By Wandee Iamyoung, owner, 1D Property.
When I arrived in Bangkok with my Aussie-South African husband and our 10-year-old daughter I was disappointed by the challenges expats faced when finding a home in Thailand. We knew we wouldn’t find the same high standards that we were used to in Australia but many of the common practices of Bangkok real estate agents were questionable.
These ranged from simple-but-annoying transgressions like not answering emails, being generally unresponsive, repeatedly showing us unsuitable properties and not being able to answer the most basic questions, to much more serious ethical practices that really could have put us in a spot. The industry is rife with unregulated freelancers with no training and agencies that rarely hold themselves to a professional code. It’s a free-for-all and the unwitting expat is often the target.
Before I go into what makes a good Bangkok real estate agent, it’s important to understand why agents here work the way they do. The Thai real estate industry is structured differently from what I was used to in Australia where owners generally use a single agency in an exclusive arrangement. To convince an owner to place their trust in them, an Australian agent has to meet certain requirements, including being an established agency of a certain size and track record, professional qualifications, regulatory certification etc. They also need substantial marketing clout to attract renters through placing ads in local media or online portals, a visible well-known brand and a strong physical presence in the local market. In other words, there’s a whole lot of sophistication going on!
In Bangkok exclusive arrangements between owners and agents are quite rare. Almost all properties are open territory – anyone can call themselves an “agent” and try to sell or rent it. Owners usually farm their property out to as many agents as possible to increase the chances of finding a tenant or buyer. Property databases often contain the same listings.
Think for a minute how this drives behavior. There’s not much focus on customer service and the relationship between landlord and agent is tenuous, with little motivation for trust and transparency. The Bangkok real estate industry operates in a developing economy where predatory behavior is not uncommon. Many agents are freelancers or part-time opportunists looking to supplement their income with quick and easy deals, often through friends or connections and which don’t require a lot of expertise or marketing effort. I’ve seen rental agreements that were a few lines scribbled on a piece of paper or a verbal understanding. Some owners refuse to use agents at all.
My family already knew Thailand well (I’m Aussie-Thai, by the way) but what about expat families who are stepping into the dark? Moving countries is hard enough without dealing with all of the above. In my view, a strong focus on personal service is ultimately the only model that works in an unregulated environment in which most properties are accessible to anyone and few agents have the sophistication needed to bind owners into an exclusive arrangement.
I had run a successful business in Sydney, I know Thailand like a Thai, and I know what it’s like to be an expat moving here. So I started 1D Property with the simple logic of providing a real estate service with a level of professionalism and personal service closer to what expats are used to at home. In my model the customer is at the centre, not my property database.
Right from the start everything I do is about you; about finding you the right home (and the right landlord) and then looking after you long after the agreement is signed, whether it’s a leaky tap or a broken washing machine. This means that if I don’t have the property you want on my own database then I will find it. Yes, I actually take the time! I also have great relationships with landlords because they appreciate a level of professionalism they’ve rarely seen before, and they trust me to attract the best renters and negotiate an agreement that works for everyone. It’s a small step, I suppose, towards the exclusive arrangement you and I know. That’s why I’m your special Bangkok real estate agent.
Picture: Khan Thongduang