Hongkongers invited to share Chiang Mai retirement dream

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 September, 2009, 12:00am

When British antique dealer John Maas chose Chiang Mai in northern Thailand as a retirement destination 11 years ago, he never thought he would end up sharing his dream lifestyle and a sizeable small property portfolio with other expatriates.

But now the 68-year-old is looking for buyers for three houses and a 16 acre plot of land, and believes expatriates living in Hong Kong would find a retirement home in Asia appealing.

'My targeted customers are Hong Kong retirees who don't want to leave Asia but might not want to stay in Hong Kong where space is so limited and prices are so high,' said Maas.

The houses, which include the main dwelling in which Maas is living as well as two guesthouses, are priced at US$700,000 each, while the 16 acre piece of land with lakes is being offered at US$1 million.

Maas believes his personal testimony should convince someone in a similar situation to follow suit.

'My doctor in the United Kingdom was Thai and it was he who encouraged me to consider Thailand as a retirement destination. He has a house in Chiang Mai where I initially stayed.

'I moved here in 1998. I was at that time living in France. My career in the UK had been as an antique dealer and interior designer and my children had grown up and left home.'

After a search that spanned Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, he concluded that Thailand had the most to offer and he said he was particularly attracted by the friendly Thai people, the nice environment, cheap property prices and a low cost of living. 'An excellent dinner for two in Chiang Mai need not cost more than US$20,' he said.

He describes the deeply Buddhist Thai people as courteous, smiling and welcoming. 'After 11 years I see no reason to change my mind,' he said.

He said he also looked at Phuket, Samui and Pattaya but their tropical climates meant high rainfall and consequent high humidity levels with a relatively short dry season.

Chiang Mai, however, has an average temperature of 25.9 Celsius and much lower humidity.

Maas invested in the three-house development in 2005 and spent 12 months clearing, planting, putting in roads and a three-phase electricity supply. He would not disclose how much he had invested, and said he would use the sale proceeds to build a new traditional teak house in the city for his own use.

Maas said there were several options open to foreigners wishing to own property in Thailand, but the most popular and simplest was through a fully transferable leasing agreement at terms of 30, 60 or 90 years.

Many expatriates opted for this method, he said.

'To own property you may also choose to establish a limited liability company with Thai/foreign shareholding. Under certain circumstances, condominiums can be owned outright,' Maas said.

'Any Hong Kong investor or retiree would have no difficulty in selecting an appropriate Thai partner for an investment here.

'There are many retirees here with between US$2 million and US$4 million plus invested,' he said, adding that more than 15,000 expatriates live in and around Chiang Mai.

For sale

Maas is selling the three houses at US$700,000 each and 16 acres at, in US$: $1m