Neil McDonough

Renting apartments in Bangkok: Getting started

Apartment-hunters often have a misguided image of property brokers


As I have stated previously in an earlier blog, moving to Thailand and in particular Bangkok to live for the first time can be a daunting task. Some people will have jobs before they arrive, some will not. Some of you will have friends already here, some will not. Some will be able to speak some Thai, and most will not. And finally some will have temporary accommodation in which to stay, and some will not.

As anyone who has spoken to an expat anywhere in the world knows, visiting a place on holiday and living there can be chalk and cheese. Many a Brit on visiting Spain and particularly the Costa Del Sol have decided to take advantage of their EU citizenship and love of warm weather and moved to the coast to start a new life. Yes, on holiday it all seems great - sunshine, beaches, fun and plenty of San Miguels, it seems like life will be one big long holiday. But then reality sets in, bills need to be paid, language barriers need to be combated and worse still cultural differences are a daily obstacle.
And this is only a move to a developed European country!

Moving to Thailand is even more difficult - a totally different culture, a totally different alphabet, a totally different language (of course Thai is tonal) and even a different religion. So where do you start?

Well,  it would be wise to look for assistance and using other people's knowledge, experience and tools to help you. Of course using tools like Ajarn.com are great, and it looks like if you are reading this blog you have already made one smart move in finding Ajarn.com. However the depth of help does not stop there, and if you are moving to Thailand, then you are going to need long-term accommodation, and it would be wise to contact a real estate agency that speaks your language.

At the risk of offending readers of this site, I often hear the mantra ‘pounding the streets of Bangkok is the best way to find a good property deal'. I could not disagree more with this. And before I start with the reasons why, yes I fully accept that as someone who works in the real estate industry I am going to be biased, but I am going to try and explain why.

Why use a Property Agent?

Well the obvious quick answers are:

1. Saves you time
2. Saves you money
3. Saves you hassle
4. Gives you knowledge
5. Gives you Security
6. Expands your horizons
7. Makes your life easier

So to expand on the above points a little:

Saves you time: Plodding the streets of a city like Bangkok is a hard, sweaty, dirty and tiring exercise, and that's when you know where you are going! Bangkok is a large confusing city, and when you throw into the mix language, cultural & economic differences then it is difficult to know where to start.

Sure you will have people advising you, ‘go to this area', ‘take this apartment', ‘live in this district' etc, but everyone has their own agenda, and by the time you have sifted through all the suggestions, travelled to few inappropriate properties and wasted a fair amount of time and energy, you will really question who to listen to.

If you contact a registered legitimate property broker, you will be able to focus directly on your needs and be taken directly to suitable properties that you have previously viewed photos of, and this will save you a mountain of time.

Saves you money: This is the reason that most new expats, and even existing expats find the most difficult to comprehend. How can a real estate agent save you money?

Well for a start, only landlords pay us - you don't. Secondly if you contact a well established real estate agency, then they will have connections with various buildings and landlords and as the landlords know the realtors bring them regular clients, they will often offer the clients of the broker a discount. After all, you may be meeting the landlord for the first time, but the landlord counts on agents like the one you are dealing with to run their business or investment, so it is in their interests to help each other. And by offering a discount and therefore a better-than-market price, then the client is happy and the broker can make the deal. It really is a win-win situation for all 3 parties.

In addition think of the other cost savings;
1. Time spent travelling to see unsuitable properties - how much value do you put on your own time?
2. Travel costs to see the properties that prove to be unsuitable (these costs can add up fast if taxis are involved).

Saves you hassle: Who really wants to be walking up and down grimy sois in Bangkok or other cities being turned away from properties that are not available or walking away from properties that look ok from the outside, but unlivable on the inside?

It's a hot, sweaty, unpleasant and draining experience.....not recommended!

Gives you knowledge: Good real estate brokers are not salesmen, they are advisors and they will provide information and details that you will need. They know the market, they know the properties, they know the industry and they know the geography of the city. This is all information you will eventually need if you are going to rent a property in Bangkok or Thailand, so why not get it quickly and for free from a broker?

Gives you security: How well can you know a landlord that you have just met? How much of a legal standing as a foreigner do you have in Thailand? The answer to both questions is between very little and zero!

So you are looking for a new property and find the one you think is good. But how can you be sure the 2 month deposit you will put down will be returned at the end of the contract? How do you know that the terms of the contract will be honoured? Who will you turn to when things go wrong?

Well if you go with a legitimate and established property broker, then your security is a lot more assured. As mentioned earlier the broker will often know the landlord already and has built up a business relationship and one of trust. Also the brokerage will be an established company and so will carry weight under Thai law. The landlords know this and will therefore not want to engage in a sticky situation over a deposit.

