Finding a place to live in Chiang Mai is pretty easy. But what exactly can you expect to get for your money? Quite a lot is the answer so let me give you an idea what the property market in Chiang Mai has to offer you.
We were looking for a rented house (see below for apartment rental). Having lived in apartments for the last five years we wanted outside space and most of all we wanted Mango to have a garden for the first time in her life.
We wanted something fully furnished. Immediately before arriving in Chiang Mai we had sold every last piece of furniture we owned in Dubai, and given away everything else from microwave to vacuum cleaner to pots and plates and we wanted to keep our possessions to a minimum for the foreseeable future.
8-10,000 baht per month
We first started looking in the 8-10,000 ($270-$330) baht per month range for 2-3 bedroom places. We saw a couple of decent properties but they were far outside the centre of town. Most were advertised as ‘fully furnished’ but we quickly realized the local idea of fully furnished and ours was vastly different. We also saw immediately that central air-con was not a feature anywhere. Instead houses had varying numbers of individual wall-mounted a/c units. Usually one in the master bedroom, perhaps another in the living area, perhaps not. You might get a bed in one bedroom, a wardrobe in the other, but no drawer space. If they had any living room furniture it usually consisted of a wooden bench, resembling a park bench and equally as (un)comfortable. An expat friend told me the Thais love this wooden furniture as it lasts a lifetime. A lifetime of discomfort definitely, but it lasts. In all of the houses in this range the kitchen space outdoors. Typically at the back of the house, the space would have a roof and sometimes a single gas ring stove. One or two had refrigerators, many had small, portable sinks. There was little or no space for food preparation.
Despite the shortcomings of the houses was looked at we did like a couple of them, one in particular, it was at the end of a cul de sac and surrounded by rice paddies. We imagined ourselves looking out of the window every day and instead of an awesome view of the world’s tallest building as we had in Dubai, we’d know right away we were in Thailand. It was an appealing thought but the location far from town and lack of transport options made it an impractical choice so we had to pass.
12-15,000 baht per month
We then upped our budget and started seeing much nicer houses, closer to town. For 12-15,000 per month the house the standard and amount of furniture was generally higher but those dreaded wooden benches were still making an appearance. I got so one of the first things I looked for on the real estate agent’s website photos was a comfortable looking sofa.
We looked at the houses in the 8-10 range while we were in Chiang Mai on holiday, a month before moving here. Once we were here to live and had decided to move from our cheap and cheerful temporary place we went back to the best of the two agents we’d dealt with before and asked to view more properties. One agent had a website but looking through it is somewhat misleading, at first you think there are scores of suitable properties for you then you realize they are currently rented out, often for the next several years. We saw one property listed which is let until August 2017!
Our Great New Home
We got really lucky when our songthaew driver friend gave us a magazine to look at. It’s called House and Car and the owner is also a property agent. We called and he picked us up at Thapae Gate and drove us to his office to look through a folder of available houses. We selected a few and first thing next day he called early to say he had arranged five viewings. The agent, Jin, and his assistant picked us up from town again and drove us around for the viewings. The last house we looked at was one we’d included just for fun because it was so interesting. It was out of our price range but I was intrigued by the fact it was three separate buildings, including a little annex with en suite bedroom.
We saw this final house, met the owners who were in the process of re-furbishing the whole place and decided it was so good that we could afford to stretch the budget to 20,000. It’s a beautiful house and really is fully furnished, with a big kitchen, all new furniture (including a sofa!), a lovely big garden with tons of potted plants and some trees. It has a good stove, washing machine and fridge-freezer. The owners even asked us what colour curtains we wanted. It’s within walking distance to a local fresh produce market, a Rimping (the best supermarket for imported foodstuffs) and a Tesco.
We packed all our belongings and Mango into a songtaew and moved in a week later. The agent has continued to help us with things like setting up internet and cable TV and the owners have been great. They live right over the back wall which is not a set-up I’d choose (even though I don’t see many all-night parties in our future) but it’s been fine so far. We love our house, love the fact Mango has a garden to run around and love and the little community we’re in. It’s certainly one of the nicest houses I’ve ever lived in.
The agent we got the house through is a great guy called Jin. He’s incredibly helpful (as I said, he continued to help us after we’d moved in, when he didn’t have to), professional, punctual and an all round nice person. As well as his property business he runs the free House and Car magazine which you may see around town. Many of the ads in the magazine are in Korean as Jin is Korean and caters mainly to that market but we answered one of the ads in English and that’s how we got hooked up with him. I highly recommend him as an agent. Jin can be contact via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Chiang Mai Properties – we also went to look at houses with this agency. They have a nice big office, drive you to the properties in a nice car and seem quite professional. We found them OK but not really on the ball and in no way proactive. Not a bad choice for an agent but their website lists many properties which aren’t actually available.
DD Property – my friend found his studio apartment through this agent and found them OK to deal with.
The small and basic house we stayed in when we first arrived cost only 5000 baht per month and can be rented through the Blue Sky bar on the east side of the moat. Just pop into the bar during the day time and ask to speak to the boss and somebody will guide you to the house (you follow on your motorbike – you definitely need a motorbike or bicycle to live in this house as it’s quite a distance from a main road/songthaew route). The house is not too far from the Old City, quite near Airport Plaza.