Pattaya is close enough to Bangkok to be reached easily and quickly via the highway network, but also far enough to allow for peaceful breaks from the bustling life in the capital. These two aspects (along with the obvious party nightlife) have contributed towards the city’s transformation into a booming property market and it is now common among foreigners to invest in Pattaya properties. Although condos dominate the market, many are now buying land and building houses in Pattaya.
Thai law restricts land ownership to Thai nationals only. However, foreigners can own condos (up to 49 per cent of the building), yet those wishing to develop or buy private villas and houses in Pattaya need to opt for a proxy ownership structure in which the land is leased for 30 years (twice renewable). Some foreigners can have access to buying land in Pattaya through their Thai spouses or business partners, who become the legal owners of the title deeds.
By this arrangement it is, therefore, important to draw up legally-binding agreements regarding sale of the property, since any sale will immediately nullify the lease agreement unless stipulated otherwise. A trustworthy partner, and backup, is essential here in Thailand since the law is not very supportive of foreigners who have been swindled, or who dispute ownership.
Despite this, local real estate agents’ books have plenty of land and houses for sale, ranging from limited and expensive beachfront land with commercial value, to remote private plots for building your own house, and the popular Estate developments which the Thai middle class aspire to. The more expensive of these can present a good, controlled environment free of noise, stench, intruders, dogs and undesirable neighbours. Therefore, these are becoming popular with foreigners buying houses in Pattaya. Furthermore, they present a good investment to those foreigners who have Thai partners, since they are easy to rent out to foreigners who don’t want to live in a condo and cannot buy houses themselves.
Prices when buying land in Pattaya vary widely. Land area is measured in talang wa (four square metres) with 400 wa in one rai (1,600 square metres, or just under half an acre). Prices for land in residential areas go from 10,000 baht (~US$330) per wa up to 30,000 baht (US$1,000) in expensive and successful estate projects, and as much as 50,000 baht (US$1,500) per wa in commercial districts. Prices are also affected by the class of land title deed, with Nor Sor 3 Gor being the most accurate and modern (using GPS), followed by the older Nor Sor 3. Occasionally, when buying land in Pattaya, you may come across cheap land which only has chanote deeds (a registered historic claim to the land subject to dispute or bribery).
When buying houses in Pattaya, prices vary even more depending on the size of the house and land. In addition, location, whether it’s in a prestigious housing estate, age and quality of materials, maturity of the garden and general design (noting some houses on the market appeal to Thai tastes and are less desirable to foreigners) also have bearing.
A modest, three-bed 250 square-metre house on less than 100 wa in a decent area will cost upwards of 5 million baht (US$150,000). Prices are closer to 10 million baht (US$300,000) for properties with a pool, quality fittings and a decent-sized garden. Under economic recessionary pressures, some bargains do come onto the market if you keep your ears to the ground, since many locals are imprudent with re-mortgaging.
The residential market is wide in Pattaya and offers an impressive range of luxury options, with modern houses offering beautiful facilities and stunning gardens. Many Pattaya houses are available, new and old: the old ones can be a good option where the owner can renovate as they like. Many properties are built within compounds (moobans), which are gated communities with uniformed guards and amenities, such as swimming pool and health centre. They are inhabited by the Thai middle and upper classes and wealthier foreigners.
Knowing where to start looking relies on a local property agent. There are many online property agencies to immediately browse, but knowledge of the different residential neighbourhoods is essential. Some are charmingly Thai (meaning you need tolerance for noisy neighbours, etc), some downmarket, and some in busy areas or far from popular amenities and beaches. It’s worth getting to know several agencies before trusting one to show you decent properties without wasting your time.