Building in Thailand - Beware of inaccurate Information

Due to the large numbers of internet chats rooms, forums, blogs and web sites, we are now swamped with massive amounts of information. Some of it is accurate, some of it is written by experts and some of it is misleading and wrong.  So it is not surprising that there is a fair amount of conflicting information on construction costs in Thailand. Albeit the internet is a wonderful source of information, please be careful. Some of it is very misleading, misinformed and inaccurate, written by people who have no experience, or very little experience, of the architectural or construction industry in Thailand. Some have never built anything at all and others perhaps only a low cost, low quality bungalow in the middle of the countryside. Some of them have good meaning and are just trying to offer what advice they have from their limited experience; but with so little true understanding of the industry, without meaning to, they can cause much confusion and mis-information. You cannot rely on such information without all the facts.  And you need to know it is written by someone who knows what they are talking about. Each construction project is different and just writing down costs per sqm without any detailed information or understanding of the architectural drawings, is so inaccurate and misleading.  It is trivializing the complexity and exactness of the cost process. Having said that, naturally we all want to have an approximate idea of costs. So for a basic idea we do give you this in the Thailand building costs section. However do make sure you seek a professional architect and builders help. Do not become a victim of bad advice , misleading information and inexperienced builders.

Thailand Construction Costs: How are projects costed ?

To cost a project takes approximately 2-3 weeks for a house and many more for a large scale project and involves a professional cost analyzer (Quantity Surveyor) and/or a professional contractor; as well as finished detailed architectural and engineering drawings. You cannot know costs without architect’s drawings. They have to check all the architects drawings, go through every single product and material required as well as check all the measurements and quantities; then they have to list all materials, quantities, measurements, lengths, weights and costs. It is not a simple task and project costs vary according to what is required.

Costs Vary – Construction Costs Vary

Every home cost is different unless the design, architects drawings and materials are exactly the same. Each construction project is different. The cost for a 200 sqm luxury villa with top end materials is naturally going to be higher than the cost for a 200 sqm simple, mid range bungalow with medium standard materials. Their square metre costs will not be the same. Costs per square meter depend on various aspects including the architects’ drawings, specifications and the materials used. So if you hear people quote costs per sqm without all the accurate information, detailed finished drawings, specifications and materials lists, then it is at best, just an approximate rough guess. Be careful it can completely mislead you into believing your home will cost the same as another house. But in reality home construction costs per sqm vary, depending on what is included in the square metre figure and also what the architect’s drawings and materials tell the cost analyzer. We mention costs and our concerns on costs a lot. Why do we do this ? Because it is one of the main root causes of problems in construction in Thailand. Low quoting is common to get jobs and it is very seductive to the ill informed or inexperienced person. Please do be careful.

You Must Have Finished Architects Drawings To Know Costs Per SQM

Building costs are complex and there is much to consider when discussing costs. Nobody can know accurate costs to build until you have finished architects drawings. To state, or think you know the cost per square meter before you have finished architects drawings can be a mistake if you consider it to be exact and accurate. It can cause big problems in your budgeting and mislead you. It can only be an approximation at that early stage. Please take care and listen to the Thai architect and the professional construction contractor. Construction costs vary according to each individual project in Thailand. It maybe, that one house or villa cost 30,000 baht per sqm, another 35,000 Baht per sqm, and one say 40,750 Baht per sqm, and another 46,000 Baht per sqm; but that does not mean yours will cost the same. Costs are not set in concrete and they change according to the architects drawings, specifications, materials used, complexity of the project and of course what the contractor provides within their contract and service to you.
Please see our section on building costs in Thailand for more helpful information.


Warnings, Tips and Things To Look Out For !
  • "It sounds so cheap. Much cheaper than the other quote !" This is most common and gets a lot of people into trouble. If it sounds too good to be true, it is normally not true. Beware of cheap quotes.
    One trick some unscrupulous builders may use is to give very low quotes to get a job. Once they get it, the problems begin as they cannot complete the job for the money. Some of course never had any intention of finishing the job and soon disappear when the money runs out. Some are well meaning but are just not professional enough to know costs and do it to get the job then can’t afford to complete the job; Or maybe they change materials to cheaper less quality products, once the quote has been accepted. Be very careful. There is no cheap route to building your home. There is only the correct and sensible route. It is only the silly person who wonders why they have problems, extra costs and ends up in court because they jumped at the cheapest price without taking proper precautions and doing checks. The desire to do everything cheaply often costs you far more in the long run. It is a false economy. You save in the beginning only to pay out a lot more later on.

    Be careful and take advice from professional people only. If you can, always use a registered construction contractor with a successful reputation. This is sometimes difficult in certain locations, but our advice is to always try to use professional companies. And listen to experienced people.

