Most expats choose to rent when they move to Thailand. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, most expats do not intend on living in Bangkok for the rest of their lives; they are only there as long as their contract. Secondly, it is very difficult to buy property in Thailand.
A foreigner cannot own land. A Thai partner (whether that be a husband, wife or business partner) must own 51 per cent of the property. This is to ensure that large companies and rich land investors from abroad do not arrive in Thailand and purchase all of the prime land.
This makes real estate purchases very difficult, as foreigners who want to buy have to put a lot in trust in somebody they may not have known very long. Obviously this is easier if you are married to a Thai, but even then there is always the risk that you will be left with nothing should you separate. Also, foreigners on work permits cannot get a mortgage, which means that you would either have to get a loan under your partner’s name or buy the house outright.
It is essential to get legal advice when considering buying property so that you have steadfast contracts with partners. Nominees can also be used, although this again is risky. In this case, the 51 per cent is shared among a number of people so that you have the major share at 49 per cent, but again, it is essential to follow all of the correct legal procedures if you are considering following this route.
It is possible to buy an apartment in a condo block as you are not buying the land and essentially are buying a 30 year lease. Many people choose to do this and use the apartments as investments if they move out. Again, legal advice is essential.
Renting also has its disadvantages. If you are living in Bangkok for a long time and rent a house for that entire period, you will have spent a lot of money which could have been used as an investment. Also, landlords tend to keep deposits for no reason and it is common for tenants to have to arrange and pay for their own home improvements and maintenance. But, it is a lot safer to rent as you are not risking large sums of money.