Self Build Horror – Thailand – Part 1

March 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Most of us enjoy our DIY and Home Improvement jobs. It gives us the satisfaction of being able to improve our homes, add a little value to the property, and provide a little more comfort.  The ultimate DIY project has to be the self build.  Building your own home, for many, is a highly rewarding experience that is unmatched by most other life experiences and the satisfaction, on the end result, can be exhilarating.

Building your own home is not always plain sailing and many, while happy with the end result, find the experience just too stressful and would never consider building another.  For others it’s a thrill that cannot be matched, even if there were a few hiccups along the way, and it’s not long after the home is completed that they are hunting for another building plot.

There are a few cases where things do go horribly wrong and when it does, it can be one extremely costly.  This is the story of one such self builder. The home he built literally cost him everything and nearly his life.  Remarkably, even after leaving him penniless he is determined to turn his life around and hopefully one day build the house of his dreams.  This is a true story and over the next few weeks we’ll detail his journey of building a home on the island of Phuket, Thailand, the problems he faced and ultimately causing his ruin and even the threat of death.  What you read now is the events in his own words…

It was mid-July 2008 the weather was hot and my Thai wife, of 4 years, and I were looking for a building plot.  My plan was to build a really beautiful pool villa that I could sell and then move on and build another.  After I had sold my small business I had approximately £200,000 as my total net worth. A lot of money, but not enough to be able to survive for the rest of my life, so my ultimate plan was to build three villas, the first two I would sell and finally the third I would live in.

At the time I loved living in Thailand and Phuket was such a nice island. It seemed like the perfect place to live and enjoy life with the golf, diving and enjoying long relaxing  days on the beach. Nearly all my friends were so jealous of the life-style was creating. No more 9 to 5, no more stuck in city traffic and no more having to grind away at work, just to pay the taxman.  Life seemed so perfect.

In September 2008 we finally found the plot of land and at 800 square meters, at a cost of £25,000, it was on budget with a perfect location with tropical mountains as the back drop.

Self Build Thailand - The building Plot

Self Build Thailand - The building Plot

As a foreigner I was unable to own the land in my name. It is illegal for any foreign national to own land. I basically had two choices if I really wanted to buy the land. Firstly, I could set up a Thai Company and the company, as a Thai Entity, could own the land. The downside to owning a company in Thailand is that Thai Law states that no foreigner may own any more that 49% of the shares.  The solution is to bring in a Thai partner, but the dangers here, as many foreigners will attest to, is that it is all too easy for the Thai partner to rip you off and take all of your investment. Corruption is rife in Thailand and there are many horror stories of foreigners getting involved in businesses and then the Thai partner taking everything – in a number of cases the foreigners have even been murdered for his assets.

The second choice I had was to put the land into my wife’s name.  We had a good relationship, we were very much a couple and spend all of our time together and while it had been reported in the news, on many occasions, that a Thai wife of a foreigner had hired someone to kill him for his assets, this was not something that worried me personally.

I did chat, both of the options, over with my wife and she agreed, that whilst both options presented problems the second one would be easier in the long run, as she would be the one dealing with the land office, planning office and all the other people involved, including architects and builders.  Knowing how the system worked in Thailand, I decided that the only sensible options was to put the land in my wife’s name.  If I had registered a company then applied to the land and planning office, I knew that I would have to of handed over large sums of money in bribes in order to get all the paperwork approved.  As a Thai National, my wife wasn’t going to get any of those problems.  We actually worked it out, and to get the land transferred and building permission, with it in a Thai Company, would have cost in excess of £10,000 in bribes and no doubt, by the time the build had finished could have cost five times that amount.  Obviously I was on a budget and so these corrupt payments was not something that I could afford.

We completed the purchase of the land, which went into my wife’s name in late September 2008.  We now owned our building plot and it was now time to find an architect to design the villa.

When it comes to any type of tradesman, you cannot beat a good recommendation from other people, who have actually used their services.  My wife and I did a fair amount of searching and finally found an architect who would also act as the project manager.  Building a home is difficult enough, especially when you have never done it before, but building in a foreign land presents even more problems and our architect assured us that he would take care of all the planning, planning applications, building permits and project manage the build.  This was the perfect solution for a first time self builder and we appointed him for the job.

Before we could apply for building permission we needed a set of build plans and within a week our architect came up with three different design and costs for each one.  While the drawings he produced where very good the layout and overall design was not to my liking and after spending several days with the architect we finally produced a set of build plans that my wife and I loved and that fitted in with our build budget.

ground work for building a villa in thailand

Ground Word Begins

Because I wasn’t directly involved in dealing with the local authorities we received confirmation, with all the plans stamped, with a week and it was now time for the architect to organize the work force for the villa.

Ground work commence on the villa on the 29th October 2008.  It certainly was an exciting day.  I had dreamed for years about building a house and while I knew I was going to sell it, I was still determined to put all my energy into building a really beautiful home and something I could be truly proud of.

In Part 2 … Find out how the first month went


If you are interested in self building has a great Self Builders Guide which provides practical advice on what to consider and things you’ll need to do to get started.


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