Choosing a Reliable Agent
Whether you choose to live in a gated development, purchase a stand-alone home, or for the even more adventurous, buy a piece of raw land on which to build your future dream house, you will be in need of the services of a good real estate agent. Choosing the right agent is essential as a reputable firm with good local contacts can help you avoid many of the pitfalls that a less informed buyer might encounter.
There are now so many different agents on the island, it is difficult to choose between them. Ideally though, your agent should be able to demonstrate a solid background in the industry and offer examples of successful deals they have handled that are similar to your own plans. It is also vital that your agent has good local connections with Thai partners and the authorities. Paperwork and local procedures can sometimes be daunting, but if you have the services of a quality agent with good local knowledge, almost all of the potential stumbling blocks can be swiftly traversed with little or no headaches for you, the buyer.
It is vital, for example that you know you are buying or leasing the right type of land. There are various different land titles, the most sought after is the 'Chanote' title. This indicates that the land has been officially surveyed with the use of GPS and its boundaries are now fixed. Be warned that buying land without professional help could mean purchasing what looks like a bargain piece of land that many turn out to be unusable due the land title. Other pitfalls include road access and the availability of utilities such as electricity and water, not to mention the processing and checking of legal documentation and ownership rights.
Once you have found a property, you will have to consider the various purchase options carefully. Foreign individuals may own a property on a renewable 30-year lease, but in the past, many opted to set up Thai company in order to purchase the property freehold. The latter is less easy than it was a few years ago, but your agent should have a full understanding of both procedures and will be able to explain the pros and cons. Owning a Thai company involves legal and tax issues that you should be well aware of before pursuing this avenue. With so many thing to consider, it is easy to see why the services of a good and reputable agent are not just advisable, but essential. By working closely with them to find the solution that best suits your needs, you should enjoy a smooth and painless experience when setting up your new island home.
Building a Property
Having a home built to suit your own tastes and needs can be cost efficient, not to mention rewarding experience. It does take time, patience and energy however, and you need to be absolutely certain that the people you employ to build the property are capable of delivering the house you have in mind.
Once the land is purchased and ready for development, thoughts can turn to the design of your house. Of course, you can be as involved in the design process as much as you wish, from merely requesting certain facilities or features all the way to designing the floor plan in its entirety. Either way, your ideas will have to go through a certified architect in order to ensure the plan are both practical and legal. Many laws exist in Thailand to ensure that buildings do not move to far from Thai cultural traditions. Once the architect has completed your official plans, your builder, if you have already secured one, should then be able to work out a detailed quote to construct the property to the specifications.
When choosing a builder, don't be afraid to ask for reference. Some contractors may even offer to tale you around some of their previous projects so that you can see the quality of their work and perhaps gain some inspiration for your own home. Several contracting companies are foreign run or employ foreign representatives, which can save time and confusion due to communication problems. It is always good to try ans strike up a rapport with the Thai partners and staff too though, as their local knowledge will often prove invaluable.
Once you have chosen your contractor, as always make sure your investment is protected by the correct documentation. It would be advisable to have an independent law firm check any paperwork for potential grey areas. If you have ever had a home built in the West, you would have received certain assurances from the building company, including an agreed schedule for completion, a performance bond and a warranty on the finished product. Providing such guarantees is not always common practice in Koh Samui so the kind of guarantees you are offered should have a significant bearing in your initial choice of construction company.
A performance bond is a guarantee issued by the contractor's bank to secure any advance payments you have made. When building on Koh Samui, you will likely need to pay an initial deposit in order for the builder to obtain materials and retain a workforce. Thereafter, you will pay an agreed amount of installments, which will likely be tied in with certain pre-agreed stages in your home's route to completion. The initial deposit, which could be around a quarter to a third of the total amount, wull remain unsecured if no performance bond is issued. In terms of warranty, you should insist on at least 12 months coverage from the completion date. This should be plenty of time for any major building defects to become apparent and resolved at the cost of the building company.
With the plans cleared, the paperwork checked and your deposit paid, building can commence. If possible, it is good idea to make regular visits to your property during the construction phase. This is perhaps the best way to avoid problems or a misinterpretation of your wishes and also means building good relations with the workforce. It will establish your authority as the paying client and seeing your property gradually come together is almost as rewarding as the first night you'll spend in your new tropical home.
Building Regulation on Koh Samui
In order to build on Koh Samui you must first obtain a building permit from the municipality office and your building must meet certain requirments depending on the location of the land on which you wish to build. There are 4 defined areas for land depending on its distance from the beach.
- Stage 1. Land up to 10 Metres from the beach. The law states that no construction is permitted within this area.
- Stage 2. Land up to 50 Metres from the beach. Within this area you are permitted to construct a single storey building only it's height cannot exceed 6 metres (including the roof) and the building cannot exceed the maximum allowed area of 75 Square Metres.
- Stage 3. Land up to 200 Metres from the beach. Within this area you are permitted to build up to a maximum height of 12 Metres (including the roof). The maximum allowed size is 2000 Square Metres.
- Stage 4. Land located more than 200 Metres from the beach. Within this area, buildings of up to 12 Metres in height (including the roof) can be constructed.
In addition, all buildings must now be constructed with peaked roofs, flat roofs are no longer permitted.