Guide for buying land, a house or a business on Koh Chang.

2023 Update

As you might expect the coronavirus pandemic had a serious effect on tourist businesses across Thailand. Koh Chang wasn’t been as badly affected as locations further from Bangkok as quite a few Bangkokians travelled at weekends.

However, the vast majority of these Thai visitors chose to stay in large resorts, which offered heavily discounted room rates. Small resorts and guesthouses couldn’t compete with the cost cutting. In addition, as most visitors were Thai. The shops and businesses that cater to mainly foreign visitors suffered the most.

Tourism won’t rebound to pre-pandemic levels for another 2 or 3 years.

It’s now mid-2023 and there are numerous small resorts and businesses for sale, but most valuations seem to be based on pre-covid figures. Therefore, if you are thinking of buying a business or resort on Koh Chang, it’s better to be patient. Most small resorts are built on rented land. And most businesses are in rented shop units or properties. When annual rent is due business owners have to decide whether it is worth paying another year (or three years) rent, knowing they might not make much profit in the short term.

If you are considering running a business here, be patient and / or haggle hard. Realize that it will almost certainly take a couple of years before your monthly income will cover expenses.

(Source) Once tourism has taken hold then it’s only natural that more people will want to move to the island.  Some to work and run a business, others to buy a holiday home or retire.  Either way, more people will want to buy property.

Islands in the south of Thailand have already experienced their significant real estate boom, Phuket in the early 90s and Samui on the early 2000s for example.  Here on Koh Chang that hasn’t yet happened.  There was a mini-boom around 2005 – 2007, with the initial launches of Siam Royal View and Tranquility Bay Residence developments.  But a decade on, these remain the only large scale property developments on the island and both are far from completed projects.

As the number of resorts has increased, the number of residential developments for sale hasn’t.  There have been several attempts at other housing and condominium projects but these were either badly timed, badly managed or poorly conceived in locations that would struggle to get buyers even in the best of times.

However, the number of bungalows for long stay ( monthly or yearly ) rentals definitely has shot up.  It would seem that Koh Chang is overdue a property boom as more and more people are looking to stay here longterm.  But a couple of factors have put the brakes on this:

– The hangover from 2008 world financial crisis.  Across Thailand the number of Western European buyers has dropped off.  In some places the Russian and Chinese market made up for this and snapped up small, cheap condos.  But these don’t exist on Koh Chang and the island and even if they did, the island doesn’t have the shopping, entertainment and attractions that this type of buyer looks for.

– The lack of available land in good locations.  As the hillsides are virtually all within the National Park, the only way you’ll get a sea view on Koh Chang is if you are right on the beach.  Add to that a relatively small amount of land having good title deeds.  And even less of that being on the west coast of the island within easy reach of the good beaches.  

Add to that local families not wanting to sell land, only rent it and you can see that it’s a very different situation to Samui or Phuket where there is ample land available for development.  You can buy a 2 bedroom house built on land with a good title deed, within walking distance to a beach, shops and restaurants on Samui for 3 Million Baht.  You can’t do that on Koh Chang.

Compared to other tourist locations, Koh Chang has less available land.  Far less choice of where you can buy.  Far fewer developments.

So, for anyone interested in buying  a property or taking over a resort or bar etc on the island, on this page you will find some general information about buying property in Thailand, followed by Koh Chang specifics.

Rubber tapper's shack for sale on Koh Chang island.

Can Foreigners own a house and land in Thailand?

First of all if you want to get the definitive guide to doing things legally in Thailand then you should read before you invest in Thai real estate. You’ll get much better advice there on pretty much all aspects of Thai law, for free, than you will from most lawyers.

Freehold ownership

If you want to own something Freehold with your name on the title deed then you are limited to a condominium. 49% of the floor area in a block fall into the Foreign Ownership quota.   The remaining 51% must be sold Leasehold or held in a Thai name.   You’ll often have to pay a premium to get one of the Freehold units as these will be easier to sell in the future.

One caveat is that the money to buy a Freehold condo must be brought in from outside the country.  You’ll need to make sure you obtain the correct confirmation form the Thai bank if you ever want to sell and repatriate your funds.

