What to look for when choosing a condo

Regardless of where you are in the world, selecting a new property, either to own or to lease is a big commitment and one which not surprisingly can cause considerable stress. For many, the idea of condo living may have never been an option before moving to a city such as Bangkok or indeed, Thailand. It is as another complication, knowing what is included and what you can realistically expect in terms of unit. Condo living is undoubtedly very different from living in a house.

At Smart Service, as the leading property management company in Thailand we appreciate the challenges that you may encounter. As such, we offer our clients plenty of advice, and with it, we ask lots of questions! We understand that there may be factors that you hadn’t considered so, as a professional company, we highlight them to you, allowing you to make a fully informed choice about which condo to choose. Here are ten things that you should consider.

1. Location

How many times have you heard the comment “it’s all about location, location, location”? The fact is you must select the right location for you. Do you need a condo that is near the Skytrain or Highways? Perhaps you need somewhere close to your place of work or child’s school? These are all key considerations. Of course, we all want value for money, so could you select somewhere slightly out of the city to get something more extensive, perhaps with better facilities.

For expats, they may feel that they need to be around other foreigners so that they don’t become isolated. Children will want to be close to their friends and western restaurants close by maybe a must. It would be best if you decided where you want to live, or at least have narrowed it down to a few options before you consider any other factors.

2. Size of the units

The size of the unit is a huge factor for some, especially those with families. It extends far further than merely deciding if you want a studio or two-bedroom condo, as room sizes can vary significantly. Some studios are only around 20sqm, so if you are a couple, you may find this too small. As a general rule, older properties tend to have larger units, but the modern, state-of-the-art condos often have numerous spacing devices.

If you do want something larger for your money, the chances are that you will need to make sacrifices in other areas, such as selecting a location a little further out of the city or an older building. Just like with buying a house, there will be lots of factors that you will need to weigh up and balance. 

3. Amenities

Most modern condos will have the same standard amenities and facilities such as communal swimming pool, fitness area and 24-hour security, but some will offer far more. With competition between developers intensifying, several are looking to provide bigger and better facilities. It is not uncommon, to find modern properties with tennis courts, Jacuzzis and saunas along with, in some cases, helipads! Obviously, it is only worth paying extra for facilities that you will you, but a high-quality onsite gym could save you thousands in monthly gym fees.

When taking the facilities into account, it is crucial that you consider how well they are maintained. For instance, there are several swimming pools in Bangkok in older condos which are poorly maintained, so if the building is starting to look a little rundown and dilapidated, it is probably best avoiding.   

4. Type of condo you want

In Bangkok, you will find an extensive selection of both low-rise and high-rise condominiums. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and for some, it is only a minor factor, while for others, it can be quite significant. If you are undecided, it is worth going to look at a selection of properties which are high-rise and low-rise. You may find that something that you thought was largely irrelevant is actually acutely important.

Make sure you do your research on the pros and cons of both styles of property and if possible try, try to keep an open mind. Arguably, room sizes and amenities are more decisive factors that a high or low-rise building, but it is well worth exploring all options before you commit.  

5. The developer

The developer can be a huge factor, especially if you are buying something “off-plan”. The fact that you are spending a significant amount of money on a property where the ground hasn’t been broken is a potential risk. The risk, although not eliminated, is significantly reduced if you purchase your unit in a building from a well-known and established developer. Cash flow can become a significant factor if sales are going slowly, so you need a developer that has sizeable capital reserves or is backed by an understanding bank.

Of course, the developer can also play a role further down the line. What is the quality of the workmanship; do they conduct snagging repairs after handover, and what guarantees are offered should there be a problem with the electrics or the early stages? Most reputable developers are more than happy to oversee the building after handover to ensure that the transition is a smooth one, while also protecting their own reputation.

6. Payment plans

Although in almost all cases (there are a few exceptions), foreigners can’t get mortgages in Thailand, many developers do offer payment plans on new properties. It is something that may allow you to purchase something better with payments being spread over several years. However, it is worth noting that many of these payment plans are only available on “off-plan” properties, so there is still the element of risk regarding whether to property will get completed.

Payment plans offered on completed buildings can have high-interest rates while private mortgages can always put your home at risk if you don’t maintain the repayments. It is vital that you take into account your financial situation now as well as what it might be in three to five years time. If flashy salespeople are trying to buy something you feel you can’t afford, the most sensible thing to do is to walk away. Subjecting yourself to financial ruin in order to save face simply isn’t worth it.

7. Management team

The management team within a condo can quite literally, make or break it. If the building is well managed and regular maintenance is conducted, there is a high probability that your unit will, at the very least retain its value. However, unfortunately, there are a plethora of poor management teams across Bangkok who have failed to ensure their properties are well maintained and that residents abide by the rules.

Properties which are run by professional management teams such as Smart Service tend to be far better regulated, something which benefits everyone. These management teams are well versed in what to do if something goes wrong, know what is expected of them and have experience in handling most situations. In addition, they are likely to have negotiated contracts with an extensive range of suppliers, saving owners money.

8. Maintenance fees

All condos will expect residents to pay an annual maintenance fee which will be decided on a square metre basis. The fee is to pay for the upkeep of the building as well as paying for the management team. Fees can vary considerably, so you should always ask how much the current fees are. Of course, the fees are likely to change year to year, but it will give you some indication about what you can expect to pay.

It is also worth checking to make sure that everyone has paid their outstanding fees. Unfortunately, some management teams will let this slide, and it can fast become a dangerous trend leading to the property entering a state of disrepair and units rapidly losing value.

9. Rules and regulations

It is vital that you familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations of your condo. Some building work and alterations may need to be agreed by the committee so if you are planning wholesale changes you may want to check the fine print. Although some rules may seem a little tiresome, they are designed to make everyone’s experience better, so unless there is something very unreasonable, it is better just to accept them.

10. Neighbours

While it is impossible to fully understand what your neighbours are like until you move, it is worth trying to find something out about them and talking to them. Usually, if there is any reason for alarm bells to be raised is become apparent very quickly. As the vast majority of people are very reasonable and friendly, making an effort just to say “hello” will get you off to a good start and can help you to make new friends quickly.

Finally

The important thing is that you take your time when deciding which condo to choose. Impulse buying can be very dangerous and lead to disappointment further down the line. Also, we would strongly recommend that you buy a condo in “foreign ownership” as this will mean that the title deeds are in your name. If you would like any help or advice about buying or leasing a condo in Bangkok, please feel free to contact us.


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