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  The Guide to Renting a - Thai Style House!
Guide Written By Phil W
Ajarn dot com


Thailand house rental opportunities can be a bit hit and miss with regards to finding suitable properties in good locations, plus dealing with problems as they arise. There's much more to renting a house in Thailand than first meets they eye

Read this informative guide to finding the house of your dreams at the pice that suites your budget. In this article, Phil W concentrates on rentals priced at the lower end of the housing market here, but generally the information supplied is relevant to homes at all budget levels. A very worth while read.

Renting a house is primarily for the farang who’s looking to stay in Thailand long-term (at least 3-5 years). Houses are for long-term stayers who have grown tired of apartment living and maybe require a little more privacy, away from the prying eyes of nosey neighbors. You get a feeling of status when you have the keys to your own house, a sense of oneupmanship. It’s satisfying in some strange way to be able to avoid the ‘stigma’ of telling people you live in a 5,000 baht a month studio. Another major reason is it gives freelance English teachers the chance to work from home and set up their own language business - work when you want and charge what you like. If you're looking for a townhouse, Bangkok has heaps of them, and detached houses down leafy sois are a plenty too. line
What Kind of Thailand House Rental Options are Available and Where are they?

So, the most commonly-rented type of house is what the Thai real estate market refers to as ‘the townhouse’. It typically has at least three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen area, a living room, sometimes a maid’s room, and also a front and back garden. It’s worth mentioning at this point that houses in Thailand are generally built for large families. It’s extremely difficult to find a house suitable for a couple or a single person. Before you rush headlong into the world of house-renting, stop and think. Do you really need a 2 bathroom three bedroom townhouse? Bangkok doesn't have too many tiny townhouse options available. Whereas an apartment can be relatively easy to clean, a house can be a pain in the butt. There are floors to mop (many of which will be either wooden, ceramic surfaces, or even marble floor tiles), windows to wash, mosquito screens to be hosed down, and gardens to tend. Houses are often ‘open to the elements’ compared with apartments and I know from experience that if you go away on vacation for a week or two, you can almost write your name in the dust when you return. If you’re the sort who takes no pride in your living environment then this won’t matter, but for most of us, be prepared to spend a lot more time doing mundane household chores.

Many town-houses for rent are located on ‘moobarns’. In Thai, the word moobarn translates as ‘village’ but the term ‘housing estate’ would be far more accurate. These moobarns or housing estates are situated all over Bangkok and most likely the best places for your house-hunting. There are different types of moobarn, from the decaying urban sprawl to the neat, well-designed property development complete with security posts and landscaped gardens. Needless to say, houses in the latter kind of moobarn will be far more expensive to rent.
lineHow Much can you Rent a House for?

Obviously this is a piece aimed at the teaching fraternity, so we’ll ignore the huge 60,000 – 100,000 baht a month places touted by the realtors. My own place has three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a maid’s room (now a storage area), and one bathroom, for which I pay 9,000 baht a month. The further you go away from the center of Bangkok, the more you’ll get for your money. Take Rangsit or Samut Prakarn for example – there are many folks out there renting great houses for 6-10,000 baht a month.

It was an ex-colleague of mine named John Thompson who originally put me onto the idea of renting a house rather than an apartment. He’s lived in the same gorgeous house in the Ramkhamhaeng area for 18 years. When he first moved in, he was paying 6,000 baht a month, which was a substantial sum of money in those days. Eighteen years later, how much do you think he pays now? (and let me say that it really is a beautiful home) 12,000? 15,000? No, he pays an unbelievable 6,500 baht a month. His rent has increased 500 baht in 18 years. One point we shouldn’t overlook is that if you have a good relationship with your landlord and pay your rent on time, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever face unacceptable rent increases.

Oh, one other point. Most house-owners will expect you to sign a one-year contract.line
Home HunterThe Search is on to find that Dream Home in Thailand!

Finding your dream house to rent is undoubtedly the most difficult step, unless you personally know someone looking to rent out a property and the deal drops in your lap.

For me, it was four months of searching. Every single Sunday was spent trawling around moobarn after moobarn. Whereas searching for an apartment is a simple case of walking up and down sois and looking for tall buildings, moobarns can’t ideally be covered on foot – you’ll be one step ahead if you have a Thai friend who can assist you in the search. Preferably a friend with four wheels!

