Update (Dec 20, 2018)
I still like my apartment. It’s actually very conveniently located, but…
I realized only after that there are KARAOKE BARS on the main road in front of the building…oh dear, good thing I have earplugs and they supposedly shut down at midnight!
From what I read online, apartment hunting in Chiang Mai, Thailand seemed quite easy.
Just book a few nights at a hotel and walk around town to various buildings to ask if they have any rooms available for rent. Simple and straight-forward, right?
That wasn’t exactly my experience…
- In my mind, it’s just a place where I’d sleep and shower. Most of the time I will be at the gym or working out of a coffee shop or coworking place. So, why pay more.
- I wanted a studio apartment that was 7000 baht (=$280) per month max + utilities (water + electricity), which people have told me to expect an extra 1000 baht (=$40) a month. This, of course, depends on how much (usually, AC) you use.
- I had restrictions on the location because I don’t have a vehicle. It needed to be within 15-minute walking distance to Nimman and the gym I choose to go to daily
- I had to like it! I mean, I will be staying put for 3 months after all…
So, here’s what happened!
Over the course of 2 days, I visited at a total of 35 apartments (yes, that’s a lot but I wanted to find a place ASAP), shortlisted to 5 that were available and within my budget, then picked my top two!
How did I come up with my crazy list? The majority was from online research, mostly from FB groups. The rest was literally from just passing by it.
Here are my learnings:
- It’s actually not hard. It just depends on your budget and location preferences. If you’re budgetless, then you can get a place anytime, anywhere!
- If you’re not too stubborn in staying exactly within the Nimman area, consider the surrounding area, like Santitham – where I’m staying.
- If you want a building with a pool and/or gym, then that will hike up the cost. I don’t like the chlorine feeling on my skin from swimming and I planned on going to a proper gym, so those amenities extra for me
- Location is important, especially if you don’t have a vehicle or live close to a transportation hub. Remember to punch in the locations into Google Maps to see how long it’d take you to walk to your destinations.
- It’s important to stay at a place that you actually like. Even if you think you’ll just be using it to sleep and shower. I realized that I don’t like dark furniture, it makes the whole room look like a horror movie set to me.
- Next time, I will COME HERE IN SEPTEMBER before the high season….way more options available and usually discounted a bit (-1000 baht per month) too.
1) HimNimman was my first stop.
Also called Suandok Manion or “Queen Bakery” on Google (I don’t know why). Address and contact details in photos below.
Beginner’s luck – it was still available! For a duration of 1-3 months, you can rent a studio apartment starting from 6800 baht (=$272) per month.
It includes free wifi for 1 user, bedding and room cleaning/bedding change once a week. Deposit is 10,000 baht (=$400), water is 26 baht/unit (=$1) and electricity is 7 baht/unit (=$0.25), which you’ll pay at the end of each month to the Building Manager.
I liked that it was bright and spacious. The bed was firm, but most beds in Asia are like that and I don’t mind.
Shortlisted for further consideration!
2+3) PT Residence and The Mirror are sister building, so we asked about both at the same time. From what I researched online, both places are quite nice and has amenities (gym and/or) pool. However, both full and were outside of my price range.
PT starts at 7500 baht (=$300) for their ‘budget’ studio, whereas Mirror starts at 16,000 baht (=$640). That’s not including monthly utilities like water and electricity.
Some building may also charge you for internet, a monthly service fee to maintain the amenities, a key fob charge, check out fee…etc. All these costs add up, so remember to ask before you commit.
Call me cheap, but I didn’t come all the way to Asia to pay North American prices!
Super nice but way too fancy and expensive for me. It was all full so I didn’t have a chance to go up and take a look, but the lobby itself looked great!
For a small room, it starts from 20,200 baht (= $808). The longer you stay, the cheaper the rate is. For example, if you stay for 12 months, then the price will drop down to 16,500 baht (=$660).
For such a nice place, they could have produced a better pamphlet than just a folded up piece of paper to show potential customers…just saying.
There were a few places that I went to ask about the pricing, and walked right back out. Way too $ for me.
