Luxe Living Asia

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With plenty of luxury apartments available for purchase at prices a fraction of those in Hong Kong, Thailand’s capital continues to represent an attractive property-investment opportunit­y in Southeast Asia.

- BY GARY JONES

Why Bangkok is an attractive property-investment opportunit­y in Southeast Asia

On the tail of a constructi­on boom that’s lasted the best part of two decades, Bangkok now su ers from a glut of condominiu­ms. In May, Bloomberg reported that some 65,000 new apartments were added to the Thai capital’s inventory last year alone, which represents an 11 percent increase on 2017. Although it’s been claimed that there are now as many as 450,000 residences sitting unsold across the sun-drenched “Land of Smiles”, and snapshots of more-ordinary properties are yellowing sadly in real-estate agency windows from Hat Yai to Chiang Rai, one sector of the market remains in Šne fettle, mainly through demands of the domestic market, but also supported by a steady in‹ux of foreign capital. That sector is luxury.

“The luxury end is pretty resilient, though the mid and lower end of the market has fallen o , certainly compared to last year,” says Tim Skevington, managing director at Richmont’s Luxury Real Estate, which represents Christie’s Internatio­nal Real Estate in Bangkok.

Skevington is speaking in early August, from an exclusive gathering to celebrate the grand opening of Banyan Tree Residences Riverside Bangkok, a luxurious freehold condominiu­m tower comprising 133 luxurious units over 45 ‹oors, all overlookin­g the Chao Phraya River. A large turnout is expected.

“Particular­ly Thai people but also potential buyers from overseas,” says Skevington, who has more than 15 years’ experience in Bangkok’s high-end residentia­l market. “That’s an indication of where we are. There’s still a lot of interest in the higher end in Bangkok.”

Thailand’s economy has wobbled in 2019, and tightened borrowing rules kicked in earlier this year. The result is what Bloomberg has dubbed “tepid” demand across the Bangkok property market as a whole (with developers reporting an overall new-project take-up rate of just 55 percent). The steamy City of Angels, however, is still one of the most attractive destinatio­ns on the planet for high-end homes.

There are multiple reasons for this, says Apichart Chutrakul, CEO of leading full-service real-estate developer Sansiri PCL, which is behind some of the most sought-after addresses in Thailand. They range from high build quality and the creative input of megastar designers to a plethora of valueadded services and amenities that are increasing­ly regarded as de rigueur.

Most attractive of all, however, is the fact that gateway prices are a fraction of those in Hong Kong or Singapore.

As a rule of thumb, Skevington says luxury properties in Bangkok should be considered those with buy prices upwards of 250,000 baht per square metre (roughly HK$5,920 per square foot). “And then we have super-luxury, which would be from around 350,000 baht [about HK$8,300 per square foot],” he adds. “That’s where we and Christie’s are positioned.”

Real-estate consulting Šrm CBRE, meanwhile, deŠnes “premier” residences as those requiring 300,000 baht per square metre, with about two dozen Bangkok developmen­ts Štting the top-end bill at the close of 2018.

Sansiri recorded overall sales of US$1.5 billion that year, up 25 percent from 2017, and the company is currently bullish. Its sales target for the three years from 2019 is US$5 billion. This year alone, Sansiri will launch close to 30 new projects worth US$1.5 billion. It now boasts four super-premium properties in its Sansiri Luxury Collection.

That fab four includes the company’s Šrst branded condominiu­m project, Khun by Yoo. With constructi­on to be completed in November, its 27 storeys will house 148 residentia­l units ranging from one-bedroom apartments (440-570 square feet) to ultra-luxurious penthouses (3,165-3,260 square feet). Interiors described as “playful” come courtesy of legendary French designer Philippe Starck, and the average buy price currently hovers at about 380,000 baht per square metre (HK$9,000 per square foot).

“Top-tier buyers can achieve a high degree of design, service and personalis­ation at prices that are approximat­ely four times less than Hong Kong,” Chutrakul says, singing Bangkok’s praises. “All within one of the world’s most popular and vibrant cities, and a global gateway.”

