This could be a trilogy of fat paperbacks so forgive me if I stay on point. The second house I purchased was in a foreign country so completely far away that once you arrive all you have to do is change the time on your watch from AM to PM — 12 hour difference — no possible way to get further from home on planet Earth.
My wife preceded me to Thailand and purchased a home. She found a fixer upper in the same gated community that my friend Shelly had moved to. She refused to send me any pictures until the cleanup was complete. Labor is sinfully cheap in The Land of Smiles so having a situation where you need someone to do work for you is not an issue.
The problem with Thailand is that you are not allowed to own property unless you are a citizen of the country. We were not citizens. Either you had to form a corporation in which that corporation owned the house or you had to put it in a Thai’s name and pray to God they don’t just take it from you at some point. Insane person that I am, I paid 1.27 million baht (45K) for a beautiful home and put it in Shelly’s wife’s name, pronounced “Buoy”.
How trusting are you? If you’ve read 10 of my articles and we commented back and forth briefly on each than you know me as well as I knew Shelly. His Thai wife I knew not at all. Would you buy a house for 45K and put it in my wife’s name where at any time she can just call the police and throw you out? No. The important thing here is that we bought a house and put it in Buoy’s name. We lived there 3 years and were happy.
A number of things then went bad. The change in political climate got to my wife Cathy more than I. My mother was getting very old and needed someone to step in and start seeing to her care. Shelly died and his Thai wife’s income as a result was seriously compromised.
Buoy’s gambling friends conspired with her. Our lifetime lease, with payments of zero baht per month, was set up so that we cannot be thrown out but now we want to sell and run back home with our tail between our legs. We hired an expat real estate lawyer to handle the sticky parts for us. Buoy is afraid of the law, having left Thailand in her late teens for reasons of being a “dance hall girl” or some other nice way of putting things.
Money. We paid 1.27 million baht for the house. 45K USD as the exchange rate was at the time. House prices drop in Thailand as I feel they should everywhere. A house ages, the pipes and wiring in the walls age. In my mind all houses everywhere should drop in value only being propped up by maintenance and improvements but ultimately they tend to get weaker, not stronger.
Cathy and I decided to sell it for an even million baht. We’ll take a loss which we can afford. I walked across the street and told our neighbor Sri (pronouced “see”) that we are selling our house and going back to the USA. Her english was not very good so she ran and got a calculator and handed it to me. I punched in “1000000”. Her eyes opened wide and she seemed very excited. For clarity I got a piece of paper and wrote, with commas, “1,000,000”. Now she was jumping up and down and excitedly ran into her house.
I went home. In my mind I just put the house on the market for a million baht and the grapevine was my advertising.
Ten minutes later Sri was knocking at our front door with her husband Lek. We toured the house and I was sure to point out every flaw I knew of. After five minutes of touring Lek offered me his hand and we shook and then bowed.
Sold. 15 minutes, a new personal record.
A motivating factor was that Lek and Sri’s son needed a home in the general area and if I were to say family means nothing to us in the USA, family is everything in Thailand. When a relative gets too old to live on their own it is your great honor to take them in until the end of their days, there are no old folks homes. So it was a great joy to our neighbors across the street who befriended us throughout our stay to have the opportunity to get a home across the street at a great price for their son. A fully furnished home.
I will say that many other neighbors were angry with us for not offering them the same deal. They have relatives too. I also left out that we again did our research of what was and was not selling and this time we were anxious and intentionally priced to sell fast.
At the closing our lawyer handled everything. Buoy signed off and had an evil smug look on her face. Buoy did not know that our lawyer had spoken at length to Lek. Buoy did not know that we were fully aware of her fear of law enforcement. The way these things work in Thailand, you take care of the paperwork at the government office and afterwards you honorably transact money.
I met Lek at his bank and he handed me one million baht in cash. Legally he should have handed that money to Buoy and he knew that. And then Buoy should have given it to us. This is a case of civil disobedience done against a countryman and for a foreigner. We were good, kind, and respectful neighbors.
I fully intended to give Buoy about a thousand dollars USD. She was so furious at what went down that she refused to answer my phone calls even as I stood outside her house and phoned and watched her pick up her cell, see my name on it, and then set it back down. She intended to steal 45K USD from us. I knew she could desperately use what I wanted to give her. Ultimately she got nothing due to her bad intent. I don’t feel guilty about it.
I had promised Shelly on his deathbed that I would take care of his estate and make sure Buoy was OK. I had arranged for his pension to be adjusted for his widow, I had arranged that his other benefits from General Motors were all set up and I tidied up a hundred other things Buoy seemed incapable of understanding. So I honored my friend, I did a kindness to a person hell bent on ripping me off, and we returned to the USA.
The exchange rate was very favorable when we transferred money to buy the house. That exchange rate swung enough so that when we transferred money back we ended up breaking dead even on the house. I am careful with my money, but I also have very good karma — some would even say that I am blessed.