Under Thai law, any person can register any type of building in their own name.   So the good news is that foreigners can own their houses.   However, the ownership of land is restricted.   It is virtually impossible for a foreigner to own land freehold. Therefore, some buyers will opt to own their house, but lease the land it is built on.


Foreign buyers can have a 30 year lease on a plot of land assuming a) that it has a Chanote or Nor Sor Sam Kor title deed and b) the landlord goes a long with it and agrees to register the lease at a government Land Office.

Leases are often advertised as having one or two renewal periods.  Different law firms have different opinions as to the legality of allowing only one or a maximum of two  further periods of 30 years each, making a total of 60 or 90 years.   But the bottom line is that these aren’t guaranteed by law and can’t be registered in advance. So if you’re buying on a development where everyone has the same leases, then you might have problems.  This article about a notorious Samui developer and an entire development who lost their holiday and retirement homes when the leasehold contracts weren’t renewed is worth reading.

A good leasehold contract will also give the foreigner the option to purchase the land should the law change in the future and to sublet, sell or transfer the land at any time.  It will also include clauses allowing your next of kin to inherit the lease in the event of your death etc. The lease will be registered at the local government land office.

You must get the lease registered. If this is not done the enforceable period of any lease, regardless of what is written on the contract, and regardless of what anyone who may appear to be your new best friend, tells you, is only 3 years.

Remember this especially if you are planning on buying a business or resort on Koh Chang which will be built on rented land.  The only guarantee is for the first 3 years.  After that, you just have to hope the landlord keeps to their side of the deal and renews the contract as agreed.  Usually they will but if they decide they don’t want to renew the lease then you’re screwed.  You can try to fight it in court but you’d eventually lose.

Thai Company Ownership

It is also possible to have a lawyer set up a Thai registered company that is controlled by the foreign buyer.   The company can then own land Freehold.

Three shareholders are needed, at least one must be Thai. The Thai shareholder has to hold at least 51% of the shares. But the lawyer will set up the company so the foreign shareholders have the voting shares and therefore they control the company and it’s assets and bank account. Even if you don’t use your company for any business you still have to do accounts and an annual audit.   The cost to set up a company with a good English speaking lawyer is from around 30,000 Baht upwards.  The share capital of the company should be the same or higher than the value of the property being purchased.

At the time the land is bought your company will be 100% Thai owned, so as not to arouse any suspicion from the Land Office.   Your lawyer probably won’t tell you they are doing this – as you might freak out :-)  Then once the land is in the Thai company name, the company will be put back under your control and with your name listed as Director / Shareholder.  (Yes, that does mean you will need to trust your lawyer and that they’ll put it back into your control as soon as possible – as there will be a period of time when you don’t have the property in your control or the money you paid for it.)

This method takes advantage of the company law to allow an indirect method of ownership.   From time to time there are rumours of crackdowns on foreign owned companies that have been set up solely as a vehicle to own land. But this has never actually happened. No confirmed stories of any foreigner who has a home in the name of a shell company having it seized by the state.

Neither Leasing or Company ownership is 100% ideal so you’ll have to decide which is the lesser of two evils.

(I’m not bothering with usufructs and BOI approval to buy land  – as they are only used by a very small minority of buyers anywhere in Thailand.)

Property Taxes in Thailand

These are very low in Thailand. On a lease agreement you will only have top pay approximately 1.1% of the purchase price in taxes when you register the lease at the government land office.   If you were buying a land and a house freehold the tax would be approximately 5% of the purchase price.

There is no annual tax on land that is being utilized in Thailand. However, since 2021 there has been a tax on land that hasn’t been developed or farmed in any way. This is aimed at stopping big landowners from sitting on plots for years. It is also why you see a lot of half hearted attempts at farming land. Eg planting a few coconut palms or banana trees on a plot so the Land Office can see that it is being used.

Land Title Deeds in Thailand

There are four main types of Land Title in Thailand:

Chanote –   A Chanote is a title deed that has been issued by using GPS to set the area and boundaries of the land, which is a very accurate method. This is the most secure type of land title.   Small circular concrete markers each stamped with a unique code mark the corners of the land.   The same marker codes are shown on the scale map of the plot on the title deed. The rear of the title deed shows the names of previous owners and also if the title has been used to secure loans or has been leased to a third party.

