Buying a Condo in Bangkok, Thailand; My Story
Buying a Condo in Bangkok Thailand was never the plan initially, but it became one of my best ever decisions. Leaving Ireland at 22 and traveling the world for years on end has proven to be a pretty epic journey, visiting every country in the world, all 193 countries, and enough experiences to put in 10 books. But as I approached 30 years old, I realised something quite personal. For me, it’s not enough just to travel indefinitely, security and peace-of-mind have a lot going for them, and whilst I don’t know if that’s an inherent longing for these things, or a societal construct, what I did know was that I wanted some of it. So buying a condo in Thailand became a new goal. I need some stability, and a condo in Bangkok could provide it. So I looked into it.
I was 27 years old, and the pangs for a touch of security started to hit me, I was loving my travels but being broke was getting old. How do I progress from here? What about supporting a family, buying a house etc? So I started taking blogging seriously, ended up doing quite well out of it, becoming a millionaire a few years after I bought this condo, but with my first $100k or so, as soon as I had enough money to buy a property, I went all in and spent everything I had on a new condo in Bangkok. My bank account was back to zero again but it’s proven to be one of the best decisions of my life.
Buying a condo in Bangkok, Thailand
I was living in central Bankok, sharing a place with a close friend we paid 25,000THB a month rent ($700USD). My blog was booming. My bank account had reached numbers I had never dreamed of. $120,000USD in my currency account (about 80kGBP – a huge landmark figure in my life, I had never seen a bank balance like that before)). At the current exchange rates that was about 4 million Thai baht (2020 edit – that would be 3.3m THB today), so that was my budget, 4 million baht.
I had been broke all my life, but now I had $120k, I was gonna spend the whole $120k on an apartment and be broke again, no problem. I wanted to know that if the online money collapsed, I’d have a nice place to live forever, so I was ready.
Can foreigners buy property in Thailand?
Buying a condo in Thailand? Yes. So, Foreigners CAN buy apartments and condos but we can’t buy land, so that means no houses. I searched and searched for nice apartments that I could buy. Should I get a big apartment in an old building? or a smaller, modern new build? I had no idea. After plenty of research, I decided to buy off-plan (that means the building isn’t finished yet, and you pay a deposit to the developer before they finish construction, it’s a little risky but you get great deals).
To ensure that the off-plan property would be finished, I was only open to buying a condo from a respected, famous developer in Thailand. A developer that had ALWAYS finished their projects, they had a brand to upkeep, I thought that would minimise my risk. I came across an apartment complex in 2014 called ‘The Base’, it was developed by Sansiri (one of the top developers in the country, so the price per square metre is higher, but you’re guaranteed they’ll maintain the upkeep of the property and facilities well into the future). The fact is was named ‘The Base’ and I had constantly been talking to my mum and friends about how I’d love ‘a base’ in Bangkok screamed out from the computer. It’s too perfect. So I contacted the jurisitc office in the condo complex and asked what they had available.
The Base Condo, Bangkok
The development was due to finish in a few months. It was on Sukhumvit, the main road in Bangkok, but a few stops on the BTS skytrain out, in a cool area called On Nut which meant that it was a little cheaper, and that I could afford a 2 bed, 2 bathroom place.
Also, I loved the idea of living in On Nut, I had stayed slap-bang in the centre of Bangkok for 2 years and it’s too much. Skyscrapers on your doorstep, no local food, it didn’t feel like Thailand. On Nut felt more Thai, amazing street food, cool coffee shops, and still only 10/15 mins on the train to the city centre. Not only that, but it was only 500m from the train station. 8 minute walk or so. I could handle that! It meant I could be in Thong Lor or Asoke within 15 minutes, but I wouldn’t have to pay Thong Lor prices (Thong Lor is THE place tt be in Bangkok, but condo prices there are similar to London!)
I went to visit the development, checked out the gym, the pool, the futsal court, the basketball court. I couldn’t believe I would own a place with all these facilities – a pool and a gym, life changes fast! Done, gimme one, where do I sign?
HOW MUCH IS A CONDO IN THAILAND? Mine was about $100k USD in 2014
2 beds condos in The Base Condo were priced around 3.8m to 4mTHB ($110k to $115kUSD), just about within my budget. If it was at the top end of that, I might not have much money left to furnish the place, but money from my blog was still was coming in fast and I had my heart set on this complex.
With a reputable developer like Sansiri, they sell their whole buildings out before they even start construction! So although it wasn’t yet finished I had to buy from a re-seller. I got a list of all the resell properties in the building, with their corresponding prices. 3.81, 3.85, 3.9, 4.1M THB. Ok ok, keep looking… 3.15mTHB ($90K).
There was one condo strangely cheaper than all the others, almost 1 million Thai Baht cheaper ($30k USD cheaper!). I thought it was a scam, but I organised a meeting the next morning with the Thai lady (long story but she broke up with her husband in India, was planning to move back to Thailand, but then just before she was due to pay the balance on her new condo, they got back together and now she wanted a quick sale before paying the balance!). We met, and she was great, I was still scared because it was sooo much cheaper than the others but I signed on the spot.
