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Guesthouse Ownership, Do's and Don'ts

It seems like there are three businesses that every hopeful expat considers when they dream of sustaining themselves in the Kingdom: Beer bar, guest house and beer bar cum guest house. There’s a lot to these businesses: Success means there’s nothing to stop you from finding a opening several more in new locations. There are established business models that you can subscribe to, plenty of distribution for the necessary supplies and seemingly endless demand. Furthermore, finding skilled personnel won’t be a huge problem.

 

There are also plenty of hardships that owners of both businesses have to endure. From ruthless and unethical competition to hotheaded, lazy, irresponsible staff... and the special sort of craziness you see in Pattaya when you mix men, women, alcohol and beds. Keeping that in mind, let’s focus on the one business of these two that seems to have a more stable demand to supply ratio: Operating a guest house.

 

While anyone can slap down a wad of baht on the barrelhead and purchase any of the numerous beer bars that the previous sucker is more than ready to bail on, guest houses require a bit more investment and business savvy. The supply, therefore, doesn’t seem set to outstrip the demand anytime soon. Couple that with the greater land demand of an inn and you can see why beer bars are in so much abundance, compared to guest houses.

 

So, how do you go about acquiring a guest house?

 

BUY, RENT, BUILD

 

There are three avenues by which you can approach guest house ownership. In case you can’t read section headers, those are: Buying an existing building, renting a operating guest house, or building your own guest house on your own land.

 

To the uninitiated, buying an existing building sounds like the most straightforward method. Were it not for a couple of frustrating laws, it would be. The net effect of these laws are that you, as a foreigner, cannot technically own real estate in Thailand. Of course, as with everything else, “Nothing is permitted but everything is possible.” With a bit of legal maneuvering you can purchase a building.

 

By starting a company for the purpose of running a business that requires a building, you can de facto own the land. It is the business that legally owns the land and, if you are not an American, any company you start in Thailand must be majority owned by Thai nationals. There are some incorporation stipulations you can employ to ensure that your Thai partners cannot borrow against the company and leave you with the debt, or pull the rug out from under your feet, but we will have to leave that for a future article. So, it is possible to start John’s Guesthouses LLC., buy a guest house and run it. This is widely acknowledged as the safest method of acquiring a building... provided you can trust your Thai partners.

 

The best way of knowing your Thai partner is trustworthy is to bind his hands with an iron-clad legal contract. In other words, get your own lawyer. ‘nuff said. Having a company to buy the real estate offers you some advantages. Firstly, it gives you room to expand. One company can own any number of buildings. Secondly, it creates a legal entity that protects you from some liability. Thirdly, business ownership fulfills one of the key requirements for a self-employed person to obtain a business visa allowing them to stay in Thailand. In other words, you’ll be able to live here without having to hold down a full time job for someone else and simultaneously try to run a guest house.

 

It has been common practice among foreigners in Thailand to start shell companies for the purpose of residential home ownership. This is not strictly legal and has resulted in some foreclosures. You may be tempted to purchase a home through your guest house company - consult your lawyer first. Your lawyer

 

Renting an existing building is another viable option, and there is nothing stopping you from signing a short term lease on a particularly attractive property in order to freeze out other potential buyers while you consider incorporation and purchase. Renting a guest house isn’t a bad option at all. It requires less initial investment, less paper wrangling and a shorter ramping-up period. The cons, however, are that without a really great lease agreement it is very easy to get screwed. It is far from unheard of for a landlord to up the rent when they see you’re doing a bustling business. It’s also not uncommon for the rent to fluctuate dramatically based on season. Thai landlords are notoriously uncompromising with their lease agreements, so if you’re looking for a reasonable, long-term rate with an overlapping renewal option period you will probably be looking for a long time. Landlords will only offer reasonable deals when they (a) see that you are not going to be taken for a sucker and (b) all the other suckers are already taken or (c) they are desperate. If the answer is (c), ask yourself why - owners of quality buildings in prime locations don’t usually fall into that category, especially in a city as popular as Pattaya. Remember, Pattaya has been purpose built to separate white foreigners from their money. Walking into a business negotiation as a white man in Pattaya is not unlike waving a porkchop at a pride of skinny lions.

Remember, Pattaya has been purpose built to separate white foreigners from their money.

