QUESTION & ANSWER

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Ziv Nakajima- Magen is Manager of Asia-Pacific, Nippon Tradings International (NTI), which specialises in assisting investors in capitalising on Japan’s vast property market.

SELL BEFORE THE OLYMPICS?

Q : Some Japanese experts are advising that you should sell your Tokyo properties just before the Olympics if you had bought them within the last few years. What is your take on this?

ZNM : The short term view:

Capital gains tax in Japan is doubled if properties are sold within five years after purchase, so from a pure financial perspective, and taking into account projected sales costs (normally 3-6%, unless you’re lucky enough to have a direct buyer lined up), you need to make sure it’s worth your while. Of course, this would entirely depend on the price at the point of purchase and sale.

The medium term view:

Once the above has been factored in, it has generally been noticed that property prices in Olympic cities tend to build up in the few years leading to the event, and slump away slightly afterwards. So if the numbers are in your favour, and you’re in it for the long haul, then yes, the assumption that selling just before the Olympics would be a prudent course of action and is most likely correct statistically.

The long term view:

The multi-trillion dollar question, as always, (not just for our own personal holdings, but for the entire region and its’ local economies) is what the future will bring. Not holding a crystal ball, but noticing the volatility in the area and the (as of yet) reluctance of the current government to address some of the deep-seated social and demographic issues underlying Japan’s economics – I would advise a less speculative and more monthly yield-oriented approach. Buy and hold basics – if it’s not generating enough to justify holding it, compared to what your money could be doing for you elsewhere – simply don’t.

NEGLIGIBLE IMPACT FROM EARTHQUAKE

Q: How would the recent deadly earthquake in Southern Japan affect the property market in Japan?

ZNM : Japan’s property market is, sadly, well versed in natural disaster, as are its’ insurers and property holders. From that particular aspect, and for individual property owners, it’s business as usual, and no effect overall.

From a more local perspective, a singular earthquake or even a series of closely occurring earthquakes and aftershocks would not cause any serious dent in market fundamentals. Kumamoto was, and will most likely remain, a very attractive market with a growing population. It also boasts socially aware local governance which supports its ageing population in a much better fashion than many of Japan’s municipalities, and some interesting industries to watch out for – not the least of which is one of the world’s largest mega-solar farms, built in rural Kumamoto prefecture and drawing many employees and businesses to the area.

However, if this were to become a repeated occurrence of some concern, with the area officially declared more earthquake-prone than others, it would most likely have a deeper localised effect on its property market as well.

On this note, we would like to take the opportunity to announce that NTI has been assisting our clients in donating directly to the Kumamoto earthquake relief efforts, by donating directly to local municipalities, with little to no overhead involved. Please feel free to contact us if you wish to participate – all donations are welcome.

Laksamon

Laksamon Dhamminch is Head of the Legal Department at Antares Advisory, a law firm based in Bangkok’s CBD. She specializes in Property Law, and advises clients on property acquisitions, development planning and construction regulations. She can be contacted via antaresadvisory.com or emailed at laksamon@ antaresadvisory.com

RETIRING IN THAILAND

Q :I found out about a ‘property-for-visa’ scheme by a developer in Pattaya and also a website that claims to be able to get a Thai retirement visa in one day! How genuine are these retirement visas? And are you aware of other property developments in Thailand that offer a similar ‘property-for-visa’ scheme? How reputable are these developments?

LD :Thailand has launched a country membership programme known as “Thailand Elite Project”. The latest scheme is legitimized by an Announcement of the Ministry of Interior governing permission to stay in the Kingdom for an alien in a special case, issued on the Government Gazette on February 22, 2013.

Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited (TPC) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The company is responsible for the Thailand Elite membership management and recruitment as well as distributing the revenue to the tourism-related operators who are selected as service providers.

Membership confers the right to stay in the Kingdom virtually indefinitely, with five-year renewable multiple entry visas issued to all members – as well as renewable 1 year or 365 days extendable stays without the usual need to leave the country. Members will receive a “Thailand Privilege Card” and extension of Visa could be up to 20 years depending on the validity of the membership.

