My House in Chiang Mai
My three-bedroom Chiang Mai requires maintenance, just like houses everywhere. This is my home maintenance diary, with costs and mistakes that come with caring for houses regardless of where you live.
Last week my bathroom light went out and, since replacing it required going to the electrical supply shop for a replacement, balancing on top of a stepladder, unwiring the LED ring and ballast, and rewiring the new one, I took the coward’s way out and called the electrician. He came, took a look, vanished, returned with the new unit and installed it–all within 40 minutes. The bill? 250 baht ($8.80). I gave him 500.
I got tired of looking at my fence and decided to repaint it. Two guys and a lady showed up and started by pruning my giant hedge back so the sliding gate can roll easily. Then they welded four decorative metal arrows (along the top of the gate in picture) back on. Then they painted the metal parts of the fence and gate white and gold, and painted the concrete fence–both front and side–gray, to match the house. Then, for good measure, they re-plumbed my kitchen sink so it doesn’t leak any more. Total: 7,500 Bt. (US $227.00).
Moving into my house in Chiang Mai was a little tricky. Here’s a list of what our Concierge service provides. Before you part company with your realtor and the owner–who should both be present with you at the signing–here’s the minimum:
- Cash–to pay your first and last month’s rent.
- Your new address in both English and Thai–typed into your smartphone and checked by both of them. You will need both for different audiences.
- Mail delivery arrangements–especially if you are in a condo with a front desk. You’ll be receiving all kinds of important mail in the first week or two and you don’t want it piling up under the desk because the clerk was too shy to tell you that they don’t deliver it.
- TV/Internet subscription–get the agent to set up the appointment (if any) for the installers because it’s a pain in the ass doing it yourself.
- Ditto water and electricity–get them to handle it while they’re still your friends, preferably before you even hand over the money.
- Your TM-30 Form, the Proof of Legal Residence that must accompany your permanent visa application and must be filled out and signed by your landlord.
- Your new address, in English and Thai. She also emails this to them
- The names and addresses of your new electricity and water suppliers and how to pay their bills.
- Your cable company. (She helps them subscribe).
- Your trash collector and how to pay them.
The Cost of Living in My House in Chiang Mai? When clients ask about houses and the cost of living in Chiang Mai the first place we visit is my house In the picture): It’s a useful place to start, for several reasons. It’s a real, typical house and we can walk around inside and discuss how much everything costs. It’s very significant to new arrivals that they can repaint an entire house for 15,000 Baht ($500) because now they;’re not afraid to take on a place that needs some renovation or whose color scheme doesn’t suit them. And to know how much each piece of custom-made furniture cost, because now they can think realistically about renting an unfurnished place (most Thai houses are furnished). Ditto appliance costs, my custom electrical work, fiberoptic internet and bottled water delivery. That’s why I call it ‘useful’: in a matter of minutes they have a down to earth, dollars and cents budget in mind, they understand the tradeoffs between location (mine is so-so), size, quality and monthly rent. If you’re planning to move to Thailand I recommend getting inside a real house and asking the owner every question imaginable before you start looking for your own place.
Back Story: My Thai house is on a quiet (no through traffic) street in a mixed neighborhood with expensive houses, a small bus depot and an ice factory. All neighborhoods are ‘mixed’ here: there’s no zoning. Three bedrooms, 2 tiled bathrooms, small Western kitchen, solid concrete that’s cool in summer and warm in winter for 10,000 Baht (US$300)/month. Ten minutes from Chiang Mai Old Town. I’m slowly getting it livable. Before I moved in 12 months ago I had the interior repainted for 14,000 baht; installed new, custom-made drapes to match the color scheme (8,000 Baht) and a new garden and lawn (2,500 baht).
At dinner last month Christophe admired my windows, “Wow! You’re lucky that your house is sealable. You could run an air purifier!” I grunted and forgot about it until the local Hill People started burning the underbrush two weeks ago. The hills that protect Chiang Mai from violent weather also prevent smoke from blowing away so I followed Christophe’s advice. Siam TV, an electronics chain, has the deepest range of purifiers and I bought the cheapest. My 3,000 Baht (US$100)
Hatari has now been running 24×7 for three weeks and I’m delighted. Its 3-stage filter – mechanical + plasma + ionization – has relaxed my nasal passages and I breathe easier day and night. Highly recommended! I also spent 60,000 Baht on line for a new 27″ iMac from Apple Thailand. It arrived three days later, freight and duty free, by UPS from China! Very cool to see that the ASEAN duty-free market is starting to deliver – literally.
