Foreigners can buy and hold Thai real estate through a variety of ownership structures and land titles.
The three most common forms of ownership used by foreigners to hold Thai real estate are leasehold, freehold through a condo title, and freehold through acquisition by a Thai company.
Foreigners may also, in some circumstances own Industrial property freehold. The Thai Land Code considers "foreign" ownership to be property ownership by any foreign individual or company.
CONDO TITLE DEFINITIONS
In Thailand a condo is a multi unit building where there is freehold ownership of individual units and a common interest along with all the other owners in the land and common areas. In some countries this is called strata title.
A condo is registered at the Land Department and each individual unit has its own title deed.
Foreigners are allowed to own up to 49% in area terms of a condo building in Thailand.
The percentage of foreign ownership of each condo building is registered at the Land Department.
Purchasers of new condo buildings sold off plan need to clarify with the developer that their particular condo unit will be registered as part of the foreign quota.
Purchasers of units in existing condo buildings should clarify with the vendor if the unit is already part of the foreign quota or if not if there is foreign ownership quota still available.
All the money used to purchase a condo by a foreigner must be remitted to Thailand as foreign currency.
Foreign purchasers need to obtain a "Foreign Exchange Transaction Form" certificate for each payment from the beneficiary bank all these certificates must be shown to the Land Department in order to register the condo.
When the money is sent to Thailand, a foreign purchaser needs to include in the transfer instructions that the purpose is to buy a condo unit.
A foreigner who has Thai baht in his non-resident bank account or who has foreign currency bank account in Thailand may withdraw money from such account for the payment of the condo unit. In this case, a withdrawal slip and bank certificate issued by the bank is needed confirming that the funds were withdrawn from those accounts to buy a condo. These documents will be required to be shown at the Land Department.
Foreigners with Thai spouses who are buying a condo jointly must comply with foreign ownership regulations and transfer all funds to purchase a condo from overseas.
Foreigners have Permanent Resident status in Thailand do not need to transfer funds from overseas.
The owner of a condo unit will be named on the title deed of the unit. The condo title deed will clearly state the area which will include balconies but exclude columns and common areas. The condo title deed will show the ratio of ownership of the common areas.
Car parks may be registered on the condo title deed in a number of different ways.
there may be an exact size and location of the car park space.
there may alternatively be a right to the exclusive use of a car park space(s) without defining the area or location.
CONDO/APARTMENT: PROPERTY DEFINITION
Thailand has specific definitions that describe the difference between an apartment or condo, and whilst different parts of the world use either apartment or condominium to describe what is essentially the same type of property, Thailand does not.
In Thailand, an apartment is a residential building held in single ownership on an individual title.
APARTMENT/VILLA LEASEHOLD TITLE DEFINITION
A foreigner may register ownership of a 30-year lease with the Land Office. This may be a lease of a condominium, an apartment, a house/villa or land. The land owner or building owner must hold the property on freehold "Chanote" title or "Nor Sor 3 Gor".
There are no restrictions on foreigners owning a building outright. Therefore, a foreigner may own a building erected on the land over which they have a 30-year lease.
The lessor can grant the lessee a series of options to renew the lease for further terms of 30 years, but these options cannot be registered against the land title and are only enforceable on the contracting parties.
This structure is transparent and is fully in accordance with the Thai law.
As the leasehold structure can be complex we recommend that the purchasers of a leasehold property seek qualified legal advice before entering into lease contracts.
CONDO, APARTMENT, VILLA OR LAND OWNERSHIP USING A COMPANY
An indirect means of foreign ownership of property in Thailand is possible through the ownership of a Thai company, however there are strict rules as to what is deemed to be a Thai company when foreigners are involved.
The establishment of a Thai company and the law relating to foreign ownership of landed property is a specialist area and it is recommended that purchasers consult legal professionals who are well experienced in this area.
FREEHOLD INDUSTRIAL LAND
Foreign investors engaged in industrial projects in Thailand may be entitled to own real estate through two different programmes.
The BOI (Board of Investment) can grant permission to foreign companies to own land for factory sites.
Foreigners are also allowed to buy freehold land on industrial estates for manufacturing purposes. In Thailand an industrial estate is clearly defined as a property developed by or with a license from the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand.
Freehold means that a property can be owned in perpetuity. The owner has the right to sell or lease the property. Land and buildings can be owned freehold. There is also condominium title in Thailand where individual units in a building may be owned freehold.
This means that the building or land is held on a lease from the land or building owner. The maximum fixed term of lease in Thailand is 30 years. It is possible to contractually agree options to renew but these options are not registered at the Land Department.