Nor Sor Sam Kor – This title deed is basically the same as a Chanote.   This title and the Chanote are the only ones that a Thai bank would take as mortgage collateral from a Thai customer.   The front of the title deeds will show the current owners name, the land area and also have a small map of the plot which will show any boundaries such as the sea, river, roads etc.   The rear of the title deed shows the names of previous owners and also if the title has been used to secure loans or has been leased to a third party.

The above two titles are the ones that a register-able right of ownership or lease can exist, and so are the only titles that most buyers will consider.

Other titles include:

Nor Sor Sam –   Land with this title cannot be transferred immediately, a 30 day public notice must be posted before any sale can occur.   However it can easily be divided into many smaller plots.   Unlike a plot of Chanote titled land which is limited to 9 divisions unless the owner has a developer’s license

Por Bor Tor Ha / Sor Kor Neung – These are farmland title deeds.   Only for Thai buyers and expats married to Thais who understand the local way of doing things will consider land with these titles.   On Koh Chang this type of land was cheap a few years ago but now, it too, is rather expensive.  Your lawyer will advise you not to buy it. If any lawyer advises you to buy it, they either own the land or are good friends with the owner.  It can only be held in a Thai name.  Not in a company name.  And you can’t register a lease on this type of land.

Land Measurements

You will see large plots of land listed as being a number of ‘Rai’   Smaller housing plots often use ‘Talang Wa’

1 Hectare   = 6.25 Rai

1 Acre = 2.5 Rai

1 Rai = 1,600 sqm = 4 Ngan

1 Ngan = 400sqm = 100 Talang Wa

1 Talang Wa   = 4sqm

Buy a Freehold condo if you want to be 100% legal. For land, ideally you’re looking for a plot with a Chanote or Nor Sor Sam Kor.  Either Company ownership or a registered lease.  But both have their pitfalls. Avoid untitled land.
Houses at Siam Royal View, Koh Chang

Koh Chang Property Specifics

The property market on Koh Chang has been pretty quiet for the last decade.  It can often take years to sell property.  There are exceptions, small plots of land within easy reach of the main west coast beaches still sell.  As do cheaper businesses. But finding a buyer for a large plot in an out of the way location, a lavish house away from the beach or to take over a small resort isn’t easy.  There are many properties that have been for sale for 5 or more years at varying prices.

For some reason small businesses, e.g. bars or restaurants often cost more than a similar business in a far busier location elsewhere in Thailand do.  Sellers tend to be optimistic and, initially at least,  not too worried whether they sell or not.  At the end of every High Season, a lot of small resorts come up for sale.  The owners have made the money for the year during High Season and want to cash in.  Maybe there’s someone around who would buy and allow them to double their investment quickly.  If not then try again next year.

May, June and September are the three quietest months of the year, when even large beachfront resorts will have 20% occupancy rates.  But July and August are now almost as good as High Season months for many of the well established restaurants and small resorts.

Having said that, if property is definitely good value then it will get snapped up.  Often by people already on the island and their friends and acquaintances.  An example would be a small development of two bedroom villas on the east coast which ticked all the boxes as far as being by the sea; sensibly priced; having a rental management program in place and being sold by a reputable expat businessman.  They all sold within a few months and mostly just through word of mouth.

They were out of my price range unfortunately, but later I’ll give an example of a property I bought that was too good to say “No” to.

Bottom line is that it’ s a buyer’s market.  Unfortunately, many sellers have unrealistic expectations.  Real bargains do exist but you need to be in the right place at the right time and have some luck to get one. If you want a small resort or business on Koh Chang, realise your land lease almost certainly won’t be legally registered.

How to be an Expat Property Developer . . .

I mentioned one successful small development above and there’s also Baan Talay Thai, another mid-size housing development on the east coast which managed to sell all the plots and houses.  But since 2004 there have been several developments on Koh Chang advertised that have never got off the ground.

