Expats – Rent vs Buy a Place to Live Abroad

Expats – Rent vs Buy a Place to Live Abroad

Rent vs Buy? Most of us were taught as we were growing up that buying a home is the foundation to a secure and stable life. Well – what if you are an expat living in another country? Does that mantra still hold true? 

Pros of renting property as an expat

1) You are not tied down to living in just one spot. What if you decide you want to live someplace else?

2) You avoid the up-front costs of making that big initial purchase. 

3) Buying a home or condo is a big commitment. It means you now have to deal with home maintenance and repairs.

4) If you don’t like your neighbors, you are stuck.

5) If you like to travel a lot, you can pack up and live someplace else easily.

6) If the rents are cheap, then why buy?

Rent vs Buy. Why buy when you can rent this condo in Chiang Mai for 11,000 baht = $330 USD
Rent vs Buy. We found this beautiful condo on Craigslist. Why buy a place when you can rent this condo in Chiang Mai for 11,000 baht = $330 USD?

Cons of renting property as an expat

1) What happens if your landlord raises your rent?

2) You miss out in the pride of ownership. The place really isn’t yours.

3) If you want to fix the place up, all the work you have done benefits the owner, not you.

Pros of owning property as an expat

1) Nobody can raise your rent.

2) If you want to fix the place up – you can do whatever you want.

3) You lower your monthly expenses by not having to pay rent.

4) Pride of ownership. You owned your home before you became an expat, and you own your new home now.

Cons of owning property as an expat

1) If the housing market crashes, you are stuck.

2) There’s a big up-front cost of purchasing a home. What if you want to use that money for something else?

3) If you would like to try a different neighborhood or a different city, you are stuck unless you sell your home.

4) You are less mobile, and you have now committed to spending most of your time here.

If you are deciding in whether to rent vs buy, try to base your decision on how cheap the rents are. In places like Thailand, where the rents are so cheap, there is really no reason to buy. In Thailand, you cannot purchase a home if you are from another country, but you can own a condo. Only Thai citizens can own a home.

If you do decide to buy, we suggest you start by renting for a year to make sure if you like the area. You may decide you want to live in a different area after getting settled in.

The home at the top of this post was found on Craigslist and rents for 10,000 baht in Chiang Mai


Gary is one of the founders of RetireBook, and is the site engineer and also one of its writers. He has been working in IT for over 25 years, is a world traveler, and enjoys everything about living in the Pacific Northwest. He is full of energy, loves the outdoors, climbed several mountains, volunteers in his community, and has been saving his whole life for an early retirement that will be coming up in just a few short years.