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Bangkok Real Estate Rental Information | Bangkok Real Estate Agencies

▶ Overview

Viewing houses, condominiums or apartments starts with choosing the right location. Bangkok is vastly spread out, as a city of approximately 8 million people, and Thailand is as tall as the U.S. west coast. In the Bangkok region, approximately half of all expats want to be in the central business district (CBD), or somewhere along the two skytrain routes serving that area, namely on or near Sukhumvit-Phloenchit Rd. or the Silom subdistrict. This area is almost purely highrise luxury condominiums and serviced apartments, though there are some individual homes and townhouses scattered around, sandwiched within the concrete maze. For example, if you want your children to be able to bicycle around the neighborhood, then you'd better head for the suburbs. The above expats chose an inner suburb along the Ekamai - Ram Indra expressway. They can also drive to a nice western grocery store in the suburbs and a wide variety of restaurants without needing to deal with central Bangkok's traffic.

Approximately half of expats are spread around Bangkok's suburbs, and are usually those who prefer a house (especially those who want a new house, since most houses in the central business district are old) and a quiet, spacious neighborhood, or else more economical housing, and/or to experience the Thai way of life (middle to upper class Thai). New housing estates near the expressways have many expat residents. Green space is an issue in many parts of the city center, but there are a few parks, regions with royally owned land, embassy compounds, Buddhist temples, and even a few nice old neighborhoods you can look over. You should choose your location and home very carefully because it will have a major impact, good or bad, on your Thailand experience and that of your family, in many ways. Analysis in advance is time and effort well spent in leveraging a most fruitful Thailand experience.

▶ Homes

Many houses exist in and around the central business district, but there are no large neighborhoods, and the vast majority of the houses are old, though many do get renovated. Some small housing compounds are scattered around, but large gated community neighborhoods don't exist until you get out into the suburbs outside the skytrain/subway coverage. Modern new gated communities have sprouted up in abundance over the past 10 years around the new expressway network. The central region filled up long ago, and land prices skyrocketed, with new highrises typically going up after demolition of houses on the land.

You will need to look in the suburbs if you have a moderate budget for a house, or want a modern house with a yard and a place for the kids to ride bicycles and walk around a peaceful neighborhood. A modern new expressway system was completed in the late 1990s, with resulted in a surge in construction of nice neighborhoods with clubhouse and full amenities. These are most popular for families with children. The suburban housing communities normally come with a clubhouse which features a pool, fitness center, and various other amenities. Unlike in some other countries like China, these houses and communities are NOT wholly owned by any entity. They are modelled after communities in the USA and many other countries whereby the plots of land are individually sold, the developer builds the clubhouse and amenities to increase the value of the land, and some juristic entity takes over and collects a small maintenance fee from the residents (in the case of rental properties, normally covered by the landlord, i.e., included within rent) to pay for security guards, gardeners, facility maintenance, etc. These gated communities usually run well, as is proven by the older ones, with few exceptions.

However, if you plan to commute into town, you should know which parts of the "expressway" are often jammed at what times, where the skytrain and subway go, and what other modes of transport are available (e.g., private and public expressway vans to a skytrain station). Houses exist in the central region, but not big bicycle riding "neighborhoods" like the above, with a few exceptions.

Most detached houses remaining in the CBD are unaffiliated with neighboring houses, though they tend to exist in small batches of a few to a dozen or so alongside each other, without any common facilities. However, there are some nice townhouse compounds, a few sizeable compounds of new detached houses (and generally the highest priced in Bangkok), and a good number of small compounds of just a few houses. In contrast, suburban houses generally exist in gated neighborhoods, the entire neighborhood having been built recently by one developer, with a shared clubhouse, fitness center, playground, park area, and other facilities, and the kids can ride their bicycles around on the streets. Security guards patrol on bicycles using 2 way radios, and people entering must state their destination. These sizeable neighborhoods generally exist down the expressways, not within walking distance of the skytrain or subway, with just a few exceptions. Many of the big luxurious standalone homes in the CBD are occupied by wealthy Thais who really want to live there and don't need the money, neither selling the land to developers nor becoming rental properties.

▶ Condominiums

Bangkok has a very large selection of condominiums for rent. To understand why, you need a one-sentence overview of the Thai economy: You may be surprised to know that Thailand's GNP since the mid 1990s has been about 66% exports, 6-7% tourism (lower recently), and the other 25-30% purely domestic, in terms of dollar value.

Thais are traditionally heavy investors in property, especially owners of export factories who often have far more money than they know what to do with. You may have already noticed that Thai bank accounts offer negligible interest. Many wealthy Thai people buy condos and houses as investment properties, which have appreciated in value many times faster than bank interest rates, with any rent collected being a bonus. The overall equation makes property investment much more attractive than money in the bank. It is also common for wealthy Thais to buy a property for their young children or relatives and rent it out until they grow up (but after they grow up, the children often have other ideas about where they want to live...).