Unfortunately, with many developments run by expats the arrangement is often the same.   They get together with a Thai land owner and have an architect draw up some plans for a condo or villa project. Of course no one has the cash to pay for any real construction work and no Thai bank will lend to them.   But they do have money for advertising and sticking up a few billboards.

A construction firm might also be brought in.   The architect and construction firm will receive payment for their services in the form of a few units in the development – which they can then sell.   Buyers will hand over deposits and this money will be used to begin construction once 40% or so has been sold.   Once a project is underway then it’s much easier to sell as people can see what they are buying.  But even if no-one else does, the income from the 40% sold units will be enough to complete the project.

However, if buyers are thin on the ground then nothing will be built.  The few, unlucky buyers who have already paid a deposit then have to try to get money back.  Which is virtually impossible.  Don’t expect any help from the police as this is viewed as a foreigner vs. foreigner problem and so they can’t be bothered getting involved.   The Thai legal system is designed to make it easy to keep cases dragging on for years.

And medieval libel laws mean that if you dare mention your issues in a public forum you can be sued by the developer – even if what you say is true.  It sounds bleak, but fortunately scenarios like this are still rare on Koh Chang, unlike on say, Samui or in Pattaya, where it is an all too common occurrence.   Although I  do know of a couple of people still waiting years to get money back from small time developers who promise they will pay but have unfortunately don’t have the cash right now.

Watch out for the Bull

You’ll find some (not all) agents and lawyers are more than ready to dispense partial truths and outright lies in order to get you to sign on the dotted line.   Especially when the economy isn’t so good and buyers are a rarity.

A couple of examples:

From the website of an agent based on Koh Chang, that has since closed – thankfully. It would be hard to write so much misleading & scaremongering information in a single paragraph even if you tried, so I’ve no idea how they managed it:

‘The biggest economic risk about buying property in Thailand is when you have to pay the money. You have to pay at least 30% as a deposit, then the original owner of the house is committed to you. If the amount is less than 30% there is a risk that the house will be sold one more time; even though you thought you had bought the house!! It is not necessary to pay the whole amount at once – wait until you are at the chartered surveyor office and the same day get the house or land transferred to the name of your firm.’

And from emails sent by an agent to a potential buyer regarding plots of farmland for sale.   (These were forwarded to me by the potential buyer) As this type of land has no title deed and therefore no legal lease can be registered and so three years is the maximum you can be sure of having use of the land for.   Yet, they will have a real lawyer draw up a 99 or 999 year lease – neither of which actually exist in Thailand and claim it’s fine because the contract is witnessed by a local official.

When I sell a 99 years lease, I also get the head village as one of the witnesses to the lease. This is to let the people in the village know that you have already obtained a 99yrs lease. In the event of a dispute you will be defended by the village chief.

Unless of course the village chief, his family or close friends, who he has known for decades, want their land back.

Unfortunately for ‘buyers’, local customs on Koh Chang and an old guy’s signature don’t take precedence over the Thai Civil & Commercial Code which governs property and land leases not only on Koh Chang but in Thailand as a whole.

Other contacts that I have seen for  ‘sales’ of farmland to foreigners often don’t even include details of the plot size and location or have vague promises that the title deed will be upgraded as soon as possible – which may well be never, and so are, basically unenforceable and useless.   Unwary buyers may think they are legit because a lawyer draws up the contract.   In reality most lawyers will draft any contract they are paid to write by the seller.

The Land Office in Laem Ngop on the mainland will be more than happy to give you the official line on if and when upgrades to farmland may take place.   I’d place my faith in them, rather than someone selling land or one of their friends.

Some Sor Kor Neung land has been upgraded – back in 2010.  That was part of a government initiative to expand the amount of land with good title deeds across Thailand.  However it is a different story with Por Bor Tor 5 land.  Which is the most common type of farmland found on the island.

Sellers will tell you an upgrade is on the way “next year”, but they have been saying that since we have been here – i.e. since 2003.   The Land Office will tell you that there are no plans in the near future to upgrade this type of land.

