Oh, it’s such a perfect day. I’m glad I SPENT it with you..! Before I came to Thailand I had heard a few stories about dealing with Thai bureaucracy - that it was not easy. Well here is my experience of buying property in the Land of Smiles.
After much deliberating, my partner Brian and I decided to buy a condominium in Bangkok – a big step – but we feel strongly about making Bangkok our home so we went ahead. Finding the right place wasn’t too hard really, and once we had, we got some legal advice. Our advisor at Sunbelt Asia was a very well-educated and articulate Thai lawyer who advised us that the whole procedure was very straightforward – just a matter of being at the Lands Titles Office (LTO) with a legal representative, a “Tor Tor 3” form from our bank, passport, current visa, and evidence that the required funds had come from overseas. How easy was that? Well here is my story of a day trip to the LTO (as briefly as possible).
We were told that the whole procedure would take about 2 - 3 hours maximum, although it didn’t quite work out that way. The day started off with us arriving at the LTO bright and early at 8.30am with the owner (seller), the sales agent representing the seller, and our legal representative. From this point on, the day collapsed into a comedy of errors, which could have been written into a “Carry On” movie. The lawyer had advised that he would meet us at the LTO, so we traveled there with the sales agent. The LTO has to be seen to be believed. I honestly haven’t seen an office like this since I was a junior office clerk over 30 years ago! It was run down, austere and with mounds of paperwork filling up every desk. It didn’t bode well for a speedy conclusion of proceedings, but we were on time and had all the necessary paperwork. What could possibly go wrong?
After 30 minutes and many phone calls our legal representative arrived, looking like he had just come from a night out at Kao San Road. “Elegantly wasted” is definitely a term I would use to describe this man. He seemed friendly enough, but the major problem was he spoke just about little to no English! Great when he was reading documents and needed to tell us what was going on! Luckily, the sales agent took over the role of translator. Besides this obstacle things seemed to progress very well. We were interviewed by a representative at the LTO, forms were filled in, endless documents signed, countersigned, triple counter signed and there was generally an air of progress being made.
We then were ushered to a counter where we paid the land tax on the sale - done, easy! Wow! And it all took less than 2 hours. The final Land Titles document was then taken to the supervisor for the final ok. She had to stamp it, sign it, and that would be it. The supervisor was female and looked about 30 years old, but with the demeanor of a prison warder from “Cell Block H”. She also had a high pitched scream that could shatter glass, and she used this a lot with arms flailing at the same time. It looked at times like she was having a nervous breakdown.
She summoned my lawyer and me over. The lawyer was almost shaking! She glared at me and barked “you speak Thai?” when I said no, she simply gave me a dismissive hand signal to go away. This woman had obviously never been to finishing school! She started screaming at the sales agent and lawyer, and claimed my paperwork wasn’t correct and that I would have to go back to the Bangkok Bank head office to get it corrected. Bangkok Bank HO is on the other side of town. I went pale. I knew this was now going to be a long day.
Once at the Bangkok Bank, I was told everything was perfect, and so the phone calls to the supervisor started and more screaming. I could hear her from the phone the bank employee was using. After over an hour of arguing we were sent to the UOB bank for more confirmation that the money had come from overseas – another hour! Then it was like action stations back to the LTO before it closed.
When we got back and saw the supervisor, she looked at the new paperwork, and promptly threw it into my lawyer’s face while screaming some obscenity at him. At this point, he ran away, and never came near me or anyone else again! And his services only cost me 16,000 baht!
By now it was 3.20pm and the office was going to close in 10 minutes. The realization had hit me that the supervisor needed “tea money” to help her get through her stress-filled day. She went into a huddle with the sales agent who came back to me and said “20,000 baht”. I was now glaring at the supervisor at this suggestion, and so yet another battle of wits started. At this point we started to haggle and threaten each other. She was insisting she could not sign over the deeds, and the agent was telling her I would sue her ass if she didn’t.
After another Mexican stand off which lasted 30 minutes (the office was now closed) we settled on 5,000 baht. Wow! – the power of haggling. The money was stuffed into an envelope, and the deeds quickly stamped. The lawyer by this stage was already on his way to the pub. The supervisor waved us along, “Have a nice day”. Another profitable day at the LTO…. Oh I’m glad I spent it with you…