The biggest market among foreigners is condos in Chiang Mai. Like the rest of Thailand this is because of foreign ownership restrictions on land. There are few foreign managed developments that exclusively target foreigners, like in Samui for example, where complex ownership arrangements have been designed to accommodate villa sales.
Condos in Chiang Mai are the easiest and most practical way to acquire property and many of the retirees coming to live in Chiang Mai prefer this option. However the city also attracts a proportionately large number of foreigner-Thai couples or families who have the right to own land and thus a suburban house.
The condos market in Chiang Mai is nowhere near the league of Bangkok, neither in choice or price. In fact the selection is rather unsophisticated and only recently have new developers, such as Siam-Zokie, brought elegance and luxury to the city market with the their Peaks Garden building.
Despite this there are several buildings that are very popular with foreigners, usually for their location, professional management or comfort. Many of the condos in Chiang Mai were built for Thai tastes and lack some of the key characteristics favoured by westerners such as sizeable Balconies, space and natural light, and kitchenettes.
Another peculiarity about Chiang Mai condos is the number of nearly empty or under occupied buildings dotted about the city. Much of this is the legacy of the 97 crash and the current owners a^EUR the banks have done little to regain equity from them. Many believe that a building with an air of abandonment will not attract tenants at any price. Some foreigners are doing well, buying these up cheaply, doing them up and leasing them out to other foreigners who are less concerned about empty buildings.
Perhaps the most popular building among the condos of Chiang Mai is Hillside 4, on Huay Kaew road, which is close to Kad Suan Kaew Mall, and the trendy Nimminhemin road. Another popular condo development project in Chiang Mai are the prio condo, V Residence in Chang Phueak and Chicmo Place 48. Many local term residents here have bought the 45m2 units and rent them out to other foreigners. There is a steady demand, it has held its value and the building is maintained properly. The latter point is a particular sore point among foreigners who stay in a building that is almost exclusively Thai and lacks any effective tenants association. Flora is another popular building, although much more expensive and units here seldom change hands.
Buildings in the downtown area should be given a thorough survey before buying, as you will struggle to maintain the value of your asset, while those along the riverfront go at premium prices. The biggest suitable selection is found near Nimminhemin road, along Huay Kaew road and near the university. The many student dormitory blocks should be ignored if you are serious about buying a meaningful piece of property.