Retirement & Real Estate in Thailand

Surprisingly a substantial number of people went ahead and purchased land or a house without seeking sound legal advice. In a recent interview with Siam Legal Hua Hin managing partner, Dennis Ramm, offered valuable advice to prevent expatriate’s dream turning sour.

Maybe it’s the sun or the sheer joy of being in the tropics but people just seem to take more risks when they are on holiday. Buying a property is probably one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. Back in your home country you wouldn’t even think of doing so without legal advice.

According to Dennis Ramm of Siam Legal, however, many foreign buyers here in Thailand put all their trust in a developer or estate agent without even doing basic checks. People don’t often rely that the property business in Thailand is an unregulated industry. There is no licensing requirements, anyone can setup an office and sell property or start a development.

In Malaysia if you are a developer you have to put up a bond. If problems arise the government can settle disputes with the cash. In Thailand that is not the case so a good deal of caution is advisable. (If you want to find more information check the Thai Real Estate section of Siam Legal.)

What do most foreign retired individuals and couples in Thailand buy?

Most foreigners in Thailand prefer to buy a condominium.

Can foreigners own land in Thailand?

In one word – no. However, there are other ways to legally secure land and build a house. Ask a competent attorney about this.

Can I lease the land or house and is it registered?

Yes you can secure a 30 year lease. Any lease over 3 years must be registered at the amphur and there is a fee payable of 1.5% for registration and stamp duty.

Can I register a usufruct and how long is it valid for?

Yes usufructs are common in Thailand and are usually valid for 30 years. See Siam Legal’s page about Usufructs in Thailand.

What are the transfer costs of property in Thailand?

It would be 2% transfer and 1% withholding tax with 0.5% stamp duty. There are also other considerations such a capital gains tax and business tax if the property was owned for less than 5 years. See the property transfer taxes

What type of land types are there?

There are two types. The one is possessory and the other is ownership. Consult a property attorney in Thailand as you could end up with costly litigation with the incorrect advice.

What are the land sizes?

There is Waa, Ngaan and the Rai. The land measurements in Thailand are listed here.

What does it cost to have a swimming pool install?

This varies but you would be looking at USD 800 per square meter.

Retirement in Pattaya

Pattaya also known by the locals and expats alike as ‘The Extreme City’, the city that never sleeps. The city of Pattaya is a self governing special municipal area which covers the whole tambon Nong Prue and Na Kluea and parts of Huai Yai and Nong Pla Lai. It is located in the heavily industrial Eastern Seaboard zone, along with Si Racha, Laem Chabang, and Chon Buri. However, it remains mostly a tourist city, with very light industry.

Pattaya is second only to Bangkok in high rise buildings, as many condos for foreign residents are built, and has a modest skyline. If you want to retire in Pattaya then read further. The city’s economy benefits from its relative proximity to Bangkok. Pattaya is about 1½ hours, or 120 km by road from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Pattaya is also served through U-Tapao International Airport which is 45 minutes drive from the city. By road, it is served by Sukhumvit Road and Motorway 7 from Bangkok.

Pattaya Beaches

Pattaya Beach is situated alongside the city centre, close to shopping, hotels and bars. The over-abundance of jet-skis and speedboats has contributed to the pollution of the water along the beach, as has the practice of dumping sewage in the ocean. The section of beach from Central Road (Pattaya Klang) south to the harbor is adjacent to the core of Pattaya’s abundant nightlife area, and hence is less family-oriented than the North Pattaya, Na Klua and Jomtien beaches.

Jomtien Beach is divided from the main part of Pattaya by Pratumnak Hill, just south of the city. In contrast to Pattaya Beach, Jomtien is a popular spot for family vacationers and water sports enthusiasts. Jomtien is essentially a residential area with beachside hotels, bungalow complexes, condominiums and restaurants. A wide array of water sport activities can be found, including jet skis, parasailing and small sail boat (Hobie Cat) rental. Dongtan Beach, just past the Avalon Beach Resort in Jomtien, is known as the gay beach, and is busy every day of the year. It is very popular location for vendors of all types to solicit their services or goods.


Koh Lan or Coral Island, is a small island situated 7.5 km west of Pattaya. Ko Lan is accessible by speedboat and ferry. The ferry departs hourly, and is a 45-minute ride costing just 20 baht each way. Speedboats are more expensive, but can reach the island in less than 15 minutes. Ko Lan has several beaches, which are known for their cleanliness, relaxing atmosphere, soft white sand, and crystal-clear water. This place is also known to for its exotic fish.


