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.
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.
Tale of two cities – Hua Hin vs Pattaya
by Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
Property buyers looking to buy a seaside villa or condo in a coastal town in Thailand, relatively close to Bangkok, confront one question – should I buy a property in Hua Hin or Pattaya?
And rightly so, because these two choices have similar aspects. Both have kilometres of coastline, good beaches, and are just a couple of hours away from Bangkok – 3 hours for Hua Hin and 2 hours for Pattaya. They also have good year-round weather, large expat populations, and are some of the best places in Asia for water-sports and playing golf.
Yet, each place suits buyers with different lifestyles and goals.
Town or City?
If you want a laid-back beach town feel, Hua Hin is the right choice. If you like to live in the middle of action, with a greater range of things to do, Pattaya is the winner. It is simply more established and has a longer development history in terms of western-style villas and condominiums.
Hua Hin has a population of around 100,000 plus a growing tourist reputation. The lazy town offers long, sandy beaches that run 5 kilometers along the coast and are not fully obstructed by high-story condos on the beach, due to building regulations.
Hua Hin may not be the best place to swim in Thailand, as the sea-bed is a bit rocky, but it makes up for it with clean beaches, dedicated beach cleanup groups consisting of locals and expats, and regulations which, among others, restrict commercial tourism on the beaches on Wednesdays, and town planning which controls high-rise along the coast.
Hua Hin also suits those in search of a peaceful getaway because the town does not have a seedy reputation and is far from any industrial enterprises. This is thanks to a strong tradition of royal patronage and residence in the district, such as Mrigadayavan Palace and Klai Kangwon Palace, the latter is owned by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
Nevertheless, the town has a growing reputation for restaurants and new attractions for tourists; it is a favourite resort town for Thai upper-class and Bangkokians who like to go to Hua Hin on weekends.
Check out the largest selection of properties in both towns HERE.
Pristine beaches of Hua Hin, larger and longer than Pattaya
Pattaya, on the other hand, is home to almost 400,000 people, plus plenty of international tourists. The city is highly developed and has a higher density of high-rise buildings along the coastline and many great sea-view villas on the hillside, both of which are harder to find in Hua Hin due to the tighter building regulations.
During the day, the beaches in Pattaya attract sun worshippers and all different types of water sports, from kitesurfing to waterskiing. At night, Pattaya’s Walking Street is an international adult entertainment playground. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quiet place in Pattaya. There are less-popular beaches like Jomtien Beach and nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.
Pattaya is part of Thailand’s eastern seaboard, the Eastern Economic Corridor, meaning the city is situated close to Thailand’s main industrial facilities and sea ports, as well as airports like Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is around an hour and a half away by car. It also has its own airport about 40 minutes from town called U-tapao International Airport.
The famous sweeping coastline of Pattaya, a haven for nightlife and entertainment options
Holiday home, Retirement, or Investment?
Hua Hin and Pattaya are both highly qualified for holiday home buyers with an impressive choice of villas and condominiums. But Hua Hin is better known for retirement and Pattaya for investment.
Hua Hin has been named as one of the best retirement locations in Asia by countless surveys. It offers a high standard of living, great golf courses, first-class restaurants, quality medical care, close proximity to Bangkok, as well as “the big foreign community that connects through reading clubs, festivals, cycling clubs, soccer leagues, wine tastings and darts tournaments,” wrote the US News and World Report in 2019.
Foreign property buyers are those who buy a holiday home or a retirement residence. Most are from western countries, especially those from Scandinavia, Germany and England. Many buy in Hua Hin to spend the winter with their families, rent out when they are away, and eventually live there when they retire. Also, a hi-speed railway will soon be built to link Hua Hin with Bangkok, which will make travelling to Bangkok airports even more convenient. It already has a multi-lane highway, train and bus services.
Pattaya is a popular choice for investment. It has a large and growing tourism industry, with over 12 million tourists last year, as well as a healthy mix of nationalities, including Israeli, Russian, European, Indian, and Chinese, making its tourism less susceptible to change from a single demographic.
Additionally, Pattaya is part of the Eastern Economic Corridor, the Eastern seaboard that targets high-tech industries and attracts foreign direct investments, especially from Japan. It is also linked to Bangkok airports, sea ports, and main industrial facilities in Chon Buri and Rayong by the upcoming hi-speed rail. Plus, the city itself is positioned as an international medical hub.
Overall, a stream of foreign tourists and business travellers means a steady source of income for investors. Those who buy the property to rent out short-term and long-term can enjoy a realistic Return On Investment of about 7 – 8% year. In Pattaya you can already see investors from Western countries as well as Asian countries, from China to India and the Middle East.
There is an excellent selection of international-standard golf courses in Hua Hin
Both offer a cool selection of eateries, shopping malls, and activities, but if compared by the variety of choices, Pattaya is the hands down winner.