Knowing I was planning to spend Christmas-New Year in Australia a Thai friend suggested that, for 10,000 baht, he’d handle some tasks I’d put off: touch up the 1-year-old interior paint; get some scrapes on the car resprayed; remove the failed outside garden and its brick wall; replace the door tracks….
I returned this week to find that – if the jobs had been done at all – they’d been done half-assedly. The garden was gone but the bricks remained; the door tracks were removed but not replaced; my friend had discovered the car’s insurance policy in the glove compartment, located a body shop accredited by my insurer and charged God knows how much to the policy as an ‘accident’ (the difference will, no doubt, end up in my friend’s pocket) and, though the work was minor, the car won’t be ready for another week. My request that we cancel the job and pick up my car was met with changing excuses, so I’ve rented a car. You get the picture…
An expat friend called and I mentioned my to-do list. “None of it was done, right?” he asked. We both laughed uproariously. I would have been pleasantly surprised if the work had been completed, of course, but I wasn’t surprised at the outcome. There’s a good reason mai pen rai is the national mantra: Thais’ handling of responsibilities is unlike ours. My friend is still my friend. I still love Thailand. I tell you this story now so that, by the time it’s your turn you’ll be relaxed and humorous about such matters. Now, here are some prices for
- Water delivery costs 30 Baht/case of 24 one-liter bottles.
- Garbage collection (almost unlimited quantity) 30 Baht/week
- Electricity 900 baht/month
- Internet: 30 Gb download fiberoptic: 1200 baht/month.
- iPhone: unlimited service 960 baht/month.
I ordered the furniture from a furniture cooperative in the countryside south of Chiang Mai. A very cool place and their solid teak stuff was amazing to look at and amazingly affordable. More on that in my next post. Meanwhile, here‘s a video of the arrival of the plants and the first of the furniture:
- 3 Phase Power – TeakDoor.com – The Thailand Forum – If you want to build a luxury house in Thailand then this is the forum for you.
January 2015: I Just Found My House in Chiang Mai. I’ll move in next week. Here’s the story:
My house in Chiang Mai was an accident. I’d saved $70,000 from the business over the past 2 years and resolved to buy an ordinary, 2 bedroom condo in a nondescript part of the inner city. But tying up my meagre capital in a piece of (very ordinary) real estate raised some problems:
- I’d be back to square one – zero capital – while still needing to grow the business (I’ve had two requests to franchise it).
- ‘Used’ real estate is much harder to sell in Thailand. People don’t like moving in with the former occupants’ vibes (phi) – especially foreigner vibes!
- There’s a building boom going on with no end in sight. The economy is running very nicely (unemployment is under 1%/ Yes, that’s a’1′.) and Chinese cash is seeping in under the doors and over the transom. Everyone here is suddenly rediscovering old Chinese cousins….
- I’d be in the middle of a grimy (Asian air quality is OK, but grimy), noisy city.
- To go for a walk I’d have to walk to somewhere via narrow streets in the pre-dawn light.
So when a client recently told me he was moving out of his 10,000 Bt/mo., 3 bedroom, 2 ba, Western kitchen house with a lawn and off-street parking in a very quiet neighborhood 10 minutes from the city, you can guess my response. And since he was moving out 12 months into a 24 month lease, he offered to pay my first month’s rent so I could make a smooth transition.
Which is what I’m now doing. I’ve had it repainted – interior and some outside changes. The whole job cost me 15,000 Bt ($500) and took 3 days.
I hired three Thai ladies to spend a day cleaning it. They did a great job. The entire bill for that was 900 Bt ($30). I bought lunch, so that added 100 Bt to the total.
Then Aimie took me down to the curtain and drapes shop where I ordered a custom made set of handsome drapes for every window in the house, and the sliding doors. 14 separate pieces. Installed. 15,000 Bt.
Next, it was off to the furniture factory for some custom built teak furniture. And that’ll be the subject of the next episode of this piece about my house in Chiang Mai.