Buying, Building and Renovating a House in Thailand


Because I have nearly 40 years of experience in Asia and have lived in Thailand at various points, have a Thai wife (now a US Citizen) and a son who is a dual national plus know a large range of real estate professionals, many people ask me about buying, building and renovating a house in Thailand.

Here is what you need to know.  First, foreigners cannot own land in Thailand unless under some fairly stringent exceptions either tied to the Board of Investment (BOI) or other limited conditions.  Foreigners can own condominiums and tens of thousands do already.  If the foreigner is a female and fortunate to be married to a Thai male, then the male can hold the property in his name.  If the Thai party, however, is a women then Thai law makes it more difficult if not outright illegal although again I would note many Thai women do hold title to land and housing for their spouse and the chance of prosecution is generally minimal.

Best advice is before buying any house, land or condominium in Thailand is to arrange to speak to an experienced real estate professional and fully explain your situation and what you want to accomplish.  An experienced real estate professional will give you the information you need and save your time and effort.  Although there are many real estate companies out there, one that we have utilized and recommend is Muller Real Estate, which is headed by Ms. Ampai Muller who has had decades of experience with many of Thailand’s biggest real estate companies before establishing her small boutique firm.

Ampai Muller
What differs her from many of her competitors is that she lived outside of Thailand in the US for many years and has traveled extensively.  Because of this and because she is married to an American (Regional Security Expert John Muller) she has a clearer idea of what most foreigners are seeking and what they expect.  When you couple this with the decades of experience she gained by working for some of the largest real estate companies in the region, Ampai has the clear experience and knowledge to give you the information you have to know quick and up front.  Further, it means she has decades of seeing the market grow and occasionally retreat and that she can advise you fully on housing prices, prospects for appreciation and for where to go to get your property, what to pay and then how best to renovate the house to get the property you desire.


Once you acquire that condominium or house, then the real fun starts.  Today, there are thankfully many companies to assist you in renovating, decorating and outfitting your house.  Home Pros (Thai equivalents of Home Depot in the U.S.), Boonthaworn, Department Stores, Index and many other furniture stores are scattered throughout the many Bangkok malls and all can be good resources.

One area where there still are challenges is in finding a good general contractor to handle your renovation whether it is big or small.  Finding a qualified, well organized, honest and dependable general contractor or a dependable electrician, plumber, carpenter or other craftsman is not as easy as one might think.  The best advice we can give again is to get advice from someone like Ampai Muller or other reputable real estate professional that has done much renovation work and already has the contacts to dependable craftsmen and has the status with them because of long experience to keep them honest and ensure they meet deadlines.  Dealing with contractors and craftsmen in Thailand in renovating a home is not easy and can be a big headache.  Get advice and listen to what you are being told.  The avice may cost you but the time, headaches and money saved will really make you glad you got the right help.

A final note, Thailand can be a great place to retire, to start a business and to base yourself for regional work.  Thai real estate has proved itself a good long-term investment and that is not likely to change.  Always though, do your due diligence, seek out professional advice and have patience.  If you do, you’ll soon be enjoying your new house or condo in this exciting and fascinating country.





About the Author:  

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.


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