To give you a little more help, there is a terrific property magazine called ‘Baan La Tee Din’ – it’s easily the most popular property mag in Thailand and it’s choc-full of apartments and houses for rent and for sale. Unfortunately the magazine is in Thai so once more it’s your Thai friend to the rescue. Circle a few possibilities, telephone and make appointments to view, and then hit the streets.

As you drive around the moobarns, you’ll often see adverts for houses tacked onto telegraph poles. Take a pen and paper with you and jot a few phone numbers down. Call the owners on a mobile phone and make an appointment to view while you’re in the area.

Be prepared for disappointment! House-owners are often fickle and indecisive. I found a superb house down a private soi off Phattanakarn Road for which the owner wanted 5,000 baht a month. It needed a fair amount of work doing on it (re-tiled floors, air-con installation) but I could see the potential and for a modest outlay I could turn it into a palace. After the owner and I shook hands on the deal, I went out to buy furniture, fans and a refrigerator, only for the owner to call me up three days before I was to move in and tell me she’d decided to rent the house to her sister.

I’d virtually given up hope of ever finding the kind of place I was looking for. My prime goal was the kind of house where I could attract middle-class private students and charge them the earth.

I decided to have one more drive around Moobarn Seri on Rama 9 Road – a moobarn I’d driven around several times before. Noticing a very fine house with a ‘for rent’ sign on the front gate, I rang the bell and was greeted by the owner. She gave me the quick dime tour, and while the house was very nice and I could certainly see myself relaxing on the porch with a large gin and tonic, the asking price of 15,000 baht a month was way out of my budget. Seeing my disappointment, she told me about another house she owned located just a few sois away (she actually owns six houses I later found out) She got into the car, took me down to the house in question and as soon as I saw it I knew it was home. Five years later, and I’m still there. 9,000 baht a month and the rent hasn’t increased in all that time. I’ve taught English to most members of the family and gone out for numerous meals with them. Never be ashamed to suck up to the landlord and landlady.

Slightly off topic, but house-hunting gives you an incredible opportunity to peek inside the lives of middle-class Thais and their ‘surface-wealth’ existence. You’ll roll up at places with a couple of brand spanking new Mercedes Benzes on the drive-way and then once invited into the living room, you’ll be surrounded by more plastic than all the false legs in Sarajevo.
InspectorThe Inspection

It'’s crucial to remain as impartial as possible during a house inspection. House-owners (often Thai families still living there) always make you very welcome. There’s always a couple of kids to admire and perhaps even a golden retriever to fuss over. It’s easy to be sucked in by elaborate stories of wonderful neighborhoods and statements like ‘we’ve been very happy here’ (then pray tell why are you moving?) I find it very easy to visualize how I could make an apartment look when it’s nothing but an empty shell, but in a family home with endless rooms of wall-to-wall junk, it’s a lot more difficult.

The most important questions you need to ask are 1) How many rooms have air-conditioning? – don’t listen to the owner who tells you that there’s always a beautiful breeze wafting through the lounge if you open the French windows. 2) Does the house have a water-pump? – If your main bathroom is on the second floor, you could find yourself showering under a veritable trickle if that pump ain’t got the balls to deliver. 3) How many amps is the electricity meter? – I found out from painful experience that my house didn’t have enough power to run more than two ‘thirsty’ items (an air-con and an electric iron for example) and I was constantly being plunged into darkness until I got the electricity board to upgrade the meter (another 15,000 baht I hadn’t bargained for) 4) Does the soi flood in the rainy season? – don’t just take the landlord’s word; go out and ask local shopkeepers or anyone you see walking around who might like a friendly chat with a farang. 5) How is the security? – this one is difficult to gauge so you might just have to accept the house-owner’s comments.line
NeighboursLocation is everything! When renting a house in Thailand, make sure you don't move in to bad Bangkok Neighbourhood.

A house in the middle of nowhere, stuck down some deep leafy soi, might sound idyllic, but the novelty will soon wear off if it means you are literally stranded. I live in a very isolated section of the housing estate, so isolated that Pizza Hut now refuse to deliver to me because the delivery boy can never find me. If you’re thinking of teaching from home, is it going to be the same for potential students? Anyway, how easy or difficult is it going to be to get to civilization (the shopping malls and the movie theatres)? In my case, I can take a three-baht open-jeep that plies the smaller sois and sub-sois every five minutes. Metered taxis are virtually non-existent. What are your options going to be?

