There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that building a house in Thailand is not a good idea if you are a foreigner.
In this article, I would like to take a look at the pros and cons of a Thai house build. This is based on my own experience of building a house in the Kingdom.
Building a House in Thailand: The Pros
Here is a list of some of the things I consider are pro’s when it comes to building a house in Thailand:
- Land is relatively cheap compared to many countries.
- Labour and most building material costs are lower than the West.
- There is little or no planning control(see also cons).
- Architect design services are low cost.
- Traditional Thai designs can be very appealing and pleasing on the eye.
- Health and safety standards do not hinder building practices or design features(see also cons).
Building a House in Thailand: Cons
Here is a list of some of the things I consider are con’s when it comes to building a house in Thailand.
- Foreigners cannot normally own land.
- Planning control is almost no existent.
- Thai builders are set in their traditional ways.
- Electrical safety can be an issue.
- There is no on site health and safety.
- The standard of finish can be poor.
- Regular site visits are needed to ensure plan is being followed.
Summary of Building a House in Thailand
As I said in the introduction anecdotal evidence (mostly from forums) suggests that building a house in Thailand is not a good idea if you are a foreigner. I can understand this opinion to some extent and would say that careful consideration needs to be given to building a house in Thailand.
Personally, I would only recommend it if you are legally married to a Thai and comfortable with the fact that you will never own the land your house stands on.
Furthermore you should not consider the project an investment from which you will get any return other than having somewhere to live rent free for the rest of your days.
That said with the low cost of labour and building materials a modest investment(by Western standards) can get you a very pleasant place to live. 2 million Baht, about £37,000 or $58,000, will buy you a nice detached architect designed home.
However this is exclusive of the land. For example my own plot which is about 1200 m2 cost 500,000 Baht or £9000.
Planning control in Thailand is very lax or even none existent in some more rural areas. There are rarely any site inspections and you can do pretty much as you please. But so can anyone else and there is no zoning, so one day that open field next door might become a pig farm or the house next door may decide to set up a disco and bar!
Thai architects are very creative and can come up with some fantastic designs. Thai builders on the other hand work better with traditional Thai designs and are less adept at incorporating European or American ideas into your build. Concrete footings, pillars and beams are the building blocks in Thailand and walls are not load bearing.
One big concern (or it should be) is electrical safety and getting a house correctly wired with a proper earth (ground) system can present problems. It is a fact that most Thais will tell you that they have had at least one electric shock from poorly grounded appliances in their lives.
Health and safety standards are almost non-existent in the Kingdom where human life is measured on a different scale to the West. A Thai building site is a place to tread very carefully.
Although anyone considering building a house in Thailand really needs to be available to visit the site on a daily basis. That way mistakes (they do happen) can be rectified before it’s too late.
Having a house built while not living in Thailand and preferably nearby is a sure recipe for disaster, even if a trusted Thai friend is available to do the site visits.