with a lawyer or a solicitor. That is why before you sign any deposit agreement or contract, you should take some time and sit down with qualified local property consultants or lawyers to discuss the process.
Buying Without An Real Estate Agent
Back home, we are always told that when we invest in property, we should always invest in an area that we are familiar with. This is because property markets are affected by so many variables. It is important to know the market and manage the potential risk which may be involved in any transactions.
Investing in Thailand is no different. You will need a local expert who is experienced in real estate transactions in the local area where you intend to make your purchase. The agent knows how to communicate in Thai and they're familiar with the location and the general geographical area. They can show you many quality properties in their inventory based on your needs and desires. Typically, a good agent will weed out the poor-quality units. They want satisfied clients and they will avoid problematic developments. Think about it: you may not really know the community and it would be wise to find someone who has in-depth knowledge and experience with the property market. The most telling benefit of using an estate agent is that they will act as a conduit between you and the seller. They will obtain a fair price for you and act on your behalf to respect your best interest throughout the entire process. Several international estate agent firms have recently established themselves in Thailand. This provides you access to the same international standard of business practice as in your home country.
Please note that Thailand’s real estate market is far less regulated than most Western countries, and even some Asian regions. That is why it’s important for property investors to rely on a credible real estate agency with a global reputation and expertise in the Thai property marketplace. One of the most credible agencies in Thailand is CondoDee Eternal Property.
Buying In A Mismanaged Project
Several areas in Thailand have recently seen a surge in new property developers arriving on the scene to build homes. These developers do vary in size and experience. They may not have the necessary experience to manage the project so you would often see delays and other fundamental problems. However, these developers do tend to offer much better prices and are more flexible in their approach to cater to your needs.
The larger developers, on the other hand, are more established and many of them are publicly listed companies. They have the resources, experience, and expertise in completing construction projects on time. They generally will not negotiate on the price of the property and some do not offer any advice on variations that you would like to make to the designed plan. They are, therefore, less flexible but the commercial risks are much less. The key factor is to find a developer with which you feel comfortable. It is recommended to check their previous projects for the quality of their work and ask questions from people who have purchased from them before. You will know them by the fruits of their labor.
Also, working through trusted and reputable real estate agencies, like CondoDee, is worthwhile since they qualify developers and facility management companies for you.
Consider The Surrounding Area
If you purchase in a popular development, most likely the developer will be eager to repeat their success and start a Phase II right next door. You should plan for this accordingly in your plot selection. It would be most unfortunate after having waited for one year while your new home to be built is being built, and then to move in to endure another one or two years of construction noise next door. You must also be aware of the surrounding areas in general so as to avoid blockage of views from other buildings if you are going to purchase on a high floor.
Unlike other saturated markets, Thailand is becoming an emerging market that is much more favorable and affordable for those wishing to obtain a holiday home, to retire, or as an attractive investment package. With the openness and flexibility for foreigners to purchase property and live in Thailand, it has been the number 1 choice among ex-pats wishing to relocate to southeast Asia.
We sincerely hope that this property guide has given you insights into the Thailand property market and has either sparked an interest or made you strongly consider that Thailand and specifically attractive islands such as Phuket can be chosen as one of the destinations you would like to obtain your future holiday home, a place to retire or simply to make an investment.
If you have any questions or require a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are more than happy to assist and our consultation services are free of charge.
Have a question?
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Have a question?
Contact us - We're Here to Help 🙂