Tips for House Hunting in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Last week we posted a tour of our home in Chiang Mai and we were flooded with emails regarding house hunting tips. After landing our second long-term rental in Thailand, I guess you  can say we are almost experts on the subject 😉 Ok…maybe not experts, but we definitely have some tips to share that might make your house hunting process a bit smoother if you are living in Chiang Mai (or planning to in the future).

First of all, consider what factors are most important to you. Do you want the privacy of a house? Or do you prefer the amenities that a condo can offer? Are you looking for something furnished or unfurnished? Do you plan to do any cooking, and if so, are you ok with a Thai-style kitchen? Do you have your own transportation or will you be taking public transportation and/or walking? We kept hearing how cheap living in Chiang Mai is, and it definitely can be. But when you start throwing in Western-style kitchens and extra bedrooms, the prices jump significantly. You will find there is an endless supply of studio-style apartments for really decent prices. But, since we already spent 3 months in a teeny tiny Khon Kaen apartment, we were ready for a little space. Especially since we are working from home…together…all day long! We also really wanted a kitchen and had great intentions of doing our own cooking but, it turns out, its so much cheaper and more convenient to just eat out. We could have skipped out on that luxury altogether. Lesson learned. Anyways…keep these things in mind during your search. Now let’s get right down to it, shall we?

House Hunting in Low Season vs. High Season

The time of year you are house hunting can greatly impact your options. We started looking a few months prior to our move to Chiang Mai and we were overwhelmed with the amount of options available to us. We decided not to rush into anything and to wait until we arrived in Chiang Mai to lock down a place. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in December, high season had kicked into gear and our options had dwindled tremendously. Upon arrival, we started hopping around to all of the places we had in mind and kept getting the same response “oh someone just signed a lease yesterday” or “someone just took the last room this morning”. We kept striking out. With our options limited, we started increasing our budget which we didn’t really want to do. In the end, it all worked out and we love our house; nevertheless, if you have a particular place in mind you should consider locking it in prior to Thailand’s high season (specifically December-January).

Soi Dogs

house hunting chiang mai

If you have been in Thailand for any time at all, you already know what we are talking about. While we both have a soft spot for these often mangy-but-cute pups, the dogs in Thailand are not always a “man’s best friend”. These ‘hood dogs roam through many neighborhoods and sois (side-streets) and some of them don’t want you on their territory. We’ve been chased off by dogs on our motorbike countless times now, and a friend was chased into a temple by a pack of dogs on his morning run. They can also be very noisy, particularly in the evening hours. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for them when you are looking for a place to rent. You don’t want to have to fear taking a stroll down your own street. Additionally, their relentless barking at night can make for a very sleepless night. Speaking of sleepless nights…

house hunting chiang mai

Keep your distance from nightlife

the trading traveler

This one is quite difficult with the number of bars constantly popping up in a city like Chiang Mai, particularly karaoke bars. The problem is most of the time you view a house or apartment during the day so this may never cross your mind. Before making a decision, always make a drive-by in the evening to make sure there is no surrounding nightlife that will keep you up into the wee hours of the night. We did this for our house and thought we were in the clear. Unfortunately, we mistakenly made our drive-by too early, around 8 pm. Come to find out, the music doesn’t get going until 10-11 pm at night. Even though its down the road and across the main highway, we still get the privilege of being serenaded by Adele cover songs on a nightly basis. On the bright side, it usually only lasts 1-2 hours and, if we turn on the fan, it helps drown out the noise.

Utilities and Wifi

Verify with your landlord prior to signing a contract which utilities will be covered in rent and which ones you are responsible for. Confirm that you will be paying the government rate for electricity, which is currently between 3-4 baht/unit. Often apartment complexes and condos will charge you upwards of 8-9 baht/unit which obviously is a significant difference. If wifi/cable is not included and you decide to set it up on your own, be aware of contracts! In Khon Kaen, we were responsible for setting up our own account which we did through True (True and 3BB are the two main providers). We told them that we would only need it for 3 months, the duration of our lease. Although they did not speak very good English, we were under the impression that they understood us. They told us to just bring back the equipment when we move out. Well, 3 months later we went to True to let them know we wanted to discontinue service at the end of the month. It was then that they informed us we had signed a year contract (all in Thai of course) and that if we terminated early, we would be hit with a pretty hefty fine. Fortunately, Charlie was quite persistent that we were completely unaware of this policy and they let us out without paying the fine. That being said, others might not be so lucky!

Short-term leases

We were looking for a 6-month lease and were surprised to find there are a lot of options out there. The only problem we found is that they would often tack on another 1,000-2,000 baht more per month as opposed to a 1-year lease. If you  are looking for a lease under 6 months, it gets a little more difficult. Our friends from Next Stop Who Knows just went through that process and shared their experience here, which you might find helpful!

Should You Use a Realtor?

Initially, we started doing our own house hunt. This consisted of nonstop researching online, as well as driving up and down what felt like every single soi surrounding the Old City. We were on the hunt for a house so we would drive through neighborhoods looking -for houses with signs out front and then make a call not knowing whether the house was for sale or for rent (much like the process when we were house hunting in Khon Kaen). This process became monotonous and most of the time disappointing. We ended up meeting our realtor, Noon, when we called about a town house we found online. Although the townhouse did not work out, she presented us with an array of new options. A few days later, we had settled on and move in our perfect house. While we may have just had good luck, we still recommend using a realtor for the following reasons:

  • So many listings we found online were expired and out of date. After meeting Noon and telling her exactly what we were looking for, she emailed us at least 10 options that evening. It was way more efficient than weeding through the online listings ourselves.
  • Most of the realtors speak very good English and can eliminate language barrier problems with the landlord.
  • You can find plenty of options online, but then trying to navigate the city to find them can be a headache. Many realtors offer services in which they will pick you up in a car and drive you to each viewing. This alone can eliminate half the stress of house hunting in a foreign city!
  • In some cases, rent is negotiable (although usually not very much) and the realtor will handle the negotiating for you.

Hope these tips help to make your house hunting process a little smoother! Have you had a good or bad experience house hunting in another country? Please let us know if you have any tips in the comments below. Feel free to email us if you have any other questions about the process. Happy hunting!

Contact info for our realtor:

Perfect Homes
Mobile: 080 8574199 Thai
Mobile: 080 6747488 English
Office: 053 352532
In case you missed the video tour of our home:



Commenting area

  1. We miss Chiang Mai already guys :/ Laos is spectacular though, but simple things don’t fall as easily as we had it in Thailand. Hope ye are keeping well.

    • Brittany Bennett January 29, 2014 at 2:35 am · · Reply

      Oh no! Sorry to hear that! How long are you planning to stay in Laos? You are always welcome back to Chiang Mai! 😉

  2. Never made it there, but the process of finding the house is very similar to Siem Reap, Cambodia and the rest was so cheap like $200 a month including the bills.

  3. So awesome, and the puppy is an added bonus 😉

  4. Thanks for the great tips! We are thinking about basing ourselves somewhere in SE Asia next year so this is useful!! 🙂

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