However, for westerners, investing in a property in Thailand is a different matter. Foreigners can only own a condominium freehold, and even then, can buy a condo only if the building is less than 50% foreign owned (by square meters of floor space). Foreigners cannot own land under a house. Thus, condominiums are usually the property of choice for foreigners. However, the condominiums must be fully paid in advance, generally speaking, and mortgages to foreigners are very hard to come by ...

Condominium prices here are much lower than many other cities in the region, and Bangkok is generally regarded as a fairly solid investment with a high probability of decent returns and not difficult to resell as long as you choose a good location and unit in a well maintained building (another long story in itself...).

Foreigners cannot own land under a house, and can only lease it for 30 years (with an option for a renewal and other legal twists, but it's still a lease, not a title deed ... and there's also the similar usufruct arrangement ...). There are various methods and associated risks and complications to control land which I'd rather not get into in an introduction, but can discuss in detail elsewhere.

▶ Summary

In summary, if you are dealing with a house, you will be dealing with a Thai landlord, and this will usually but not always be the case for a condominium as well.

We generally deal with four kinds of people:

  1. Renters in Bangkok for 1 to 5 years
  2. Retirees looking for a place to buy rather than rent
  3. Foreign husbands of Thai wives, with and without children (renters and buyers, e.g., Thai wife owns)
  4. Investors looking to buy the property to rent out to any of the above

Expats often waste a lot of time & effort going around in the traffic and heat, then dealing with the Thai language barriers, in search of an available condo or house to their specifications and preferences.

If you are not real familiar with Bangkok, if you don't have a lot of time & energy to burn, and especially if you want to find the best home, then you may want to consult a housing specialist who maintains a database of the good quality condominiums and serviced apartment buildings and keeps updated on the available units in each, as well as good houses in the metro region. Such as us at Prado Property Co., Ltd.

Unlike in some countries, the vast majority of Thai owners of condos and houses do not sign an exclusive agreement with any real estate company, but instead just advertise their homes in various other ways. Professional real estate companies have networks of people who maintain private, in-house listings of condos/houses/other properties -- usually nonexclusive -- which are very dynamic. The best real estate agencies have fulltime employees who also liberally coagent with experts in the different subregions of the vast Bangkok region, to give home shoppers the best selection.

These agents and agencies will also maintain contacts with condo building managers and others related to these properties, who update them when a condo becomes available for rent or sale at the moment, as well as housing estate managers. These networks can be very longstanding, personable, interlinked with an extensive real estate community, and established trust and carefully maintained reputation. In Thailand, a network of contacts is important in more ways than one!

The best rental properties go quickly, so that any database is usually incomplete (nobody has yet had time to go out to take photos and details, and upload them to the on-line database), but an agent familiar with the area will know of many places not yet in any database. If you are looking for a home, then it is strongly advised that you use a professional real estate guide to save you time, energy and frustration, as they can nicely help you find the best selection of homes for your specifications and preferences, as well as deal with the Thai language barrier. It is a major investment, and it is your home.

▶ Orientation

For those totally new to Bangkok, you may first want to orient yourself with the central region of Bangkok, including the Central Business District (CBD) and its surrounding residential areas. While there are no clear cut borders as to what constitutes the so-called CBD and its surrounding residential areas, nor any generally agreed upon conventions, I have first delimited it by places within a few kilometers of the skytrain station, then cut out the places where not many foreigners live, and finally separated the rest into five zones on my map, based on the five different and distinct ambiances:

  • Zone A | Patumwan & Lumpini = Highrise apartments and condos with a few office buildings, purely luxurious; no houses

  • Zone B | Nana & Asoke = the main tourist zone on Sukhumvit, dominated by tourist elements along the main road, sois 1 to 21 north, sois 2 to 14 south

  • Zone C | Phrom Pong, Thong Lor, Ekkamai = predominantly expat luxury residential, but with some tourist elements close to zone B; mostly highrise condos & apartments but also a lot of nice houses
  • Zone D | Phra Khanong & On-Nut = scattered expats, much less shopping infrastructure oriented to foreigners, but also scattered houses of expat acceptability, mainly old Thai neighborhoods
  • Zone E | Silom & Sathorn = Purely office highrise buildings, hotels, and nightlife on Silom, Surawong, and Sathorn (northwest zone E) Old Thai neighborhood with many highrise condos and apartments behind Sathorn Rd., plus some houses of expat acceptability (southeast zone E)

  • Most expats are interested in living in the Sukhumvit residential area, which is zones B, C, and D. Sukhumvit Road starts in zone B, odd numbered sois 1-21 on the north side, even numbered sois 2-14 on the south side, and continues thru zones C and D. Beyond zone D is the "Bang Na" suburban part of Sukhumvit, which is on another map, the green map at the end of this page. The skytrain currently ends in zone D at On-Nut, but it will extend to Bang Na with completion currently projected for 2011.

