The Rice Field Prohect Part 1 : Buying land in Thailand

Buying land in Thailand
As part of Living in Thailand, the Rice Field Project follows our journey of buying land and preparing it for building our house. This is part 1. To read the other parts click on the tag Rice Field. We bought the first plot of land in September 2017. The extra plot of land was bought in November 2017.

Following is a little story about my personal experience in the process of being involved with buying land in Thailand. Yes that is a long way of saying "buying land", because I as foreigner can never buy & own land. So it is my lovely wife who buys & owns land, whats gives us the opportunity to live together in this lovely land. After 5 years living & renting a house in Khon Kaen I wanted to live in the mountains of Nan in North Thailand. So we moved to Nan, rented a house in a small mountain village and started to look for land. And so we did encounter a serie of typically Thai experiences that I will try to tell you. And of course we did buy some land so my report about the next steps (preparing the land, building a house, etc.) will follow in the hopefully near future.

First of all some information about land. In Thailand land is measured in Rai's, Nang and Tarang Wha. 1 Rai = 4 Ngan and 1 Ngan = 100 Tarang Wha and 1 Tarang Wha = 4 sqm. And be aware that as non-Thai you can NEVER really own land in Thailand (yes there a few exceptions). There are all kind of legal ways to protect your investment but the bottom line is you CAN NOT OWN land in Thailand. If you give someone else money to buy land for you then see that money as a gift and say goodbye to the money. This is the first part of our ongoing Rice Field Project, to read the other parts click on on the tag Rice Field

1. Official land papers

My first demand is that the land we buy needs to have full official papers, in Thai called Chanot. Here upcountry many land has no land papers at all or not really ownership papers. Really? Yes, really most of the houses in our village are build on land the people do not have any papers for. Or on land that is borrowed from the government for agricultural purpose. So that excluded many land for sale for me.

2. Safe place

Then the land should be on a safe location, like not be in a area that has a big chance of flooding. Weird thing you think. Well not so weird, actually almost every year Nan town is flooded. Sometimes just a little bit, sometimes with a lot of damage. Even in the small village where we are living, about 200m from the Nan River. At the current water level the river is about 15m lower as the street in front of our house. But ... last year the water was at the end of our street, that means the water level did rise about 12m. Another unsafe place is land on the edge of a half excavated hill / mountain. With a bit of rain the rest of the hill will follow and take your house with it. So that excluded many land for sale for me.

3. Utilities nearby

Another demand of me is to have nearby electric (not further away as 400m) and that there is nearby a real concrete road (not further as 50m away). Weird demands? No way, people have been offering is land in the middle of the jungle or in the middle of rice-fields with a walking path to the land. "You can make the walking path bigger" ... yeah right!

4. Nearby community

And a demand of my wife is to have nearby (not further as 500m) at least other houses. So that when I am not home my wife is not in the middle of nowhere in the jungle. Perfect would be on the backside of a small village.

5. Land size

Yes you can buy cheap land. At least cheap per sqm. But some plots that were offered where about 20 - 100 rai and 1 rai is 1.600 sqm. First of all the total price becomes not cheap anymore and secondly what hell we have to do with 50 rai of land? On the other hand we have also been offered very small plots of land that is hardly big enough to build a house. My favourite size of land would be between 300tw and 400tw. One tw (Tarang Wha) = 4 sqm. If the land is cheap buy a bit more so you will not have weirdo neighbours directly next to you. You know like someone who starts a cow-farm in the middle of a village (no joke).

6. Weird locations

We have been offered land plots on weird locations like in the middle of nowhere in the jungle, right next to a crematorium / garbage place, on a half excavated hill or right next to the Nan River. Or land that you can only access via the land of other people. "No problem" .... yeah right until that other person does not like you anymore.

7. Price negotiation

Then the price negotiation part ... yes of course the owners will find out that there is a foreigner involved and see that as an excuse to rise the price. Well in the years living here in Thailand and now looking for land in Nan I am very well aware of the land prices. So many times we politely declined with the words that we are not so rich as Bangkokian Thai people. But the latest story of interest in a piece of land was even for me and my wife surprising.

We came to look at land and did meet the owner of the land and we were told that the land would cost  400.00 THB. So we made an appointment to see the land papers to know how big the land officially is. We were then told his wife wanted 450.000 THB. But when we asked again about the land they said they were actually not sure if the wanted to sell it. Then a week later they said they wanted to sell it for 1.000.000 THB. And 5 days later it was raised to 1.300.000 THB. So we offered them 600.000 THB and we did never hear from them again. Greed never stops to amaze me.

8. Getting legal information about the land

A few points as investigation
  • First of all you should request to see the original chanot papers. If they do not have it then they probably used it to borrow money from "a friend".
  • Then you should requeste a copy of the chanot papers (front & back) plus a copy of the ID-card of the owner. On the chanot papers you can see how big the land is, who owns it and if they used it to borrow money at the bank. Or that there is a lease-contract on it. 
  • If that is all OK you could consider to contact a lawyer to ask if he sees something not correct on the chanot papers. 
  • Then you could go to the Land Office and request a location view of the land, so you know the chanot is really from the piece of land that you want to buy. And you can request to see the official "copy" of the chanot that is at the Land Office. This should be the same as the one that is shown to you.
  • Then you could request the Land Office to do an survey of the land, checking the size, location and place of the so called chanot-polls. This is a bit tricky as most time it is done unofficial so no proof of it. And most time it is done without real GEO-tagging the location. But the form of the land, the number of chanot-polls and the size of the land should be the same as on the chanot papers.
  • Be aware that some chanot papers have an add-on paper. Maybe some land owners lost it but at the Land Office you can see this add-on paper.
  • Be also aware that upcountry it is very common for farmers to change their land a little bit with their neighbours. Like we looked once at a plot of land that had on the chanot an other form as what was shown to us. On the chanot the land plot was 1 rai and 40tw but the owner told us he had given away 2 weird corners of the land so now it would be only 1 rai of land.
  • Some land has fully legal chanot but no chanot-polls, as this is a bit difficult with farming land. You can request chanot-polls to be placed. 

9. Buying the land at the land office

Very simple and straight forward. My wife will pay and buy the land and I will sign a paper that I agree that the land will never be part of our marriage arrangement. But then again my wife can give me the right to live on the land until my death. The so called usufruct, but there are also a few other ways to do the same. This in case my wife would die before me and the land would go to her family.

P.s. This is just the beginning .... after the rice harvest we will start with the next step .... filling up the land and make access to it. But that will be in the next part in 2 or 3 months.

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