A wannabe lawyer on Koh Chang charging over 150,000 Baht per person for a couple to set up a registered company and get Work Permits for them. Why? Because they wanted to buy a house and the lawyer convinced them they needed Work Permits to do this. In the end, after a few months messing around, another, real lawyer had to sort out the mess she made and pretty much start the process all over again, for a far lower fee.

Far better to get a lawyer based in Bangkok, or even Pattaya, to act on your behalf in any property or real estate purchase.

‘Caveat Emptor’ as the ancient Romans used to say when dealing with lawyers & land owners.

Don’t rush into anything.   Get a lawyer from Pattaya or Bangkok who is well versed in dealing with foreigners and has no connections to he sellers. Have them check all paperwork before you hand over any money.

Where to buy property?

Map of Koh Chang National Park and Marine Park

Ideally not within the boundaries of the National Park would be a start.  But it’s not quite that simple. There isn’t the same black & white, obvious right and wrong as there would be say if you tried to build a resort in, say, a protected area of New Zealand.  You’d be shut down instantly, outrage would ensue and you’d be in court within days.

As a lot of land that is technically within the park boundaries has been developed.  Officially you can’t build anything but for some reason there are obvious exceptions to the rule.  (Similar to Koh Samet, where the entire island is a National Park, but you’d never know if judging by the amount of resorts and buildings that have been erected over the years.)

What many people don’t realise is that, for example, all the resorts and businesses on the southern half of Kai Bae beach and all of Lonely beach are technically within the park boundaries.   This isn’t a secret, the original boundaries of the National Park, which was established in 1982, are shown on the map on the right.  It shows both the Marine National Park boundary and the area on Koh Chang that’s technically protected from development.

Will there ever be a clampdown?  Who knows. But there news articles regularly on encroachment and impending crackdowns.  Although nothing comes of them.  Here are just a few:

“Watch Out, You’re Being Conned” Koh Chang Park Chief Warns Property Buyers

Crackdown on Koh Chang Land Encroachment

Thailand Officials Crackdown on Land Misuse on Koh Chang Island

Shrimp Farm Owner Facing Charges

Location, location, location

Koh Chang isn’t that big.  But whilst it might seem easy to get to different areas of the island, in reality you’re going to spend most of the time in the place where you have bought your home or business.

So if you’re buying a house then the location has to be one that you’re happy to spend a lot of time in.  Peace and quiet might be nice but if it takes 20 minutes to get to the nearest shop and 40 minutes to find a bar showing Premier League football, then that might not be ideal for many people.

If you’re buying a house and want to be within easy reach of the main west coast beaches then there’s not a lot of choice.  If you have money and want a well built, but cookie cutter villa on a luxury development then Siam Royal View is the obvious choice.  You’re only 10 minutes from White Sand beach and secluded from noise and local life.

If you’re on a budget, then Klong Son valley is worth a look.  There are sometimes small plots of land with good title deeds for sale there.  The other main option is the valley in Kai Bae where quite a few people have built homes.  It’s a convenient location but with one significant downside.  The land only has farmland title deeds, that might be OK if it were cheap.  But it isn’t nowadays.

Land is cheaper on the east coast and a lot easier to find, but if the point of buying on an island was to be close to a great beach, then it will be too remote for you.

If you’re buying a business, then the resort that seems great value may well be far less of a draw to guests than one costing 50% more but in a far busier area.  One can fill most rooms during 3-4 months, has a couple of average months and then is dead 6 months a year.  The other might fill it’s rooms for 6 months a year, have 3 – 4 average months and just  a couple of very quiet months a year.

The flipside is that the cheaper one may well only have an annual land rent of 100,000 Baht.  the more expensive might be 700,000 Baht.  That’s a huge difference for similar sized resorts on similar sizes of land.

You’ll also need to think about what type of visitors stay in different areas of the island.  Will your resort, restaurant, bar etc attract the type of people that are staying in nearby resorts?  Even on individual beaches you’ll notice a marked difference in how busy businesses in certain locations can be.

For example, go out at night in Kai Bae and see how busy restaurants on the main road near the northern half of the beach are, compared to those in the southern half.  You’ll notice a big difference.  The southern half is a lot busier.

There’s a lot to consider before you decide on a new life in the sun.

