Anyone coming to live and work in Bangkok will be faced with the task of finding a good place to live, straight from the outset.
Unless of course, it's all been set up beforehand by an employer. Which happens less these days.
Most like to choose their own place to live, and everyone has their own ideas on what makes up the ideal abode.
The choice between buying and renting is something of a non starter now, with investments in Thailand seemingly static.
Property is no different, so the safest option is to rent.
Bangkok is full of places to stay, from hotels, through serviced studios, to furnished and semi furnished apartments.
The choice is massive, with new blocks and refurbished older places coming on the market daily.
The price range is huge as well, from the early thousands to six figure monthly payments which match those of London or Paris.
In amongst this maze of accommodation there is, for someone, the ideal place.
I am one of those who real estate agents love to hate.
I'm always prepared to look at a place, and this builds up their hopes, but then I am one of the fussiest and critical when the decision is to be made.
That makes me somewhat unpopular amongst the estate guys. In fact some do not bother to contact me now.
So what do the apartment seekers look for when it comes to renting an apartment? Location, Location Location.
Yes, the title of the UK home buyers program is also true here in Bangkok. With the city still capable of creating outrageous traffic jams, one of the most important aspects of living is how to get to where you need to be.
On a daily basis this could be the workplace, or maybe your favourite evening entertainment spot. Whatever it is you don't want to be stuck in a taxi every day, so the MRT or the SKytrain needs to be easily accessible.
By accessible, this can be a 5 minute motorbike taxi ride or a short walk, but no more. Arriving in work looking like a sweaty pig does nothing for your career, so being able to jump on a nice air conditioned train is ideal.
Close to the Skytrain can mean anything. I went to look at one place and they said it was a short motorbike ride from the station. On a 750cc Kawasaki, yes it would be. But not on a Honda Blade.
Naturally the apartments closet to the public transport are the ones which are rented out quickly, and are that bit more expensive. Everyone wants, and needs to live in an area where they can get from a to b easily and without fuss.
The good news is that once the extended lines are finished for the Skytrain, and the MRT, new areas will open up for commuters, including those on the 'wrong' side of the river.
Cheap apartment in Bangkok
For me, the size of the apartment is important, and here we have to deal with real estate'ese' language. Cozy is small, as is boutique and neat. But trying to get across the concept of space is difficult on the phone.
Is it big, or small?. Well that depends on how you define big or small. I like space, so big is somewhere in the region of 75 square metres. One I went to boasted 60 square metres, but it was so badly arranged, I was falling over the furniture.
In Bangkok anything can be found, studios the size of a postage stamp to 5 bedroom penthouses.
My criteria may be more demanding than many as I do like to cook up a few things, and here we have a real problem with descriptions. Pantries, kitchens and cooking areas vary between a sink on the balcony to a full blown room with stove.
The sink on the balcony is a mystery, but I know this is Thai style so I accept it.
I went to see another apartment which was very nice. It had a kitchen area for cooking, nice floors, very well furnished, but then if I wanted to wash any pots and pans I would have to take them across the nice floor, from the kitchen area, to the sink outside.
This makes no sense at all. So, that one went by the board as well. Studio rooms are sometimes brilliantly arranged so the kitchen area is tucked away, but some are the opposite, with the fridge is next to the bed, and the pantry, almost in the bathroom.
Yet another apartment enquiry went something like this:
"Is there a cooking area?"
"Oh yes, my girlfriend cooks things up on the corner unit".
"Ok, thanks" - Sounds like camping to me.
This is the crux for most apartment seekers. We all want the best location, plenty of space, good facilities and at a price which we would like to feel is affordable.
What our friendly landlords and real estate agents would like is for us apartment seekers to just agree to the price, and sign up. It's not that simple
I know one guy who pays 90,000 Baht a month for a one bedroom place in Asoke. I'm sure its very nice but 90K for a one bed?.
I know another who pays 4,500 Baht for a studio, but it's as basic as they come. Much of the cost comes down to the combination of the three previously mentioned criteria, but if anyone is happy to live in a Thai style room, with basic amenities, then 4,500 Baht a month is easily achievable.
I like to have some creature comforts so my costs are always going to be higher. If the 5 bedroom penthouse with river views is a must, then be prepared for 100,000+ a month.
In between the most common price is between 20,000 and 40,000 Baht a month. This will get you a one (maybe two) bedroom place in a good location, possibly with a gym and pool.
The further out of the city centre, the cheaper it gets. So areas like Ratchada, Lad Phrao and even as far out as Don Muang have developed. Over the river Nonthaburi has some very good deals at a cost which is half that of the city centre, but it does mean a boat journey every day.
I went to see a new block (monolithic and boring), which was described as convenient for the canal boat. It was indeed, but travelling every day on a crowded, hot and choppy boat didn't appeal in the slightest. So, that was no good either.
Out towards the airport, around Bang Na, is cheaper because there is little in the way of transport, with the nearest station at On Nut. This will change when the airport train gets going, so Bang Na may be a good location at a lower price over the next 12 months
On costs there are also the utilities. On this, there is a big difference between a serviced apartment and a rented apartment.
The service one will charge up to 7 Baht a unit for electricity, whilst most rented apartments are 4 Baht.
The best anyone can expect is to be able to pay the electric direct to the utility supplier.
Apparently, the serviced units are charged more by the utility company, but I'm not convinced by this. It looks to me like a mark up. On average a monthly one person unit will cost about 1,500 Baht a month using air con in one room.
If you have all the air con units on, 24 hours, then expect to pay more. In the older apartment the air conditioners may not be as efficient as the newer ones, and use more electric.
It is swings and roundabouts, because the older (and often bigger) apartments are cheaper to rent, on the basis that many like to have a brand new unit, especially the Thai locals. Water is a fairly standard 100-120 Baht for someone living by themselves and taking showers.
So, what is the ideal apartment and have I found it yet? The answer is of course No. At the moment I live in a 36 square metres unit with a kitchen nicely placed away from the rest of the room.
I have a full bathroom and shower, and it's a serviced apartment, so my cleaning is thrown in. At 8,000 Baht a month this suits me fine.... except for those damned dogs outside.
There must be 8 or 10 of them and they don't bark "woof woof", they screech. Noise pollution is another factor but not until you move in, is it that you find want to move out.
This brings me to my final point. Landlords want long term 12 month contracts, two months deposit and a month rental upfront.
In my opinion, - utterly ridiculous. I have negotiated one month up front before now, but it is hard to get a landlord to agree.
Will I stay where I am? I will, until I find my perfect home, or I shoot the dogs.
My utopia must be out there somewhere
Neil Ray is a freelance writer, editor and photographer working across Asia and based in Bangkok.
He contributes to www.bangkokpicture.com on a regular basis and writes for international publishers of books, magazines and websites.
Apartments and Condominiums for Rent in Bangkok