Expands your horizons: With all due respect, a real estate broker deals in the market for a living, this is what he or she does 5-6 days a week, every week, often for years, and therefore their knowledge is beyond that of people who have just looked for their own property every so often.

Of course it is sensible to look at as many sources as possible when doing research for anything, so asking friends, looking at websites and checking out property journals, etc are all fine things to do, but this all takes time and can be limiting because often the same properties appear time and time again. So hidden gems or some good deals may be missed.

Makes your life easier: A combination of all the above means that your life is made easier, which is useful when you have just arrived in the new city or even new country. There really is enough to be dealing with when you arrive, with a new climate, new food, new culture, new job, new city, and new language all thrown at you at once. Why really would you want to make your life any harder by then going out to find a new property by yourself, or without professional assistance?


Neil McDonough is the director of EasyHomes in Bangkok. You can visit their website or e-mail Neil for more information.




Comments

I've heard agencies in Bangkok actually take the deposit from the Landlord behind your back as their comission, then give you excuses as to why the landlord wont return your deposit.

Whats your position on that Neil?

By Roger, (12th February 2012)

My partner and I are currently doing the hard graft on a daily basis, pounding the streets of Bangkok and trawling the internet. We've met some good success investigating the larger apartment blocks which are full of condos to rifle through all in one convenient location.
Prices vary wildly and there are some greedy landlords out there, as well as some needing a little more savoir faire given that their property has remained empty for so long. They are yet to connect the dots.
Our resounding conclusion thus far is that it is ambitious to look for an apartment which doesn't look dilapidated for under 10,000 Baht per month in the Chatuchak area of Bangkok. In fact the best one we found which coincidentally came in at our price range was a one bedroom in Chatuchak for 12,000 Baht per month, including internet and cable, pool, gym, tennis courts, close to local conveniences etc. People had suggested that we could find something decent for around 7,000 but we're yet to enjoy such luck.

By Laurie West, Bangkok, Thailand (12th February 2011)

My last two rental houses in Bangkok have been between 8-10k. Thats for a two bedroom house, kitchen, bathroom, aircon, balcony, garden on Sukhumvit Road.

By James, Bkk (22nd April 2010)

Actually Danny Nomad, the best place I've ever lived in Bkk was found through an agent and at a favourable price.

The room I actually wanted had been unoccupied for over 10 months, and the private landlord would not come down one Baht on the rent even when I offered a 12 month contract all paid up front.

An agent found me an even nicer room in the same building on the very top floor (31st), with the same size and layout, but for 8,000 THB/Mo less than the one I first wanted located on the floor below.

Sometimes agents bring greedy private landlords back down to earth, and as a consequence when their pads become managed by an agency, the place comes back on the market at a cheaper rate for the tenant.

Happens all the time with all kinds of property, and the landlords who try to claw back agents one-off fee by hiking up the price, are often the ones that see their properties unoccupied for long periods of time.

Like any business model, there are the good, the bad, and the downright ridiculous which is why the internet is such a good resource, as it gives tenants the opportunity to read real reviews by those who have used a particular service and or lived in an actual place they're interested in.

An established and well respected agency may also have a long page with real customer testimonials on their sites (a wise move in my book).

All these things combined help home hunters to make better informed decisions in the 21st century and not all real estate agents are bad eggs just as all used car salesmen are not rip-off merchants either.

You may or may not want to read this article which relates to the above: http://www.mrroomfinder.com/Articles/Roomfinder_Estate_Agents.php

Aitch

By Aitch, Chiang Mai (4th April 2010)

If you really want to find a good apt. without paying the high prices of a "broker" then go on to Google.com and do a search. You can classify location, prices, near schools / universities or near BTS / MRT. It's that easy.

By Charles, Bangkok (30th March 2010)

Danny,
Neil's website has loads of apartments under 10,000 baht a month. No disrespect but did you actually look at it? Now whether you can get a 'nice' studio for under 10,000 baht a month is another matter. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one man's definition of 'nice' isn't always another's.

By philip, (30th March 2010)

Sure, a property agent is a great way to find an apartment - if you want to spend 30,000 baht / month for a studio on Sukhumvit. Ooooops, that's what many English teachers make in a month.

Property agents cater for those who don't have the time, energy, or know-how to find an apartment on their own. That's fine enough if you're businessman coming to Thailand on an expat package and don't mind paying a premium for convenience. Sucks if you're an English teacher who has to make an effort to make ends meet.

So, in summary, property agents are completely useless for English teachers. I challenge you to prove me wrong - you have any listings you can share for a nice studio for under 10,000 baht a month? Didn't think so.

By Danny Nomad, Chiang Mai (30th March 2010)

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