Thailand’s Koh Samui island has a wealth of properties for retirement purposes, or for the expat to invest hard-earned cash in a high-return beach property.
Whether you have millions to invest in your retirement with a mansion to take your breath away, or just a few hard-won thousands to put down on a charming villa close to the beach; affordable Koh Samui could be just the place to realise any dreams you may have of owning a piece of Asian paradise.
Amble down the main street of Chaweng in Koh Samui on any balmy afternoon; and most afternoons are just that; and if you forget about the smell of coconut-milk-drenched curry, lemon grass, and the occasional whiff of drain; you could easily be in any modern holiday destination in the world.
All the latest conveniences are a short walk away in any direction, from a modern supermarket and the obligatory McDonalds and Starbucks, designer-label shops to several top flight hospitals, spas and five-star resorts. The Bangkok Airways-owned airport is a few kilometres up the road. There is even an international school.
Also along the main street and beyond are several property agents; some of whom are more established than others, and some more experienced than others, but all of them appear to be confident that only good things are happening in the property market in Koh Samui.
“All you have to do is drive around and you get the impression it’s one enormous building site here,” quipped Mike Grover, CEO of Coconut Land and House in Koh Samui; one of the more established agents in town.
Mike bought property on the island five years ago and he invested in “Coconut” a few years after buying his beachside villa from this company.
The company has developed, built and sold several projects which are aimed specifically at the expat market.
It targets itself at both ends of the market, having property to suit the very rich, to the retiree or single person looking for a one bedroom unit.
The market, says Mike and other agents; boomed dramatically a couple of years ago, and there was a madness when lots of agents set up shop and prices got a tad out of hand, but things have now settled somewhat.
The residents’ profile is altering too: No longer simply a place to have a holiday getaway, it has also become a place where expat families are settling permanently.
“The market still has room to expand in certain sectors,” Mike says, “It is no longer just a holiday destination;I have seen that shift in the past two years. We are seeing a shift away from the “beach villa” to properties intended for retirees and those living here fulltime.
“Most of the money coming into Koh Samui is from people living in UK and Europe, as well as elsewhere in Asia. But we are beginning to see more clients from the Gulf.
“Luckily, Koh Samui is able to support the expat way of life. The infrastructure is starting to come here. Already there are three international hospitals.”
His sentiments are largely echoed by John Birt, who has been in the business for about 15 years, and is managing director of Samui Villas and Homes, another of the bigger property agents on the island.
“A lot of people have set up business here in the past, who have never been developers before, and I think this has caused a few problems,” he reported in Asia Property Report.
“These days, visitors are much aware of the options available and are less willing to buy off-plan from someone who has never built anything previously.”
David Delharty, an Englishman fairly new to Koh Samui and director of Real Samui Properties, has focused attention on land sales, which he believes; with what he says is the relative ease with which people are able to buy into Thai market; is a motivating factor for buyers.
“Our main focus is brokering and developing land and property in Koh Samui,” he says. “Real estate prices continue to rise rapidly, offering exciting investment opportunities in an idyllic setting .”
An Exclusive Beach Paradise
So, Koh Samui has come a long way from the days of holding court to sun-loving hippies, or farang backpackers vacationing on the cheap. The island is catching up to flashy Phuket, but, agents say; the island will always retain an exclusive aura.
The little paradise’s privately-owned airport is not accessible to large passenger planes, and the monopoly Bangkok Airways holds over flights, allows them to keep ticket prices relatively high: This may ensure it will not become the second Phuket.
However if a look through local newspapers and brochures, for what is available for what price tag, is anything to go by; paradise here is no longer dirt cheap. That’s not to say it’s not a worthwhile investment long term though.
Your own villa in a tropical Asian beach beauty spot will set you back anything from a few hundred thousand US dollars to – well, the sky’s the limit, and it also depends on your opinion of what exactly is an Asian paradise.
Remembering that in most Asian countries, outright foreign ownership of land is banned or restricted; there is usually some legal jiggery-pokery involved; revolving around forming a company to buy 49 per cent of a property, then having a separate contract to control the other 51 per cent.
Anyway, let’s assume you blow a small fortune on the pleasant chore of flying around Asia, checking out suitable sites, and eventually form a burning desire to buy your very own piece of tropical heaven on Koh Samui:
A very modestly sized villa, fully furnished, on a plot right on the beach, in an upscale development called Coconut Village, will set you back US$200,000. Expect to pay another US$5,500 a year or so for upkeep, maintenance and a plot fee.
While you are not around to lap up the rays by the pool, you can probably rent it out and recoup a few bob.
Flying there even economy class in high season from Bangkok can be expensive; which might make sense if you spend a lot of time there; you have a saleable and very desirable asset, and you can live in your new villa pretty cheaply. Plus someone else is taking care of all those pesky maintenance chores.
Of course if money is no object, you can buy a private villa with pool and stunning views for US$500,000 upwards: it’s still cheaper than Phuket!
“To find a place for US$1 million in Phuket is not unusual, says Mike, “ and a property which is 20-30 million baht in Koh Samui would probably be on the market in Phuket for up 80 million baht.”
A place in this budget will give you hot-and-cold-running ocean and waterfall views from an infinity-edge pool, oodles of space and basically everything that opens and shuts in luxury resort living; all a few minutes from a tranquil, palm-lined beach.
What it will cost to maintain is anyone’s guess. Basically, you would have to employ local staff to keep everything shipshape when you are away, unless you want to spend most of your holiday trimming back the bougainvillea or handling a leak in the roof in the utility room or fishing drowned geckos out of the bidet. Stand by for either paying well over the odds, or handling constant headaches. Of course there is a cheaper, more realistic option:
The Other Vacation Option
Unless you aim to spend plenty of time in your personal patch of paradise consider this: A professionally run establishment where you can come and go as you please, with efficient staff always on hand to cater to your every whim. No maintenance problems, no hidden costs (unless you count the mini-bar), wonderful locations. Just move in and relax, and enjoy the top-notch facilities, and if they begin to pall you are not tied into anything. Also when you’re not around you don’t pay a cent; yes you guessed it, you’ve got to go a long way to beat those holiday villas called “hotels”.