Foreigners are not normally allowed to own a house in Thailand (under the Land Code BE 2497 (1954), the Civil and Commercial Code, Land Reform for Agriculture Act BE 2518 (1975)) without loads of red tape and large investments in Thailand. What most foreigners in Pattaya do is to simple buy a house in the name of their wife. This is a bit of a tricky situation as in a divorce the house normally becomes a big issue.
What some have opted for is to have a prenuptial agreement drafted in the event of a divorce. (See the getting divorced in Thailand page here.) This gives you some leverage in an event of a divorce. However it will not ensure that you can live in the house. Others opt for a prenuptial agreement and to have a usufruct registered against the property so that in the event of a divorce they can still live in the house until the usufruct expires.
There is also an option for a lease agreement which can be added to the prenuptial agreement, if usufruct is not an option.
There is one last options however the Thai government has been closing the loophole and from time to time threaten to close it once and for all. This is to register a company in Thailand and then buy the house in the name of the company. You still own the company be it 49% of the interest with a nominee or other holding onto the 51% share. This comes with its own risks but it is very common. Before in Thailand being before 1998 a Thai woman lost the right to buy land in Thailand if she was married to a foreigner. That has changed however you now have to go with to the land department to state that you have no rights over the property. Its a bit of a conflict within the law which has never been tested in court in Thailand but it would make for a great legal debate. It is always best to speak to a property lawyer in Pattaya as to your options in Thailand.
Before you look at buying a house in Pattaya, consider that there is no Imperial or Metric system in Thailand as seen below. Make sure that you have a property lawyer who can guide you through the process of buying property in Thailand.
1 Wah = 2 Metres
1 Sq Wah is called a Talangwah = 4 Sqm
100 Talangwah = 1 Ngan = 400 Sqm
4 Ngan = 1 Rai = 1600 Sqm = 400 Talangwah
1 Acre = 4047 Sqm = approx 2.53 Rai
1 Hectare = 10000 Sqm = 6.25 Rai
If you are planning of buying a property in Thailand, consider buying a condo in Pattaya which is much easier and with less legal issues compared to other forms of property. Most expats in Thailand chose this option because of the constant changes of the property laws in Thailand.
Consult a Thai property attorney first before buying any form of property in Thailand.