Thailand can present many challenges for anyone wishing to retire there. Having spent little of their working lives outside their home country, people expecting to adjust quickly to the regulations surrounding living and buying property in the kingdom, as their chosen retirement destination, can find the process fraught with uncertainty. Retirees need to do their homework. Make no mistake, while living in Thailand can be incredibly rewarding in a friendly tropical destination, the regulations on permission to buy property and visa requirements are very different from other countries. They are also strictly enforced, with little course for appeal if you have broken the law - even inadvertently. When moving to a new country to set up a home base, it is always advisable to learn more about the lay of the land and seek expert advice. In Thailand, the processes for retiring and buying a villa, condominium (the most popular form of housing for retirees in Thailand) or a house are clear and understandable once they have been explained. Hiring an accredited law firm to explain these processes in your mother tongue is clearly a prudent move as the most discouraging aspect for an expatriate trying to fathom the regulations in Thailand is that all laws and their related documents are - as you would expect - in Thai. Rarely, if ever, are these documents translated into another language. Properly licensed law firms do translate the documents, but if ever there is a dispute, the Thai version of the law or regulation will be used. James Finch is a principal at Chavalit, Finch & Partners, a Bangkok-based law firm with expertise in property law in Thailand. He warns that, even though the country encourages retirees to invest and live in the kingdom, retirement status does not give the holder special rights with respect to the ownership of land under Thai law. While selecting the category of housing to buy is a big decision, it is important for retirees to meet their visa (renewable every 12 months) requirements as a priority, Mr Finch says. 'Foreigners can personally own condominiums on a freehold basis as long as Thais own 51 per cent of the living space at the condominium. [Foreigners can also own villas on a rolling 30-year leasehold basis]. 'We recommend that, if the developer promises freehold, that this point be clearly stated in the purchase agreements. 'The most important other requirement is that of financial responsibility. The applicant must have the equivalent of 800,000 baht in the bank or prove a monthly income of at least 65,000 baht. 'A combination of the deposit and income is also acceptable as long as the monthly income, multiplied by 12, plus the bank deposit equals the equivalent of 800,000 baht. 'In general, foreigners cannot own land in Thailand unless they qualify under a strict set of guidelines [see main story]. 'Depending on the policies of the land office in the area in which they wish to buy, land may be long-leased to foreigners for 30 years or more.' This can dissuade foreigners from buying land and building a house as it requires a significant amount of investment, which is why villas and condominiums are much more popular options.