Developer sees globalisation of housing market continuing

The property market is becoming increasingly globalised with people buying houses and condominiums across borders on the back of rising affluence, says Dennis Chiu, managing director of the 250-rai Hyde Park Vibhavadee housing estate and Harrow International School.

Design, environment and standard of development are the key considerations for international buyers, said Mr Chiu, who came to Thailand from Hong Kong 10 years ago to launch the school and also has businesses in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

”I find that in places such as Hong Kong, which is a highly urbanised city, people like to collect houses, let’s say in Shanghai [or] Singapore. They like to invest in properties on an international basis, it’s appealing to them, but I think what is more important is that you must have the right product regardless of whether it’s in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore or London.”

While Hong Kong Chinese like buying condominiums for proximity to the city centre, they still consider houses to be real trophies because of the difficulty in finding good sites at home. ”Most of them understand that in the long run a house has much higher potential as capital investment.”

With the ability to earn more money than people in many other Asian economies, Hong Kong residents consider anything around US$500,000, or approximately 16.5 million baht, to be very affordable. A good house in Hong Kong would cost around 100 million baht compared to 15 million baht in Thailand.

”Thailand’s appeal to Hong Kong people is that the price is very low, and if they believe the same trend will occur in Thailand as the rest of Asia then the price will go up,” said Mr Chiu.

The Hyde Park estate, which boasts a 100-rai lake, offers houses priced from 13 to 50 million baht. Some of the 76 houses built in the first phase command 70 million. While Mr Chiu has a good regional perspective, so far most of the marketing has been done within Thailand, though the company does intend to sell overseas. Expatriates in Thailand have also been buyers.

”We were pleasantly surprised to get a lot of buyers from abroad,” he said.

Mr Chiu, who is also managing director of Far East Holdings International Ltd in Hong Kong, believes property prices will always outpace cash holdings but the key is whether one is going to be able to buy something that one likes. He sees this as a bigger issue than timing a purchase since housing is a long-term investment.

”Too much speculative element is not always good for long-term investment, and I think buying a house is a long-term investment and if you believe that the value will increase, it will improve over time, then I think buying a property today is good.”

With the rapid urbanisation across Asia propelling real estate prices upward, Mr Chiu believes buying property is ”a no-brainer” for the investor.

”I think the real point is don’t overdo it. You must know what you want to buy and buy the right thing. A lot of people discuss timing to buy, but timing a purchase is more for business.”

While the US credit crunch is having a worldwide effect, Mr Chiu observed that in high-growth Asian economies, inflation is the main worry.

However, inflation can sometimes be a boon because if he had to build Hyde Park again today it may cost him double the price. ”I think inflation is good for me because the price has gone wild. This will be a good hedge against inflation. In fact, I am worried about my next phase because the cost is going to be much higher. That’s becoming the norm in Asia; anywhere you go if you ask anybody in business, the cost push is real.”

Mr Chiu urges the Thai government to relax regulations governing foreign purchases of property because of the international direction of the market. He noted that international buyers are only keen on certain types of real estate and what really appeals to them is a very small percentage of the land bank of any country or city.

”Since I am a property developer, obviously I see that if the government can relax the rules on ownership it will widen the appeal of the whole city or the whole country to the foreigners,” he said.

”You will have a bigger mix of people coming in and to me that has got to be good and I think even on the social side it’s not a bad thing for the country.”

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About the author

Nina Suebsukcharoen Nina Suebsukcharoen
Nina Suebsukcharoen is a senior journalist with The Bangkok Post, Thailand's first English language newspaper and specialises in the property and real estate sector.
Other posts by Nina Suebsukcharoen ( 18 )
Website: http://www.bangkokpost.com/

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