The first thing I did in preparation for getting a house in Thailand was scour the Internet for all the information I could find on owning or leasing a house in Thailand. Most of the information I found was at Thai legal sites and forums. The legal sites had the nitty-gritty information and the forums had the personal stories and some mis-information.
I also purchased a book, actually an eBook, which was one man’s tale about building a house in Thailand. This was a great twenty-dollar investment as it was very detailed, came with an English-Thai dictionary, and was loaded with pictures with Thai language for all the parts of a house.
Armed with all that information, I next contacted an English speaking lawyer who works in the area. I asked him many questions via email and received very prompt replies. I will be meeting him when I get to Thailand to make my purchase.
Since foreigners cannot legally own land, and I am not too keen on the “create an imaginary business and incorporate yourself” loophole, I have chosen the usufruct route. This is basically where the Thai wife/girlfriend will own the land and I will have a “lease” on the house where it resides. When I die, it reverts to her. If she precedes me, the property goes to me.
My girlfriend has already done the preliminary house-hunting and we will both go and make a final decision. She has been scouting properties in the 1.5 million to 2 million Baht range. This is approximately $50,000 U.S. dollars.
Now, I just needed to find an extra 50 thousand dollars lying around. I checked with a buddy of mine to find out how he paid for his Pattaya property and he told me that he just got a home equity line of credit. I checked into this, easily qualified, but did not feel like paying the fees. So, it was time for some more research.
I work for the government, and we have a retirement plan similar to a 401K called a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). I found out that I can loan myself half of the money that is stashed away for my retirement and then be forced to pay myself back over 5 years with a payroll deduction. The loan rate is only 4% and I will be paying this back to myself, not some other lender.
The problem I had was that there was not enough in the TSP to cover the cost of my house. So, I had to transfer funds from an older 401(K) to my TSP so that when I took out half of the money, it would be enough to cover the cost.
Next, was to contact my bank to find out how to transfer the funds from Hawaii to Thailand. I checked my online account and found a very simple transfer form, but called the bank just to get it clear in my mind. It seems too easy.
All I need to do is open a bank account in Thailand and then fill out an online form at my current bank, pay a $40 fee, call them to verify all is well, and the money will be transferred. Then I will be able to complete the transaction in Thailand.
Buying property in a foreign country can be a trying experience. So far it has been smooth, but I am just getting started. I think doing my homework, contacting a lawyer in-country, and finding out about the financial part before going to Thailand will all work in my favor. This way I won’t be one of the horror stories that you read on the Internet.