Koh Samui is one of the more desirable islands in Thailand for foreigners to retire, settle, or keep an ‘island pad’ if they are wealthy. Expats in Hong Kong and Singapore are especially attracted to Samui and the island has enjoyed a robust demand from those interested in buying and investing in properties.
Samui property is characterised by villas under project development, mostly in the luxury sector, while some low-rise condos and apartments do exist. Local expats in the know have also bought land and houses privately, usually through proxy ownership of the land title deeds through a spouse or business partner. The lifestyle presents excellent value relative to cost, but these villas don’t come cheap. The majority boast sea views, luxury design and construction in prime locations. There is very little available for under US$200,000 (about 6 million baht), with prices to a million dollars and up.
Buying and investing in properties in Koh Samui relies on a fairly mature local real estate industry which has a strong presence of foreign management. However, the rapid growth of property demand on this island in recent years, and presence of unscrupulous individuals, has led to scandals, such as the Forest Encroachment issue that emerged in 2005.
It’s essential to have a trustworthy lawyer conduct the due diligence and background, as well as true legality of the titles deeds in possession of the developer or seller. Some deeds have been fraudulently issued by corrupt land officials, resulting in a number of problems for new owners.
Much of Samui’s prime property was snapped up along the east and north coast shoreline during the first wave of development 20 years ago, and is now mostly used for commercial purposes. Private villas are found mostly on the north coast in the hills behind the beach or on the beachfront in the more remote northwest. Chaweng and Lamai beaches – the most popular and busiest – are mostly developed and available land in those areas is very expensive.
Increasingly, new developments in Samui are being found on the relatively untouched west coast, which offers privacy and a nice unspoilt environment, yet this area is quite far from popular amenities. However, the demand continues, while supply is limited and, even in an economic recession, developers are confident of the long term prospects of investing in properties on Samui.
In general, properties in Samui are contemporary in design, with a tropical atmosphere, good sea views, and close proximity to the beach. Construction, design and furnishing is undertaken by professional companies with international input, although there are some ‘cowboys’ out there to be aware of. It is thus wise to shop around and familiarise yourself with the local industry and market.