Accommodating over six million in its greater CBD, Bangkok has plenty of property options to suit all budgets. It’s also a buoyant investment market and has some top notch residential projects placing it on a par with Hong Kong and Singapore as an Asian property centre, though much affordable.
In Bangkok you’re most likely going to stay in a condo, and these can cost anything from 5000 baht a month out in the suburbs to 100,000 baht and more in prime areas for luxury and space. However the Thai middle class are increasingly moving out to the outlying suburbs and moving into the popular housing projects that are very modern and suburban, with green spaces and facilities. Some foreigners are following them, having established themselves here. You can also find older houses in conveniently located neighbourhoods, or if you’re on a generous corporate budget you might find something right in the heart of Sukhumwit road among the wealthy.
There really is a huge range on offer in Bangkok but most foreigners find themselves settling for modern condo buildings in the Sukhumwit and Silom areas which are suited to the expat lifestyle and centrally located. A key factor is proximity to the transport system, to avoid the terrible traffic, and the introduction of a metro system in 2004 opened up more possibilities in addition to the Skytrain and its limited routes. Obviously rents near these are significantly more, but affordable on a typical ex-pat wage.
Although Bangkok is huge, the outlying suburbs are completely Thai, after you’ve lived here awhile you might find yourself preferring these neighbourhoods. A house on the quiet back canals of Thonburi, across the river, is an entirely different experience to the concrete jungle you might imagine the city to be. Even the lower end of Sukhumwit road has some nice housing options if you have a family and need a garden. On a teacher’s salary you’ll have to settle for a 45 square meter studio condo in this area.
Where to stay in Bangkok
As previously mentioned, the Sukhumwit area is the most popular among foreigners and there are plenty of good condo buildings in the vicinity. But it is more expensive, many afford it by staying at the southern end beyond On Nut. Silom is a business district favoured for those working in the area, while the closer you get to Lumphini park the more expensive it gets. The Siam Square area is very commercial and busy but there are plenty of condos nearby and it’s a transport hub.
Further afield you start getting in among the real Bangkok atmosphere in Din Daeng, Pingklao and Paruhat (Chinatown), while Banglamphu, near the Khao San Road harks back to the older Bangkok but is difficult to get to. If you’re really lucky you might find something in the Dusit area but it’s mostly large low-rise government and Royal properties. There are many more areas further out but as a newcomer you might find these a little too strange, where no one speaks English and the facilities catering to foreigner tastes are limited.
Buying property in Bangkok
Buying a condo in Bangkok is usually a good investment, it’s among the most expensive real estate in Thailand and generally will increase in value, since the economy continues to grow by five per cent annually. The top end properties are in the same price leagues as Hong Kong and Singapore but generally US$150,000 will get you a fairly comfortable pad in a decent area.
The 1997 crash had a particularly gruesome affect on Bangkok property leaving dozens of unfinished high-rise ‘shells’ dotted around the city and 10 years later the industry has finally recovered and is bullish once more, with plenty of cutting edge developments going up. Foreigners are permitted to buy condos provided 51 per cent of the building is owned by Thais. It’s advisable to buy into buildings that have a large foreigner occupancy as this is likely to influence the maintenance of the building which can often be neglected in older Thai buildings.
Foreigners cannot own land, and usually get around this by settling on a leasehold agreement and buying the house, or else buying in the name of their Thai spouse. Previously setting up a company was a popular vehicle to achieve ownership, but the authorities are now clamping down on this practice, regardless if you decide to buy a condo or explore ways to own land, it is very important that you use the resources of a Bangkok real estate lawyer who can protect your interests and your future investments.