Building Your Dream House


In an earlier column I said that for me I thought it best to rent a house or condo.  I still feel that way but very frequently I encounter the Farang who must build his “dream house”.  Too often this dream can turn into a nightmare.

Your dream may be designing your own home, but Farang ideas for what a house should look like don’t always work here.  Western roof lines might not take into consideration the Thai rainy season.  Amateur designers may not know how to create the most efficient and cooling floor space.  They don’t understand the local building materials or design concepts.

I recently talked to a friend who is in the last stages of building his own home.  “How’s it going?” I asked.  “I’ll never do that again.” He answered.  “I’ve been bouncing between contemplating suicide and considering murder.  We had to supervise the construction every minute and even then had to tear down the first house and rebuild it.  And we still don’t have a working kitchen.”  He started building three years ago.

Building out in the villages sounds romantic, that is until your first night in your new house and local temple dogs keep you up all night and just as you fall asleep the neighbor’s fighting cocks wake you up at 3 AM, and at dawn the aroma of burning leaves and plastic bags drifts in through your windows.  I recently heard of a man who had his dreams dashed when his next door neighbor decided to go into business.  His neighbor turned his house into a welding and metal fabricating establishment.

So, in lieu of telling you what you should do if you decide you have to buy instead of rent, here are some things I would do if I were to buy a house here.

I would not buy or build outside of a housing development.    I’d find a nice development with nice wide, dogless streets, where each house was different and didn’t look like it had come out of a cookie cutter, and where a security guard was always at the gate.  I would look for a house that is already built where you can move right in instead of waiting through all the seemingly endless construction delays.

I’d talk to the people living in the compound and look to see how well they keep up their houses and think about how they would be as neighbors.  If I decided I had to build then I would choose an existing design from the selection the developer has and not design myself.  I’d choose my builder after lots of care and checking of references.  I would visit the work site daily making sure everything was what we agreed upon and that work was continuing.  I would not pay off the house until everything passed my inspection.

The new house won’t be without its glitches, they never are.  Plumbing is often a problem as is the electrical system.  Doors and windows might not be in perfect plumb.   These can all be fixed.  But you’ll have to add a bit to your budget for things like changing your mind about the color of the floor tiles, moving that bathroom to the other side of the house, and paying for the kitchen, cabinets, closets, drapes, screens, and furniture.

Buying your dream house may cause you quite a few more headaches than renting, but if you plan carefully and make the right decisions, headaches are much better than nightmares.

10 Reasons Against Building Your Own House

  1. It will never be what you think it will be
  2. Unless you are an architect or engineer you probably don’t know what you are doing and your contractor will probably never understand what you want.
  3. At least a year before it will be finished – add the rent you pay to the price of the house
  4. You will very often see people move into a beautiful new home and for years the only furniture in the house will be a television set. There’s a reason for this.  The cost of a house will be much more than you think.  Here are some of the added expenses your builder will probably forget to tell you about.  Change ownership taxes, mortgage interest payments, furniture, closets, kitchen, stove, refrigerator, air conditioning, utensils, screens, window bars, garden, internet connection, satellite TV.  Let’s say the builder says that the house will cost 2 million.   You will probably need to spend between 3 and 4 million before you even move in.
  5. Your money will be tied down in case you change your mind or your relationship changes. One Farang lament heard often is, “I’m tired of Thailand and want to leave but my whole life’s savings is tied down in my house.
  6. Real estate does not appreciate like you think it will.
  7. Resale – when it’s time to sell you might not find any buyers.
  8. There are much better investment options – invest and pay the rent with your interest earnings.
  9. Don’t know who your neighbors will be or what might be built right next to you.
  10. The house will not be in your name.