(Part 1 of 2)
I've been in Bangkok for a few years now, and can still remember the hell hole I lived in for the first six months. Read: a glorified prison. I have since been living in one of the Lumpini Place properties and honestly quite like it. That said, I now have a fiancé, and have decided it's time to put roots down in the city: it's time to buy a condo. There's something I never thought I'd say...
Buying property anywhere is a pain, there's no other way to say it. House, condo, townhouse... there are multitudes of choices, even when you've narrowed down what you're looking for, and even more multitudes of sources to find these choices. We decided on a condo simply because it is the most affordable option in our area for having everything we're looking for, and because buying a house we can afford would mean also having to buy a car and commute. No, thank you.
Then you have the language barrier; online, if you can't speak/type in Thai, you've ruled out a lot of websites and listings that don't have English translations as well. Sites like DDProperty.com are pretty good about having at least rough translations, but you then have the problem of alternate spellings, among other issues, that makes the search quite fragmented.
Once you find places you are interested in, you then need to have either good Thai skills (um... about that) or someone willing to do all of the calling, wheeling, and dealing. Luckily, I have a Thai fiancé who is all too happy to do this, and without her I really don't know how I would have dealt with it all.
Aside from that, if you're living on a teacher's salary like I am, you aren't made out of money. Most banks here [understandably] won't deal with foreigners for home financing, and those that may will likely require Thai sponsors or some other "hookup" of some kind. In that case, for the most part, it's either pay cash or have someone Thai that does the financing for you.
In our experience, looking around the Chatuchak area of Bangkok (the northern end of town, near BTS Mo Chit and MRT Phahon Yothin/Ladprao), there are plenty of 1 bedroom condos, and a good many 2 bedroom condos around. There are also a fair number of townhouses, but I'm a stickler for wanting a pool. Usually, you'll only get 1 bathroom floor plans unless you're willing to pay a premium.
As is likely obvious, buying in the newer condo complexes (Life, Lumpini Place, etc.) is far more expensive (and for far less space) than looking in the older establishments. A 30 sqm 1 bedroom condo at my current Lumpini Place is listed for more than the 85 sqm 2 bed/2 bath condo we have decided to buy at an older complex in the same area. The amenities are roughly the same (gym, pool, etc.), although granted, the older complex is just that: older.
It's up to you
It all comes down to what you want out of what you buy. Size, location, amenities, price... all are of varying importance to each person. One of my biggest complaints with the newer complexes, aside from the ever-smaller dimensions, is the build quality I've experienced. I'm tired of hearing every time my neighbors on either side of me plug something in to a power outlet, and I want to be somewhere where I don't have to keep my stereo volume at "inside voice" levels.
Don't get me wrong, my current digs are great; new, well maintained, convenient, and the list goes on. But it's small, thin walled, and financially, it's simply not a feasible option for me (and I imagine many teachers) in terms of value for money.
So there you have it. Obviously, these are just my experiences having looked around for the past six months or so, and I'm certainly no property expert. That said, where there's a will, there's a way... and if you plan on being a permanent expat in Bangkok, it makes financial sense to go for buying a place; you'll probably pay about the same or less for a mortgage as you do for the same place paying rent.
I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.