That isn’t to say that Hua Hin doesn’t have plenty of options. Most buyers in Hua Hin like to play golf and enjoy the outdoor spaces – town is one of the best golfing destinations in Asia. There are also first-class Thai and international restaurants, a huge eco-friendly water park, and several night markets that sell fresh seafood and local crafts, like Hua Hin Night Market and Cicada Market.
Furthermore, Hua Hin has stylish shopping malls like Blueport and Market Village, the latter of which offers so-called “you hunt, we cook” options. You can also try the new Latitude Wines at a vineyard in Hua Hin or head to a cool bar that offers familiar labels.
Pattaya may be infamous for its red light areas and nightlife – go-go bars, beer bars and nightclubs – but that is not the only side of Pattaya. In Pattaya you can find quality lifestyle with a burgeoning choice of family options and entertainments.
It offers a range of Thai and international cuisines, from award-winning restaurants with amazing views, sky bars, and Italian wine bars, to family-run restaurants, 100% vegan places, and local seafood. It also has a range of options to entertain people with different budgets.
Pattaya also offers lots of chic shopping centees like Terminal 21 Pattaya, Central Festival Pattaya Beach and Central Marina. There are also lots of family-friendly choices like water parks and museums, in addition to a wide range of extreme sports, such as Muay Thai, kitesurfing, waterskiing, and skydiving. You can also go snorkeling or plan a day trip to nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.
In both cities, you can expect to find theatres with international blockbusters and supermarkets that sell western products. And there is a daily ferry between Hua Hin and Pattaya (during high season).
Expat families can find an excellent international school in both cities.
Hua Hin has a couple of options for expat families. With quality education and great sporting activities, Hua Hin International School, for instance, is one of the choices that follows the national British curriculum and the IB program, and recruits teachers from the UK. There are also several bilingual programs available.
Expats in Pattaya have more choice when it comes to international education. There are several internationally-recognised international schools with excellent facilities like hi-tech campus, drama studios, and a big theatre. Some of the best schools are St Andrews International School, Regents International School, and Tara Pattana International School.
Hua Hin and Pattaya offer high-quality hospitals that cover basic and advanced medical care and cater to patients with different budgets.
Top private hospitals in Hua Hin are, for instance, Sao Paulo Hospital which caters to lower budgets, and Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin which is part of the renowned BDMS group. These hospitals both offer quality specialist care including cardiology, urology, and orthopaedics, to name a few, and English is widely spoken.
For Pattaya, top hospitals are Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, Pattaya International Hospital, and Pattaya Memorial Hospital, with Bangkok Hospital Pattaya charging the highest fees. Also, as Pattaya is recognised as one of the best medical tourism centres in Thailand, and the region, there are tons of tourists flying to the city for medical care, and hospitals employ staff who are fluent in various languages.
Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, for instance, has interpreters in more than 20 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
The bottom line … It depends on your goals and lifestyle. If you want a peaceful hideaway with grand royal history, or are a golf enthusiast, you may choose a property in Hua Hin. If you want to a city that is always switched on, close to investment areas and airports, and has lots of leading international schools and shopping malls, you may like Pattaya more.
Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia
From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.
Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.
Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.
A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.
“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”
And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.
“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.
The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.
While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.
Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.
But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.
There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.
“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.
As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.
“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”
Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.
And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.
“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.
Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.
But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.
“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse
Stricter controls and paperwork putting brakes on residential property market
The honorary president of the Thai Housing Business Association, Atip Bijanonda, is tipping the local residential market may fall by up to 10% this year starved of economic confidence, the global economic slowdown and the loan-to-value limits.
But he also believes the situation is far from the situation leading up to the 1997 economic collapse.
The Greater Bangkok residential market is now valued at 372 billion baht (in 2018). That’s a rise of 29% compared to the year earlier. So the drop this year is off the back of a very successful 2017.
For this year the market has fallen by 5%, according to the Thai Housing Business Association, with the largest declines in Q2, in retaliation to the LTV limits taking on April 1.
Some of Thailand’s major developers are now shelving some projects as the market soaks up a glut of properties constructed over the past two years.
Three property associations – the Housing Business Association, the Thai Condominium Association and the Thai Real Estate Association – are having meetings with the finance minister discussing the current property market.
Topics for discussion are the improvement in property regulation, construction permits, licences and stricter controls over developers and lending. The associations also want to discuss the current delays on Environmental impact assessments (EIAs). They say that since the responsibility for EIAs was handed over to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning in 2016, the process is now taking much longer.
Speaking to the Bangkok Post, Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary-general to the PM for political affairs says that stricter lending criteria and the LTV rules are the main factors obstructing mortgage approvals for homebuyers
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