Thailand is certainly an idyllic place and somewhere that many people dream of living or owning a second home but like anywhere else in the World care should be taken as well as listening to the advice of reputable experts who have professional experience. It would be easy to think that this was an attempt to put people off but it certainly isn’t. If you go about things in the correct manner and take sensible precautions things can actually be smoother and easier than what they are in other countries.
The first thing that you need to understand is that no foreigner can own land in Thailand. This doesn’t however mean that you can’t own the property that sits on the land or a condominium but both of these scenarios are very different and should be treated as such. A good lawyer or real estate agent will be able to advise you on the pros and cons of both option and we will just address the ‘nuts and bolts’ and perhaps give you an idea about the questions that you may want to ask and the points that you want clarifying.
Firstly, we shall look at the purchase of a condominium. A condominium will be divided up into the Thai Quota and Foreign Quota. The reason for this is again down to the ownership laws in Thailand as a minimum of 51% of the RENTABLE AREA (not units) needs to be in Thai ownership. The remaining 49% can, if required, be owned by foreign nationals. Units can change between Thai and Foreign quota at a later date so long as the 51/49 split throughout the building is not breached. Common areas such as gardens, swimming pool and even corridors are not taken into account in the equation.
When you receive your Chanot (more about this later) you will see that the owner of your unit will be you – for example Mr. John Smith. To purchase the property in Foreign Quota the funds need to be transferred from overseas and proof from the bank (a document called a Tor Tor 3) will be required.
The ownership of a house in Thailand is a slightly more complex issue. Remember, we said that foreigners cannot own land so the land that the house stands on technically you cannot own. This obviously and quite naturally raises a few concerns as you will never be able own ‘all’ of the property. This means that the Chanot cannot show your name (Mr. John Smith) and will be in the name of a third party – potentially frightening.
To get around this you basically have three options which we address below.
If you have a Thai friend who you can trust such as a business partner or spouse you can purchase the property in their name. This obviously is laden with risks have you have no legal right to the property and it could be taken away from you at any time should there be a breach of trust or a falling out. The risks with this option are quite great.
If you were to lease the property then it would still need to be in Thai ownership. This again could be your business partner or spouse but you would hold a lease agreement (anything up to 30 years with the option to renew) and therefore you would legally be entitled to live in the house and it couldn’t be sold against your wishes. You may not own the property but at least you have the security of a home. The risks with this option are significantly less so long as the contract is watertight and has been draw up by a reputable lawyer.
Company Ownership is an extremely grey area in Thailand and is something that you seriously need advice on and is not something that we are suggesting that you do. The principle behind this is means that you effectively own a Thai Company that in turn owns the land therefore it is not owned by a foreigner directly. This means that the foreigner would own the house and land and would be able to do as he/she pleases. This option gives people the greatest piece of mind but it should be stressed that this is actually illegal although there are loopholes in Thai law.
All of the property will involve the sale of the company rather than the property as the company will retain ownership of the land.
The Chanot (various spellings) is effective the land title or deed and is a piece of paper issued by the regional Land Office when the property is first constructed. It will detail the size of the unit for a condominium and the size of the land for a house, often in Rai or Wah. It will clearly state who the owner of the property or land is and when it was purchased. The transfer of the Chanot needs to be done in person or via Power of Attorney and will be subject to Land Transfer Tax.
It is vitally important that you see the original Chanot and have this checked by a lawyer. It is not uncommon for a Chanot to be used a security for a loan which would either compromise the sale or result someone else having a charge on your property.
* Legal advice should always be sought and there are far more issues that need to be addressed than could be covered in this one article.