The previous day I had already transferred 4mTHB ($115k) to my Thai bank account (that I opened on my tourist visa here, madness). Because there was no mortgage, no finance, no lawyers, that meant that the process was very basic. It involved me buying out the Thai lady’s option on the place (10% of the price, about $12kUSD), and then I would owe the remaining balance to the developer. So I also transferred that the same day. That was a scary process, it still only took an hour, but seeing that money disappear was gut-wrenching.
The next day I went to the office in the condo building and got my keys, they walked me up to the door and let me in. “Welcome to the Base, Sansiri sir“. Done.
Thailand being Thailand, I had actually bought a non-furnished package, but as we walked into the building, and into my unit, everything had been furnished! All the built-in units had all been installed, the sofa was there, the kitchen table. They had accidentally given me the fully-furnished packages. This being Thailand that amounted to “Oh, you have the furnished package, maybe it’s a mistake, no problem” and that was the end of that. Brilliant.
Furnishing a Condo in Thailand
After spending $100k or so, and officially being broke again with 0 in my bank account, I was very eager to stay in my new place that very first night. So with nothing in the condo, no sheets on the bed, I slept there my first night and loved it. The next day and a half, I furnished the whole apartment.
Because the price of my condo had been almost 900,000THB ($25k) less than I had budgeted, that meant I had all that extra money sitting in my Thai account. That meant straight to Ikea, in MegaBangna. Along that street, they also have Index living mall and a lot of other furnishing places so you can get it all down there. Within MegaBanga Mall they not only have Ikea but a hundred other electronic stores, clothes stores etc. so you can get pretty much everything you need. If you’re on a super tight budget, all the local Thai markets can help you out too. The Talat Rot Fai (train market) and of course the world’s biggest weekend market (Chatuchak Market) are waiting for you.
I went to Ikea, and the mall connected it, for 2 days. About 6 hours each day. And bought EVERYTHING in one go. 3 TVs, fridges, microwaves, sheets. I spent about $5,000 or so (150,000THB) and with that, my place was ready for me. My new base. This would be the bedrock to my goal of visiting every country, it would maintain my sanity as I traveled.
Condo Bills and Expenses in Bangkok
Each year I have to pay around $500USD for condo maintenance fee (EDIT 2020, that has now increased to about $700), other than that my water bill is about $5 a month, my electricity is about $100 a month (I have 2 aircons on constantly, not to mention an oversized TV, playstation, laptops constantly on too). TV and wifi is another $20 so that’s all in about $75 a month for bills, plus $40 a month condo fees.
Renting a Condo in Bangkok, Thailand?
Now I live rent-free and mortgage-free, a wonderful, amazing feeling. From an investment perspective, people talk a lot about ‘leveraging’ your money (i.e paying smaller deposits and loaning from the banks for the remaining balance, meaning you can buy multiple properties). And that’s a great idea if you’re investing, but for me? This was peace of mind. A home. A base. And if/when blogging dies, I won’t be homeless.
If I want to rent my place out, it would rent for just shy of $900USD per month, or $10k or so a year. A very nice guaranteed income everywhere if I ever want to jet off traveling. But I don’t rent it out. I keep it for myself when I’m on the road, waiting for my weary bones to return and collapse on the bed!
Capital Appreciation; Is Buying A Condo in Bangkok, Thailand a Good Investment?
I bought my place for 3.15m THB, it’s now valued at 6m THB ($200,000USD). It’s doubled in price. And it’s been my home for 7 years, which meant I haven’t been paying $900 rent a month, for 7 years, saving me $75,000USD. So buying a condo in Bangkok Thailand has been perhaps the best investment in my life.
So many people in Thailand told me not to buy a place, premonitions of over-supply, of an Asian crash, but people will say that about every city around the world. “He who dares, wins“. Now I live rent-free with an appreciating asset, and a rental property for life should I choose to move on. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the naysayers.
Buying on Finance? Can You Get A Mortage in Thailand?
Yes. It’s possible, but it’s difficult, to get a mortgage in Thailand, and the rates are awful. If you’re an expat, with a job here, you can get a 50% mortgage (so that means 50% deposit), but rates are running at 9% so it’s super expensive. Better to buy a cheaper place, or save a bit more money and buy outright in my opinion, or remortgage something back home if you’re lucky enough to be in that position.
Would I recommend people buying a condo in Thailand? For me, it’s worked out really well. When I’m on the road all year it’s so nice to know I have my own pad to return too, and honestly, not having to pay rent is such an amazing feeling. So yes, I would recommend it. I’d also recommend buying off-plan, do your research and only go with a developer of repute, but that’s where you’re gonna get the biggest capital appreciation.
I’m strongly considering buying a second place, maybe in Chiang Mai, so my recommendation doesn’t get much more convincing than that! (2020 EDIT: I’ve since bought 2 more places in London, and started the paperwork to build my dream house in Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Blogging changed my life, I can’t believe just how much it’s changed, and how quickly. There are still places that are great value in Thailand, and for example one of my places in London is half the size and four times the price, that’s crazy! If you wanna know how I managed all this in my twenties, it was from blogging, check out my post here’s how to start a travel blog of your own… Dont be one of the crowd, life’s too short for that.
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