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5 property checks buyers mysteriously overlook in Thailand

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by Desmond Hughes

In many countries, once a decision to purchase a property has been made, a deposit paid, the parties should be able to sit back and handover legal matters to their lawyers, and concentrate on admittedly stressful practical matters such as furniture removal, checking boilers / heating / air conditioning systems and often working through a ‘chain’ of interdependent transactions where in some cases each chain involves a buyer loaning monies from a bank.

Strangely, the same sets of buyers when investing overseas in countries like Thailand, forget or deliberately dispense with the most essential and often sheer common sense oriented checks. Sometimes just to save a few pennies.

Here are 5 of the most commonly overlooked issues:

1. Conducting a Structural and Internal Survey of the Property

Because many foreigners are buying outright with cash, there is often no bank looking over the shoulder of the purchaser insisting on the bare minimum checks. Weirdly, many buyers’ approach to the matter of structural integrity appears to be “if it looks like the building is standing up straight, it must be safe and ok to live in”. It is worth remembering that not every pour of cement is the same, not every pillar has the same number of rods running through, and that even though a building permit has been issued, the construction plans may not have been followed and further, after time, a building can deteriorate – visibly and invisibly. Why not splash out what could be the price of a few cases of overtaxed wine on making sure the ceilings don’t cave in on top of you and your family

2. Checking Legality of the Existence of the Property?

If you see something exists, should your mind then snap shut to the possibility that it should not actually be there at all?

There are many aspects to a property being built and legally existing in Thailand and each one of these should be checked because it should not be assumed that a seller in a re-sale knows of any issues or wishes to disclose them, or in an off-the-plan purchase that the developer has abided by all the rules.

Check the history of the land, the zoning restrictions, building height restrictions, land height from sea level building restrictions, gradient of slope restrictions, compliance with environmental consent, proximity from a beach, proximity from restricted zones such as temples, conformity with building plot ratios – the amount of built up area permitted on a land plot, conformity of the number of rooms in the property as per the building permit, the registration of interests at the land department and whether those Thai records match contracts which may have been signed in English or another language.

Perhaps if a choice exists between buying that super nice super expensive outdoor sofa, chairs and table and paying a law firm to check your prospective property is legal, you could choose the latter.

3. Check you aren’t walking into an ongoing dispute

One of the most common questions asked when someone learns of a breakaway from an existing business is “Was it amicable ?”. People are naturally and keenly interested in whether parties are able to keep matters friendly whilst conducting difficult discussions.

In many properties throughout the globe, there are plentiful wells of legal fees for lawyers dealing with property related disputes. Lawyers, most of the time, cannot be legitimately attributed to having created disagreements. Most people are capable of creating arguments without assistance.

Where there is an owners committee, there is a set of minutes for meetings. Simply by retrieving and looking at a few years worth of minutes, you can get a feel for how an estate is run. There will always be some mad hatters who spend their days trying to make an asset manager’s life as miserable as possible, perhaps believing that their role in life is to scrutinize and hold everyone around them to account in an unpleasant manner. However, there will also be some sensible people, sometimes devoting much of their personal time for free, to overseeing committees and trying to get the property in order which ultimately benefits a group of owners.

Phuket is a small island roughly the same size as Singapore. There is only one main courthouse in Phuket and it can easily be found using googlemaps or simply driving into the centre of Phuket. We do recommend engaging a lawyer to check if you are dealing with has some cases filed against them at court.

4. Defining what you are buying – clearly

Due to the gulf existing between certain agents of low quality, and other agents of high quality, there can be quite disparate and contrasting approaches to the seemingly simple task of creating the ‘particulars’ or ‘description’ of a property. The description of a property by its very nature becomes the subject of a binding sale and purchase agreement which under Thai law is a sale of immoveable property. If the subject is incorrect, then any act arising from the transaction could be jeopordised by misunderstanding and disputes can arise.

Weirdly, many people transacting like to seem ‘amicable’ by making vague friendly references to furniture, fixtures, fittings and equipment such as “let’s deal with that later” “oh it’s ok, I am sure they won’t steal the toaster (wink wink)”. Unfortunately, this can result in metaphorical or actual tears later on. If an agent is involved, surely a furniture list can be drawn up. If the property is being bought and sold with a tenant still in the property, surely the seller knows what was in the property when the tenant took possession.

