Buying Land ...

Through an email exchange I was asked about the purchase of our land and whether it was done in my wife’s name.  Subsequently, after starting to read this blog in its book form, the answer was found and I was asked to disregard the question.  Fortunately or unfortunately your choice, I had already penned the following and thought I would post it anyway.  Not everyone is so diligent about digging through the entirety of my work and an update on a topic from time to time is not unwarranted in my opinion.

My perfunctory answer to such questions of ownership is simply that my wife owns everything in Thailand.  It saves a lot of trouble if anything were to happen to me.  If I were a man of few words, that answer would no doubt suffice.  Since I have never been accused of being such a man, and since I have an opinion on such things, let me expand.

On a very general level, women’s rights and land ownership for Thai women married to foreigners has come a long way.  Not saying it is perfect but it has improved over the years.  For the specifics of Thai law I would suggest that Google is your friend.  In our case I simply had to accompany my wife to the land office and sign a form stating I had no claim to the land and we were good to go.  At a later date and at my wife’s urging, we went in to get a usufruct and have my name added to the Chanote or land title papers.  This was her idea to protect me from her family if anything were to happen to her.  Again looking up usufruct is probably more useful than my paraphrasing here.

I suppose these questions come up because we have all been exposed to the horror stories of the hapless farang male being liberated from his funds and then sent packing by an insatiable horde of in-laws.  I am in no way disputing the veracity of such stories.  I am simply suggesting there might be more to the story.

Some women succumb to social pressure and try to get as much as they can from their farang partner, to help combat the stigma of marrying outside of their own race.  Don’t forget that in a traditional rural environment, the gossip mill can be a powerful and destructive force.  If you marry a man who is no better off than some poor farmer from the village, then what is the point, in their view.  Foreigners are just too much trouble if there is no compensation for the sacrifice, such as substantial financial reward, real or wished for.  If you are already burdened by the stigma of failed relationships and perhaps fatherless children to raise, then it is not much of a leap to marry for money, the second or third time around.

There are indeed parents who will tell their daughters to get what they can from a man while the getting is good, and the man is still thinking with the wrong part of his anatomy.  Asking a man for land, a house or some other financial contribution could also be seen as a test of both his intentions and his solvency, even from a trustworthy partner who sees a man as something other than an ATM.  Unlike the West where divorce can be devastatingly expensive, in Asia the man can often simply walk away.  You can think of any contribution made to your partner as a no-fault or prepaid divorce where you know in advance exactly what your exposure is.

In the case of a land purchase there is often an undercurrent that a farang might not be aware of.  Most Thais where I live would almost immediately take the land title to the bank and use it as collateral for a loan.  That can make placing the land in the name of a family member problematic.  No telling how that money will be spent so in the end you might be asked to repurchase the same land from the bank or risk a complete write-off.  People have learned that getting oneself into debt, and then begging someone to save you, is much easier than asking for money outright and having to explain why you want it.

I love my wife and like other men of my ilk, would not like to think of her being left destitute upon my demise.  Some other men seem to have no greater ambition than to find the cheapest form of domestic care and carnal satisfaction they can.  Barefoot, wrapped in a sarong, pregnant and in the kitchen or garden, if you don’t mind.  Heaven forbid they wear any makeup or go to a beauty parlor.  They boast about how little money they spend on their wives or that they spend nothing at all and everything is in their name, not their wife’s name.  I find that sad.

My advice is always something along the lines of, if you don’t trust your partner and don’t feel they have your best interests at heart, then you are probably with the wrong person and should not throw good money after bad.  If a refusal or postponement of major cash contributions is considered grounds for ending a relationship then let it end and consider yourself lucky.  This is especially true if you are still in the first year of so of a relationship with someone you really don’t know that well.

Renting in Thailand is often a more rational and affordable route to take.  Unfortunately in the eyes of the locals it provides no future security.  Purchasing land as an investment sounds nice but often doesn’t work out.  I have friends who have done well with condos in big cities or large land tracts in rural or boarder areas but you need to know what you are doing and have some luck.  Remember you are up against speculators from all over Asia as well as Thais.  Some ten thousand rai of land on the East side of our village was swallowed up by a major beer company as an example.  How are you going to compete with that?

In summary, if you want to buy land, do your research and do it locally as the application of laws can vary by region.  Go to the land department and check with the banks to see what they have for sale and perhaps consult a good lawyer if you can find one and are the litigious sort.  Word of mouth and family connections are great but have to be viewed with a health dose of skepticism.

Next question please.