Neil McDonough

Is now the time to buy Bangkok real estate?

Why not convert those rental payments into a property investment?

Of course many regular readers of are not only teaching, but also on short-term outlooks for living in Thailand. Perhaps you are here for a few years experience before embarking on a regular unrelated career back in your home country? Perhaps you are just on an extended backpacking expedition, which you initially thought would be over within 6-12 months, but now many years later has take you on adventures and experiences you never initially envisaged? Or perhaps you are one of those ‘teachers without borders' and Thailand is not your first country in which to teach and will not be your last, with a view to teaching in both multiple countries and multiple continents before you hang up marker pen and white-board eraser.

However, just possibly you are not in any of the above categories and you are planning to stay in Thailand for the long-run. Perhaps you have got hitched to a good Thai woman or man; perhaps you have started a small family and feel Thailand is a better country to raise your children than back home. If therefore you fit into this bracket (and a surprising amount of teachers do) then perhaps you are now looking at setting down roots in Thailand and have contemplated buying a property as a long term investment?

Firstly, let me start by saying that this is not a sales pitch for my company, Easyhomes, to try and sell as many properties as possible, and I would only advise anyone to invest in Thailand if they could certainly afford the property they were looking to buy and also looked at it as more than just a real estate investment, hoping to make a quick buck! The market is not suitable for this type of investment and the last thing we want to encourage is people getting into debt they cannot afford, or overstretching themselves.

So assuming you have stronger motives for buying a property in Thailand than trying to make a quick return, then Bangkok could now be a good place for you to invest in property. The main reasons for this are two-fold: the BTS and MRT are at last being developed with more professionalism and enthusiasm than ever before, and we are drawing closer to 2015 each and every day!

In 2015 the AEC or Asian Economic Community is to be launched, initially amongst the ten nations of ASEAN. If implemented correctly this will provide Asia with a free and single market of approximately 500 million people, and the free flow of goods, capital and labour within ten of the rapidly developing economies of SE Asia. This is pretty big news even by world standards!

The cynical and critical reader may look at this as a copy-cat scheme of the EU, and look at the economic mess that it has created in the last four years. Although that would not be entirely incorrect, it would perhaps be a little unfair. The EU, unlike its predecessor the EEC (a much more similar model to the proposed AEC) is a far more integrated and bureaucratic organization, which has not only become victim of the GFC, but has struggled to recover due largely to the complications and disadvantages of having a single currency run by multiple financial ministers. The AEC at the present time has no such plans or ambitions and will be based more on free-market trading than political integration.

The opening up of markets and the increased flow of capital and labor will almost certainly lead to an economic boom in most if not all of the member states, and the major cities like Bangkok will be a magnet for both large capital investment and skilled educated labour, looking to be a part of the most established and lucrative markets in the SE Asian region.

A quick look at the plans of the BTS and MRT will reveal that not only is the Bangkok metro system advancing far more competently now, with a few of the previous political obstructions now contained to the sidelines, but a lot of its future plans are focused on 2015. The BTS now makes a healthy profit and the MRT is now transporting almost 250,000 people a day. And both systems already cover 48 stations around Bangkok's city center

The MRT has plans already in effect to expand in two directions by 2015, Bang Sue - Tha Phra and the Hua Lamphong - Bang Khae line with a grand total of 17 stations either elevated or underground along the extended routes. The BTS has plans to extend the Sukhumvit line from Bearing - Samut Prakan by 2015 and will implement another extension even sooner from Wong Wien Yai - Bang Wa opening between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, also introducing approximately ten more stations.

As these metro lines are extended and therefore offer far more Bangkok residents the chance to commute via the metro system, Bangkok will become more efficient and once again the building blocks for an economic boom are in place.

In conclusion then, with the combined opportunities of the AEC opening up markets in 2015 and the BMA's metro system making Bangkok a lot more efficient, the chance to make a good return on an investment in Bangkok is clearly visible. And perhaps the easiest way to grab a slice of the potential economic boom is to invest in property.

Going back to the start of the blog, if you are one of those foreign teachers with designs on staying in Bangkok for the next 5-10 years, then buying a slice of the Bangkok real estate pie makes perfect sense. In the last 10 years, despite the effects of the GFC and without an AEC to support economic expansion and having to deal with a number of monumental political problems including a coup, rioting in Bangkok's city center and the closure of Bangkok's main airport under protest, Bangkok's real estate prices have roughly doubled.

If you are remaining in Bangkok for the next five years at least then you will experience the benefits of the arrival of the AEC and the expansion of the metro system, but also wherever you live, you will have to pay rent at least - so why not convert those payments into mortgage payments? And in the process gain from the capital appreciation your property will hopefully enjoy.

Neil McDonough is a Director of EasyHomes Property Services Co., Ltd. which specializes in renting and selling Bangkok residential and commercial property to expats. You can contact him directly with any questions or queries relating to Thai real estate


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