Thailand's recent tourism push is reaping dividends and it is on schedule for ten per cent annual growth in international visitors. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, there were 13.82 million visitors in 2006; 14.8 million visited in 2007 and 15.5 million are targeted this year.
According to Liam Bailey of David Stanley Redfern: â€œThe Thai economy got off to a scintillating start in 2008, with first quarter growth up six per cent on the same period last year, and up 5.7% on the last quarter of 2007. After two years of political turmoil culminating in a coup last year, it seems the new government is finally settling in, and has made economic growth its top priority. The main thrust of its efforts is centred on generating internal and regional investment, with global investment currently slowing.â€
This economic growth is reflected in the rude health of the property market. The stratospheric capital growth of the early years of this century" in the region of 25 per cent per year" is a thing of the past, but a regular five to ten per cent a year is expected for the next few years.
Much of the interest from overseas property buyers is centred on two distinct and very different areas: Chiang Mai in the north" the highlands" and the islands of the south, where buyer activity is at its highest in Phuket, followed by the emerging markets of Koh Chang and Koh Samui.
Chiang Mai is Thailandâ€™s second city" in atmosphere and character it is very much the slower-paced, laid-back cousin to the frenetic capital Bangkok. But this is no sleepy backwater. Famous for its superb food, varied nightlife, temperate climate and incredible mountain scenery, Chiang Mai is a fascinating mix of history and modernity. It was founded in 1296 and is home to more than 300 temples, including some of the most beautiful in the Buddhist world. It has an excellent infrastructure, a spate of newly opened five-star hotels, golf clubs, international schools and investment from numerous multinational companies. Outside the city and into the countryside, visitors find themselves in a world of adventure, with jungle safaris, whitewater rafting, elephant rides and visits to hill tribes all on offer.
The property market in Chiang Mai offers similar variety, and, according to Todd Jones of Elephant Real Estate, it is currently a buyerâ€™s market, with domestic market activity falling: â€œThe local real estate market has experienced an overall slowdown in response to numerous political and economic pressures. The number of transactions registered at the Chiang Mai Land Office declined from 15,000 in 2005 to 10,000 in 2006 and 9,800 last year, but in the middle and upper tiers, where around 20 projects are under way, sales remained strong. Major developers are moving forward with numerous residential projects in and around Chiang Mai.â€
Around 80 per cent of the regionâ€™s property sells for under Â£32,000, while overseas property buyers are most active in what Jones describes as the mid-tier market, with prices from Â£90,000 to Â£180,000. The market goes all the way up to custom homes on huge plots that can cost as much as Â£1 million.
A significant recent development is the provision of freehold residences attached to the regionâ€™s five-star hotels. Most of the top resorts offer this option, with the best known being those at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai which are strictly for those with very deep pockets.
A more typical property would be a newly built, three-bedroom, three-bathroom house with swimming pool, carport and guest apartment for around Â£130,000 or a two-bedroom two-bathroom apartment with an area of 110 square metres for Â£50,000.
Heading to the islands, you find yourself in a true tropical paradise. Phuket is one of Asiaâ€™s most popular beach destinations thanks to its combination of stunning beaches, great diving, high-octane nightlife and great food.
It is also increasingly popular with overseas property buyers. Agent CBRE estimates that there are now more than 2,000 foreign owners on the island: â€œVirtually all of these property buyers have seen their investment increase in value. Capital appreciation over the past four years has varied from 15 to 20 per cent per annum, although some properties have seen the value of their asset rise by as much as 50 or 100 per cent between the launch of a project and the transfer of title.â€
As well as capital growth, Phuket is popular with property buyers looking for rental income. The island is a popular holiday destination and has its own international airport, which hosted more than eight million passengers in 2004 and 2005. CBRE says that a well-managed property should produce between six and 12 per cent gross returns annually based on 100 nightsâ€™ occupancy.
Development on the island is spreading fairly quickly. From the west coast, where the property boom started between Nai Thon and Kata Noi and where new plots are scarce or very expensive, developers have moved to the formerly overlooked south and east coasts. Inland properties overlooking golf courses are also becoming popular.
Prices on Phuket are among the highest in the country. As a rough guide, CBRE says you can expect to pay up to Â£240,000 for a â€˜low-endâ€™ villa and Â£160,000 for a â€˜low-end apartment; up to Â£500,000 for a middle market villa and Â£300,000 for a middle market apartment; and if itâ€™s the very top of the market youâ€™re after, expect to pay upwards of Â£750,000 for a villa and Â£500,000 for a luxury apartment.
Recent research from Knight Frank reveals an average price per square metre on Phuket of Â£1,800, while prices went up 11 per cent in 2007. Rental properties achieved an average return of 6.8 per cent.
As prices of property for sale in Phuket continue to rise, property buyers are looking to other, less developed islands, where they can get more for their money.
David Stanley Redfern (DSR) describes Koh Samui as a semi-mature market. The island has more five- and six-star resorts than any other in the world, according to the company and prices of property for sale in Koh Samui went up by as much as 50 per cent during in 2006 and 2007. DSR is selling two-bedroom villas for Â£100,000 in the islandâ€™s Maenam Hills area. Other islands that are attracting attention include Koh Chang" the second largest Thai island after Phuket" and Koh Phangan.
About the Author
George Sell for Homes Overseas - Property for sale in Thailand, guide to buying property in Thailand, property investment advice and international property news. International property experts since 1965.