Buying condos and apartments in Koh Samui

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Island apartments: modern living Samui style

Due to the restrictions on property ownership by foreigners, condos and apartments in Samui are easier to acquire if you’re not Thai. The trendy villas that are popular with expats are subject to proxy land ownership and leasehold agreements, whereas 49 per cent of condo buildings can be owned by foreigners. This makes these popular with those buying property on Samui.

Unlike Pattaya, or even parts of Phuket, there are no real high-rise apartments on Samui, due to height restrictions on construction. While these apartments might not be standalone units, they are legally much sounder for foreign ownership. Samui has, over recent years, acquired a reputation for ‘cowboys’ in its property industry – the result of rapid and poorly regulated growth of this sector.

A number of foreigners have acquired land that does not have the correct title deeds and has become problematic, but when buying condos on Samui you are less exposed to this risk.

Apartments in Samui are numerous, satisfying a robust demand from expats settling on the island and part-timers based elsewhere in Asia. Despite a slump in demand from the 2009 recession, long term prospects as investments are considered a good option when buying condos on Samui. Property in Thailand, in general, has seen a healthy growth in the past decade, as more foreigners retire to islands like Samui. There is now a good infrastructure of property agents, builders and decorators to produce a quality product.

On Samui, apartments and condos don’t come cheap, and although they are better priced than custom-built villas, you will struggle to find anything for less than 3 million baht (US$100,000). Certainly, there is a luxury element to the market here, with penthouse units going for as much as 30 million baht (US$1 million), depending on location, size and proximity to the beach. Prices are close to 100,000 baht (US$3,000) per square metre, but the interiors and lifestyle atmosphere are rewarding.

When buying apartments in Samui, you can contact one of dozens of (mostly) foreign-managed agents on the island, and browse generous listings to suit various budgets. Chaweng and Lamai, in the east, are considered the most popular beaches and are dominated by commercial property – resorts and tourist businesses. Many of the private condos are under development or for sale on the north coast, situated back from the beach on the hills that dominate the centre of the island. Sea views are common, but condos on the beach are not.

There is a good selection of buildings near Chaweng and Big Buddha Beach, while smaller developments are remotely situated in the northwest. The west and south of the island is undeveloped and occupied mainly by locals, far away from tourist amenities. Those on a small budget might find a simple unit in a non-luxury building aimed at local residents, situated far from beaches. In many ways condos or apartments in Samui are counter to the island lifestyle and villas or houses present better value. However, they are only practical if you are a permanent resident on the island and have trusty Thai partners to own the land on your behalf.

When buying condos on Samui, they are generally well furnished and designed with modern tropical living in mind, including outdoor areas, pools, security and nice Asian-inspired décor. Compared to a similar apartment in your home country, they appear to be a bargain, but it is worth shopping around first and checking the background of the developers – the law in Thailand is not very sound in supporting foreigners who have been cheated! Being an island with limited space, costs for construction, decoration and furnishing on Samui are higher than elsewhere in Thailand.