 

The third option, building your own, is by far the best choice if you have the capital to sustain the construction, business acumen to start a land-purchasing company and design sensibilities to create something special. Why? Because you can make something purpose-built to beat the competition. Guest houses are a very popular business in this beachside resort town we call home and even though occupancy can approach 100% in the high season, there is enough competition that you can still end up with empty rooms. Every single night you have an empty bed during the high season is a day you can’t eat during the low season. When you build a guest house from scratch you can employ some tactics to make yours better than the closest competition. For example, you can make bigger rooms so that, while you have the same number of empty beds, your rooms will always be larger. They can’t very well expand their walls, can they? If they don’t offer a pool, you can. If they don’t have a basement bar, you can. If they don’t have a rooftop lounge, you can. Even insofar as style is concerned, you can beat the other guys: It is often the most unique and interesting place that gets the walk-by bookings that can make or break a little hotel.

 

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL GUEST HOUSE

LOCATION

 

Where you put your guest house is the single most critical factor in its success. An easily accessible location close to popular attractions with a lot of foot traffic and a prominent storefront can mean 100% occupancy in the high season and steadily filled beds in the low season. It will also, obviously, mean a much higher real estate cost, and a whole lot longer looking for a lot. Pick a place close enough to the attractions that your guests will be happy to stay, but also recognize the drawing power of a well-advertised place far enough from the noise that your guests can sleep while you offer them a more reasonable price than the places just off walking street. This will necessitate some good internet marketing, but the good news is that most of your competition fails at that, giving you a pretty good advantage.

FACILITIES

 

Pattaya’s clientele requires modern facilities. This is another reason to build up your guest house from the bare bones, or update an existing building. You must have the western basics of modern plumbing, functioning doors with normal locks, functioning WIFI and reliable electricity. Television, at least in the common area, is also a must. Speaking of common areas, it is this room that most separates a guest house from a motel. Make yours comfortable and social and you’ll find your guests making friends and thinking of your little place as a nice little place they’ll have the loyalty to return to again and again.

FLEXIBILITY

 

You want to offer an attractive price point, and that means value. But your different clients will have a different idea of what a valuable price is, and what comforts they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of economy. Your locals and migrant working folk will often be OK trading air conditioning and a soft mattress for an electric fan, a hard mattress and a 25% or more reduction in rent. But unless you want your tourist clientele to be exclusively low-budget backpackers, and to miss out on quite a bit of potential revenue, you’ll have to cater to the featherbed, sea-view and air conditioning crowd as well. Determining the percentage of rooms you dedicate to budget vs. premium is not something that can be done without research and experimentation, but keep in mind that you want to capture at least a portion of every market.

MANAGEMENT

 

Despite common appearances, a guest house is far from a set-it-and-forget-it business. Guests, especially the sort you find in a free-spirited resort town like Pattaya, are a messy proposition. If you don’t have the patience for a year or two of preparation you definitely don’t have the patience to deal with Thai licensing officials. You will require a hard working maid, a bill collector, a handyman, someone to answer complaints and liaise with officials in Thai. You’d do well to be able to communicate in Chinese, Japanese and especially Russian, as well. You need to be on top the marketing of your guest house: Posting electronic, publication and printed flyers advertisements; Communicating with travelers online, on the phone, and in person; Answering inquiries and dealing with complaints. You need to keep an eye on security and on your staff to make sure that you aren’t robbed blind. At the end of the day a guest house is a BUSINESS. It’s a vocation, NOT a vacation, and it’s up to you to make it work.

Last But Not Least - Marketing

 

I’ve mentioned this more than once in this article already, but it bears repeating in its own section: Marketing your product in such a crowded marketplace is absolutely essential to success. Your Thai competition is slowly awakening to the fact that reaching their potential customers before they see the competition’s signage is like dragging a net upriver of the competition’s fishing poles. If you understand online marketing and branding you’ve got an advantage - use it before it recedes further.

 

If you’ve got guest house dreams, don’t stop dreaming. You can, indeed, make it happen. Don’t rush in. Take your time, make your plans and be flexible. At the end of the day a guest house is a business. It’s a vocation, not a vacation, and it’s up to you to make it work. The great news is that if you have any business sense whatsoever you’re already ahead of the pack.

 

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Hi Pattaya Trader – Thank you for an always very interesting read. Is there any way you could publish this – I would dearly like to help the Mabprachan Animal shelter – I know they are not the only ones looking after stay and abandoned animals, but they have my undying gratitude for the way they helped me Yours very sincerely, Rick Walton Soi 11 Thappraya Road Jomtien 0892 465 210

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How Secure Is Your Dwelling?

How Secure Is Your Dwelling?

Modern condominium developments have excellent building security, normally with a manned foyer and twenty four hour security guards. Entrances to units is often keyless by using a fob type smart card and communal areas are constantly monitored by CCTV.

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Five important things to know before buying or building a swimming pool at your house in Thailand

Five important things to know before buying or building a swimming pool at your house in Thailand

Thailand is one of the top countries in the world where expats go to find an easier, more fulfilling life. One of these reasons is the tropical climate, which enables constant outdoor relaxation that’s simply not possible in many other parts of the world.

