Finding a condo in Bangkok can be a pretty overwhelming task to take on yourself.
In order to know more about what's available and find the best condo possible, you need an agent. The challenge is, finding a good agent can be just as overwhelming and dangerous if you don't know what to look for.
Make no mistake, there are scammers in Bangkok posing as professionals. You need to be able to tell the difference or you're going to find yourself severely out of pocket.
Here's the main problem: There is no licensing for real estate agents in Thailand. Saying you are an agent in any other country if you're not licensed is a criminal offence. In Thailand? Anyone can "claim" to be an agent. It doesn't mean they are.
Every day, I see people posting in Bangkok Facebook groups, requesting help from an agent to find them a condo and every time there is a reply from a person claiming to be an agent, who simply isn't. They have one condo to show. They have other or multiple jobs listed on their profile. They use an alias. They cost money. There are a myriad of red flags to watch out for to help you better protect yourself and your money.
Upon choosing a condo, you are going to be required to give this person two month's rent as a security deposit. Let's try to ensure your "agent" doesn't just run off with it.
Here are five steps you can take to prevent being scammed prior to and during your condo hunt:
1. Do they work for a real estate agency or do they simply claim to be an agent?
Check their Facebook profile. What job/company do they have listed? If they have any other job on their profile, they are what we call "an independent". If anything goes wrong, you don't have an employer you can report to and no real legal recourse in your favour. This is a full time job. My title and company are on all of my social media.
2. They are an agent and have a company listed. Great. *Research the company*
Do they have a website and a business email? No? Red flag. Every professional agency has a website and that website has a good amount of inventory (condos). Business emails come free with domains. Why people use gmail or hotmail for business is beyond me. It looks so unprofessional.
Call the company and make sure the agent works for them. You don't want to know how many times I've come across people claiming they work for RE/MAX BestLife (my company) and they don't. Make sure the company is real and they are a real employee. And please note, if anyone ever claims to work for me, their email will be an @bkkbestlife. None of my agents are permitted to use their personal email. Which leads into....
3. Do they use their real name or a nickname?
This one is tricky in Thailand because all Thai people have their birth name and a nickname. But know who you're dealing with. Is their Facebook profile name "Sexysexy Cutecute"? You might be inviting trouble. If your booking or security deposit is stolen, the Thai police are going to have a difficult time finding Sexysexy.
When you meet, ask for ID. If they have a problem with this, that might be a telling sign. In the case of a non-Thai (foreign) agent, you are also welcome to ask to see their work permit. This is going the extra mile, as all you're establishing is if they are working legally as an agent or "under the table".
This only really matters to you if something goes wrong with your contract or owner and you need their support. Which you might! My passport, I keep on me. For my work permit, you're going to need to swing by my office. I have no problem showing any of my clients either document. No one should be.
4. Do they ask to show you *a* condo or a selection of condos to choose from?
You can easily find one condo yourself. The benefit of an agent is to view everything that meets your search criteria. Why waste your time going out with multiple agents just for them to show you one each? You're looking for a 15,000 p/month, 1 bedroom condo, near Onnut BTS? I can show you 10.
You should never be asked to see any less than three during a viewing. Only in the case that you're looking for a house should there only be one option, as houses/townhouses are much more rare and difficult to find.
Additionally, be sure the agent can provide all the condo's specifications prior to viewing. Price, size, etc. Photos can be a challenge, even for me.
Not all owners send photos and I simply don't have the time to visit every condo in my database of 11,907 properties to take photos myself. Nor do I have the time to upload every property to my frontend database for renters/buyers to view. Now hiring data-entry personnel and I apologise for the crippling monotony of your position ahead of time.
I've contacted agents about properties they "represent" and they aren't able to provide even the square meters of the condo. Needless to say, I didn't work with them. Red flag.
5. This is extremely important. Do they ask you for money at *any time*? Renters do not pay agent's commission.
I work purely on commission. Owners (landlords) contact me requesting I rent their property. They submit this request knowing the commission to be paid once we rent on their behalf. I provide a service that they pay for and everyone wins and everyone is happy. If an agent tells you that renters pay an agent's commission in Bangkok, they are double-dipping. They're getting paid the same commission twice. Call that what you want, I call it scamming.
You will be required to submit a "booking deposit" when you find the condo you want. This allows the agent and owner to agree that the condo will be removed from the open market and can not be rented to anyone else. Upon signing a contract, you will need to provide a security deposit to the OWNER, equal to two months rent. For both of these payments, get a receipt. Never give anyone money in Thailand without proof that you have paid.
And NEVER be conned into thinking you are required to pay an agent's commission or even a service fee of any kind. As a matter of fact, if anyone ever claims this, please let me know who.
I deal with the stigma of being a real estate agent everyday. The jokes are endless, I assure you. But I also understand it's a stigma we brought upon ourselves. I have personally dealt with too many "agents" that behave unprofessionally. I personally have come across far too many scam artists.
I also work daily with honest, hard working professionals doing everything they can to change the view of agents in Bangkok who take their job very seriously. Use these steps to make sure you end up working with one of them.