Property is big business in Pattaya, especially property development. Many new buildings have gone up in recent years, and some people think the market might be oversupplied. Some buildings are put up with little respect for planning permission and a building was recently in dispute due to being too close to the shore line and too close to another condo block. There is also a market in Villas but its growth is limited due to ownership restrictions on foreigners. Speak to us about your retirement in Pattaya today!

Retire in Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is one of the best retirement places to retire in Thailand. Not only is Phuket the largest island in Thailand but it also boasts its own international airport, Phuket International. Phuket has a mountain range which at its highest is more than 500m above sea level and more than 60% of the island is covered in lush vegetation and rubber plantations.


Popular beaches in Thailand in no specific order is Patong beach which is long as it is wide. Patong in Thai meaning “the forest filled with banana leaves”. Outside of Patong Beach there is also Karon Beach, Kata Beach and Kata Noi Beach. Rawai in the South is also very popular. Patong Beach is more famous for its nightlife than the 2-kilometer beach that runs the entire length of Patong Town’s western side. Nightlife is centered on two main areas Bangla Road and Paradise Complex, with Bangla Road being predominantly straight and Paradise Complex being predominantly gay. Much mixing of the two scenes occurs due to Phuket Island’s tolerant nature.


Phuket is well known for its expensive properties. The Bangkok Post ran a great article on Phuket Property and retiring in Phuket.

Real estate development is booming in Phuket as foreign investors are acquiring vast areas of land for housing projects. A number of foreign developers are to set up companies with Thai business partners to build housing estates and residential projects on the resort island, which has entered what officials call the ”golden age of real estate development.”

Homestay, a type of lodging offering facilities and lifestyles close to those typical of Thai families, has emerged as a popular choice. Swedish businessmen are the latest group to express strong interest in this kind of project.

”Foreigners highly admire the scenery and weather here,” said Phuket governor Niran Kalayanamitr after talks with the Swedish firms.

He said the investors saw an opportunity for homestay development to serve Swedish travellers.A number of new homestay facilities have sprung up in Ban Layan and Ban Naitorn in Thalang district as well as other areas around the island.Other investors have also asked the province for approval for different real estate projects.

A group of Norwegian businessmen suggested a Phuket bay development project, with technology friendly to the marine environment. Investors from the Middle East have expressed interest in developing logistics for a free trade zone near the deep-sea port.The increasing demand has boosted land prices in the resort provinces. Phuket land official Tanet Niyom said certain seaside areas, especially those near famous Patong beach, sell for up to 50 million baht a rai.

Prices are cheaper in Muang district, but they are still around eight million baht a rai.The value of land trading between 2006 and 2007 stood at 1.5 billion baht, according to the Phuket land office, but officials expect the value to go up to nearly five billion baht this year.The rapid expansion of real estate development indicates that more foreigners want to stay for a longer period.

Officials are currently surveying the exact number of foreign residents, including those who do not properly report to the immigration office. Foreign residents can be categorized into three groups _ those who want to live here permanently, those who are working here, and those who want to live here for longer periods than their visas specify, according to Sompot Nipakanon, assistant director of the Bangkok Phuket hospital.

He said foreigners also appreciated medical services in the island resort. Bangkok Phuket hospital currently serves up to 200,000 people a year, 30% of which are foreigners.Mr Niran said it was time to turn Phuket into a special economic zone so that local officials would have more budget to further develop all infrastructures, which currently do not match the increasing demand.

He also noted the limit of the governor’s power in budget disbursement, as Phuket is not yet a special administrative entity.Phuket boasts not only its own international airport but also world class hospitals, international schools and a host of entertainment venues ranging from first class hotels and restaurants to some of the best diving sites in South East Asia. Phuket is without a doubt the best place to spend your retirement. Thinking of retirement in Phuket then call us today!

Thailand Retirement Visa – Requirements

When applying for the Thai Retirement Visa, also known as the Thai “O-A” Visa, there are certain requirements that need to be met. Listed below are the basic requirements of the Thailand Retirement Visa.

Basic Requirements for Thai Retirement Visa

  • Criminal Record

You need to provide proof that you do not have a criminal record. This has to be verified and issued by the country of your nationality or residence. This verified clearance must not be older than 3 months in order to be valid. If you are applying within Thailand for your Thai Retirement Visa the attorneys would normally want this to be notorised by your respective embassy. Alternatively if it is done outside of Thailand, the requirements would be that it needs to be verified by the police.