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TRENDS FOR BEDROOMS IN 2017

TRENDS FOR BEDROOMS IN 2017

More and more the master bedroom is seen not just a place to sleep but almost a home within a home. An all-in-one space where you can enjoy a calm,serene retreat.

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TRENDS FOR BATHROOMS IN 2017

TRENDS FOR BATHROOMS IN 2017

Bathroom designers tell us that 2017 is going to be marked by the return to the organic and all-natural. Bathroom style”s direction will be: super clean colours, seamless lines and useful, simple arrangement of space with the dash of natural coziness and elegance.

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TRENDS FOR 2017

TRENDS FOR 2017

This is the cheery shade of green you'll see in home decor, fashion and commercial design in 2017. Named the 2017 Pantone Colour of the year "Greenery" is meant to represent refreshment and revitalization.

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Resemble a five - star hotel at home

Resemble a five - star hotel at home

There are so many reasons people like staying in a hotel. A chance to get away, ring up for room service and a good night’s sleep.

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Top tips for the DIY enthusiast wishing to add a little Luxury

Top tips for the DIY enthusiast wishing to add a little Luxury

First impressions count. Keep the front of the property tidy, water plants and ensure there is no peeling paint or cracked exterior walls.

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Marketing Wrap Up - 2017 - Driving More Online Business

Marketing Wrap Up - 2017 - Driving More Online Business

As we reach the end of the year it is time to review some of the key points that we looked at throughout 2017. Those who have read this regular feature will recall that we have covered a variety of topics aimed at driving more new business your way. In this article we will recap on the main areas and (attempt to) reinforce the benefits of marketing in this way.

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Huntsman IndiaThai Co., Ltd

Huntsman IndiaThai Co., Ltd

Huntsman IndiaThai Co., Ltd is a name which many people trust in regards to Property/Business Management in Pattaya.

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Bright Ideas for Retargeting your Website Visitors

Bright Ideas for Retargeting your Website Visitors

Retargeting isn’t new. It’s been around for a few years now; however, I am always surprised that more business owners don’t take advantage of this power advertising mechanism.

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Preparing For The High Season

Preparing For The High Season

We are all aware that this low season many businesses have been complaining that trade is bad and every industry has been hit by a downturn of people on Pattaya’s sois. Real estate has been no different, and any agent or developer will inform you that times are tough.

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Gearing Up For The High Season From a Digital Perspective

Gearing Up For The High Season From a Digital Perspective

With the high season about to kick off soon, we at The Pattaya Trader wanted to ask a pertinent question….

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COST OF ADVICE

COST OF ADVICE

A friend recently complained about the fees he had paid to his broker in the UK to manage his portfolio over the last year. He has a moderate fund of $60,000 and had paid just under $900 for the last 12 months.

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THE LAUNCH PARTY OF VILLA ASIATIC

THE LAUNCH PARTY OF VILLA ASIATIC

Hosted by Catherine Petit Managing Director of FED Property Co.,Ltd. (www.villaasiatic.com) at The Havana Bar, Holiday Inn

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Bringing Your Property Business into the 21st Century

Bringing Your Property Business into the 21st Century

Buyers have changed. The Russian numbers have dropped significantly and the Chinese have shown signs of moving in, along with their Korean and albeit in smaller numbers Japanese counterparts.

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5 Reasons Why Your Business Should Be Using Banner Advertising!

5 Reasons Why Your Business Should Be Using Banner Advertising!

Getting ahead in business nowadays very often means doing the things that your competitors aren't doing .When it comes to websites and digital marketing there are nearly always things you can do to help raise the profile of your business and generate more enquiries.

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Get addicted when you’re young.

Get addicted when you’re young.

This came to mind watching young and middle-aged farangs in Walking St. I wondered how many of them had a regular savings habit and how many just squandered their earnings as they came ? Let me ask you how many retired people you know who have no regular savings and just get by on state pensions from their country of origin? If they had been forced to make pension contributions while working, then their golden years would not be impoverished ones.

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Last Will and Testament

Last Will and Testament

The Last Will and Testament is a declaration of intent concerning disposition of your assets or other matters which shall take effect, according to law, after your demise.

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AMAZING DEALS ON LAND AND PROPERTY

AMAZING DEALS ON LAND AND PROPERTY

If you’ve ever wanted to live directly on the beach look no further than this fabulous 3 level home located at a great Waterfront location in Na Jomtien. Boasting 6 magnificent bedrooms and bathrooms 2 living rooms and a stunning sea view swimming pool it is set in beautiful landscaped gardens and is available complete with luxury furniture, fixtures and fittings.

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