How To Design And Build Your Own Retirement House In Thailand

Part A – Pre-Construction Phase

A simple checklist of the steps to go through in preparation for building your retirement house in Thailand. These are the steps leading up the commencement of construction, i.e. the Pre-Construction Phase. You will be surprised at what is involved.

One thing I should add and something that is not onthe list, is that we bought a new Toyota Hilux pickup truck right at the beginning. Having your own reliable transport is essential throughout the whole process, from looking for land to building the house and finally for the time when you actually retire to live in your own house in Thailand.

Links To Additional Information

On this page, you will see many links to other articles and information on the website directly related to the subject being discussed. I would encourage you to click on the links to access the additional information. All the links will open in a new window, so that you will not lose your place here.

1. Work Out Your Budget for the House Build Project

Although to Westerners prices in Thailand are low compared to where they live at home, surprises often arise when the total cost of buying land and designing and building a retirement house in Thailand is realised. Here is a list of some obvious costs and some not-so obvious costs to allow for:-

  • Land purchase, taxes, fees
  • Builder preliminaries, camp set up etc
  • Architects fees. Cost of site soil investigation, preparing BOQ etc
  • Travel and hotel expenses including flights
  • Insurance
  • Build cost
  • Land preparation and landscaping, gates and walls
  • Lawyers fees (contract)
  • Utility connections, permanent and temporary

Once you have your budget, add at least 50% for contingencies, such as price rises and currency fluctuations etc.

You can set your first budget using the Unit Build Rates method, but be sure to update it later by getting a cost estimate from a Thai builder using house plans, either your own or those made by a Thai Architect.

2. Establish a Draft Timeline (Time Schedule or Program)

Building the house in Thailand may not take much time, but all the other items listed in this checklist will. Finding a Thai Architect and a builder for example is far from easy in Thailand. Make sure that you allow for the effects of the climate on your timeline, you cannot put in foundations in the rainy season! Also there are various unwritten laws (call them religious beliefs or superstitions according to your creed) in Thailand that will prevent house construction at certain times of the year.

Here is an the Timeline to retiring in Thailand that we have followed to date. All Activites, Events and Decisions we have made as we work towards our goal of retiring in Thailand are shown.

3. Set Up Bank Account(s)

Bank accounts are needed not just to pay the builder but if you want to be able to repatriate your money if the house is sold or you want to lay claim to the property (not the land) then the funds for the construction must pass through your own Thai bank account. You will need to collect a Foreign Currency Transfer certificate.

4. Find the Land Upon Which You Want To Build Your Retirement House

Finding land upon which to build a house in Thailand is easy but it can only be done from within Thailand. Generally, speaking there are no Estate Agents (U.K. term, Realtors as they are called in the US) listing land for sale in Thailand. It is a question of getting in your car, driving round an asking people you meet and looking out for ‘Land for Sale’ signs.

Finding land with the correct Title Deed at a price that you can afford is not easy and not quick. There is only one kind of Land title Deed that confers ownership of the land and that is a Chanote. Land with a Chanote is at a premium in Thailand, difficult to find and expensive.

5. Buy The land

The actual land transfer of ownership is very straightforward and only takes a couple of hours if all the documentation is correct. Of course, land in Thailand can not be bought by non-Thais, but unknown to many people, a foreigner can have legal right of use of land in Thailand.

6. Have A Site Soil Investigation Undertaken

I view having a site soil investigation undertaken by qualified geotechnical engineers as essential in order to provide the information about the soil that is needed to design the foundations. Skip this and your house could sink or crack up! It is particularly important to have the soil investigation carried out in Thailand because often the soil has a low safe ground bearing pressure and many areas on land in Thailand are prone to flooding which weakens the soil further.

7. Find an Architect and Engineers

As with trying to find land this is next to impossible if you are living outside of Thailand. I did find an architect, appointed them to design my house and progressed all the way through the design process to final construction drawings from my home in the UK solely by email. But unless you use the same company, I doubt you will be able to do this.

8. Get The The House Designed

I started off with a set of one of the free Thai house plans you can download from the Thai Government website. I developed this myself to suit my requirements and then handed it over to the architect to make the construction drawings. I used my initial concept design drawings to obtain a budget cost from a builder in Thailand.