All in all, ascertain precisely what you are buying.

5. Make sure something is registered and/or legally transferred to you, properly

Many intelligent people got caught up in the Bernie Mahedoff scam because they simply assumed that those before them knew what they were doing. This could be, without wishing to insult lemmings, be coined as ‘Lemmingitis”.

When you buy a property, just because someone says they ‘own it’ doesn’t mean that is the case. Please kindly ensure you check for documents such as – the construction permit, the whereabouts of any land title documents, the constituent parts of any Thai and foreign companies involved, the validity of registers or the ‘company books’, information recorded at the Department of Business Development, and ensure that when any legal interest is transferred such as that in a building, property, leasehold right, condominium title right, and/or shares, that this is handled by competent professionals, who know what they are doing.

Phuket is a beautiful island. It is developing and infrastructure is improving. Property prices are on the whole going to increase over time if history is an indicator of the future. If you intend to be a positive part of this story, take care and enjoy your property hunting.

Find out more HERE. Or contact Desmond HERE.

Desmond Hughes is a senior partner of Hughes Krupica www.hugheskrupica.com which has offices in Sathorn, Bangkok and The Boat Lagoon, Phuket and has been operating as a law firm owner in Thailand for 15 years specializing in property investment, hotel investment and disputes spanning those segments and the wider commercial context.

Desmond is UK qualified, Hong Kong qualified (OLQE), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a current International Corporate and Commercial Law LLM student at King’s College, London.

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Property

Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19 | The Thaiger

The Coronavirus outbreak poses challenges for Thailand’s property market as potential Chinese condominium buyers remain stranded in China. Meanwhile, some believe that the outbreak may bring opportunities for non-Chinese buyers and in the long-run, the Chinese may be looking for an overseas refuge in the event of these types of emergencies popping up again

Through all this, there will be a certain level of pent up demand for Thai real estate.

Of course, it’s not just the Chinese unable to come and inspect potential buys, the rest of the world is also mostly shut out of Thailand.

Market remains weak

The pandemic is hurting the condominium market as Chinese nationals were accounting for half of the international buyers in Thailand, or 57.6% of the total foreign condo owners in 2018.

Vichai Viratkapan, acting director-general of the Real Estate Information Centre says that 50% of Chinese condo transfers are expected to disappear in the first 2 quarters of this year and the total transfer value by the Chinese will miss the mark of the usual 29 billion baht by about 25% (around 7 billion).

However, since Chinese property buyers only make up 6% of the total international and domestic housing transfers in Thailand, the proportion of total housing transfers in the country is likely to be similar to last year.

Developers looking to sell current stock whilst shelving new projects

CBRE reports that most Thai developers are postponing the launch of new condo projects to focus on clearing existing stock.

“Discounting completed projects to generate quick revenue as a financial lifeboat is the best solution for many of the country’s larger developers whilst the market is in limbo.”

Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, head of CBRE Research and Consulting in Thailand believes that, now business is gradually recovering, a few developers have started to launch new condominium projects.

“In the first half of 2020, the Bangkok condominium landscape was gloomy with fewer than 10,000 condominium units launched, which was much lower than the total number of new launches in the past three years of more than 60,000 condominium units per year.”

The Chinese are reluctant to complete transfers

The virus has continued to affect hospitality operators, including hotels and condominiums that service tourists, nationwide. Since China has suspended tours, put restrictions on movement, and locked down cities, home to over millions of people, it also poses a threat to real estate developers as their clients are unable or unwilling to fly.

“Currently multiple off-plan condominium developments are approaching completion, and Chinese clients are unable or unwilling to transfer. Chinese clients who made a reservation in Q4 2019 are requesting a refund and withholding their investment,” said Marciano Bijmohun, Business Development Director at FazWaz Property Group.

He believes every condominium that is in transfer status will see the percentage of non-transfer units rise in the coming months.

“These non-transfer units will cause a big financial hit to developers.”

If a client refuses to transfer, does not comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in the sales and purchase agreement, and decides to release the property, their deposits will be forfeited.

“However, there is some good news, these non-transferred units can be offered with a discount to new clients.”

Also, as China has been susceptible to a few disease outbreaks – from bird flu to the current coronavirus – it may prompt Chinese buyers to look for second homes outside of China.

