Part I: Getting started in Thailand
This part of this guide helps you understand how to approach the process of getting yourself established in Thailand – how to buy property and how to apply for a visa.
Where do expats choose to live in Thailand?
Thailand is, of course, a big country with a population of just under 70 million. In recent years, it’s also attracted many Swiss looking for the perfect place to retire to. So where do they choose to go?
Thailand’s boisterous capital has all the diversity and choices of any large, international city with the added bonus of top restaurants, temples, art, shopping and more.
In the centre of northern Thailand, this beautiful city attracts expat retirees who love the great outdoors – biking, hiking, white-water rafting and more. It’s also famous for its Buddhist temples.
This famous island resort is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife.
A seaside resort popular with the Thai elite, its pristine beaches, beautiful scenery and small-town vibe attract many retirees from Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, the UK and the US.
Buying a home in Thailand – all you need to know
There is no shortage of beautiful properties for sale in Thailand – from villas, condominiums to luxury apartments, but there are some important legal considerations you must understand before you fall in love with one of them.
There are some strict laws in Thailand governing the ownership of property by foreigners. Here’s an outline, but you will need the help of a lawyer to navigate this fully.
Can I buy a house in Thailand?
- You can buy a house, but you cannot own the land it stands on
- You need to lease the land from a Thai landowner
- Each house is sold with a 30-year extendable lease
- There are some local limits on foreign property ownership
Can I buy a condominium or apartment?
- Ex-pats are permitted to buy and own these outright
- A majority of the properties within a given building or complex must be Thai-owned
How much does property cost in Thailand?
This is hard to say because it depends on the type of property and where it’s located. What is clear is that prices in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai are significantly higher than in Hua Hin – where it’s still possible to buy a stunning villa for as little as €300,000. Why not get a better idea of prices by checking out our property listings?
What are the possible legal pitfalls?
The real estate sector in Thailand isn’t regulated in the same way as it is in European countries. This means you need to be absolutely sure that the property you’re buying is being sold to you legally. What’s more, obtaining deeds of ownership can be a complicated process.
Do I need a property agent?
Having someone by your side who has intimate knowledge of local laws and conditions and who speaks your language makes the whole process easier and quicker. There are many businesses offering these services, but it’s key to make sure you do your research to find the right expert. Do it right and you’ll feel the fees you pay are more than worth it in terms of avoiding costly mistakes.
How do I find a lawyer?
If you’ve teamed up with a property agent, it’s likely they will recommend a lawyer to you. Even if that’s the case, check their credentials and make sure they have a good reputation locally. This is because your lawyer will need to carry out the land registry checks to ensure your retirement home can be legally sold to you. He or she will also need to make sure there are no other restrictions on the property and that there are no pending plans for major building work or infrastructure development nearby which would affect the value of the property or its attractiveness to you.
Can I get a bank loan or mortgage in Thailand?
In most cases, you’ll need to buy your property outright and in fact, up until recently, it was impossible for ex-pats to obtain local mortgages. That has changed somewhat, and the market is gradually opening up. Mortgages can be obtained from Singapore-based UOB and the privately-owned MBK Group. You must check the terms carefully to see if they are favourable. And always speak to an expert before committing.
There is an easier way
At alphaSet, we’ve teamed up with Manora. This family-run business is managed by a Swiss board of directors and it specialises in helping European retirees navigate the whole process, from finding exactly the right property, to taking care of all the legal aspects and completing the transaction. The Manora team in Hua Hin speaks English, German, French, Italian and – crucially – Thai. Find out more about our Hua Hin properties.
Getting a retiree visa in Thailand
If you’re planning to retire to Thailand, you must first obtain a visa. The Thai authorities have made this relatively straightforward and there is even a special classification for retirees – the Non-Immigrant O Visa.
What are the Thai retiree visa stipulations?
To obtain one of these visas, two of the following stipulations must apply to you:
• You must be at least 50 years old
• You must have proof that you can financially support yourself
• Your monthly income must be at least 65,000 baht (around CHF 2,000) or you must have at least 800,000 baht (around CHF 25,000) in a Thai bank account. (You will need to prove that this money has been in your account for at least two months prior to your visa application and that, once you have obtained your visa, that there is 400,000 baht in the account for at least three months.)
Do I need to meet any financial requirements?
Your income is likely to be from the pension you built up when working or from other passive sources of income. Make sure you set up a means of regularly transferring this income to your Thai bank account.
How can I get help with your visa application?
The process of applying for the Non-Immigrant O visa isn’t difficult, but you will need to make sure you have all the paperwork prepared properly – in Thai.
We recommend you get help with this from a registered visa agent. There are many of these to choose from in Thailand and not all of them are reputable, so it’s best to get a recommendation from someone you trust first. Our support team at Manora can also help with this, so you don’t have to worry.
Visa renewal and 90-day checks.
You will need to renew your visa annually, meeting the financial requirements each time. You will also need to report to an Immigration Office every 90 days. It’s now possible to do this online, once you’re registered, but if you do need to in person, it’s not too onerous. One top tip: dress smartly. This is a general point that applies to many situations in Thailand. It’s a mark of respect to others to be neatly dressed.
Your home country retirement provisions
Equally important to knowing what you need for retiring from Thailand authorities, you also need know how your country’s retirement provision system works. This includes if you can collect your retirement payments in another country through to paying taxes. If you are a Swiss national or from an EU or EFTA member state working in Switzerland you can find out everything you need to know about retiring abroad here.