  • Finances

The second requirement for your Thailand Retirement Visa is that you qualify financially for this visa category. You need to be able to prove that you have at least 800,000 Baht in your Thai bank account. Alternatively you need to show or prove that you have at least 65,000 Baht income a month. You can of course have a combination of the two, being income and deposit and it is always best to have your attorney provide you with a calculation as what would be required.

Important issues with the Thai Retirement Visa

First, when you apply for a Thai retirement visa you will normally arrive on a 3 month visa and your first extension after arrival will be for 9 months hence filling one year. The annual renewal of your Thailand Retirement Visa will be for a period of 1 year each. This is one in-country each year.

Second, you need to prove that the money (Financial Requirements of the Thailand Retirement Visa) has been verified by a local Thai bank that the money came from overseas. You therefore have to ensure that you have a “Thor 3″ from your Thai bank.

Last is the monthly income. If you are using the option of monthly income for your retirement visa, it needs to be verified by your Embassy in Thailand. Many visa applicants attempted to do their own applications, however most seasoned or expatriates who have experienced applying for this type of visa make use of local attorneys to do all the leg work.

Banking in Thailand

Opening a bank account is usually a simple affair in Thailand. Each branch however has their own set of rules when opening an account. One branch might want to see a visa while another might want to see a work permit. Opening a bank account is somewhat of a hit and miss affair so just walk down the road to each branch and see what they say.

When you do however get to open the account the bank will issue you with an ATM card while you wait and provide you with a “bank book”. This book is inserted into a special ATM machine and it will update the book by printing the last transactions of the account into the book. You also get to set your daily limit for withdrawals and this is always a good idea to minimize losses later.

For your retirement visa you must have a bank account since your money needs to be transferred from abroad to your local Thai bank account in order for the retirement visa extension to occur. For the retirement visa this amount is 800,000 Baht.

Moving Money from Abroad

There are different ways to move money from home and over the years expats and retired individuals have tried different types of money transfers. Let’s start from the safest.

Wire Transfers to Thailand

Certain banks do allow money transfers to be initiated via the internet. Banks such as Citibank and a few other allow these transactions. It is best never to use an internet café for logging into your bank account as key loggers which store the URL and password of the banking website you visited may be installed. It is always best when retiring in Thailand to use your laptop and connect your laptop to the network of the internet café. Wire transfers in Thailand take about 5 days and it is very secure and usually gives the best exchange rates. There is usually a 500 Baht charge per transfer when it arrives in your Thai bank account.

Automated Teller Machines (ATM)

Not the best way to draw money from your account back home, however it is easy, convenient but can prove to be very expensive. Withdrawal fees vary from bank to bank and some banks may also block you from drawing money in Thailand which they might consider to be a high risk country for ATM fraud. If you have a credit card, you can still draw money over the counter as long as you have your passport on you inside the bank. Always use ATM machines outside or in the bank as should the machine swallow your card, at least you would be able to get assistance immediately.

Credit Cards

Not the best way to access money from home as there are service fees in the range of 2-3 percent per transaction. Having your cards replaced in Thailand could also be a trying affair. The banks may send you the card in Thailand; however insist on sending the access code to you registered address back home. This would be the standard procedure so ensure that someone can access the mail back home.


Checks which are drawn in foreign currency and deposited in Thailand can take up to one month to clear. The only difference is companies that issue checks that are drawn on a local bank. Citibank is a good example. Google Adsense  pays each month with a Citibank cheque drawn on the account of Citibank, Bangkok branch. It takes 2 days for the cheque to clear. Also many banks do not always accept cheque’s from certain countries. You can safely assume that they would only accept US dollars and Sterling cheque’s drawn from the respective countries for depositing. Other countries and currencies are far more difficult.

PayPal Money Transfer

If you have a PayPal account registered in Thailand, you can withdraw the money into your Thai account. From clicking to receiving your money it usually takes 1 week. The Thai banks deduct a 500 Baht service fee. Using the PayPal account however if it was registered in the UK or US usually gets the account frozen as PayPal monitors where the person is logging in from and flags the transactions when it comes from high risk countries.

Through Western Union Transfer

This is the most expensive way to send money due to the costs involved and the poor exchange rates which you would usually get from the transaction.