The company also provides a property-linked Visa scheme. The buyer of an eligible property development project will receive a 5-year visa to stay in Thailand, which can be extended 4 times. The validity of Visa is linked to the ownership of such property. If the owner (Visa bearer) has sold the property, the Visa will be void. In case of resale, the buyer will be eligible to resume this Visa benefit for the remaining period. However, the Visa benefit is cut on the first resale. Further reselling will not grant the third buyer a Visa under this scheme.

At present, there is only one eligible property development project that could offer the Thailand Elite Visa upon purchasing the property – “South Point Project” in Pattaya. Visa benefit is an option. That means you can either just buy the property by itself or buy the property and apply for Thailand Privilege Card. The price of a property that includes the Visa benefit will of course be higher than buying without membership.

This Thailand Elite Property Co-Project Membership is suitable for a person who is mainly interested to invest in Thai property. The membership benefits are optional. Members will not obtain the full benefits of Thailand Privilege Card if their membership is obtained through the Co-Project.

DIRECT MEMBERSHIP

If your main purpose is to have a long-term Visa to stay in Thailand, I suggest you apply for Thailand Privilege Card membership directly. The Company offers various packages such as Easy Access (5-year Visa), Individual Membership (5-year Visa, 4 times extendable), Family Package; etc. The fees and expenses depend on your selected package. There are more privileges offered rather than just a Visa. Please drop me an email enquiry, I am pleased to provide more details about the scheme and assistance.

RETIREMENT VISA

To obtain a retirement visa, if you meet the criteria set by Thailand’s immigration law, the process is straightforward and you could get a one-year retirement Visa in one day. Using the services of Visa service providers/agents will definitely be more convenient as they would take care of documentation and bureaucratic procedures. However, a foreigner can also handle the application by himself.

THE CRITERIA ARE:

(1) Applicant must be aged 50 years or older; and

(2) (a) receives pension of not less than 65,000THB per month, or

(b) maintains money in a Thai bank account of not less than 800,000THB (if this is your first time to apply, you may choose to show proof of fund transfer from overseas to your personal bank account in Thailand for not less than 800,000THB), or

(c) receives pension plus money in Thailand’s bank account in one year of not less than 800,000THB. Once you have such qualifications, you should prepare your photo, fill in the forms and you are ready to apply.

1. Legally, you are required to maintain 800K THB all the time during the validity of the Visa. However, in practice, an applicant can withdraw such amount and top it up 3 months before the renewal date because the officer will only ask you to show proof of the funds in a bank account only in the last 3 months from the visa submission date.

2. The validity of retirement Visa is 1 year. This type of Visa does not allow you to work in Thailand.

3. The 800K THB deposited in a personal bank account in Thailand can be transferred from overseas or it could be an income generated in Thailand. The source of fund does not matter.

4. At present, a spouse can get a dependant Visa. But there is a proposal to change the criteria so that both husband and wife must each have 800K THB in their own bank account. This proposed change is still under consideration.

5. There is no special privilege granted to a retiree Visa holder.

6. If a retiree visa holder wants to work, he must cancel his retirement visa and apply for a business visa in order to apply for a work permit.

7. There are no other benefits given to a retirement visa holder. It’s just permission to stay in the Kingdom for retirement.

8. There is no prohibition to change retirement visa to Permanent Residence. However, there is no category [under the law] to support the retiree visa holder to apply for PR. The grounds to apply for PR are mainly for doing business, taking care of Thai family, investment, etc.

9. After having obtained a one-year retirement visa, the visa holder can stay anywhere whether inside or outside of Thailand.

FEES & EXPENSES

Government fees and expenses are as follows:

1. Visa Fee: 1,900 THB/one applicant.

2. Multiple Re-entry permit: 3,800THB / Single re-entry permit: 1,000 THB.

3. Bank fee (certificate to confirm funds in account): 100-200 THB depending on banks.

4. Translation of documents (if your documents are not in Thai / English language, they must be translated into Thai language and certified as correct translation by a translator and Thailand Consular Affair Office. The translation fee is about 400-600 THB/page and government fee for certification is 400 THB per page.

5. The service fee for assistance to apply for retirement Visa ranges from 5,000 THB to 15,000 THB. My firm’s service fee for this type of Visa is 10,000 THB for retirement Visa and 5,000 THB for dependent Visa.

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