Chiang Mai Apartment Hunting: Your Starting Point To Living In Chiang Mai
If you ever dreamt about living in an exotic country, with mouth-watering foods, rainbow-coloured plants, chilled locals and fashion style influenced by the hill tribe people, you’ve found yourself a new home. Just as we did, you’ll get to experience all of the above whilst living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Add to it the international scene of digital nomads and co working options. Last but definitely not least, don’t forget about the icing on the cake, the modern eclectic Chiang Mai apartments where you will so get your money’s worth.
All you should know about Chiang Mai apartment rental
If living in Thailand is on your bucket list, then this should be your first-hand guide, based on our own experience. If you are still deliberating over whether to come from Europe, US or other parts of the world to CM, I hope that reading this post will dispel your doubts and fears you may still have about moving to a less developed country like Thailand.
We didn’t use any real estate agencies to find a condo in Chiang Mai and I doubt you would need to. You don’t need anyone to hold your hand as it is very easy and anyone can do it (even if you have always lived at home and you’re moving out for the first time).
Simply make a decision to move and don’t look back, whether on your own or with a friend, with a larger suitcase or just a small backpack.
How did we end up moving to Chiang Mai?
Little did we know that at the start of our trip in Krabi, Thailand, my well-being was going to depend on the factors never taken into account in the past – unbearable humidity, heavy rain and heavy pollution from burning crops during wet season.
It was quite the opposite from what we experienced in Krabi 6 months earlier, in the midst of wonderfully warm and dry, sunny dry season. In fact, this paradise-like weather was what got us to move to Krabi in the first place over Chiang Mai.
Fast-tracking this story, after staying in the touristic resort in Krabi province for a few weeks, we made a big move to the North of Thailand.
This meant packing our suitcases and heading up north in search of better weather, faster internet connection and more authentic Thai feel. Shortly after booking our one-way plane tickets and accommodation for a mere 4 days, we started looking for a long-term accommodation in Chiang Mai.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai long-term
Not sure how long you are going to stay? There are many condos for rent in Chiang Mai Old Town and surrounding areas such as Nimman, with many young and driven expats from all over the world. Old Town is great for the night scene, day and night markets, activities, temples and frequent events.
It is often picked by many backpackers, nomads for great amenities and walkable distance to coffee shops and bars. Many condos are modern but may not have a swimming pool etc.
Nimman in Chiang Mai is where many Nomads choose to stay short and long term. It is also a next living area for nomads who lived in the Old Town who want to work from a co working space in Nimman. Many bars, shops, Maya shopping mall with delish food corner and within easy access to the Old Town.
Rent prices can be a little pricey for some but they are often very modern, with gym, swimming pool and amenities like artsy fashion boutiques, all sorts of chilled out coffee shops, vegan bars and chic beauty parlours.
Condos in the Central Festival area offer great accommodation and are often very residential. They usually get rented out on a 3-6 months lease. Since they are quite far out from the main buzz of the Night Bazaar, Old Town and Nimman area, you are best off getting a motorbike or a Songtaew ride to hit the town. Good value for money if you have your own transport and don’t need to be in town 24/7.
If you are planning on living in Thailand for a year, the last one may be a good shout. That’s if you can hack often brought up on forums Thailand tourist visa extensions and far from unheard-of visa runs to Laos, Myanmar or Malaysia.
Vibrant Chiang Mai on a budget and serviced luxury condos
Rooms start at 2,500-3,000 Baht per month. Usually utility bills like water, electricity and internet connection are paid on top of it. Allocate about 2,000+ baht if you can’t live without air con blasting all day long. Electricity unit price can vary between different apartments whilst water unit is usually fixed.
Apartments, condotels and condos for rent in Chiang Mai range between 10,000-30,000 baht per month with the upper range providing top range luxurious accommodation. Anything between 15,000-20,000 is considered and expected to be modern, either with the kitchen area or a separate living room and bathroom. Expect to find some places offering swimming pools and small gym facilities.
My recommendation is to visit places one by one so you can compare areas vs. rent price and facilities offered at each condo. Finding a place online and communicating via emails will give you a head start over other condo hunters. Googling each place and emailing it individually can be quite time consuming but for the faint hearted ones, it gives peace of mind.
If you want to use Airbnb Chiang Mai will have a quite a few listings but if you are on a shoestring budget, book it for a max. of 6-7 nights. In the meantime, find something elsewhere as average Chiang Mai rental prices are a lot cheaper. Check out our guide on Airbnb vs Booking a hotel to see which one would be a better option for you.
If you are after a house for rent in Chiang Mai
Based on our own experience, Chiang Mai house rental options are somehow limited compared to what is offered in the South of Thailand but your chances will increase if you don’t mind living on the suburbs.