9. Select Materials and Fittings

Before you agree a price with a Thai builder you should select and identify all the materials, finishes, fixtures and fittings to be used in your house. This is the only way to make sure that you get the quality that you want. There are several Thai websites

10. Prepare Scope of Works

A Scope of Works is a description of the scope of the building works that you want your builder to undertake. Equally important is identifying items outside of the builder’s scope of works. Items usually excluded are incoming utility connection, landscaping, walls and gates, for example.

11. Prepare Specifications

Specifications in the Thai language set the standard of workmanship and materials that the builder must follow. You can do without some of these if you have selected all materials, finishes, fixtures and fittings as described above, but you still need specifications for concrete, reinforcement earthworks etc.

12. Have BOQs (Bills Of Quantity) Prepared

Not all clients have a set of BOQs made when they have their retirement house built in Thailand. Many rely on the BOQ prepared by the Thai builder when he is quoting for the project. I have made a long list of reasons why I strongly recommend that you have a BOQ prepared, not only for the quotation phase but also to control the cost of the house build after you have appointed a builder. Here are many useful posts on the subject of making and using BOQs.

13. Obtain and Evaluate Quotations From Builders

If you have issued your own BOQ to the builders then when they are returned completed by the builder it is fairly easy to compare their quotations. If you have not issued your BOQ this could prove difficult to impossible as the builders BOQs (if they submit one) will all have a different format and line items.

14. Obtain a Construction Programme (Schedule)

Your builder will be able to tell you how long each part of the build will take. You need the programme broken down as a minimum, into earthworks, foundations, structure, walls and floors, roof and finishing. This is vital if you are thinking of building in Thailand anywhere near the rainy season when building work must stop because of the torrential downpours.

15. Decide the Form of Contract

The main decision here is whether you are going to go for a turnkey type of contract where the builder undertakes all the procurement and builds the house or whether you will be procuring all the materials and the builder supplies the labour only. This latter course is very common in Thailand because small builder do not have the capital to undertake the procurement process.

16. Select a Builder

There are so many factors that can affect your choice of builder and many are more important than the offer price. Are you happy with a local Thai builder who may not be registered even as a company and who can offer no guarantee, or do you want to appoint a properly registered company who will guarantee their work? Can you be sure that the builder has enough resources to complete your project on time or is he undertaking many projects simultaneously and may be shuffling workers around to suit the latest emergency? Have you seen samples of the builder previous projects and spoken to the owners?

17. Agree Payment Schedule with the Builder

You must agree a schedule of payments with your builder. This is easier if you have a construction programme and a priced BOQ. You can then simply make staged payments equalling the value of the works carried out using the figures in the BOQ.

18. Prepare Contract and Agree with Builder

Even though Thai building contracts are somewhat ‘loose’ compared to those used in the West, it is better that you have a contract and that it refers to all the documentation you have such as the construction drawings, BOQs, Scope of Works etc. You need to think about several ‘what if’ scenarios such as what happens if you delay the builder because your procurement schedule slips, in the case of a labour only contract?

19. Select Project Manager and/or Inspectors

Unless building is your profession, you need someone with professional building experience to control the builder and the build quality. Beware that in Thailand Inspectors although employed by you may also be in the pay of the builder!

20. Award the Construction Contract and Project Management/Inspector Contracts

This one last step and your build can start! Almost. There may well be a ceremony to be performed by the local monk before construction starts and of course you should have the Planning Permit from the Or Bor Tor (Local Government) Office and have temporary electricity an water connected.

21. Submit Drawings and Calculations to Or Bor Tor For (Local Government) Office Building Permit

Before you can receive the Building Permit you have to submit sets of drawings prepared, stamped and signed by a registered Thai Architects and engineering calculations prepared, stamped and signed by a registered Engineer plus a copy of the Land Title Deed together with the House Papers of the Thai National making the application.

22. Obtain Temporary Water and Electricity

You can, and should, obtain a temporary power and water supply before the building starts. This is in most cases straightforward provided of course that those utilities are readily available nearby.

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2 Responses to “How To Build Your House In Thailand”

  • cliff:

    cheers found this very useful, will be building hopefuly this October coming


    admin Reply:


    Many thanks for the compliment. You’ll find the advice by David Todd on how to work out the cost of building a house in Thailand and how to actually build the house very useful.

    Hope you can send in some details of your house build project in Thailand, a description and some pictures perhaps that I can post on the site for the benefit of other would-be builders?

    Best Regards

    Alan Brown


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