Legal Guide for Foreigners - Buying Property Koh Samui
Thinking about buying property in Koh Samui ?
Well, that is an excellent idea, but before making an impulsive decision, you need to be informed about options and legal requirements of purchasing land in Koh Samui, Thailand.
Koh Samui is the unspoiled paradise known for its sandy palm beaches, luxury spas, and gorgeous resorts, among many other treasures. Thailand’s second largest island is an iconic place of culture, nature, monuments, cuisine, and of course, the visitors. Actually, 1.5 million of tourists come here each year to experience the Koh Samui riches for at least 5 days.
That being said, The Island of Coconuts and Monkeys seems to be quite a lucrative business opportunity apart from being a marvellous choice for a peaceful, yet fun vacation. Then again, in order to acquire the title of a land owner, one must first examine the following rules.
What to Do Before the Purchase
As a foreigner, you have to take many factors into consideration before making the final purchase. Since acquiring Thai real estate should be a well-thought process, reflect upon:
● The type of property you are looking for;
● The property location;
● The property maintenance conditions;
● The price;
● Reasons to make the purchase;
● The quality of the property;
● Legal requirements;
The System of Land Measurement in Thailand
Foreigners need to know Thailand’s common measurement practice so that they could get a better grasp of the property size. Even when first visiting the Island of Smiles, the sightseer can notice a frequent use of the word "Rai”. This is because their land measurement consists of Wah, Ngan, and the famous Rai.
One Acre is equal to 2.5 Rai, while a Hectare is 6.25 Rai. To put it precisely, 1 Rai is 400 Wah, which is approximately 1,600 square meters or 17,109 sqft. Other measurements include:
1 Wah = 4 sqm = 4.27 sqft
1 Ngan = 100 Wah
100 Wah = 400 sqm = 4,227 sqft
What are the Koh Samui Ownership Options and Legal Requirements for Foreigners?
The truth is that there are many restrictions regarding foreign land ownership, but that fact is not preventing a record number of international investors to apply for promotional privileges. However, since 1997 Thailand has been practicing strict regulations, still it is slightly easier for the outsiders to buy a property.
The laws on the land for sale in Koh Samui are clear, meaning all excited visitors have to obey and follow them before calling themselves Thailand property possessors. Nonetheless, when it comes to condominiums, the process of purchase is the simplest one of all.
Buying a Condominium
Condominiums can be bought freehold as long as foreigners have entered Thailand legally and if the condo is constructed on a land of no more than 5 rai. In addition, the apartment complex has to be 51% in the possession of Thai natives, therefore foreigners cannot obtain the property with more than 49% of the condominium complex being in the hands of foreigners.
Basic procedure necessities of a foreign condominium ownership:
● A credential lawyer needs to verify that the complex is available for a foreign purchase;
● The laws of the money transfer overseas have to be respected and obliged;
● All the records of the money transfer should be retained;
● The purchase can now be made;
● The condominium is issued with a title deed;
● The owners have to use a title deed as collateral in Thailand;
● Maintenance has to be conducted regularly and the fees covered;
The good news is that a condo is easy to rent, especially if the complex is near popular tourist attractions. Likewise, it is easy to sell the property tax-free, as long it is done legally.
Buying a Villa or a House
Thai state laws forbids foreigners from owning land in Thailand, but allow owning a building. So, if a foreigner wants to buy a villa or a house, including the land as well, there are two ways of making the deal.
1. Long-term leasehold agreement – Foreigners can lease land for 30 years. Registered leaseholders are secure and structured to be identical to freehold owners. Though the land is leased for 30 years, it is possible to further renew the agreement two more times, which means the land can be in the foreigner’s possession for up to 90 years.
On the other hand, if the agreement expires, a foreigner will not be able to take the possession of the property as the material asset is separated from the land.
2. Limited Liability Company – Those who are not pleased with option number one can always look for another route in setting up a limited company. Once a structured company is in the name of a foreigner, the freehold land is put in the company’s name.
Of course, the twist to the story is there have to be at least two foreigners sharing the company, since the shareholdings can’t exceed 49%. However, as a managing director of the company, a foreigner can govern the voting and other shares, which puts the land in total control and ownership of a non-national guest.
Between the two, it is probably for the best to lease. The procedure is stress-free due to small fees, assuming that it is accompanied by the proper legal assistance. On the other hand, the Thai staff will cost up to 4-5% of the requirements, plus the legal fees.
Visa Essentials for a Long-Term Stay in Thailand
Considering everything needs to be done legally, the whole process begins and ends with the visa. There are three types of visa for securing a long-term stay in Thailand. The first and most frequent choice is visiting Thailand as a tourist with the legitimate tourist visa issued by a Thai embassy abroad. This visa is limited to 60-90 days, after which it expires.
The other choice is trying to get a residential visa, but this visa is rarely issued to foreigners. To even qualify for it, one must have and provide a strong financial status, as well as indisputable connections with Thai people.
Finally, the only beneficial choice is going for a nonimmigrant visa. With it, foreigners can stay for a year, but only if they leave the country every three months. The visa essentials are: owning a company in Thailand, having a family there or simply having the "acceptable” means to support the stay.
Thai/Foreigner Marriage & Legal Rights
Any foreigner hoping to gain rights after a Thai wedding would be disappointed to know that there is no such luck. Although according to the recent (1999) Ministerial regulations Thai women are allowed to purchase the land after marrying a foreigner, the Thai spouse must prove there is no foreign claim of the land legally acquired by solely their finances.
Often, this includes signing a declaration stating that the capital used for the purchase belonged to the Thai native partner, without a husband’s right to a claim prior to the marriage.
If this doesn’t represent a discomfort, a divorce case just might. Problems arise during a divorce because it is extremely difficult to prove the land is a part of marital property.
How to Avoid Potential Threats
It’s clear by now that Thai property will probably be rented or serve like a holiday rental. But before jumping the gun, let’s not forget about the property agent that will guide the purchase. Hence, the level of expertise is vital for a proper navigation of property laws.
Unfortunately, visitors can come in contact with many agents without a permit, thus it is preferable to check the references and make sure the agent is a serious vendor. With the help of a professional, the potential buyers can rest assured that the property is within the budget limits and in a good location.
Otherwise, one may face the problem of unsafe roads due to a flood or experience some plumbing difficulties. Not to mention the bank troubles and their constantly changing criteria. So, it is important to check for all avoidable risks right from the start, which is why it is crucial to hire a good layer beforehand.
There is no need to be discouraged from owning a property and a piece of land in Koh Samui. Though it may not be forever, 90 years is a long time for foreigners to pamper themselves in the warm waters, luxury, and summer palm breeze. And what about renting and a never-ending source of residents?
That’s right, with Samui condo or land, visitors will always be ready to pay the price of staying in a true paradise. The only expense is giving up the rights to hold something rightfully theirs. The deal is fair, as it all comes down to how you perceive it.