Stick with what you know, whether that is a particular type of business or understanding what a particular type of tourist is looking for.  (For example, I’d never run a vegan, backpacker hostel.   As dealing with tree-hugging, elephant-pant wearing snowflakes isn’t something I’d enjoy doing on a daily basis and I’d probably upset most guests. )

Some people who enjoy life on the water look for fisherman’s houses.  These are houses built on stilts in the river or sea bed and it’s often possible to moor a smallboat directly outside your house.  There’s no land and until recently no title deed specifically for this type of house.  All owners had was a government address book which stated the owner’s name.  There was nothing to show how big the house was or the specific location of it.  You had to trust the seller.

As of September 2019, that’s all changed and title deeds have been issued for those properties that are legal.  So if you are thinking of buying a fisherman’s house check that they have title deeds issued by the Marine Department (not the Land Office).  Ownership can be in the name of a Thai registered company or a Thai name.

You can check by visiting or calling the Marine Department in Laem Ngop (on the mainland) and asking them if a certain address is legally registered. If it’s not then walk away.  As you won’t be able to get permission to rebuild the house and in the future illegal structures may be torn down.

Rent Before You Buy a House on Koh Chang

One final bit of advice is to try living somewhere before you commit to living somewhere.  Coming to Koh Chang, or anywhere, for a two week holiday is a very different experience from living here permanently.   So, if your aim is to retire here then it’s far better to initially rent somewhere than rush to buy.   Spend a few months living in the location you plan to stay permanently before investing any large sum of money.

I see far too many people who buy houses and within a few years want to sell them.  The cycle is usually something like this:

– Visit on holiday.  Love the island

– Return here a couple of times on holiday.  Still love it.

– Decide to buy a property.  Not to live in permanently, but as an investment and to rent out until it’s time to retire.  Plus friends and family will use it.

– Buy a place.  Use it a couple of times in the first year.  Friends and family also come and stay.

– Next year.  Use it a couple of times.  Friends and family decide to stay elsewhere.  So you rent it out.

– Only time for one visit this year.  Kids are getting bored with the island and want to go elsewhere.  Rental income is OK but there are now expenses related to refurbishing stuff and buying new furniture, etc that are starting to add up.

– Visit twice.  Both times to sort our problems with the house and find someone new to handle rentals.  It’s starting to become a hassle.

– Realise that the dream of early retirement is just that.  It’s not now going to be a viable option.  Maybe better to sell the house – especially as property in (insert name of a country much nearer yours) is much cheaper now and only a 2-3 hour flight away.

– Eventually, after 3 – 5  years of having the house up for sale, find a buyer.

There’s no way to predict the future.  So, unless you enjoy the element of risk, then I’d only buy if I had the cash on hand and if I knew I was getting a good deal.  Plus the property was actually built and not off plan.

Buying a Business on Koh Chang

If you’re looking for a small resort you’ll find lots available on Koh Chang.  Likewise, small shop units for rent that you could run a small bar, tour agent or restaurant out of.  There’s also nothing to stop a foreigner leasing a resort or renting a shop unit. So, on the face of it getting started in business isn’t too difficult.

But nothing is ever that simple.  If you want to work legally then you’re going to have to get a lawyer to set up a Thai registered company and then use that company to provide yourself with a Work Permit.  That also requires having at least four Thai staff on the payroll.

Setting up the company and getting around the regulation for Thai staff is what a good lawyer will do.  The staff will exist on paper and you will pay social security contributions for them, but you won’t ever see them or pay their monthly salary to them  – unless of course they are real staff that you have hired to help run the business.

Don’t assume that accounts are legitimate.  But there again it isn’t a definite warning sign if well formatted excel spreadsheets with every item of income and expenditure aren’t available.  Many small businesses keep no more than a written ledger or basic information on occupancy rates.  And virtually all are cash only. A bar or restaurant may well know how much they bring in per night on average.  And will know that it’s more than they spend on supplies and wages.  And also that there’s enough at the end of the season to buy a new pick up truck.  But that’s as much of a financial breakdown as you’re likely to get.

