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Foreign Buyers Cling To Bangkok Condos

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With relatively high down payments and more attractive gains and investment yields than those available in their home countries, foreign buyers are unlikely to shed their Bangkok condo units any time soon, say property analysts, developers, and other experts.

Therdsak Thaveeteeratham, executive vice-president for the research division at Asia Plus Securities Co, said concerns over the transfer of condos sold to foreign customers will be minimal since most off-plan projects ask for a high down payment from these buyers.

“We should rather be worried about Thai speculators, as off-plan condo projects usually collect a down payment of 5-10% of the unit price from Thai buyers,” Mr. Therdsak said. “They collect as much as 30% from foreigners.”

Tritecha Tangmatitham, managing director of SET-listed developer Supalai Plc, said the company collects a higher down payment from foreign buyers who book a condo at an off-plan project than from Thai customers.

“High down payment collection can minimize risks,” Mr. Tritecha said. “Buyers are unlikely to refuse to get a unit transfer when construction of a project is completed, as their payment is quite high.”

Supalai collects a down payment of 25-30% of the unit price for an off-plan condo unit from foreign buyers, compared with 15-20% collected from Thai buyers.

Down payment for Thai buyers is a series of installments, paid monthly for a certain period in line with construction time. For foreigners, down payment is a one-time sum of money on a booking date, as this is more convenient. The rest will be paid in the transfer period.

Supalai began applying these rules to foreign buyers in the past two months after the company was approached by an overseas sales agent earlier in the year about a new condo project near Sukhumvit Soi 117.

Phattarachai Taweewong, senior manager in the research department at property consultant Colliers International Thailand, said foreigners buying condo units in Bangkok are mostly investment buyers.

“Bangkok condos will become more popular among buyers from overseas, particularly those from Hong Kong and Singapore, as they have cooling measures in place on property purchases in their countries,” Mr. Phattarachai said.

This situation will both shift new buyers’ interest from these destinations to Bangkok and retain existing foreign buyers to continue their investment in Bangkok condos, he said.

In popular tourist destinations for foreigners, like Phuket and Pattaya, the foreign quota of 49% of the total saleable area is full at many condo projects. If a foreigner wants to resell, there are always new foreign buyers eager to step in.

“In Phuket and Pattaya, some developers whose condo projects have a full foreign quota offer foreign customers a long-term leasehold for the remaining 51% under the Thai quota that cannot be sold to foreigners,” Mr. Phattarachai said. “Though it may not be worth it to do so when compared with a freehold sale, developers need to do it because the Thai buyer market is weak.”

Since last year, there is growing interest from buyers from mainland China in property in Japan and Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand and Vietnam, according to financial consultant UBS.

Key reasons include recognition of China’s One Belt, One Road programme and the substantial infrastructure investment it entails, together with attractive pricing.

The flagship Eastern Economic Corridor is expected to attract more foreign experts and researchers to Thailand, given the significant tax breaks for companies and individuals — an arrangement that could lead to additional foreign buying of property.

Also, Thailand benefited from 35.4 million tourist arrivals in 2017, with Chinese arrivals up 400% in the last five years, leading to more second-homes bought by foreign buyers, UBS said.

Sansiri had the first-mover advantage, while AP Thailand focused on capitalizing on foreign buyer interest. In conversations with these two developers, UBS said foreign presales continued in an uptrend in 2018.

According to Sansiri, foreign presales totaled 3.1 billion baht in the first four months of 2018, up 11% from the same period a year earlier and on track to meet full-year guidance of 13 billion baht.

Sansiri said 80% of the buyers were from Hong Kong and mainland China. The desirable price point continued to be 160,000-170,000 baht per square meter.

AP painted a similar picture, noting a pickup in foreign interest. The developer’s new condo project in the Asok-Rama IX area launched in the fourth quarter of 2017 and was 30% sold to foreigners, mostly Chinese.

The proportion of sales to foreigners is up significantly from 10% on average in 2016. The average selling price of the AP project was 130,000 baht per sqm or 4 million baht per unit.

Vittakarn Chandavimol, chief of the condo business group at AP, said the company recorded 9.7 billion baht in condo presales last year from foreign customers, up from just 80 million baht in 2015.

“Bangkok condos attract foreign investors because they generate higher capital gains than those available in their home countries,” Mr Vittakarn said. “In Hong Kong, the maximum annual yield from property investment is 2.5%, while a Bangkok condo can generate 5-6% a year.”

According to Bangkok Citismart, a property agency firm owned by AP, the average price of newly launched condo supply in the middle- to the high-end segment in locations attractive to Chinese buyers continues to rise.

In the first quarter of 2018, the average price of a new condo in the Asok-Rama IX-Ratchadaphisek area, the most popular location among Chinese, rose by 46% to 185,000 baht per sqm from 126,915 baht in 2013.

The sales rate of condo supply in this area was also high, with 90% sold out of 14 projects launched during the past five years.

Mr Vittakarn said AP in the first seven months of 2018 posted 4 billion baht in presales from foreign buyers, accounting for 20% of the company’s presales in those periods totaling 20.98 billion baht.

AP expects to have 10 billion baht in presales from foreigners from total presales of 33.5 billion baht that it targets in 2018.

Prasert Taedullayasatit, chief executive for premium business at Pruksa Real Estate Plc, said the company last year posted 6 billion baht in condo presales involving Chinese buyers. This year it will transfer condo units worth 1 billion baht in the Huai Khwang area to Chinese.

“Condos from a developer completed last year and transferred to Chinese buyers were seen as no problem,” Mr Prasert said. “But today there may be a problem about money transfer from China.”

Tiensak Thamcharonkij, chief financial officer and co-founder of Tongthai Group, a provider of Chinese-language property websites and travel magazines in Thailand, said Chinese buyers will not dump condo units in Bangkok after placing a high down payment.

“Earlier there were some Chinese buyers dumping Bangkok condo units they had booked after they were unable to resell the units that were completed and scheduled for transfer,” MR Tiensak said. “This was because down payment collected from them was low at 5-10%, the same rate for Thais.”

He said these buyers were advised by unprofessional agencies telling them to split their investment budget and book multiple units with low down payments.

Phanom Kanchanathiemthao, managing director of property consultant Knight Frank Chartered Thailand, said some mainland Chinese who buy condo units in Thailand may see an impact from China’s tightened capital controls issued last year.

The impact will eventually lessen, however, as these buyers will find an alternative means to transfer their money from the home country anyway.

“Chinese are smart investors,” Mr Phanom said. “They can find one way or another to transfer money to get condo units.”




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