Phuket, Thailand

Pearl of the Andaman Sea

Iyna Bort Caruso

Natural beauty and low density development has made Phuket, Thailand, a favorite destination in Southeast Asia. Just over an hour by plane from Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Phuket is the country’s largest island and its wealthiest province.

Phuket real estate owes its star quality to lush tropical rainforests, a hilly interior and white silken beaches. A balmy tropical climate is tempered by cool, northeasterly breezes.

Nature’s attractions are complemented by a maturing infrastructure. International schools and an environmentally friendly approach to growth get high marks on the lifestyle meter. Forest, rubber and palm oil plantations cover some 60 percent of the island. Nevertheless, tourism is the major industry.

Luxury vacation properties in Thailand are popular with overseas buyers from Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Europe and, increasingly, Russia and the Middle East. Many use property management services to rent out their units in the off-season. Phuket is also a popular retirement destination for the upscale and easy going lifestyle it offers. Additionally, medical care here is considered top tier. In fact, Phuket is a major destination for medical tourism. Retirees also appreciate that health care services are easy on the wallet.

The market boasts its share of architectural masterpieces. They include condominiums of tropical modernity, some featuring rooftop pools. New villa communities are filling an increasing demand for Mediterranean-style amenities such as swimming pools, clubhouses and golf courses. At the upper reaches of the market are waterfront estates that come with their own private yacht berths.

The sandy beaches on the western coast are especially sought-after. Plots with sea views are the most popular--and the rarest. Oceanfront villas at Surin Beach and Kamala Beach, otherwise known as “Millionaires Mile,” are in limited supply and high demand. Kamala is located within easy access to the main tourist action of Patong but still manages to feel like a small Thai village.

International buyers are restricted from owning Thai soil. Only Thai nationals can purchase land. However, regulations allow for foreign condo ownership of up to 49% of a building as well as leasehold agreements for homes and villas. Leaseholds are typically 30 years with options to renew.