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Property Trends in Koh Samui

Aug 18, 2007
After more than ten years of sustained growth on Koh Samui, the property market is now maturing and diversifying.

When it comes to market trends, in the last 5 years Koh Samui has followed a similar development path to some of Thailand's more established resort destinations - most notably, Phuket. In the early days, raw land purchases predominated, while the housing market mainly involved modest constructions aimed at long-term travelers rather than those looking for high investment returns.

One reason for the current fast-paced development on Samui is that after the millennium, international security issues and regional natural disasters prompted a popularity boom that quickly made the island one of Southeast Asia's more lucrative investment options. Success in the tourism sector led to an explosion in the construction of medium and top end hotels, as well as the emergence of an impressive range of fine dining choices around the island. Such services began to attract a new breed of visitor, and little by little luxury properties started to spring up around the island, closely followed by gated residential developments and more recently, large-scale commercial projects.

This diversification has opened up new choices for investors and one of the more recent trends on Samui has led private investors away from raw land purchases, with buyer focus shifting more towards finished, residential properties.

A more permanent foreign population is beginning to emerge on Koh Samui, distinct in many ways from their tourist cousins. Expatriate organizations now provide support and advice to new arrivals, and there is a resident social scene that appeals to many potential investors, especially those arriving from within the region.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to the nature of the location, demand is already greater than supply when it comes to the residential market, and shortfalls are already being felt in some sectors. There is currently no real secondary property market on Samui as most of the properties are brand new. Management portfolios are increasing rapidly, however, and from next year onwards, many of those in the industry feel there will be more of a secondary market emerging. Until then, without any stock to fall back on, agents are literally having to tell people to wait for more houses to arrive.

Despite rapid residential growth, some raw land is still available on Samui, particularly in less populated areas, although prices are definitely not as affordable as they once were. Beach land now ranges from around Bht8 million per rai up to as much as Bht40 million per rai in areas of high concentration like Chaweng and Bophut. Even in parts of the island once considered inaccessible for top-end clients, the larger developers have already snapped up most of the best beach plots.

There are also still tracts of land for sale on the hillsides overlooking the Angthong National Marine Park, meaning that large, opulent houses will soon border once sleepy fishing villages like Ban Makham and Ban Taling Ngam. This shift in preferred locations can be attributed to several different factors. It's clear that many investors and developers believe Chaweng and the north coast are already too developed and busy to start building luxury properties, while others simply feel the land prices in these parts of the island are unrealistically high.

Whatever the reasons, with the land fast disappearing, finished properties will soon take over as the most accessible and perhaps even the only form of investment on Koh Samui.

Luxury market on Samui will continue to expand and diversify, although larger stand-alone properties will increasingly have to share space with apartment buildings and smaller villas. The dramatic increase in land prices means that developers are now keen to make the most of every single metre of land space. Some still manage to apply intelligent, considerate designs that offer privacy and a sense of openness to suit the tropical location.
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