5) S Condo – O.M.G. SOOOOO nice, but I can’t justify spending that much money on a place in Thailand. Starting somewhere north of 20,000 baht a month range. So pricey that I didn’t even take a picture!
6) Palm Springs – Really nice as well, but full and $ – starting from 20,000 baht.
And then, there was a lot that was all full…
9) Nakornping Condominium – It looked really old, didn’t seem to be catered to foreigners and the building manager wasn’t nice. My interaction with the manager was so poor that I didn’t even want to take pictures and forgot the price (<10k though).
10 + 11 + 12) Hillside 2, 3 & 4 – Hillside is one of the more popular properties.
I couldn’t find the original Hillside and the front desk told me there are 9 Hillside buildings. I really don’t understand why people like living there…they all look so old and not that cheap.
Hillside 3 was available but I wouldn’t stay there. The Front Desk just gave me a key to a room on the 3rd floor and told me to look at it myself. How trusting…or is it laziness? The room was way too dark and it was a bit pricey – around 6000 baht (=$240).
13) The Dome Residence – If it wasn’t full, I’d totally consider staying here. The lobby looked like a resort, staff were warm and friendly (and spoke English) and the cost within budget! 6000 baht (=$240) and up
14) Siriruk Apartment – The building manager wasn’t nice (and looked scary), but an Austrian guy I randomly met at a smoothie place is staying there and told me that it was 3500 baht (=$140) a month!
15) Huay Kaew Place (not to be confused with Huay Kaew Residence!) – Looked old from the outside and staff had poor customer service. I can’t buy their services right now, so they can’t be bothered to answer a few questions. Is good old customer service really lost in this modern world?! 5700 baht (=$228) and up!
16) Baan Thai – I’d also consider staying here if it wasn’t full! Lobby looked nice, staff were English-speaking and friendly, comes with a pool but within budget! 5700 baht (=$228) and up
17) Chiang Mai Rose House – It was available and the cheapest one I’ve seen in person – 4500 baht (=$280).
I didn’t like the tiny spiral stairs going up to the room. I can see myself tripping and falling on those stairs very easily! I would recommend for someone who is very budget-conscious and wants to stay close to Nimman.
18) Chiang Mai Lodge – Not bad, it was available, spacious and bright. No pool and tiny gym, but I’m OK with that. Starts at 5200 baht (=$208)
Shortlisted for Further Consideration!
19) Chai Mansion – Available, but poor customer service from the Building Manager and the room was too dark for me. It felt like it was such a chore for her to show me the room. I can only imagine how unhelpful she’d be if I were a tenant and came to her with issues with my room. Starting at 5000 baht (=$200)
20) Puwanon Place – Available, within budget, staff were friendly but the room looked old and dark. Starting 6000 baht (=$240)
First day’s outcome was looking grim.
Only 2 /20 apartments (10%) were shortlisted for further consideration. Not to mention that I was doing this all on foot under the blazing sun and had a mini heat stroke…always wear a hat and bring a water bottle!
Dec 6 - 16 Apartments in Santitham
I was really hoping that my second day of apartment hunting would yield better results, so I decided to look in the neighbouring area of Nimman, called Santitham. It’s more where the locals live and therefore more reasonably priced.
21) Fathai Apartment – Looks really neat from the outside, but I’ve been there twice during the day on a weekday and NO ONE IS EVER AT THE OFFICE.
I even called them to tell them that I’m outside, but they always needed to an hour to get there so I gave up. Reasonably priced though at 5000 baht ($200). If anyone has been here, let me know how it is!
22) Serene Teak Apartment – BALLA pool at the front entrance but no one was at the reception and outside of my budget. Starts at 9000 baht ($360)
23) d’Vieng – BALLA-er, but expensive (from 12,000 baht – $480) and the building manager doesn’t handle the rental. There’s a board where owners post their unit up for rent or sale, so you’d have to contact the owners directly. Too much work for me!