You’re also going to come across businesses for sale that aren’t real businesses.  They may have been set up by a benefactor in order to employ a Thai girlfriend / partner and give them something to do.  Places that fall into this category are usually small massage shops, beer bars, coffee shops or hairdressing businesses. Or have been set up solely for the purpose of flipping as soon as they are open in order to make a quick profit.  Someone will have rented some land during low season, built a bar or restaurant and then will try to sell before the start of High Season.

It’s going to be up to you to look at the information available; spend time seeing how busy the business you are interested in is; and also others in the same area.   If the bar you are thinking of buying is dead at night but there are others nearby that are busy, then you know that the location isn’t an issue.  It’s just  a matter of appealing to those potential customers, something the bar obviously isn’t doing at present.

So how much should you pay?

A simple way to value a small tourist business is to expect the asking price to be around 2 to 3 times the annual revenue.  If you can get it for 2x then you’ve probably got a good deal. If you’re paying 3x then the seller will be happy.  More than that and you probably shouldn’t be buying it.  ( Needless to say, this is assuming that you are just paying to take over the business and aren’t actually buying the land / building Freehold. )

Waterfront Fishermen's Houses on Koh Chang

My Experiences

It’s great reading all this advice and information but how does that translate into real life experience? Do I practice what I preach?

The simple answer is ‘No’.

This guide is written to give you an idea of what you really should be doing or looking out for.  It’s to warn you off as much as to encourage you to buy something on the island.  The reality is that whether you are renting or buying a business or home you’re going to do things ‘The Thai Way’ at some point.

There are three ways to handle this.

One is to get extremely stressed, freak out, have a breakdown, lose all your money and disappear off the island within 6 months.

Another is to just go with the flow and put blind faith in your chosen deity that everything will work out.  Maybe not as planned, but near enough.

And the third is the happy medium between doing things above board and as securely as possible.  But having taken into account all the legalities of what you are doing and potential consequences.

You’ll find a lot of people selling property here don’t actually own anything themselves.  They just rent. It doesn’t encourage confidence when the person advising you of how awesome a 15 Million Baht dream house will be an what  a great investment it will be, can’t or won’t put money into any property here themselves.

So, this is what ‘we’ (my partner Mam and I), have bought over the years.  And how we’ve ignored all the advice in the preceding 3,000 words. :-)

1.  Baan Rim Nam. This is our guesthouse.  It was a wooden fisherman’s house built on stilts by the river estuary.  During covid we rebuilt it into a more modern & comfortable guesthouse. Houses like these don’t have any land title deeds – as they aren’t built on land.  Until 2019 ownership was simply based on the local headman and neighbours knowing who owns the property plus having the ‘Tabian Baan’ ( government issued address book for the property ) in your possession.  Any good lawyer will advise you not to buy this type of property.   It can’t be in a foreign name and can’t be in a company name.

In 2019 the government, through the Marine Department, issued title deeds for all legally built fisherman’s houses in Thailand. These show the size, location and name of original owner.

We were renting a bungalow and looking for something to do on the island.  The plan was that we’d lease some land and build a few bungalows. We figured we couldn’t afford to buy anything as we had well under 1 Million Baht in the bank, just our savings from working in Bangkok.  So we rented some land in Bailan and got plans drawn up and approved for some bungalows. However, just as we were about to start building someone told us about a house for sale.  So we went to see it and half an hour later decided to scrap the plans for the bungalows and buy the house instead.

2. Land in Klong Son.  Many years ago I met an English expat who had moved here from Phuket and who was looking for land for a family home on the island.  He & his Thai wife spent a few months looking for the right location and eventually found a local family willing to sell a 1,200Sqm plot by the river in Klong Son.  Just off the road and within easy walking distance of shops.  They rented a house and his daughter began school.

She lasted a week before they realised Koh Chang wasn’t for them.  She was a couple of years ahead of everyone else in her class and wasn’t going to learn anything attending a school on the island.  So they moved back to Phuket and put the land up for sale.  I saw it advertised, we went to see it and decided to buy it about 10 minutes later.  It ticked all the boxes for a plot for a quiet house or a maybe few longstay bungalows.  A Plan B in case we ever wanted to sell Baan Rim Nam.  Still not done anything with the land.