Zones E and A are largely shaped by the "old Bangkok" business and traditional property zones, whereas Sukhumvit is a relatively newer part of Bangkok. However, by "older" and "newer", there really isn't a significant difference because older zones E and A are places which have been largely razed and replaced with highrise office and residential buildings over time. However, they are still heavily influenced in their purpose by the original old central business district whereby it's business first and residence second in purpose, whereas Zones B, C, and D started as free "suburban" residential areas just a few decades ago (hard to imagine that being called a "suburb" in view of them now) and are still residential first and businesses come second. The concentration of highrises is now about the same, but the ratio of residential to office highrises is higher along Sukhumvit.

Zone A is the relatively small Patumwan-Lumpini region sandwiched between the old zone E and the Sukhumvit residential area, but having a different ambiance than either. Much of the land in this area is owned by the royal family (Crown Property Bureau) and is leasehold. It's separated from zone E by Lumpini Park, and along its border are a polo club, a small golf course, the top university in Thailand (Chulalongkorn), old police-related government buildings, and the large American Ambassador's residence across the street from the American Embassy. It consists mainly of luxurious shopping and high quality highrise apartments and condominiums with some office buildings scattered within, plus a scattering of fine restaurants, spas, and shopping odds and ends. The east border of zone A is the expressway, which also marks where Sukhumvit Road changes name to Ploenchit Road beyond soi 1 by the expressway. Sukhumvit Road doesn't end, it just loses its name. Some of Bangkok's most fashionable central shopping malls are along Ploenchit Road going west, namely Central World, Paragon, Siam Square / Siam Center, Central Chidlom, and Gaysorn Plaza. Nearly all properties in this area are luxurious, and there is practically no land left which hasn't been razed and redeveloped.

Zone V is popular with many expats who want to get more space or quality for their budget than Sukhumvit, while being a short walk from the skytrain, and still enjoying many good restaurants, shopping, and expat conveniences in the area within short walking distance. Many wives and girlfriends like this area because it's practically devoid of sexy Thai ladies who hunt foreign men, in contrast to all of Sukhumvit, yet it's on the same skytrain line, just the opposite end. For those who commute to northern Bangkok or beyond, taking the Vipawadi-Rangsit expressway, and who want to be along the northern end of the skytrain strip, this part of the skytrain line runs parallel to and a short hop from the Vipawadi expressway, above the city center expressway interchange jams, for a quicker commute. For expats working in highrises along Phahonyothin Road or Vipawadi Road, it's a no-brainer that this region is the most convenient. It's just not the main expat area, but it's still got lots of expats who prefer this area.

Many people new to Bangkok ask to live "along the river". In Bangkok, the river banks are not "developed" like in many other countries. There are some nice highrises along the river, passenger ferries up and down the river (many with Thai boat design and coloring), and some charming places along it, but there are precious few parks along the river, and it's mostly old riverside shacks, some hotels, and lots of cement walls, fences, and big ships. For example, there's nowhere to bicycle along the river. Bangkok is not well known for waterfront properties, though there are a few river tracts with charm. It is a muddy river, Bangkok being an amazingly flat sedimentary plane of fine dust and mud, with literally no rocks or sand within tens of kilometers of the river which goes thru Bangkok. Occasional riverfront floods have discouraged some developers. When considering a riverside property, consider the issues of transportation and traffic getting from these areas to the established expat shopping, socializing and business areas in Bangkok, which are mostly not near any waterfront.

Multinational businesses are scattered all around Bangkok, both the CBD and the suburbs, but the oldest and still the main business highrise area is the Silom-Sathorn area, which is the northwestern part of zone E on the map, starting a few blocks from the river. There is an expat residential area in southeastern zone E mixed in with an old Thai neighborhood, but it is not the main region which expats choose to live in. Expats living in zone E tend to be working expats in the corresponding business half of zone E. On the street, there is also a mix of tourists and visiting businesspeople staying in the many hotels in the business highrise and nightlife area of Silom, Surawong and Sathorn. The nightlife of this area is along Surawong and Silom the first few hundred meters from Rama 4 Road, and includes the world famous old Patpong go-go bar complex.

The primary expat residential zone is "the Sukhumvit area", zones B and C from Sukhumvit sois 1 to 63 on the even side, and sois 2 to 40 on the south side. Zone B is a primary tourist zone with the residential area around the fringe, whereas zone C is mainly residential and quite different. The higher the soi number, the more expat residential it becomes, as well as the further you go down any soi from the main road. The low number sois are where the hotels, serviced apartments, and tourist venues and ambiance dominate. There are not many hotels or tourist attractions beyond soi 33 or 26, and most of it is squarely in zone B, particularly sois 1 to 23 on the north side (plus soi 33 in zone C), and sois 2 to 8 on the southside (plus sois 18 to 26 in zone C).

Monday, May 17, 2021