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Finding and Negotiating on a Rental in Thailand

At some point in the near future I will post an article about the current status of the “buy vs rent” decision for foreigners in Thailand. It’s an important topic for discussion and it can be confusing at times, so check in next week to get the latest scoop. This article will focus on some strategies for ensuring you get the very best available price on a suitable flat or home in most places you’d consider living in Thailand.

The most important and obvious concept to finding the best rentals is to stay off of the internet. Instead you should drive around looking for “FOR RENT” signs in Thai and in English and have a Thai person call and negotiate on your behalf, only presenting your intent on living there once you know the “Thai prices.” This get’s you the official Thai price and you’re likely to get a better deal than on any internet listings.

It’s worth noting that I have seen an improvement on internet listing prices especially for high end condos since there are way too many of them out there. So I wouldn’t rule out the internet for finding a really nice condo in a major city. If you’re looking for a modern and new Western-style place to live and you’re willing to spend the inflated prices to do so, the strategies I will mention won’t do you much good. But for renting a home or an apartment off the most desired streets and outside of the most expensive buildings and developments, stay off the internet and stay away from agents!

Make sure you put some time into the task. An extra few hours could easily lead to a nicer place to live long term at a much more affordable price. When you’re driving around looking for “For Rent” signs and you have a Thai person calling the #’s asking them how much without ever mentioning the fact that there is a foreigner involved, you’ll get some decent quotes. I would inquire into at least 20 different places; you owe yourself that kind of due diligence.

Once you find a couple of places you like and where the quotes were reasonable, it’s worth trying to negotiate. Many people think it’s an uphill battle, but I’m here to tell you that there is a way to knock people down on their asking rental prices even if they know they gave you a more than fair price. Granted the Thai price your Thai helper received may not be negotiable in some situations, but in many cases it is especially if you have money to work with. Even if they say it’s non-negotiable it probably is. What you can do is have a wad of money on you. So let’s just say for example you want to live in the rental for 1 full year and you’re sure it won’t be any issue at all for you to live there for that full year. Deposits aside (those will be extra but you’ll get them back), you can offer them 9-10 months up front in cash on the spot if they sign a 1 year deal with you completely pre-paid. You can even lay the money on the table and spread it out in front of their eyes. Make sure the terms are crystal clear and in writing. You pay between 9-10 months to them up front and in return you don’t pay them another dime for 1 full year of rent. Make sure they understand that they can take the money to their bank RIGHT NOW if they agree and sign. Make sure your Thai helper/companion also signs the agreement of course to ensure the owner is never tempted to give you a problem down the road. I repeat: Do not prepay for a year without a Thai person on the contract WITH YOU. The owner isn’t as likely to breach on the Thai person.

This negotiating strategy saves you around 20% off of a price that was probably already very good since you were only working the best true Thai prices you found from driving around for a full day with your helper. All in all you’ll be paying about 50% of what some less informed people pay for the same type of place. The reasons for why this works are obvious. That Thai owner knows there’s a good chance they don’t rent the property out for 2 or 3 months anyway, so at least with you they get a fist full of cash. They also don’t need to worry about chasing you and meeting with you every month for 11 months, and they know you’re probably a pretty responsible tenant compared to some of the broke and drunk Farang tenants they’ve heard horror stories about. You can feel free to sell them on these points, although realistically it’s the money that will do most of the talking.

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About ParadiseCity

M. Schwartz is an expert in all things Thailand. Having seen and done it all, there is nobody more equipped to teach about a successful ex-pat transition to Thailand. He wrote the cult classic guide book for men in Thailand called, How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck in Thailand

12 Responses to Finding and Negotiating on a Rental in Thailand

  1. MagicMax October 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I wasn’t going to leave a comment but that’s all just common sense for anyone anywhere renting a place. Jusr because it’s Thailand doesn’t make it any different Sir.

    • ParadiseCity October 5, 2012 at 7:14 am #

      Well considering that the internet is the first place I’d look in most countries and the last place I’d look in Thailand I’d have to disagree. The up front cash negotiating tip would be especially helpful to you regarding Thai home owners, I wouldn’t use it anywhere else either as there would be no need. All the best to you!

