Ruins Turned into Expensive Homes

Kasper and Sonja, a Danish Thai couple, have found a lucrative niche. They buy mismanaged property in Thailand, renovate it from A to Z and sell it with a nice profit.

The couple began their Thai renovation business with a property in the provincial town of Lampang, South of Chiang Mai. Their keen eye guided them to a rundown property that they felt had massive potential. Three months later and the house had been totally renovated. The house’s potential had been fulfilled and they had proved to themselves that their renovation dreams and skills could cross continents. The 700 square meter property that they had bought for 2.5 million baht had just been sold for 8 million baht!

Not wanting to rest on their laurels they quickly moved onto their next project. They had spotted a row of three townhouses that were in poor condition but they felt were in a very promising location. This European philosophy on property has really paid dividends for them here in Asia, where newer is often seen as better.

“Make the impossible,” the couple said.

“We are from Europe, we can see that things can be fixed. What we care about when buying homes is the location. We would rather buy a ruin located in the right address than buy a nice apartment located in the wrong area, because ruins becomes much more valuable when they are finished compared to a new one in good condition when it’s in the wrong place.”

Started in Denmark

This successful couple met each other at a young age during a Songkran Festival in Denmark. Sonja, who was aged 20, had an apprenticeship as an office assistant and Kasper, also 20, had an apprenticeship as a machine technician when they decided to buy their first property.

Things were not always smooth sailing for the young couple. When trying to secure a mortgage for their first property one adviser described them as being ‘foolish’ if they thought that anyone in their right mind would be willing to lend someone as young as them money to buy a house. But, luckily for them, someone was willing to take the gamble. And within a year they had sold the property that they bought for 500.000 Kroner for 800.000 Kroner, making a nice profit even after the renovation costs had been deducted.

Since their first successful move onto the property business ladder, they have repeated the process a further ten times back in Denmark. Friends and family have always been supportive of the couple, although house warming gifts are a bit thinner on the ground these days.

Doing business in Thailand

Three years ago, Sonja and Kasper moved to Thailand. Sonja was born in Thailand but raised in Denmark. Now, back in Thailand her Thai citizenship became a great asset.

It can be difficult for foreigners to do business in Thailand, factors such as not being able to speak the language, not being familiar with local laws and regulations and having pale skin can all work against the “farang”.

Luckily Kasper and Sonja didn’t incur any of these troubles, they were able to easily set up a trading company in Sonja’s name. “She is the person to explain to the renovators how to do things. That makes it a lot easier,” said Kasper.

The couple have also always done things the “right” way. They have made sure that they use a good accountant and lawyer so that everything is legal and above board.

When asked what makes them stand out they responded, “we are not always western driven when it comes to renovating, we are also able to turn run down properties into beautiful homes aimed for Thai tastes.”

“It also requires that you have your heart in the game and see how it can become. It doesn’t help if you have the money to buy an old junk if you cannot see how it can be turned into – it is not enough just to paint,” he added.

Impressive project

Kasper and Sonja are currently working on their most impressive project to date. The style of this penthouse apartment is kept in the classic style with high English paneling and nice teak flooring. Everything is kept in bright colors and the couple has chosen to retain the beautiful original stucco ceilings. Likewise with all the bathrooms have been kept in the roman style. The penthouse is unique as it is the largest penthouse in Chiang Mai of 600 sqm with VIP roof terrace. The only thing the penthouse has been done in modern simple style, is the super modern high gloss kitchen with all appliances coming from SMEG.

When asking into their choice of doing business in Chiang Mai the couple quickly replied. “It has always been our target to live in Chiang Mai. Not only is it great to do business here. The city is in development, good restaurants and a fun nightlife.”

Real estate in Chiang Mai is tough but the couple feels strong and competitive. They feel they stand out. Many others have built Moo baan residentials where they just built an entire residential, but although they have met one who is doing something similar to what they are doing, it was not in the same European style and order.

When their current big pent house project is sold the couple is actually considering expanding their business to Bangkok. They already know of so many bankruptcies in Bangkok through their own network. And of course there’s the Internet

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