If you are not the kind of person to make use of your kitchen and cook at home, then where are you going to eat? Are there restaurants or food-stalls within easy walking distance? I thoroughly recommend that you invest in a cooker or microwave of some description and put your culinary skills to the test, but there are times when you just can’t be bothered and need the easy option.

What about a convenience store when you suddenly run out of the essentials? Is there a ruddy-faced woman nearby who stays open late when you desperately need twenty Marlboro and a small box of washing powder? And then there are clothes to be washed. Is there a laundry within easy reach, or at least a kindly neighbor willing to do your smalls for a bit of extra pocket money?

I guess I have it quite easy – my laundry woman is a minute’s walk away, the convenience store is virtually next door and I’ve got several restaurants all in walking distance. Many times, I’ve considered investing in a cheap mountain-bike to zip around on, and you might like to give it some thought. I’ll be covering soi-dogs a little later, but it might be fun to ride your bike and wield a long garden cane like some modern day Sir Lancelot, running the soi dogs through as you pedal frantically towards the corner shop for a bottle of milk.line
Initial Set-up Costs

Most houses for rent come completely unfurnished. The owner might throw in a piss-stained plastic sofa and a coffee table with more rings than a Bond Street jeweler, but by and large you’ll be responsible for turning a house into a home. Don’t cut corners! Buy the best of what you can afford and it’ll last a life-time. Wonky chipboard furniture will collapse in a sad heap after barely twelve months and it looks crap anyway.

Sorry to keep harping on about personal experience, but I’ve been there and done it. When I moved in, I decided to turn one bedroom into a study/classroom, and keep one bedroom as the main bedroom. I spent money on the lounge and kitchen areas, but the bathroom was already in pretty good nick. The major expenses were TV (7,000), Fridge (7,000) Wardrobe (8,000), Bed and mattress (12,000) sofas and easy chairs (20,000) Tables and bookcases/display units (12,000), and if you like your place spick and span then you'll want to be on the lookout for a best vacuum for the money too. Most people also consider things like plants and stand-up fans, whilst not costing the earth individually, soon add up. I think you’re looking at 80-100,000 as a basic set-up cost for an unfurnished home. It sounds a lot of money I know, but if it bothers you or you simply don’t have it, then rent an apartment. line
Know your Landlord!

Things do go wrong with a house. A tap comes off the wall. A mosquito screen develops a hole. Rainwater leaks in from the roof. An ant’s nest develops in one of the skirting boards - all numerous, niggly problems that can really stress you out if you let them. Make sure you know exactly who is responsible for putting these things right and more importantly, if it is your landlord, then is he/she accessible? Picture the scene – you’re late for work on a Monday morning and suddenly realize that there’s no water. Then it dawns on you that the landlord lives in Ayutthaya and it’s going to take him at least three hours to get his shit together and get to you.

My landlord is a tenant’s dream. He’s a retired but very fit handyman who can turn his hand to anything. Whenever I pick up the phone to report a problem (as I have done on numerous occasions), he’s round within ten minutes. I’ve never worked out whether it’s because he genuinely loves to help or whether it’s to escape from his nagging wife. I suspect it’s both, but I’ve been very grateful to him over time and always show my appreciation with a carton of his favorite ciggies two or three times a year. I would hate to have a landlord whose only interest was in collecting the rent once a month but I’m sure they’re out there.line
Ski MaskSecurity – Will the Men in Ski-masks Pay me a Visit?

You hear all kinds of stories from house-renters as regards the number of times they’ve been burgled, but touch wood I’ve never had a problem in five years, and my house is something of a burglar’s dream with an expanse of common land directly opposite and numerous and obvious getaway routes. Although neighbors on a moobarn rarely talk to each other, it’s worth making a good friend of at least one neighbor – a person who can ‘keep an eye’ on the place when you go away, not to mention water the garden and keep your prize begonias in the pink. Almost every moobarn has security posts dotted around in a half-arsed attempt to turn away the undesirable vagabond. The security post near my own house hardly conjures up images of the Mexican border. It’s either completely empty or manned by an old guy who’s far more concerned with tuning in his radio and feeding the soi dogs than he is protecting the residents of the estate.

One of the downsides of living on a moobarn is the amount of junk you get wedged in between your garden gate and stuffed in your letterbox. I’m talking about flyers distributed by Pizza Hut, MK Suki, Big C and any number of other local businesses. Let these leaflets accumulate and it’s like putting up a big sign saying please break in and steal my video recorder.lineFind a Good Handyman in Thailand is Essential!