  2. Farang ngong nguay October 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    The internet for modern places is overpriced also. I rented a brand new 1br for about 30% less than similar prices on the web. Just go to the Juristic Person in the condo lobby and they will have a list of all the private owners renting out there places. Not to mention, there are usually many more units available than you see on all the housing websites. My condo had 3 units listed on all the housing sites and at the office, there were more than 20 available units. Also, some of the realtards have overpriced their units by more than 50-75% on the sites so if you don’t go direct, you’re a fool.

    If you buy…you’re a bigger fool…especially if you do a buy/rent calculation based on the internet asking prices. Let some other fool be the bag holder.

    • ParadiseCity October 5, 2012 at 7:15 am #

      This is and has been true for quite a while. But I have only recently seen some decent specials advertised online for upscale buildings that are having trouble selling their glut of empty units. So I thought it was worth mentioning.

      • Farang ngong nguay October 5, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

        Specials for rent or for sale? From what I see, the P/E ratios are way off here with regards to buying. If the buy price was 100x monthly rent then I *might* consider it to be a decent deal. Most of the ones I see are closer to 200x monthly rent (or more).

        Signs of a bubble…

        1. rent ratio out of whack…check
        2. 0% downpayment financing for Thai people…check
        3. Adjustable rate mortgages…check
        4. Building condos (and moo-baans) like crazy…check

        Other issues…when the bubble finally pops and the BOT starts printing like Bernanke, the baht will weaken. It’s currently just about the strongest it has been in the last 10 years.

        Besides…why get tied down to one area here in Thailand? I like to follow the ‘Fight Club’ motto…”The things you own end up owning you”.

        • ParadiseCity October 7, 2012 at 11:43 am #

          some people want to settle down and I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t recommend picking a spot for long term until you’re well traveled, but at some point everyone is entitled to parking their asses and relaxing a bit. Traveling is a lifestyle; it’s not necessarily a permanent one though.

  3. american October 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    First, renting is generally way better than buying not only because of the rules of foreign ownership but also because most places would have 20+ year payback. Not a good investment. Also, it is a false economy, it is a mini tulip mania…. look in Pattaya, there are new buildings that are allegedly “fully sold” or almost sold out. They have 1200 units but only 189 have an aircon unit. Sure, many shells are purchased up but 15%?, The Thai quota (51%) rarely sells much.

    Internet rental prices… look, if the web site is in English, the prices are adjusted for foreigners. If you eat thai food you eat cheap you eat farang food, it is spendy. I eat at Thai places that don’t even have english menus. I eat cheap. This is the same with the web.

    Finally, I agree with this excellently written article. 9 or 10 months, in cash, done deal. Many will take that (with furnished places) without any other deposit. Some people will want a deposit of a month on top of all that especailly if you are from a country where your bretheren are stereotypically rowdy.

    In any case, note that whatever you pay towards rent, you will not get back in almost all cases. So if you want to live there for 6-12 months but are unsure, only do 6, because if you pay or fo 12 (with your discount) and move out in 9, chances are you get nothing back (unless it is high season and this is a condo on the beach in pattaya and they can get significantly more from someone else).

    • ParadiseCity October 7, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      Glad you liked the article; you seem to know your stuff. If anyone is sure they want to stay in a place for a year and they follow the guidelines of this article they’re going to save a massive amount of money, predicated mostly on exploiting the instant gratification of waiving cash in a Thai person’s face. Staying off the internet and negotiating a 9 month price for a 12 month stay saves you 50% without a doubt.

  4. Mike 1 October 8, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Good post, and mostly relevant replies.
    Keep up the great work.
    cheers, Mike.

    • ParadiseCity October 8, 2012 at 6:26 am #

      you got it Mike! Thanks for reading.

  5. kevin January 13, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    We thought of buying but your article has started me thinking it may not be the best way to go. We have children and looking for a holiday home with facilities for kids. Any suggestions on good condo buildings in Jomtien or Pattaya?

    • Chris January 22, 2013 at 7:34 am #

      I won’t make a post about condos in pattaya/omtiem for a few months yet.

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