The luxury condo segment, especially in a city
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Now a world-renowned luxury dream holiday destination, Koh Samui attracts visitors from all over the world. The island was once the ultimate backpacker’s haven but following improved air links, the emergence of branded 5-start hotels, leisure facilities and amenities, the number of affluent visitors to Koh Samui has increased steadily over the last decade and the island has developed into a full-blown resort destination to rival Phuket. Luxury hotel groups now on the island include The Four Seasons, Six Senses, Conrad Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels, and Hyatt Regency. Koh Samui also features hundreds of deluxe independent hotels and spa resorts, countless first-class restaurants, shopping centres, cinemas, and a championship 18-hole sea view golf course.
Granted municipality status in 2012, Koh Samui became self-governing with infrastructure, facilities and amenities improving significantly. The island now offers a reasonable choice of international schools and hospitals naturally becoming a more appealing destination for property investors seeking a holiday home or even a permanent residence.
Offering modern luxury living in a romantic island setting, despite extensive property development, Koh Samui still retains an exotic tropical island feel with its fantastic white powder sand beaches and jungle backdrops. Local building regulations exist in Koh Samui which have had a positive effect on constraining over development, thus to some degree protecting the environment. For example, with land located up to 50 metres from the beach, you can only construct a single storey building with a maximum height of 6 metres and each building cannot exceed an area of 75 square metres.
When looking at the best locations in Koh Samui to buy a property, the answer of course largely depends on the buyer’s individual preferences and reasons for purchase. How close they want to be to the main tourist hubs, restaurants, bars and nightlife, amenities such as the airport, the international hospitals etc, the importance of rental returns, closeness to a good year-round swimming beach, or preference for a more tranquil setting in a less developed part of the island are all factors to be assessed.
The main tourist hub of Koh Samui is Chaweng Beach in the north-east region with its long stretch of soft powder-white sand, numerous resorts, bars, restaurants and shopping facilities. Commercial property development, the most important amenities on the island, such as the airport, hospitals, shopping malls etc., and also residential real estate has naturally developed in and around the area of Chaweng. Hence, in terms of overall market demand for property, the most popular Northeast, in close proximity to Chaweng, is where a majority of property development has occurred and where most people, but not all, seek to buy property.
There is virtually no residential property for sale on or next to Chaweng Beach itself as all this real estate was long ago developed for hotels and resorts. Hence, the most sought-after areas are other locations in north-east region driven by factors such as quality of beachfront, quality of sea view, proximity to amenities, restaurants and bars. Within the Northeast, the areas most in demand for residential property are Choeng Mon and Plai Laem, Bo Phut and Chaweng Noi. All four areas have great beaches, Choeng Mon Beach arguably the best beach on the island, and offer stunning ocean and island vistas from their hillsides. Plai Laem also includes highly-desirable Tong Sai Bay, Tongson Bay around the north-east peninsula with a number of high-end resorts. Bo Phut includes Fisherman’s Village, which has a good range of high quality restaurants, chic bars and an a tasteful open-air shopping centre. Chaweng Noi, just south of Chaweng, offers magnificent ocean views of Chaweng Bay and a lot of high-end villa development is found on the hillside.
After Chaweng, the second most popular tourist town is Lamai on the south-east coast. As with Chaweng, the area of Lamai Beach itself has all been developed by hotels. However, A lot of residential property development can be found on the surrounding hillsides and nearby beaches such as Hua Thanon and Laem Set.
Other main areas worth noting for residential property include the north coast, partly due to the quality beach of Maenam, stretching to the north-west coast at Ban Tai/Bang Por – these have more peaceful beaches than Maenam but still great sand. For exclusive high-end beachfront villas, the west coast at Lipa Noi is popular due to the good quality of the beach and the sunsets. For expats and fulltime living, Ban Rak in the north-east is popular plus less developed areas in the south such as Taling Ngam and Laem Sor.
In terms of property types, the focus of residential real estate investment for Samui is primarily on pool villas, investors seeking to take advantage of the tropical island lifestyle via outdoor living space. There is a limited supply condominiums on the island, partly due to local zoning restrictions governing where condominiums and apartments can be constructed. Following the gentrification of the island, Samui property prices have of course increased accordingly with average villa prices, excluding the super luxury segment, now similar to Phuket and properties at the top end of the market listed for as much as 8M USD and more.
A very significant proportion of Thailand’s GDP is accounted for by tourism (12% pre-pandemic) which is also a key driver of the country’s real estate market. On the back of the reopening of Chinese borders in March this year, tourist numbers have continued to rise dramatically from 11.5M in 2022, and projections for 2023 indicate visitors will reach 30 million (source BANGKOK, Feb 7 (Reuters), approximately 75% of pre-pandemic numbers.
The principal factor being foreign investment enabled by tourism, the Thai property markets’ recovery since COVID has been particularly strong in resort destinations such as Koh Samui and Phuket. 200,000 tourists visited Samui during January this year and a majority of the mid to luxury end holiday rental villas were booked back-to-back over the last high season (between December 22 and January 23). A key indicator for the now buyout property sales market for the island, as of 19th April 2023, the year-on-year change for the global search volume in Google for the key phrase “koh samui property for sale” was + 19% (source Google Ads API April 2023).
Other key influences fuelling the continued recovery of the Koh Samui property market include the notable increase in Russian investors looking to move their money into safe havens due to the nervousness about their economy fuelled by war anxiety and the Thai governments’ luring of foreign investors via new longer-term visa programmes (see https://ltr.boi.go.th/) for high net worth visitors and professionals deemed to be able add value to Thailand.