Buying a house in Thailand
Thailand is one the most beautiful places you can opt for after your retirement from your professional career, if you desire living a relaxed life. Properties are available in Thailand but before obtaining one for yourself, you must be conscious regarding several rules and guidelines of the land. Foreigners are forbidden to own Land in Thailand but there are ways to protect your asset should you wish to live here.
In Thailand, you will find a lot of ventures; especially real estate is something what everyone wants to go for. However, to own an asset for yourself in Thailand certain rules are put in front of you, and you have to abide by them.
Some useful tips to help you buy a house in Thailand
If you are a foreigner then you will have certain laws in front of you with regard to ownership of the house. The land will be considered "immovable property" but the buildings can be separated from the land and fully owned by foreigners. Generally, a foreigner can't own land in Thailand. However, the ownership of the building is something else. That means that a Thai person can own the land and another person, like a foreigner, can get ownership of the buildings on the land. Separating the land and the house takes time and a 30 days announcement must be made to the local authorities. And remember that foreign ownership rights on a building will only remain as long as other rights on the land last.
One of the ways commonly used is to make a lease on the land, for a maximum of 30 years with an option to renew, and get ownership of the house. Another way would be to get a usufruct on the land (or land and house) for lifetime. Others decide to setup a Thai limited company to own a Thai property. A Superficies agreement can also be added to a rental contract.
As you can see, there are solutions to foreign ownerships and you should consult a specialist to be sure that your rights will be protected.
1) Thai Limited Company
Since July 2008, only three shareholders are required to setup a Thai limited Company (It was seven minimum before). Under the business Act, if your company has 50% or more foreign shares, it's considered a foreign entity. In practice, this means your company will need more licenses and permits to operate and that could be expensive. You must also know that it's forbidden in Thailand to use Thai people as "nominees" into your company. However, many Law firms in Thailand will offer to find you Thai people for your company.
The company route is more expensive: setting up a company will cost you money and you must do accounting every year. Many documents have to be filed. But it's one of the only way to really own a property and be able to sell it should you wish. If you really want to do some business in Thailand and acquire a property, find yourself a reliable Thai partner and that solution can be a good option for you.
If you don't have a Thai partner, most Law firms will ask the remaining Thai shareholders to sign documents, power of attorneys, or share transfer agreements and so that you can, as director of the company transfer it as you wish. But like we stated before, that is an illegal practice, even if commonly used in Thailand. Consult our section on Thai limited Company.
2) Leasehold (or rental contract called "hire of property")
You can make a lease for a maximum period of 30 years in Thailand and a renewal option is possible under Thai law. A lease if correctly drafted will be transmissible to your heirs. So, you will also have the choice to pass on your property to your successor. There are many different rental agreements that can be done. It could be as simple as a one page agreement but in that case, your rights won't be well protected.
Because a real estate investment normally involves large sums of money, it's a good idea to pay a little more and have the best protection available. So, get a good lease agreement drafted by Thai registered lawyers. And think that your contract should be bilingual so you can understand what you sign. (English and Thai). If your lease is only in Thai, you won't know what you sign and you might have surprises one day. Options about heirs, renewals, future modifications about ownership laws can easily be added to your lease agreement.
A good lease combined with a superficies agreement is an excellent way if your intention is to build a house on an undeveloped land. Another way to grant the ownership of the house to a foreigner would be to rent the land and get a building permit on the name of the foreigner. The building permit will operate as an ownership document if you wish to sell the property in the future.
Consult our section about Thai Hire of Property (lease contracts)
Superficies can be added to a lease agreement and will give the superficiary the ownership on top of the land. But some Land Departments will refuse to register that right if constructions already exist on the land. Superficies are also transmissible to your heirs, just like a well drafted lease agreement. Consult our section about Superficies in Thailand.
A usufruct is something different from a lease but there are similarities. Again, consult our section on Usufruct Contract in Thailand to learn about this option.
5) Loan and mortgage
Others will make a loan agreement to a Thai, and protect their investment by adding a registered mortgage as collateral. Again, a loan agreement can be added to a lease, or a usufruct, or superficies.
Considerations to think about when buying a property in Thailand
The most important thing that you should be concerned about while purchasing your new property is that you read the terms and conditions of agreement with due caution and do not miss out any vital points. Don't be shy to ask your attorney to explain to you all options available. And remember that all the rights mentioned above must be registered at the local Land department (lease of more than 3 years, usufruct, superficies or mortgage).
Before making any decision regarding your house the first step you should take is to fix up a limited budget for yourself, otherwise you will end up spending a lot of unnecessary expenses. The cost of various building materials and the things that you will need to complete your house is not stable and may vary from day to day.
Maintaining a budget will definitely help you, and if you see that your budget framework is not what it is supposed to be, then you may cut down on the interior of your house, and think when is it the best time to do it. If you do not want to face any kind of discomfort regarding your staying then you should forget all these issues and finish up making your house as soon as possible. Budget should not be the factor that should oppose you from getting the comfort of your new house in Thailand. So take a wise decision according to what fits you in the best possible manner and embarks upon buying a house in Thailand.
Often, people buy a house, sign a contract and then see a lawyer to protect their purchase. That is a mistake because the sale agreement is already signed. Law firms dealing with properties can easily verify your contract and might even be able to negotiate with the builder, developer, or owner. It's very difficult to get a perfect agreement but professionals will think about things that you might oversee: the quality of materials, the delays of construction, warranties on the construction, permits and licenses, types of title deeds, what will happen if a party doesn't fulfill their obligations and much more. Remember that you must agree on many aspects, not only the price. Who will pay taxes and transfer fees? What about utilities?
If a deposit is asked to reserve a plot or a property, try to make it refundable if you can't agree later on terms of the final sale agreement. Conditions about payments will vary a lot from one developer to another. Don't be afraid to "shop around" for your property and visit different developments in the area where you want to purchase a house. In cases where large amounts are involved, due diligence should be made. Due diligence is a kind of investigation about the property. You want to be sure that all documents, requirements, people involved won't make any problems. A construction agreement can be separated from a sale agreement. Some developers in touristic areas will often use that method to lower taxes.