Property buyers are warned that when the economy slows down, as is happening in Thailand, developers try to trim costs and for this reason they should carefully study their background, says Praphaisith Tankeyura, a former president of Bank of Ayudhya and developer of The Boathouse Hua Hin.
In order to get good value for money, buyers should also choose projects that are systematic, have good conceptual design in place and are of good architectural taste and standard.
``You can't compare this sort of a project with no-name ones,'' he said.
Buyers should also keep in mind that in Thailand where proper city planning is either rare or simply not enforced, one can never be 100% sure that a garage won't crop up next to the wonderful house one bought for over 10 million baht.
``It's unpredictable, so being in good, predictable surroundings is a blessing,'' Mr Praphaisith said.
Also in Thailand, the potential rise of real estate value is slower in the upper bracket. If the price of a good plot of land is 30,000 baht a square wah, there is a good chance of it climbing up to 100,000 baht but once it reaches the 100,000-baht mark it will be difficult for the price to climb further to 200,000 baht, he explained.
Regarding laws on foreigners buying property in Thailand Mr Praphaisith said that although foreigners are not allowed to buy land in Thailand, they are doing so in Phuket by finding ways around the law. These foreigners are also leasing land for 90 years even though the law only allows them to do so for 30 years with some developers promising two additional 30-year extensions.
``It's a fact of life. ... They do that, it's normal practice in Phuket,'' he said.
However, it should be remembered that opening up the property market further to foreigners will improve the quality of assets and increase liquidity and once that happens more investors will become interested in Thai real estate.
Mr Praphaisith's project in Hua Hin is going full-steam ahead, not being hampered by the recent floods, which he said did not affect the 73-rai site, which lies on the border of Cha-am and Hua Hin and not in the inundated Khao Trakiab area.
The plot was transferred to the developer in July and two model houses are now being built with these to be ready by the end of January. Two model condominium units were completed in November. A giant Jacuzzi, which is made in Thailand, is also on display at the sales office. These will be installed in houses on the beachfront and the central lagoon of the estate.
While upbeat about the highly distinctive design of the estate by Deva Studio Company, headed by the famed architect M.L. Tridhosyuth Devakul, Mr Praphaisith is more realistic about the general outlook of the Hua Hin market. He admits it is now slower and the record of selling all the remaining units at another condominium project at the resort in six months would be hard to repeat.
``The market is slower than we thought but it is moving slowly,'' he said.
Other developers too are unfazed by the recent floods and are getting ready to launch projects but none the size of The Boathouse Hua Hin.
``Pranburi is 30 kilometres away, it is getting development, Evason [resort] is there, but it depends on the taste of the individual as to how quiet and primitive they want it to be. Pranburi is dark at night but if you stay in Hua Hin and Cha-am, it is developed, Starbucks has opened there,'' Mr Praphaisith said.
Hua Hin also has a large number of foreign residents, mostly Britons and Scandinavians, with several having bought houses up on the hills behind the market. As these are not next to the sea prices are lower than for seafront properties.
``Many brokers have opened offices in Hua Hin's market _ local brokers who handle transactions for foreigners.''
Most of the foreigners who have bought houses or condos at The Boathouse Hua Hin are also from these countries although there are some high-profile Hong Kong Chinese buyers. Mr Praphaisith explained that this is because Asians generally prefer the nightlife in Pattaya.
Last December's deadly tsunami does not seem to have had an impact on Thai resorts, judging by the fact that Pattaya is now booming and Hua Hin also looking promising. ``But the people who want to go to Pattaya are of a different type, they like the nightlife activity, some say they are trying to make Hua Hin the Riviera of Thailand, family-oriented and a city of culture and beauty,'' he said.
Regarding the Bangkok property market Mr Praphaisith said that locations near the skytrain and the underground route should continue to do well because the traffic is getting worse everyday.
``Looking at prices today, it has slowed down because the overall economy is not booming that much, it is not growing very fast, people are more aware that it should be good value for money.''
However, the prices of good projects in prime locations are unlikely to drop because Thai real estate prices are still just one-third to one-half of what is available in Hong Kong and Singapore. Aside from this there are some very wealthy Thais, especially in the export sector which has done very well over the past four to five years.
Bangkok Post December 05 www.bangkokpost.com
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