Again, I can only speak for touristic and beach destinations like Krabi province where we did house hunting prior to our decision of moving to Chiang Mai. Whatever way you look at it, this is quite understandable as all fancy villa apartments are catered towards pockets of Westerners.
Usually the people renting out such holiday houses are quite family-oriented tourists looking for vacation beach destinations which is a lot shorter duration than Digital Nomads in Bangkok or Chiang Mai). However, a handful of DN will secure a place for about a month or so.
Top Tips for Finding Accommodation in Chiang Mai
1. Book temporary accommodation for at least 3-5 days
- Shoestring budget
I’m assuming that you want to stay long term and looking for a real deal somewhere near the centre, book your stay in a shared dorm or Airbnb for a few days. This will save you a few quid and buy you some time for your own research. Let the workers at the hostel reception desk know what you are after. Maybe they will know someone with a place that fits your bill.
- More disposable income
Anywhere between 2-3 days will be plenty to find a pretty decent condotel so you can stay calm.
I wouldn’t recommend to land in CM without having prearranged any accommodation for at least 1-2 nights.
Most condos with concierge will have their opening times and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to communicate your wishes if you do not speak Thai nor the Thai person speaks English.
If you fall in love with the place but the communication is scarce, you will need some time to communicate your message and sometimes translation is required (usually Property Manager who proves to be an effective intermediary between two sides but may be unavailable over the next couple of days to sign the contract).
Be smart, take weighted risks, do not book hotels for more than 7 days but do not underestimate the time it may take to find your dream condo in Chiang Mai.
2. Decide on 1-2 areas and do some online search on potential places.
Circle in a few areas of possible locations before starting your flat hunting, preferably on Google maps or the actual paper map from your temporary accommodation. Get a feel of what each area is like and the proximity to local amenities, such as night markets, convenience stores, shopping malls, co-working spaces, bike rentals, bus stops etc.
Some condos can be easily found using Google maps or coordinates, whilst others lack their presence online. Emailing property customer service teams can help you secure a couple of viewings in the area. Perhaps you will avoid the hassle of having to go in to the complex just to find out it is fully booked for another 2 months or so.
However, have in mind that there will be quite a few conso apartments within your proximity. Just stroll in to the ones around you and see what they have in store for you. We actually booked ourselves in for 3 viewings in different areas before coming down. One of them was Huay Kaew Residence which had mixed reviews. Prices, location and facilities are quite tempting if you are looking at the pictures online but don’t live up to the overall Chiang Mai condominium standards.
Go, check it out, do not put any deposit down if you are asked to do so but continue your search until you see what you actually like. You will get there eventually. All I can say about that place is that it is very affordable but is far from value for money. We saw all ranges of accommodation offered there and there was nothing I could call liveable.
What was on our wishlist for a condo complex in Chiang Mai?
What we were after was a good size swimming pool, desk or a makeshift desk, little kitchen area and hopefully a basic gym. Ideally, we wanted a place within walking distance to a shopping mall or convenience stores. To be honest, we probably saw about 8-10 condos (we got to see between 1 and 3 rooms in each). Towards the end of our search, we found our beautiful cherry for a very reasonable price and on our terms like pro rata rent.
Our new place was more than we bargained for. You can only imagine how excited we were to be moving in. Perhaps we came across our new home partly due to the fact that we were picky but resilient. We weren’t pushed for time to find the right apartment in Chiang Mai on the day which defnitely helped too.
3. Not all places are advertised online.
Even some established real estate agents dedicated to Westerners are not familiar with all condos around Chiang Mai that offer rentals to ‘Farangs’ (‘Foreigners’ in Thai). Quite a few apartment complexes are not well advertised in English, cater mainly towards Thai or do not make it to the top in your search engine.
4. Rent a bike, get a Tuk-tuk or a Songtaew.
As you are new, the chances of you having a moborbike are quite slim. Chiang Mai may not be the largest town under the sun but is certainly big enough to hire someone who can drive you around and save you from walking aimlessly around during sunshine hours. Arrange a Tuk-tuk for a few hours or get on any Songtaew (red trucks) that goes in the direction of your choice.
Don’t rely on the local knowledge of some Songtaew or Tuk Tuk drivers. Write down the areas of your interest rather than providing condo names. Remember local drivers may not necessarily speak your language so try not to confuse them. Ask to be dropped off at the nearby shopping mall, temples, markets or other points of interests and start your flat search.
5. Referencing and things to bring for your condo hunting.
No database for referencing and credit checks in Thailand means you can save time and money on agency fees. Be prepared to hand in your passport, probably at least 1 month deposit and 1 month rent in advance on the day. Some of you may be lucky not to pay it all upfront but this is the norm for condos, in particular if you are willing to seal the deal on the day.
Make sure the hotel or hostel you booked in for a few days is not holding onto your passports as most places will not accept alternative forms of IDs.