There comes a time when you might need trees chopping down, roofing tiles replaced and the air-con units overhauled. Enter the local handyman. With his battered old van, his ‘200 baht for 500’ Mahboonkrong perfumed business cards, and his penchant for writing down estimates on the back of a cigarette packet, he’s worth his weight in gold. If your landlord can’t recommend one (and they usually can) then find one! Ply him with copious amounts of beer Chang (after he’s finished the job), tell him you love Liverpool or Man U depending on what sticker he’s got on the back of his van – and make this guy your bestest friend.line
SunbathePRIVACY – Can I sunbathe in the garden?

Privacy was always one of my major concerns. I had this image in my mind that once the locals knew there was a ‘rich farang’ living in a house, I’d get every ‘palms-up merchant’ from miles around. The doorbell would get worn out from a steady stream of charity collectors and plain old opportunists. I am happy to report that it’s certainly not the case. You get the odd call from the Thai equivalent of the double glazing salesman – usually selling some kind of plastic new-fangled kitchen gizmo that doubles as a juicer and a cigarette lighter. Upon seeing a wild-eyed farang opening the front door, they usually take one of two courses of action. They’ll shout a half-assed sales pitch and run away. Or they’ll just run away. On the whole, you will be left in peace. line
Utility Bills

If there’s one great advantage of living in a house. It’s the fact that you are billed for water, electricity and phone directly from the utility companies. This alone can save you a fortune when compared to renting an apartment and paying their grossly inflated figures. I reckon my own saving to be well over 20,000 baht a year.

At the time of writing, a local phone call is three baht for as long as you like (think of that when you’re connected to the internet for 12 straight hours) and I’m not sure how much water and electricity are per unit, but I crank the air-con up for at least six hours a day and the bill is rarely over a thousand baht. As for water, I hose a sizeable front garden once, sometimes twice a day, and the bill is a paltry 120 baht a month.

Paying the bills however can be something of a pain. If you’ve got yourself organized and manage to pay by direct debit (and more power to you) well, no problems, but for most of us it means going into the nearest 7-11 or Paypoint center (located in shopping malls) and paying our bills there. These places add a ten baht service charge to each bill incidentally. A word of warning – you can pay any overdue bill at a 7-11 or Paypoint except an international phone bill. If your international phone bill pay-by date has expired, then you have to go to the relevant office. Don’t let that happen. These ‘offices’ can be very hard to find and sure to have a staff that can’t speak a word of English between them. lineThe Three Types of Neighbor!

Thai neighbors are nothing like the ones that we’re used to in the west. Whereas in England or America they can often feel like part of the family, Thai neighbors keep themselves very much to themselves.

You can argue that it’s a fear of the foreigner and the inability to communicate but I’ve noticed that they don’t even talk to each other. We’ve already mentioned the ‘good neighbor’ who waters the garden in your absence, but as for the rest, they’ll fall into three distinct categories. 1) the invisible neighbor – usually an elderly woman who lives alone, totally inconspicuous save for the occasional twitch of a net curtain 2) Mr and Mrs Sawatdee Khap – the husband and wife couple who would so love to have you borrow their garden fork and offer you endless glasses of that green pop, but conversation and interaction never advance past the basic hello and cheery wave. And finally 3) the party animals – the group of students who drink, shout, walk around bare-chested, play music loudly and are walking adverts for euthanasia. Groups one and two I will tolerate quite happily, but the third group are hell to live next door to (as I found to my cost for six long months in 2002). If you are looking for a house to rent near a university, you may want to bear this in mind.
Getting Connected

You’ll certainly need to have a phone installed in your dream home and you might even fancy UBC TV. Getting a phone installed is a piece of cake if you’re on a Bangkok moobarn – don’t listen to the bar-stool experts. You simply go the telephone office (you’ll need help here from your Thai friend), tell them where you live and they’ll send the boys round usually within two weeks (even quicker if you can guarantee being at home on a weekday) While I was having my phone installed, they offered me unlimited extensions for about 200 baht a line. I decided on-the-spot to put an extra line in the bedroom and I’m very glad I did.

At the time of writing this, the full UBC package with Supersport, HBO, BBC news, etc is about 1,600 baht a month (quite pricey in my opinion) and installation is approx 3,500 baht. Again, service is fairly quick.
Soi DogSOI DOGS – Get off me you little Sod!