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Bangkok

Silom Road tops as the most expensive area to buy land in Bangkok

Caitlin Ashworth

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Silom Road tops as the most expensive area to buy land in Bangkok | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Paul Szewczyk

Silom Road, Bangkok’s nightlife district, is the most expensive area to buy land in Bangkok, followed by Phloen Chit Road, according to data the Treasury Department gathered from 2016-2019. The pandemic may have fluctuated the prices, but no data on land value for 2020 has been reported by the department. They also say only asking prices were recorded, so it’s unclear how much the price decreased by during negotiations.

On Silom Road, land prices per square wa are up to 1 million baht while land on Phloen Chit Road have been reported to cost up to 900,000 per square wa. A square wa is about 4 square metres. Land on Rajadamri Road ranges from 750,000 baht to 900,000 baht per square wa. The cheapest areas to buy land in Bangkok are farmlands in the Bangkhuntian district. Land prices range from 500 baht to 10,000 baht per square wa.

Properties on Silom Road are also the most expensive in Bangkok. The price for a 170 square wa 4 storey office on the road costs around 155 million baht, according to the data. The highest asking price was 7 billion baht for a 37 storey office building on Sathorn Road.

Here are the top 10 most expensive areas to buy land in Bangkok:

1. Silom Road at 700,000 baht to 1 million per square wa

2. Phloen Chit Road at 900,000 baht per square wa

3. Rajadamri Road at 750,000 baht to 900,000 baht per square wa

4. Rama I Road at 400,000 baht to 900,000 baht per square wa

5. Wireless Road at 500,000 baht to 750,000 baht per square wa

6. Sathorn Road at 450,000 baht to 750,000 baht per square wa

7. Yaowarat Road at 700,000 baht per square wa

8. Thaniya Road, Pattanapong Road, Pattanapong II Road at 600,000 per square wa

9. Narathiwas Rajanakarin Road at 280,000 baht to 600,000 baht per square wa

10. Ratchawong Road, Sampeng Road at 550,000 baht per square wa

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Thailand

Thai condo developers clearing inventory rather than starting new projects

The Thaiger

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Thai condo developers clearing inventory rather than starting new projects | The Thaiger

“With waves of uncertainty and financial stress crashing into the market from the COVID-19 pandemic, most residential property developers have decided to postpone their plans.”

CBRE, the international property consultants, reports that most Thai developers are postponing the launch of new condo projects to focus on clearing existing stock. Discounting completed projects to generate quick revenue as a financial lifeboat is the best solution for many of the country’s larger developers whilst the market is in limbo.

Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, head of CBRE Research and Consulting in Thailand believes that, now business is gradually recovering, a few developers have started to launch new condominium projects.

“In the first half of 2020, the Bangkok condominium landscape was gloomy with fewer than 10,000 condominium units launched, which was much lower than the total number of new launches in the past three years of more than 60,000 condominium units per year.”

Since June, CBRE Research says new condominium projects, along new extensions and future routes of mass transit lines, with starting prices under 2 million baht, and those along existing mass transit lines are usually priced lower than 3 million baht.

“On the other hand, there has been no newly launched condominium in the high-end and above segments this year due to the high level of unsold supply and high land cost in prime locations. Investors have become more cautious in spending a large amount of cash during these uncertain times.”

“Some of the newly launched condominiums have had a good sales rate during their first launch. Most of these projects have been launched with a product and pricing that are mainly targeting large demand from buyers with lower-purchasing power and are located in an attractive location with limited available condominium supply in the area.”

But despite the slowdown of general activity and the current sales and promotions to dispose of excess stock, over 60,000 condos are expected to be completed this year and around 80,000 units each year over the next 2 years.

“With over 140,000 condo waiting to be transferred over the next 2 years, there is a possibility that a large number of booked units could return to such a volatile market as some cash-strapped buyers could decide not to transfer their units.”

“The future of the condominium market depends on the direction that residential developers will take collectively. With the 10 year record low number of newly launched condominium projects, this is the moment for the market to correct its long-standing oversupply and overpricing issues.”

CBRE Research believes that there are still opportunities for developers, including the 4 under-construction mass transit lines that are expected to be completed in 2022, the new Bangkok City Planning that will unlock many new locations for condo development and foreign demand that will come back… eventually.

To find the best range of condos, houses and villas, around Thailand, click HERE.

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