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by Heiner Moessing

As the “High Season” has now started, we real estate agents are naturally getting more business. Pattaya is growing with no limit – nearly every week a new condo project is launched but don't underestimate the “Dark Side” where probably more houses are under construction than condos on the sea side -so for people who are new to the property market here is how it works:

House or Condo?

To decide between a condo or a house has to do with your personal lifestyle but there are also differences in the legal aspects as well.A condo you can buy “in your name”, meaning that a foreigner can be registered as the owner in the Title Deed “Chanod”. Under the so called “Foreign Quota” foreigners can buy 49% of the sellable area of a condo project.

Foreigners do not need a special visa for buying, the “visa on arrival” (normally one month) is enough but they do need a certificate from their bank, to show that the funds used to buy were converted from foreign currencies into Thai Baht (some people might remember “Tor Tor 3” or “tor tor sam” - nowadays the system to prove the origin of the funds is much more flexible).

Foreigners can own houses but not the land! Different ownership of the buildings and the land they are set upon is something not all foreigners are familiar with. For example Germans might know this with properties owned by the churches, the railway or local councils or in harbors, mostly commercial properties, rarely residential.

Nevertheless foreigners can register a 30 years lease or a loan at the land office. Other possibilities arise from company owned properties. How to do this depends on the personal situation of the foreigner and/or the ownership of the land. There is no general advice as its best to talk to a qualified (PREBA) agent.

Be aware that you cannot have pets and cook with gas in the condos. Furthermore the sq.m. price of a condo is higher than that of a house (living area). On the other hand you can spontaneously go on a vacation without worrying about your garden, pool or your belongings.Also a leaking roof or a faulty pool, maintaining of the garden etc. will be taken care of by the condo management; as a house owner you have to do it yourself. On the other hand you have a terrace instead of (sometimes tiny) balcony, your dog takes care of owner security and you can entertain all your friends with a BBQ party.

If you like to stroll on Beach Road every day, enjoy traveling, no kids - consider a condo, if you think your “home is your castle” and you enjoy sitting on a terrace and have a garden - a house would be more suitable.

I personally would decide upon “lifestyle” as the legal issues can be solved but it is your choice.

Use a qualified agent!

Surely you can go around and visit showrooms and talk to sales staff but keep in mind that they have to sell only their project. An agent will sell you want you want! PREBA (Pattaya Real Estate Broker Association – www.pattayarealestatebrokers.com) members are highly qualified, follow a strict “Code of Ethics” and “Rules and Regulations”, update themselves constantly about changes in the law and the real estate market, know the place, have been around for many years (Siam Properties is 18 years old and I have been here for more than 23 years).

A good agent will listen to your requirements, ask about size, location, budget etc., put a tour together and show you several properties, afterwards review the tour (it is always a learning process for the customer and the agent), and probably set up a second or third until you find your new home. The agent will explain to you the whole process of buying and after you choose your property will negotiate the price, issue a contract and also execute the purchase, if necessary with a lawyer.

I know lots of cases that have gone terribly wrong but NEVER when a PREBA agent was involved. Be aware there is a lot of paperwork in Thai you have to sign, most foreigners can speak a bit of Thai but who can actually read it?. Negotiations are often held in a third language, usually English, this might not be your native language or the language the sales person is fluent in, so again the PREBA agent will be extremely useful here.

PREBA members will take your knowledge of the market and the area into consideration and not only answer your questions honestly but also tell you things you should know but considered asking about.

Last and not least: the commission is paid by the seller!

The Contract

The contract to transfer ownership is made at the land office and it is in Thai language. Before that you should sign a contract with the seller regulating

“who buys what from whom at what price and when”

Sounds simple but make sure that the seller is the owner or has a correct Power of Attorney, that the property is actually the one you looked at, that the furniture etc. is included if agreed upon (inventory!), that the date of payment (s) are precise, that there is a deadline (very important if something goes wrong) etc. In my 23 years in Pattaya I have seen many “weak” contracts with flaws that would be difficult to argue in a court of law. If the contract is faulty but everything goes smoothly you are lucky - but contracts are made for 2 reasons: to fix what is agreed on and in case something goes wrong.

A contract is like a safety belt and an airbag: mostly you don't need it but you are happy to have it if you crash.....

Hand Over

A qualified agent will accompany you during the document hand over to make sure that everything is there and in the condition you expect, transfer utility bills,that the property is insured, all the documents are there like title deeds (chanod) or house registration (tabien baan, the Blue Book), keys, passwords, code for the safe, etc.

This article may only touch on some points to be considered. It is like chess: the rules can be written down on 2 pages but to play the game you need a life time.....