Talk to anyone who lives on a moobarn and they are sure to have their favorite soi-dog story – the night they were chased from the corner shop to the garden gate by a pack of savage dogs nipping at the heels and dripping saliva. It’s not quite that bad in truth, but soi dogs can be a major problem if you do not have a car and you are hopelessly reliant on Shanks’ pony to get about.

I know every single soi-dog within a mile radius of my home, I’ve even befriended a few of them. There are the docile ones who wouldn’t hurt a fly, the savage ones who I wouldn’t even face up to with an extendable baseball bat, and the unpredictable ones that are usually harmless but have been known to bark loudly at passers-by for no apparent reason.

You’re going to laugh at this but I have three different routes that I can use to get to the laundry. Whether I take the quickest and shortest route depends on whether the black Labrador at the house half-way between my house and the laundry is wandering around outside. He’s a bastard. The second route is more reliable but it means passing a house with two Great Danes that fling themselves against a flimsy wire mesh in their attempts to get at me. When I get to the laundry my heart is usually threatening to jump out of whatever keeps it in there. The third route is generally the safest but often draws quizzical glances from neighbors who wonder why I have to walk down six adjoining streets to get from A to B. I tell this story purely to hi-light the problems you might face. By the way, I am a dog-lover. line
Mobile Traders – Let the World come to you!

It’s been nice over the years to see Bangkok develop its communications and transportation and improve the overall appearance of the city, but if there’s one thing I hope never disappears in the name of progress, it’s the itinerants, the mobile salespeople who drive around the moobarns offering their services. The ice-cream boy peddling his gaily-colored ‘ice-cream-mobile’, the barbecued chicken lady, the guy who sharpens all your kitchen knifes and his distinctive klaxon, the two lads who sell ceramic pots and gardening equipment, and the peddler with his array of brooms and mops all arranged fastidiously on a rickety old bicycle. The list is endless and I love them all. They’re a connection with a by-gone era and long may they flourish. line
The Creepy Crawlies

Cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, spiders the size of your fist, lizards, and then snakes if you’re really unlucky - your house is the insect and reptile equivalent of Club Med. Just accept it. You can wave cans of chemical spray around until your arms are about to drop off, but they’ll be back tomorrow, if not in person, another member of the family. There are plenty of precautions you can take (poisonous chalk, mouse-traps, etc) but you won’t eradicate them totally. Think of it as a challenge. I came home one evening, opened the front door and came face to face with what I thought was a snowstorm, but was literally millions of flying ants that had got in through a small hole in the window-pane. You can get through this, I thought, and had the foresight to call up one of my colleagues who had a doctorate in entomology. He advised me to turn on all the lights in the house and then turn them off again. Don’t ask me why but it certainly had the desired effect. Sure enough, ten minutes later, millions of flying ants were scattered all over the floor twitching their last. It took me three months to clean the bloody place up. line
Opportunities for a Freelance Teacher

As has already been mentioned, your own house presents a wonderful opportunity to teach private students at home. They can park their car right outside and enjoy a couple of hours of very private tuition. It’s worth thinking about a house purely on this basis. Put a whiteboard on the wall, a nice rug on the floor, a table and three swivel chairs, a few nice prints, a pot plant – and you’re in business. 500 baht an hour minimum. Sorted.line
So what’s it to be – a House or Apartment?

In my opinion, the house wins hands down but for you it may depend on your age and marital status. Typically, an expat under 40 years of age, either single or in a relationship, will usually opt for an apartment or condo. A middle-aged man, or older, is far more likely to want a house, especially if he's with family.

House living might present you numerous communication problems if your Thai is not up to scratch or you can’t find a Thai friend to speak on your behalf, but come on, where’s your sense of adventure? Seriously though, for me it’s the privacy factor. That feeling when you close your garden gate and know that you are totally cut off from the outside world, and all its jealousy and inquisition, is difficult to describe. I’m just not a good enough writer. End....

Also Read The guide to renting an apartment.

If you're looking to buy land, Bangkok and the rest of Thailand has plenty for sale. However, at the time of writing, a foreigner cannot purchase land in his or her own. Oct 2009

Bangkok Phil Ajarn dot com
Thailand's most popular teaching website

Thanks Phil, yet another fantastic article which i'm sure folks will find a great help.


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