Also in Sansiri’s Luxury Collection are Regencysty­led, single-house developmen­t Baan Sansiri Pattanakar­n and prestigiou­s 45-storey condo tower The Monument Thong Lo, which features bespoke trimmings by Bohemian hand-blown glass specialist Lasvit.

In 2018, the most desired of 77 units in the collection’s 98 Wireless – Sansiri’s 25-storey, beaux arts-inspired residence, with interiors by New York-based designer Anne Carson (formerly interiors guru for Ralph Lauren) – were being o ered for as much as 700,000 baht per square metre (about HK$16,575 per spare foot), making it the priciest residence in the Big Mango.

While Thailand is no stranger to occasional

nancial turmoil, it’s frequently argued that, with tourism being a major driver of the economy, buyers here enjoy a coincident­al level of protection when investing long-term in Bangkok’s more exclusive properties. While the Southeast Asian kingdom can be knocked down, its natural charms mean it always bounces back.

According to Mastercard’s Global Destinatio­n Cities Index, Bangkok has been the world’s most visited city every year since 2015 (ahead of London and Paris). Internatio­nal arrivals last year hit 38 millionŒ 41 million are expected this year. The more high-networth of these visitors, perhaps lured by Thailand’s intoxicati­ng brew of gorgeous weather, convenient regional access and high-end bang for the buck, might jet home with a shiny new pad in the portfolio.

Ease of condominiu­m purchase, says Chutrakul, is another convincing factor. “In other major cities in Asia,” he argues, “it’s almost impossible to obtain freehold land in prime locations, whereas the property laws in Thailand enable foreigners to buy and own up to 49 percent of the total area of a condominiu­m on a freehold basis.”

As prime downtown land becomes ever more scarce (prices in the city centre jumped by 30 percent in 2017 alone), location is key

Skevington’s years of experience tell him that the largest percentage of foreign buyers in Bangkok luxury are from Hong Kong, with Singaporea­ns traditiona­lly taking second place, only recently to be eclipsed by mainland Chinese. “Hong Kong interest has been steady for many years,” he says. “Singapore has been more up and down. Mainland Chinese are more recent buyers. The rest are mainly from Asia, but also from all across the world. But the majority are still Thai.”

Foreign purchasers account for as much as 30 percent of Sansiri’s sales, with investors from Hong Kong and mainland China making up the lion’s share (and that’s in spite of China’s economic slowdown and capital controls limiting cash out™ows), followed by buyers from Singapore. But purchasers in Bangkok real estate are increasing­ly choosy and not every luxury property is a sure- re winner.

As prime downtown land becomes ever more scarce (land prices in the city centre jumped by 30 percent in 2017 alone) and the market becomes more selective, location is key. The most obvious port of call for the savvy luxury buyer is what Chutrakul calls Bangkok’s “Golden Triangle” of the Siam district, Sukhumvit Road and Lumphini Park. Home to

98 Wireless, this sprawling downtown area accommodat­es most of the city’s premium real estate – far too many options to list here in total.

In-demand developmen­ts include the recently completed Nimit Langsuan, a super-luxurious 53-¨oor landmark, just north of Lumphini, with 187 freehold residences ranging from 840 square feet to around 6,460. Nearby Magnolias Ratchadamr­i Boulevard is a mixed-use developmen­t overlookin­g the racetrack of Royal Bangkok Sports Club. It houses 316 residentia­l units in a sculpted 60-storey tower (homes at Magnolias Ratchadamr­i Boulevard are leasehold, with 50-year terms, meaning lower buy prices than at Nimit Langsuan). The building also houses Southeast Asia’s rst Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Longer-in-tooth is Marque Sukhumvit, a freehold condominiu­m complex beside the Emporium shopping mall on Sukhumvit Road at Phrom Phong. Completed in 2017, Marque contains 149 units with 3.4-metre-high ceilingsŠ the plushest also feature private plunge pools.

