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Further Reading:

Back to Basics - Before You Commit

Over the last two issues I have discussed in some detail the different types of title to land, buildings and condominiums and the methods by which a foreigner may acquire ownership or lease rights in these properties.

Armed with this general knowledge, you may feel that you now know all that you need to take the plunge and commit to the purchase of your "Dream Home".

Start your search by all means, but before you set pen to paper, take a short pause to consider what you are doing. While most developers and private vendors are ethical, there are, as everywhere, a number who may not meet your expectations.

While it will be difficult to point out all the potential problems in the limited space allowed here, I will outline some of the steps to take to minimize risk.

Ask to see a copy of the front and back of the land or condo title deed.

A faithful translation of this will show you who the current owner is; if the property has any endorsements or liens; the shape, area and orientation of the property and border to a public property (such as a road, stream or the ocean). Use a measuring tape and compass (or a steady pace and the location of the sun) to ascertain if the title appears to accurately represent the offered property and be sure you are dealing with the owner of the property or his appointed representative.

Due to uncertainties brought into the market place this year over concerns about the legitimacy of a small, but highly publicised, number of land titles, it would also be prudent to have your lawyer conduct due diligence on the title's veracity and history. This is especially important if the land you are looking at is in an area where it is on the boundaries of, or seems to stand alone within government and especially forestry land areas. There may be genuine reasons why your 'perfect plot' is a legitimately titled 'glade' amongst a figurative forest of low grade or untitled plots, but a cautious approach will save tears later. In the case of a building under construction or land undergoing subdivision look carefully at the provisions for issuing a title, and easement rights. Also look out for aclause providing for the sale price to be adjusted pro-rata with the final titled area. There have been instances in which vendors deliberately understate the area of a property.

Verify the access to the property

If the property in question is not adjacent to a public road, it is essential that there is evidence of a registered easement for vehicle access and all utility connections. It has been known for vendors to grant an easement for vehicular access and then later when the property is developed refuse to allow the connection of electrical cables until further payments are made.

Read the sales contract

This may sound obvious, but I am amazed how many people sign first and ask questions afterwards. Unlike most of the Western world, Thailand has no Consumer Protection Act (or the equivalent). "Caveat Emptor" is the order of the day. If the contract is not in English or a language that you understand, insist upon a translation by a competent, independent professional.

If you see a clause which you don't understand, seek professional advice. If you see a clause as patently unsavory as, for example, "During the period of this contract the Buyer may not take legal action against the Seller" (which amazingly more than a few people have signed) stop! Just because you are in contact with a seemingly "friendly" vendor don't overlook the precautions you would take at home.

For a condo purchase, be sure the unit qualifies for foreign ownership

Some condominiums qualify for 100% foreign ownership but others are restricted to 49% of the units in the block. Be sure that the unit you are buying is covered under this allowance. There are ways that the rights to the units outside the 49% allowance may be offered. Should you choose this option make sure you understand how this will work. Also look closely at the total number of units that have been sold in the building - and in the event that the property is less than half sold and the management of the building is still in the hands of the developer, be particularly prudent. With majority votes, a bad manager can be removed by owners, but in a building still majority owned by the developer, you will likely remain stuck with his choice of manager.

None of the above is intended to warn you off making an investment in property in Thailand. With due diligence you will be able to acquire a trouble free and secure investment that will bring you great rewards.