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Synopsis: August 15, 2004 - editor.  General information about building a house in or around Pattaya, Thailand.  Discussion of the labor market and resale possibilities.  How to live for free.  Rip-offs contractors are attracted to Pattaya in contrast to Thai honesty.  Is there a real estate bubble in Pattaya?  Building supplies.  Building a house vs. renting.  Thai architecture and pictures of Thai houses, for both expat and Thai owners.

Pattaya is in general a good place to build a house.  There is a ready supply of skilled labor, although labor is more expensive here than upcountry.  There are a lot of building supply stores, and also nice building superstores such as a recently built homepro.  Help of all kinds is available, although it may be a little expensive.  And if you build a house well, you can almost always sell it quickly at a profit, something that can't be said for building upcountry.  This is a great concept: build a nice house in a tropical paradise, live rent free for a while, and then sell at a profit!

The building boom here in and around Pattaya has attracted a fair share of rip-offs (see info engineer rip off), but percentage wise the number is still low (the number of rip-off contractors compared with good value contractors).  If someone comes in and says he will do a job for 40,000 Baht that someone else can do for 9,000 maybe that should not be classified as a rip-off.  Costs are high here and some people are just taking advantage of their niche.  In general, the Thais here and elsewhere are honest and hardworking, and want the customer to be satisfied.  This of course holds especially true in building where the normal mode is by contract with the money paid after each contract step (milestone) is completed.  This being the case you do have a lot of leverage to make sure things get done correctly -- if you are on top of things.  The Buddhist influence on people is the ingrained sense of 'karma', that what we do now and how we treat other, will effect our future karma -- this being one factor accounting for the trustworthiness and honesty of the great majority of Thai people.

As far as a building bubble, it does seem to be like were in the midst of one.  First off, there is a tremendous amount of land around Pattaya.  In fact outside the city it is nothing but land.  Land has continued to appreciate, but the high value land is just sitting there, undeveloped, in some areas.  For example, near the beach in Jomtien land goes for about 6 million a rai.  If you drive around Jomtien there seems to be a lot of undeveloped, available land.  But it all sports a super high price and is really only suitable for condominium development, which begs the question, how many more condos can be built?  Another factor is everyone is in to building these days, foreigners and Thais alike.  It isn't a week goes by that I don't bump into an expat doing a house or apartment project.  Everywhere you look there are simultaneously new housing developments sprouting up, most with starting prices of about 3,000,000 up.  There is a huge supply that will be coming on line within the next year or so.  Who is going to occupy all those houses?  That being said, houses on the low end of the price equation are rare and rents are high in and around Pattaya -- so I think this end of the market will fair best, which is really the focus of this web site.  As far as Condos, which is a developers dream, there is also a lot of supply coming on-line.  How is it that prices seem to still be going up?  I would summarize my view like this: there does seem to be a bubble that may burst in the future in Pattaya, but I doubt it will be as traumatic as the 97 bubble.  Foreigners are coming to Pattaya in ever increasing numbers which does add to the demand side of the equation.  And since the trend now is building on the super expensive 'gravy' end of the spectrum -- this is the area where I would expect the biggest downside in the future.  Anyway, all this is just gut feeling.

One of the reasons for building, obviously, is to have a place to stay.  If you look at the alternative, renting, indeed building a house is a good alternative.  To find a place to build you will need to get out of town a bit, but not that far, about 10 minutes by car will do.  For example, land around the cool thai house prototype is about 200,000 a ngan, which is about a building site (100 square wah or 400 square meters).  Then you can build and have a nice living spot rent free.  Selection of area is very important as there is so much surrounding land and demand for areas is spotty.  This comes into play if you want to sell the house, it needs to have been correctly located at the beginning.  It is nice is you know an area first and then rent there a while before deciding to build.  Real estate agents can sell you land, but they are of little help in taking you all around and showing all of the different areas.  That is because there are no multiple listing service here, so the agent will be happy to show you what they have for sale, but that is about it. 

If you see a house you like you can inquire as to who the builder is.  Normally this will drag you into a middleman situation, as what you really want to do is go direct to the real builder.  After getting house plans (see info planning czar) done for the house you want to build, you can get a number of different bids by checking around.  In all likelihood they will be all over the place in price.  The way to structure it is to set yourself up as the one buying the materials so you don't get squeezed on quality (see corner-cutters).

There are many types of land ownership in Thailand, you should only consider deeded property.  The deed in Thai is called 'chanote'.  A lawyer can help with the land transfer for a fairly low fee, around 5,000 Baht.  There is no problem here with questionable land papers as there was in Phucket, here it is a pretty straight forward process.  You can do the property transfer at the land office yourself, but the lawyer option is worth the money -- as they make sure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed.  Foreigners cannot own land directly, please refer to info ownership for info.

As far as building supplies it does pay to shop around.  Even when you start buying most of your supplies from one store, every now and again I would check prices.  The prices on the raw materials, such as cement, are pretty competitive.  By shopping around and buying in quantity you might save a couple of Baht per bag.  Other things, such as paint, door locks and kitchen sinks have more of a price range.  I always like going to the Homepro to get ideas about what is available, since they have the entire range from cheap to expensive.  Then, if it is an expensive item I might look for it at other places.  Some items can be found for 20% cheaper than Homepro, for example paints.  However, another advantage of Homepro is they have about the best return policy around.  Typically it is very difficult to return items around here, depending of course on how well the store knows you and how good a customer you are.  However, Homepro has got to have the best return policy, which I've tested and can attest is pretty good.

If you decide to buy a pre-finished house, especially in the lower price ranges, be prepared to encounter corner cutters.  See the article on corner cutters here.  The best defense is looking at a lot of houses and talking to a lot of people.  Find a builder who has been doing it for a while and who builds quality houses.

Almost all of the current building craze is aimed at foreigners.  As such the houses are of a higher caliber but can, in cases be poorly built.  As the budget on a house goes up, so to does the likelihood that the house will be quality built.  Sadly, this is not always the case, as I've seen 5,000,000 Baht houses under construction and noticed many problems.  The likelihood of quality however, would increase with the budget.

To see some examples of Thai architecture check out Pattaya Architecture Examples.


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