    Remember: Your home is the most important capital outlay you ever make. If you are happy to spend money on a new car then make sure you are similarly happy to pay for a home to be designed and built correctly. It makes no sense to cause problems, hassle and stress by misleading yourself. It is your home, do it properly the first time and save money in the long run.
  • Be careful when you hear, someone say they can build your home for 15,000 Baht per sqm or some silly low figure, that has no details, no information, no substance or anything to back up that claim. Or you see it written on some web site chat room. Be careful. Remember how do they know what a house costs to build if they have no architects drawings, no cost analysis or any information ? It is impossible to know costs to build without these. Do they have a history and career in construction or architecture ? Are they qualified to provide that figure ? How do you, or they know what it will cost ? What does that cost include ? Have they seen your finished architects drawings ? Do they have a full accurate materials list including individual quantities and cost of each and every material in the whole house build ? Have they done professional cost analysis before ? What information do they base this on ? How many projects have they done ? How long have they been an expert in construction in Thailand ? Thai construction costs of a properly built good standard home will be 30,000 Baht per sqm. Pay less and expect lower quality and lower standards. If anyone quoted less than 25,000 baht per sqm I would proceed with a great deal of skepticism and caution.

    To take seriously any generalizations of costs is a sure fire way to get it wrong. It cannot be accurate and is merely guess work based on very little experience. A professional construction person or Thai architect will give a guide cost per sqm if asked, but if professional and honest, will always follow it up with: this is only an approximate guide based on the information we have of your project so far. It is not accurate and is meant only as a guide. Costs cannot be calculated until all details and drawings are finished. They will explain that to you so you understand. But if you think about it, is of course obvious. How can anyone know costs without finished architects drawings ? They don’t have the information required to know costs.
    Be careful of trivial information on chat rooms and forums. Especially by so called armchair experts.
  • Respect the builder and contractor. Please do understand they are building your home or project. You have to work with them for maybe 1-2 years or more depending on the size. Construction is hard and takes time. If you treat them rudely with disrespect it will not help you or your project. Especially in Thailand where manners and politeness are still respected and valued in society. A builder’s job is difficult and complex anywhere in the world. Be fair at all times and do not try to micro manage them, or keep telling them their job. It will only cause conflicts. Respect their experience, for if you have employed them we can only presume you did so because you did respect their experience and thought they were the best contractor to build for you. So telling them their job afterwards seems contradictory to your choices. That is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. Avoid conflict when you are working with a builder in Thailand.
  • If you are not prepared to pay a fair price for your project do not expect to get a professional contractor, have a good standard finish, or have it project managed by a professional project manager. In Europe or USA all projects will more than likely have a project manager on site. This is not always the case in SE Asia and often it is left to the foreman who may not even speak your language. If you expect good results and good quality, then be prepared to pay for it. Don’t go cheap and then wonder why the project is late, built to low standards and you do not get what you might expect. Construction quotes in Thailand often vary but there are good reasons why they do and one contractor may be more expensive because they are providing the true genuine price including project management and a proper service. Do not be mis lead by cheap low prices. It nearly always costs you more in the long term to correct and repair, than to have done it right in the first place. There is a lot of unrealistic costing in Thailand by first time builders or taxi driver turned expert builder, or low standard builders who quote very cheap to get jobs. Be careful as this will not be quality, or a standard you are used to in Europe, Australia, USA or many other parts of the world. You may well be terribly disappointed. Originally you may have thought the higher priced contractors were expensive but in fact they were the real prices. The unreal prices were the cheap ones. It is very easy to reduce costs to get a job and leave things out, use sub standard materials and deceive the customer. Beware and take care. This is your home or hotel resort or office. Use a professional company with a good reputation.
  • Do expect some problems in building and construction in Thailand; or anywhere in the world for that matter. There are always problems to overcome and it is not perfect. There lots of things that can go wrong very easily. Building sites are not beautiful clean places where everything works 100% correctly. There will be issues and mistakes. That is why, it is so important to you and your project, to have a professional builder and architect that helps you reduce the problems, risk and potential extra costs. Potential problems are greatly reduced by using professional people and companies.
  • Always remember other potential building costs such as electrical hook up, water, any temporary supplies, land site infrastructure works, earth fill, boundary walls, landscaping, external works and so on.
  • If you are building or doing any form of project in Thailand and a foreigner is involved and not a Thai citizen, ask to see their work permit and check they are a proper registered company. If they are not a registered Thai company and have no work permit be very careful. They can be arrested on your project site and then you have no builder. Foreign people working for a building company or representing a building company in Thailand by law must have a work permit. Work sensibly and work safe. Breaking laws in any country is not advisable and when considering your home which is a huge investment, or even a remodeling project, you need to know the people you are working, with are doing it according to the law.
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