6. Payments are usually made in cash.
Make sure you have enough cash in Thai Baht with you. Whilst ATMs are located all around Chiang Mai, banks and foreign exchange bureau will ask you for your ID when exchanging currency. Doing it before you start you condo hunting will make the process nice and easy.
7. On a budget? Give yourself a liitle more time.
Those of you who don’t like move to the accommodation catered specifically to Farangs can find some really good apartment deals but this requires a little more time and luck. Some non-advertised condos are discreetly hidden off the main roads. If you see staff not speaking good English, you may assume that the condo property management team are not targeting Westerners and may offer more flexibility on Ts & Cs.
As a result, the rent price will be a lot more affordable. Many residents are middle class Thais who tend to live there permanently and own the place.Those residents have mutual respect for each other, like small talk and are very friendly, but not intrusive so they mind their own business.
What is Considered a Standard Procedure in Thailand
Unlike in the West, credit checks and referencing fees are not considered a standard procedure in Thailand. In fact, the renting out process is smooth and easy. Show up with a valid passport, enough cash for 1 month deposit and 1 month rent. Sometimes you can get your monthly rent reduced if you negotiate and decide to stay longer term.
The deposit is usually refunded to you in full at the end of your tenancy unless you leave earlier. In this case the property owner or landlord may decide to withhold even the full amount. Never heard of a break clause in Thailand (and don’t think it is applied for expats) so it’s safe to assume that you should stay until your contract for apartment expires.
Be prepared that you might or might not receive a short tenancy agreement with basic rental details but you will get a receipt confirming that the exchange of money took place. If you get the tenancy agreement, it is usually a couple of pages long and to us it was good enough, either in English, Thai or both.
It’s best to clarify things like Wi-Fi included in the rent or price per unit of electricity before you hand over any deposit or sign any documents. Some places also check your visa validity and departure card. However, this should be in your interest to ensure you don’t have anything pending.
Tenancy extensions are possible but inform the property manager or someone at the reception that you wish to stay longer as rooms go very fast and someone may be moving in to your place before you notice it!
So you want to Move to Thailand: Choose the location that fits your lifestyle
Decision on moving to Thailand is the most difficult part. Moving within Thailand once you are already here is a lot easier but you are still better off being present to seal the deal and see the properties yourself.
There are many monthly rental options available to expats from just 1 month contract up to 12 months. Rent in Chiang Mai is dirt cheap and you get an amazing value for money whilst touristic provinces, in particular during high season, are not far off the prices in Europe.
However, there are plenty of expats all over Thailand and they are dispersed geographically into three main regions. Depending on your personal preference and interests, you may find it easier to acclimatise in places with:
Expats in Bangkok – usually professionals and language teachers
Expats in Chiang Mai – language teachers, volunteers at local animal camps and young entrepreneurs who dream of establishing their own brand (and often succeed to do so)
Expats in Southern Thailand (Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phangan) – pensioners, beach lovers, marine sports aficionados like scuba divers and to a lesser extent, Digital Nomads who live their dream life,mainly in Koh Phangan. Expats living there make their living with a brick and mortar businesses co-owned with a local Thai.
Quick Comparison London Vs. Chiang Mai Apartments Rental
London Chiang Mai
Rent price 1,250-2,500+ GBP (the sky is the limit for renting in Zone 1!) 2,500-18,000+ Baht
Availability All year, busiest period September and January All year, busiest period December - February
Type of accommodation 1-3 bedroom house or apartment depending on the zone Room, Condo, Aparthotel, Condotel
Paperwork involved Passport, References from previous landlord, references from employer, sometimes bank statements, credit checks Minimal – Passport, you may be asked for Visa and Departure card
Contract length Min. 6 months – 24 months Min. 1 month – 12 months
Referencing Required Not needed!
Credit check Required Not needed!
Deposit 1 month- 6 weeks Usually 1 month
Break clause Yes N/A
After looking at the table above, this should give you another reason to visit Chiang Mai for a few months. Whether you are after a budget or luxury apartment in Chiang Mai, there is no need to hand yourself over to the local real estate agents. After all, my guess is that you will stay more than a couple of months in one place so speaking to a Property Manager can only save you time and commission money.
Exploring new culture, cheap and delicious food combined with affordable accommodation make the average cost of living in Chiang Mai very reasonable for anyone venturing into start-up scene or already in location independent jobs.
After all, if you are traveling solo, you will end up meeting digital nomads scattered all over Chiang Mai. Some may be spending their afternoons in the Old Town, others will frequent a DN friendly coffee shop or a co working space Chiang Mai has got in abundance for you, right in the Nimmanhemin area. Perhaps this is where you start doing your research from.
We would love to hear from you about your own experience. Let us know if you managed to find any less advertised and hence why often overlooked local gems that most expats don’t know of yet!
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