Unless you’ve been involved in real estate or have dealt this this before, many people use the words ‘condo’ and ‘apartment’ interchangeably. While it may be hard to tell the difference between Bangkok condos and apartments there are several key differences which you should know if you’re an expat looking to buy or rent a home in Bangkok.
The Difference Between an Apartment Building and a Condominium
While it likely won’t make a difference in your Bangkok real estate search, by knowing how to differentiate between the two types of residences, you will be able to make better informed choices.
THE PROPERTY OWNER
The property owner is what determines whether a building is an apartment building or condominium. In an apartment building, the entire premises are owned by a single entity. Corporations own the vast majority of apartment buildings although small apartment buildings in Bangkok are often owned by by individuals or families. A condominium building does not have a singular owner, but is owned by a number of co-owners who each own a specific amount of personal space (a unit) within the building.
The Primary Differences between Bangkok Condos and Apartments
Since you likely won’t be able to tell the difference between Bangkok condos and apartments upon visiting, we will run down the important differences that could be factors in choosing a place to live. Keep in mind you can always search online to see which Bangkok buildings are condos and which are apartments or even ask at the front desk on location.
Buying and/or Renting
Simply put, you cannot buy an apartment in Bangkok. Since the buildings are zoned and owned by a single entity, they are not permitted to sell individual units. If you talk to a Bangkok real estate agent about buying an apartment, they will likely think that you are looking to buy an entire apartment building! Condominiums on the other hand, are zoned to sell (real estate) space in set freehold (and leasehold) units. So when you are looking to buy a home in a highrise building, you will be looking solely at condos.
Apartment buildings will be able to tell you exactly how many units they have available at any given time. You will be surprised that most apartment buildings are either fully booked or very close to being fully booked most of the year! The corporations that run the apartments have long-term relationships with many Bangkok international Schools and large corporations and receive a steady stream of expat referrals. If you see a vacant Bangkok apartment, make sure you don’t delay in booking it as there is a good chance it will be gone. Condominium availability in Bangkok is more different to gauge as a consumer. There is really no way to tell which units in any condominium building are for rent, for sale, vacant, or lived in by the co-owner. Because of this it’s far more difficult, time and resource consuming to find a unit in any condo versus a comparable apartment.
The Amenities and Facilities
The facilities in Bangkok apartments are in generally better maintained and more often upgraded than that of condominium buildings. The reason for this is because the corporation that owns the apartment building has a dedicated management team and a solid budget for keeping up the building maintenance. After the initial 5 year developer warranty, condominium building’s maintenance relies exclusively on an elected committee and the Common Area Management (CAM) fees from the co-owners in the building. If the CAM fees for the building are not enough to property maintain the condominium, it can age rapidly as raising the CAM fees to cover the extra costs is often met with fierce resistance and can take years to generate enough money to keep the condo’s amenities up-to-date.
Where most renters will become divided on whether to rent Bangkok condos and apartments is the utility bills. The utilities in Bangkok apartment buildings are always more expensive than condominiums. Apartment buildings have a set rate for both water and electricity which far exceeds the government rates. You can expect a water charge of 700-1500 baht per month at apartment buildings, when the actual usage at a condominium seldom exceeds 100-150 baht per month. At apartments you can also expect to usually pay 7 baht per unit for electricity which is well over the government rates charged at condos that are around 4 baht per unit.
Receiving Your Deposit Refund
This is an important consideration for those who are tight on cash or are re-locating outside Thailand after finishing up a lease. If you rent from an apartment building, don’t expect to receive your deposit refund immediately upon moving out, it usually takes a full 30 days after you move out for the building’s accounting department to issue a refund of your deposit as it won’t be available until the after a full billing cycle. With condominium co-owners, you can expect the likely return of your deposit \in cash or bank transfer immediately upon moving out. If it is important to receive your deposit immediately make sure you have all your bills taken care of and satisfy the terms of your lease.
Our Thoughts on Bangkok Condos and Apartments
Obviously, if you’re looking to buy a home in a residential building, you will be looking solely at condos. As far as renting, if none of the five differences we pointed out in the above segment are any concern to you, it will likely not make a difference whether you decide to rent a condo or apartment. There is a fairly diverse mix of Bangkok condos and apartments spread throughout the city for you to choose from. In general, most highrise residential buildings that you see in the Bangkok skyline that aren’t hotels are condominiums. There are not as many highrise apartment buildings as most Bangkok apartment buildings are small to medium sized.