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Buying property in Thailand is often not a straightforward process, especially for expat retirees.

Learn about the various options that are open to you as you go about setting roots in the Land of Smiles.

Thailand is one of the most beautiful places on earth to retire as an expat. Exotic beaches, peaceful countryside, relatively low cost of living, and a warm and welcoming populace – these are some of the outstanding features you can find here. If you are an expat looking to retire in Thailand, this desire will often involve buying Thai property as an expat as one of the first few things you do here. To help you with this important decision, here are some guidelines to help you navigate around this topic:

Buying a Condominium

Thai property laws allow expats and foreigners to buy and own condominiums on a freehold basis. Under Thai law, this condo unit will be fully owned by you and you are free to sell it later if you ever wish to do so. There some conditions however to this process, and it is important to be aware of them before you start the purchase process.

One is that Thai law requires that the condo development has less than 49% of non-Thai owners, which means that if a condo complex has reached this quota mark, you cannot be allowed to buy a unit in this condo development. Your real estate agent or the property manager of the condo project can advise you if the condo development you are looking to buy has hit this mark or not.

You will also be required by Thai law to pay an initial deposit to book the condo unit as you are looking to make the full payment. This deposit can range from 10,000 baht to 100,000 baht, depending on the price of the condo, and the terms offered. Since the money cannot be paid directly from your home bank account, you have to set up a Thai bank account and wire the money through your home bank account. Once the condo deal is complete, you will need to register your condo with the Lands Office which gives you proof of ownership.

Buying Land or a House

In a nutshell, Thai law prohibits foreigners from owning land or houses in Thailand. The only property expats can own legally and fully is condominiums, which has been detailed earlier. There are certain ways to go around this law, and they vary in complexity and suitability to be applied to your situation:

  • Owning Property through a Thai Citizen

Some expats will opt for this option where they buy the property but it is registered under a Thai citizen. This works well when, for example, an expat is married to a Thai citizen in which case the property is then registered under the spouse. However, this does pose certain risks as you can imagine.

Because the law recognizes the registered Thai citizen as the full owner of the property, it becomes very hard to get the Thai law to help you, should there ever be a falling out between the registered owner and the expat. Such an arrangement, especially one where the expat and the local Thai citizen are not legally married or are not in any other legally enforceable union is fraught with risks, and the expat could easily lose his or her property. As a result, most expats don’t normally go for this option, unless they are married to a Thai citizen.

  • 30-Year Lease Option

As far as property ownership options go, this tends to be the most popular among expats as it is considered the safest option. Here, the expat acquires a 30-year lease for a piece of land and with that, he or she can then get a permit to construct his or her house on it. This thirty-year permit is renewable for up to 90 years.

To make this even easier, companies who own some of such leases will sell them to expat retirees looking to acquire property in Thailand. This way, the land ownership deed does not change and this makes the property much easier to acquire and shortens the process of acquisition. The expat who buys the lease can then transfer it to another expat later, if he or she wants to dispose off the property and move to another location.

As an expat retiree looking to settle in Thailand, you should always get professional advice whenever you intend to buy Thai property. As you can see, your options vary and each one carries a different type of challenges so you need to make a careful assessment before making a decision to buy any property. However, regardless of the option you take, you will never regret setting roots in the beautiful land that is Thailand!

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