Just one stop east on Bangkok’s convenient Skytrain sits the Thong Lo neighbourh­ood, which is home to Sansiri’s The Monument Thong Lo and Khun by Yoo. Thong Lo has transforme­d in the past decade to become Bangkok’s most happening entertainm­ent zone, chock-full of stylish eateries, Instagramm­able bars and nightclubs, cute co•ee joints and boutique hotels.

Tela Thonglor, completed last year and developed by Gaysorn Property (from the same group of companies responsibl­e for the chic Siam shopping mall Gaysorn), is another condo complex to include on the shopping list. “Thong Lo is attractive to investor buyers looking to rent out, because there’s a lot of tenant demand in that area,” says Skevington.

Unlike many other cities internatio­nally, Bangkok was unfathomab­ly slow in exploiting the waterway that meanders through its heart, but that’s also changing. Three new ultra-luxury branded residences have recently debuted on the Chao Phraya’s banks: the aforementi­oned Banyan Tree Residences Riverside Bangkok, Four Seasons Private Residences Bangkok, and The Residences at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. And keep your eyes peeled for Magnolias Waterfront Residences, which will be the city’s rst residentia­l-only super-tall tower.

Skevington says Bangkok’s riverside traditiona­lly lacked the facilities and mass-transit convenienc­e of more downtown locations such as Siam and Sukhumvit, but that’s no longer the case. “Just outside the Banyan Residences is the brand-new Gold Line monorail [to begin operation next year], and Iconsiam shopping complex has opened next door,” he points out. “Until quite recently, the riverside lacked these amenities and was quite di£cult to get to, but all of that is changing.”

Skevington believes luxury buyers are considerin­g what they will do with a Bangkok property, and choosing locations to suit. “Many luxury residences are bought for ‘lifestyle use’ – as a holiday home or as a

pied-à-terre, or for their friends to use,” he says. “With that type of purchaser, a lot are now looking at the riverside. I’d say investors are looking at city-central locations, and lifestyle users are leaning towards riverside.”

After location, it should be noted that Bangkok in the 21st century is a mature luxury market. While the quality of facilities, ttings and nishes remains paramount to a property’s success, a state-of-the art tness centre, pool and sauna, and the inclusion of top European brands such as Bulthaup, Franke, Dornbracht, Hansgrohe and Bang & Olufsen no longer cut it in turning the most discerning heads or opening the fattest wallets.

As well as securing the services of A-list designers Starck, Carson, Gert Voorjans, Lorenzo Castillo, Hutton Wilkinson, Mary Fox Linton and others for the Sansiri Luxury Collection, Chutrakul says the current trend is for the nest residentia­l properties to supply “luxury bespoke services” and “curated experience­s”.

To this end, Sansiri – which will collaborat­e in a residentia­l project with Tyler Brûlé’s lifestyle brand Monocle in coming years – has partnered with concierge specialist Quintessen­tially. This has allowed the developer, Chutrakul says, “to deliver high levels of personalis­ation to residents, such as securing tickets to the most exclusive sports and entertainm­ent events, seamless hotel and travel arrangemen­ts, reservatio­ns to the most exclusive restaurant­s and anything you can think of that’s legal and moral”.

After location, it should be noted that Bangkok in the 21st century is a mature luxury market

 ??  ?? The lobby at Bangkok's 25-storey, beaux artsinspir­ed 98 Wireless
The lobby at Bangkok's 25-storey, beaux artsinspir­ed 98 Wireless
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 ??  ?? Clockwise from opposite page, far left: The Monument Thong Lo by Sansiri; Four Seasons Private Residences Bangkok; Marque Sukhumvit
Clockwise from opposite page, far left: The Monument Thong Lo by Sansiri; Four Seasons Private Residences Bangkok; Marque Sukhumvit
 ??  ?? Above: Nimit Langsuan. Left: Khun by Yoo
Above: Nimit Langsuan. Left: Khun by Yoo
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