Looking for an apartment in the city can be a veritable task of Hercules. Not because there is a shortage of places to rent - far from it. There are indeed many apartment buildings standing empty, with very low occupancy, this can be attributed to many long term teachers vacating Thailand and seeking greener pastures. Also with the opening of the subway many previously difficult to get to locations have become available, giving you a much larger range of accomodation.
Your first step is actually finding somewhere suitable, and you really have to ask yourself two questions. Which part of Bangkok do I want to be in? and secondly, how much do I want to pay? As in most facets of life, you get what you pay for, and renting an apartment in Bangkok is no exception. Iíll divide apartments into 4 categories depending on their price. Under 4,000 baht a month, 4,000-6,000 baht a month, 7,000-12,000 baht a month, and 13,000 baht up. Let me get the fourth category out of the way first. If you are willing to spend over 13,000 baht a month, you will get something that borders on luxury. Although there are places for 60,000 baht a month and more, there really is no need to spend that kind of money. For 13,000 baht you will probably get something with a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom, satellite TV, maid service, and a nice view of the city. In short, what the real estate business in Bangkok refers to as a serviced apartment. There are plenty of these about, and the further you move away from the downtown areas, the more luxury you will get for your money.
Let me skip now to the first category, the under 4,000 baht a month digs. Approach with great caution anything in this price range. Itís cheap for a reason. For sure the rooms will be small with a small bathroom (probably about 25 square metres altogether), facilities will be non-existent, and your biggest problem will possibly be from noisy neighbors. These low-cost rooms in functional concrete buildings attract the lower class of resident, often sharing 4 people to a room. If you want your precious nightís sleep disturbed by domestic arguments, and doors banging at all hours, these are the places for you. Many of the apartments in this price range will be without air-con, so come April and the hot season, they could get mighty uncomfortable.
There is a real glut of apartments in the 4,000-6,000 baht range, some of them surprisingly good, and others representing very poor value for money. The apartments in this price range are almost always studios (we call them bed-sits in England, which is far more apt a word I always feel) They are usually around 30 square metres with an attached bathroom. You will probably have basic furniture, cable TV, and use of a swimming pool, and facilities usually include a laundry and a coffee shop/restaurant on the ground floor.Apartments in this price range will almost certainly have air-conditioning.
The 7,000 baht-12,000 baht a month apartment is usually that price because either it’s bigger (40-60 square metres) or the building has better facilities (perhaps a gym and a sauna, as well as a large swimming pool). Again apartments in this price range can vary a lot in standard.
Regards actually finding your dream place, well that’s no easy task. If you have big bucks to spend, then you can walk into any real estate agents and they will roll out the red carpet for you, but if you’re after something between 3,000 and 12,000, then the realtors won’t want to know. You’re on your own.
I moved apartment 4 times in my 8 years of apartment living, and very often word of mouth was the best way to find somewhere decent. Surprisingly, your fellow farang is often a better source of info than the Thais themselves. Failing that, the Bangkok Post classified carries a decent selection of rentables as does the Monthly Metro magazine. Now onto the nitty-gritty, below is a list of things you should consider when renting an apartment with one or two reasons why.
|What is the deposit required ?||Most places insist on a deposit of one month in advance plus two months down = 3 months in advance. Make sure that you check on all the items of furniture and any damage to the room - be ruthless. Sure as hell, you will be billed for any damage when you check out if you didn’t notice it beforehand.|
|What about the utility rates?||Apartment owners make a small fortune from electricity and water rates. Make sure that you know exactly how much you are paying per unit. Remember that an air conditioning unit burning juice for 6 hours a day could leave you with a nice 2,000 baht electric bill at the end of the month. Make sure that you have access to the respective meters and keep a record of what you use. That’s not being tight, it’s called not wanting to be ripped off. The number one complaint that I hear from apartment tenants concerns being overcharged on utilities. Check the price per unit for electricity. Anything over 8 baht is taking the piss, and make sure you have access to the meter. It is often worth turning off every electrical item in your apartment, then going to check to see if the meter is still going round. It has been know for you to help pay for the condo's lights!!!|
|Does the street flood in the rainy season ?||Ask the owner and he’ll say no, the streey doesn't flood at all, or 'sometimes it floods' at best. Don't take his word for it. Ask the other residents you may chance to see hanging around and actually get the info from the people who live there. Failing that, look for evidence of moss growing in places where it shouldn’t be.|
|Does it have a laundry, coffee shop and minimart ?||More to the point does it have a laundry that is open when you want it to be. A coffee shop that serves reasonably priced food, and a minimart that will be open when you run out of ciggies and beer.|
|What about the cost of telephone calls ?||If you want to run a computer you will need a direct line anyway, which many apartments don't have, but can arrange (at a cost).As for local calls, 5 baht per call is the going rate. For international calls, you pay a standard rate, but there will be a service charge added.(usually in the region of 50 baht per call). Apartments have all sorts of scams going where the telephone is concerned. I heard of one guy who has to pay 5 baht everytime he picks up the receiver. Disgusting.|
|Does the building have UBC cable TV ?||More and more buildings are equipped with UBC cable TV these days and it is almost becoming bog standard, but it's worth enquiring anyway, because it's a very nice little extra. Many apartments actually erect an illegal dish which often means that tenants do not have access to all the channels (very often the more popular ones such as HBO)|
|Does the room come with TV and Fridge ?||If it doesn't then you can usually hire both or either. The rate is approx 300 baht for the fridge and 500 for the TV. This is an absolute rip off because the models are usually several years old and you can buy a fantastic fridge and a TV in Thailand for about 7,000 and 10,000 respectively.|
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