Thailand property: Investor ‘not positive’ about the future

Thailand Property
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A prominent Thailand property investor has sounded his concerns about the future viability of Thailand property and real estate.

Reid Kirchenbauer, the founder of the InvestAsian website, and someone with experience of property investing throughout Asia including Thailand, has made a bold yet balanced claim as to why he thinks other countries in Asia offer better opportunities.

His comments, which are likely not to make the mainstream media in Thailand, cite how foreign investors choose Thailand real estate more than anywhere else in Asia, likely because of a strong tourism sector with Bangkok as the most visited city on the planet.

He added that people often come to Thailand, enjoy themselves and buy property here.

“I spent more than five years of my life in Thailand and have lots of good things to say about it. Furthermore, I own two condos in the country, have been active in the local market for a while, and speak from experience,” he said.

But with all that said, he is not positive about the future of the Thai real estate market.

“I understand people have said this for a long time.”

“You can find decade-old forum posts with people shouting doom and gloom. Property values have approximately tripled since then with many investors, including myself, reaping great returns.”

“But several factors have made me reconsider my position. There’s far better places for buying property in Asia,” he added.

Property values are too high

He wrote that wealthy buyers from China, Singapore, and elsewhere are flocking to Thailand property. They see property values are much lower here than in their own countries, and use this as a justification for buying Thailand property and real estate.

“That’s a big mistake though,” he said.

“Sure, a condominium in Bangkok costs roughly 25 percent of a similar one in Singapore, yet Singapore’s per capita income is around six times higher while a scarcity of land helps drive up prices.”

“You could justify expensive Thai real estate values if the nation had strong growth. After all, even if locals can’t afford property at current prices, their purchasing power would soon catch up in an economy growing by 6 percent or more per year.”

“Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in Thailand, which now has one of Southeast Asia’s weakest economies.

Of ten countries in the region, only Brunei saw slower growth than Thailand over the past few years, he wrote.
Thailand’s GDP growth remains in the sub-4 percent range while more developed nations like Malaysia are even outpacing them.

He asked do you really want to buy property in Southeast Asia’s second weakest market?

“Of course, I had a different opinion back in 2012 when growth was strong and property values were lower.”

“A slow economy and less affordable condo prices don’t indicate a bright future though. It looks even worse once you add rising consumer debt onto the pile.”

An imminent decline in population

He wrote: “You might already know about Japan’s demographic issues. Following a lengthy boom period last century, Japan’s economy has been stagnant since the 1990s. This is partly because of their declining, elderly population.”
The same thing will happen in Thailand, he said, but with an important difference. They won’t be a developed country before their population starts falling.

In other words, Thailand will be one of the first places to grow old before they’re wealthy.

Obviously, this will have a severe economic impact. An elderly population means a less efficient workforce with a greater amount of public money spent on social security and healthcare. It could even stop Thailand from becoming a developed country.

A weak economy is never good for property values and should impact the Thailand property and real estate markets indirectly. More importantly though, a declining population leads to less demand for all the housing projects getting built now.

Fewer buyers along with an ever-increasing supply of inventory is a horrible combination.

There are better property investment alternatives

The opportunity cost of buying property in Thailand is simply too great, he said. Why deal with all the negative aspects above when they don’t exist elsewhere in the region?

Cambodia and the Philippines are both growing at a pace of more than 7 percent per year. They each have strong demographics and let foreigners own property on a freehold basis.

Malaysia is the only place in Southeast Asia where foreigners can own actual freehold land rather than just an apartment or condo unit. Malaysia enjoys strong demographic trends, is growing in the high-4 percent range, while property values are lower than Thailand’s despite being more developed.

If you enjoy Thailand and want to spend some time there, don’t let any of this stop you from making a lifestyle decision and buying anyway.

But property investors should consider elsewhere in Southeast Asia, he concluded.

Do you think these claims are balanced and fair? Do you think Thailand remains a good destination for property investment? Have you say and leave a comment now.

Andrew Batt
The author of this article is Andrew Batt, the founder and editor of Andrew has been writing about property and real estate issues in Thailand and Southeast Asia for more than 10 years. He has worked for PropertyGuru Group, DDproperty, Dot Property Group, Hipflat and AsiaRents. He has also produced content for leading Thailand property developers and real estate agencies.

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