Despite Chiang Mai having jumped up 56 places in just two years in the annual ECA Cost of Living survey, there are still thousands of expats flocking to the city. Yahoo! even recently ranked Chiang Mai as one of the most affordable cities to retire to in the world which shows how impressive the city is. But when it comes to sourcing a dream home in the area, it pays to do your homework and to consider a vast array of factors.
Try before you commit
Serviced apartments in Chiang Mai are traditionally used by short-term visitors to the country. However, a new trend has emerged in that they are more commonly being used as a base for expats while they search for and secure their ideal home in the city. One of the great things about staying in serviced apartments in Chiang Mai is that they provide you with the opportunity to experience living in the local area and to determine whether the amenities are suitable for you and your family’s needs. As there are so many serviced apartments across the city, with prices starting at just $20 per night, it’s easy to test living in multiple locations before financially committing to a long-term home in your favourite.
Know the cost of your preferred location
It’s not enough to just like the area of Chiang Mai that you choose to live in, you need to be able to afford it too. As a general rule, the further out of the city centre you live, the cheaper it is and the more you get for your money. Investopedia’s figures show that the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city is ฿ 10,247.60 per month, while a three-bedroom apartment will set you back ฿ 21,700.80 per month. In contrast, outer city prices range between ฿ 6,932.20 and ฿ 14,768.60 on average. With prices varying so considerably across the city, it’s wise to carefully review the difference in costs in the areas you like the most and choose the one that offers you the most value for money that you know you can afford.
To rent or to buy?
It’s estimated that there are 40,000 expats living in Chiang Mai presently. Although, this number is believed to be widely underestimated. One of the biggest things expats need to do when choosing to live in Chiang Mai is to decide whether to rent a property to live in or to buy one. Per square meter, an apartment in the city centre will cost ฿ 68,091.06 while outside of the city, the price per square meter drops to ฿ 46,974.22. Condos, on the other hand, vary from ฿ 10,000 to ฿ 180,000 per square meter, depending on their location, size, and the type of building they are situated in.
Opting to rent or buy a home in Chiang Mai is an entirely personal decision. But, it’s important to understand that Thailand law doesn’t allow foreigners to own land, so your only buying option is a condo. If you decide to buy a condo, then many of them are sold without amenities, so you’ll need to have the cash to furnish your property. Renting can be a more attractive option for this reason. You’ll typically find that there are a large number of properties for rent across Chiang Mai as many landlords appreciate the need to provide affordable accommodation to the growing expat community. Most landlords have portfolios of multiple properties due to them investing in property for rental purposes. Regardless of how many properties they have bought to let out, they’ll most likely have ongoing mortgage payments to meet and they’ll want to make a little profit, too. Aside from this, there is usually plenty of room for negotiation on price, especially if you agree to take out a long-term lease of at least 12 months or more.
When you’re searching for your dream home in Chiang Mai, you’ll want to ensure that it offers all the amenities that you desire. This includes amenities housed inside your accommodation, as well as those on offer in the local community. Some rental properties across the city come with the cost of utilities included. If you want a kitchenette in your apartment, then the price rises and you’ll most likely have to find a home outside of The Old City as the majority of accommodation in this area is designed for short-time leases.
When it comes to deciding what you want from your local area, transport should be high on your list. If you drive, then you really can live anywhere in the city, but if you’re going to rely on public transport, then staying closer to the city may be preferential to keep your living costs down. It’s also worth considering what restaurants, bars, grocery stores, parks, coffee shops, job opportunities, and similar are located in your preferred destination.
One of the final factors you should think about, especially if you’re moving to Chiang Mai with children or if you’re particularly sensitive to noise, is aircraft noise. The city’s airport is located just 15 minutes from the city and it’s common to hear aircraft noise throughout the day and night, so you might want to find a home that’s situated away from the flight path.
Specific areas of Chiang Mai are gaining in popularity. Santitham, a town situated between Nimman and The City is one of them as it’s relatively low-cost and provides lots of amenities. However, the one thing to bear in mind when considering popular areas such as Santitham is that properties can be few and far between. As of January 2020, there were just 11 units for sale and a further 6 units for rent in Santitham on property website Thailand-Property.com, so when you see a property you like, you need to act quickly.
As an expat, Chiang Mai is the perfect location to settle down with your family. But to ensure that you’re comfortable and get the most out of your new life in the city, you should spend a considerable amount of time researching and comparing property in and around the city.