3. Fisherman’s house in Salakkok.  This one didn’t go as planned.  It was a cheap run down old house and we figured that eventually it could be rebuilt and made into a simple, out of the way holiday home.  But we didn’t take into account the hassle of dealing with some members of the local community that didn’t really like outsiders.  It ended up being way too much hassle to justify the expenses of trying to rebuild it and keep everyone happy, so we wrote it off.   The house has long gone.  The wood stolen by the neighbours.   So that’s been written off a loss.  Fortunately, not much.

4. Another fisherman’s house in Klong Prao.  Our neighbour’s shack.  We had originally wanted to buy this when we bought Baan Rim Nam.  It was just a very basic wood and corrugated iron hut that had almost collapsed.  Back then the Thai boss of a dive company ended up buying it.  A concrete base for  a new house was built but got no further and it soon changed hands a couple of times it ended up being owned by another of our neighbours.   They wanted to sell, so we bought it – for about ten times the original price.  It’s just a concrete base with a house book but it cost more than Baan Rim Nam.  But it’s always best if you can control your neighbours in Thailand, as you never know who will move in next door and how noisy they will be.

In 2019 we got the official papers from the Marine Department showing the house is legal. And when covid happened, and it was clear there weren’t going to be any tourists for a year or more, we used the downtime to rebuild this house as well as Baan Rim Nam.

5 .  Beachfront land.  This was originally my sister-in-law’s & her Dutch husband.  She and her husband wanted some land for a holiday home by the beach.  Impossible to find on the west coast and so this had to be on the east of the island. Even a few years ago it was very hard to find a small plot.  Most land by the sea had been sold or the local owners only wanted to sell a much larger plot that included land set back from the beach.  But after six months of talking to land owners and getting to know them, we found one who agreed to sell a 1 Rai beachfront plot with 40metres beach frontage) for a realistic price. In 2018 we bought it off them. Not done anything with it.

6.  * SOLD * Condo in Bangbao.  This wasn’t planned at all.  I’d always liked the views from Tranquility Bay Residence but never thought I’d be able to afford a place there.  When the one bedroom condos were originally sold off plan back in 2006 – 2007, they went for around 5.5 Million Baht for a 60Sqm one bedroom unit.  Quite a few Scandinavian buyers snapped them up.  Then came the world wide recession in 2008 and from then onwards the property market on Koh Chang stagnated.  However asking prices continued to rise, despite the lack of buyers. The developer’s price for units is now around 6.8 – 7.3 Million Baht.  Now, in 2023, you’ll see resales advertised for around 3.5 Million Baht.

In late February 2017 I was contacted by an agent in Pattaya who had been trying to sell a Leasehold unit for over a year on behalf of an old friend of his.  As a last resort the asking price – 5 Million – was now discounted by 50%.  Did I know anyone who was interested?  I wasn’t at first as it seemed a bit strange and to be honest, real estate agents in Pattaya don’t have a great reputation for ethics and honesty.  But after a bit of Googling and contacting the developer it turned out that it was legit.  And even better was the only type of unit I’d really want.  A top floor corner unit. So, we went to take a look and decided to buy it.

We sold this in April 2019.  Transferring the lease at the Land Office was a very simple process.  No lawyers were involved. In early 2022 the new owner, who had renovated the apartment, put it up for sale for 3 Million. As of mid-2023 it’s still for sale.

What are the takeaways?

Three things . . .

You’ll notice lawyers aren’t mentioned anywhere.  The main reason for that is my trust in my partner ‘Mam’.  If you don’t have a Thai significant other who understands Thai property law and you can trust implicitly, then you’re going to need a good lawyer.

Once we’d got Baan Rim Nam any subsequent purchases didn’t take a long time to decide on.  That’s because once you know an area well and what’s value for money, then it’s pretty easy to assess if something that is in your budget is worth buying or not. (In 2021 we nearly bought an old house on a nice plot right on a beach on the east coast. But the access was an issue – so to avoid future headaches with neighbours we didn’t buy it.)

If we came to Koh Chang now with less than 1 Million Baht to our name, we wouldn’t be able to afford to buy anything.