24) Mata Apartment – Full 🙁 but good reviews online and affordable starting at 4500 baht ($180)
27) The Opium – BALLA-er-er! It’s a resorty-feel but all full and outside of my price range. 14000 baht ($560)
28) Mai Mansion – I found the building but couldn’t find the entrance…total fail, I know! I read online that this place is reasonable, starting at 4500 baht ($180)
29) The Old Car – Available! As I was trying to find Mai Mansion, I stumbled on this guesthouse. Owned by a pair of sisters, one speaks really good English and they have a cute, black dog named Lego. 7000 baht for a studio for one month but 6000 baht ($240) for 3 months.
30) Huay Kaew Residence – Available! Not to be confused with Huay Kaew Place – they are not related. It has a gym (pay per use), a free pool and is within budget. It’s just a bit older but within the Nimman area and close to the Old City.
Shortlisted for further consideration!
31) Anchan 2 Apartment – Only one studio available! Nice, clean and simple, within range but no gym or pool. 5000 baht ($200). Bright and spacious room!
Shortlisted for further consideration!
32) SB Residence – Available! Nice and bright room, within range but no gym or pool. Looks like a new building! 5500 baht ($220)
Shortlisted for further consideration!
33) The Greenery Landmark – 7200 baht ($288) – didn’t end up going because it was a bit too far but spoke to them on the phone
34) Empress Apartment – The British guy that I helped find his way back to his apartment recommended this one to me. Starting at 5000 baht ($200) but too pink and too jail-like (to me) with the fenced outside the terrace
35) Hokka-An Apartment – Full and outside of my range. This place is so fancy that it has a Japanese onsen within the building that is also open to the public O.o 350 baht for adults for a day pass.
Happy with the results from the second day of apartment hunting, I decided to pick one of the many that I’ve been to.
If that day’s outcome was also mediocre, I’d contact local rental agents and get them to set up appointments for me.
My Shortlist of Five
After viewing SO many places, I narrowed it down to my top 5. It wasn’t hard, mainly because many places were unavailable or out of my price range.
Then, I sat down and made a spreadsheet to compare them.
For electricity, there is something called a government rate which is 5 baht per unit, buildings will usually charge a little bit higher than this to cover their service charge (AKA so they can make some money off you).
I’m told on average that, for a single person, water is 150 baht and 300 (if you almost never turn on the AC) to 1000+ (if you use AC every night) baht monthly. So, just to be safe, I tacked on an extra 1000 baht for utilities for the estimated monthly total.
Another thing you need to look out for. I was surprised to see a monthly “maintenance fee” or “service charge.” WTH, I didn’t come here to pay strata fees.
There is usually a check-OUT cleaning fee (average is 200 baht) that can be deducted from your deposit, but check-IN cleaning fee is just double-dipping and sleazy. The person who checked out already paid 200 baht for the room to be cleaned up, so why do you have to also pay for a clean room when you check in?!
Some buildings charge for a room key card or fob. If you want someone to clean your place for you once a week, that’s an additional fee. Often, for daily or weekly rentals, bedding (pillows, blanket and bed sheets) and housekeeping services will be included, but for monthly that’s an extra cost. I opted to buy my own bedding and clean my own damn room.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
Based on all the metrics, this is how I would rank those five:
- Anchan 2
- SB Residence
- Chiang Mai Lodge
- Huay Kaew Residence
Anchan 2 seemed like the biggest bang for the buck, even though the deposit is quite hefty and I’d have to buy my own bedding.
I did more online research on this building by reading reviews on multiple platforms like YouTube, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia…etc. There weren’t too many but they were all positive, plus I had a good interaction with the building manager myself.
I went back a second time to see the room and asked the manager any outstanding questions. Once I was good with everything, we sat down and she took a copy of my visa and passport, then drafted up a contract for me to sign.
Later that night, I e-transferred my deposit and first month’s rent to her via Transferwise. Not every building accepts this so ask beforehand!
Sidenote: Make sure that your landlord gives you a TM30 form – you’ll need this to extend your visa at the immigration office.
Finally, the search is over and I moved in the next day!