Just outside the main gates of the Laguna Hotels and Resorts complex,
in a row of conventional looking shop houses, is the office of O.B.
Wetzel. Managing Director of Development Management Group (DMC)
of Phuket, Thailand
Known for being a project manager that puts the'Q' in quality
, O.B. is a building consultant. His list of past assignments is
impressive, with clients that include prestigious and exclusive
housing and hotel developments. He first started working in Phuket
in 1994 for for a company called PSI. For over three years he was
involved in the construction of the second phase of fifteen Amanpuri
luxury villas. He then moved on to help the General Manager of this
word-beating boutique hotel build his own cluster of top-end houses,
known as Layan Villas. Both these and those in Amanpuri, sold quickly
in the USD 1 to 2 million range. Now O.B. is immersed in a development
called Jomchang on a headland between Kamala and Patong.
Sitting in his office, O.B.'s repartee was as colourful as the
decor. "It's the miracle mile," he said pointing out the
laem, or land outcrop, between Patong, or'Sodom and Gomorra',as
he called it, and Kamala. "There's not a single construction
company that isn't building properties worth over one million US
O.B. has the inside track on nearly all the luxury housing projects
planned or being realized around the Island. "Villa owners
of Amanpuri have seen their properties increase by at least 30%
in three years, and now it's not a question of the price, the place
has become so exclusive that no one is selling," he explianed,
"everyone is happy with what they've got."
When asked what made developments like Layan Villas, Banyon Tree
Pool Villas and Amanpuri so successful, he had some simple answers.
"Amanpuri was the first boutique hotel; it is now the most
expensive resort in Asia and is regularly rated number one by Conde
Naste. The resort's name has a mystique synonymous with the utopian
dream-life of the rich and famous."
So what are the essential ingredients of happiness for tropical
home seekers, both as a solid investment and as a fulfillment of
idylic lifestyle aspirations?
Firstly, uninterrupted sea views. "Beachfront or coastal land,
near safe and developed holiday destinations , is at a premium the
world over and sea views around Phuket are some of the most beautiful
in the world." expounds OB.
Headlands at the end of sandy crescents are ideal locations being
away from the low-lying built-up crush of the beach and giving up
to 270 degrees of seaward panorama. Only a little of this type of
land remains in Phuket.
A look at some of the best developments comfirms the attraction
of rocky outcrops next to popular sandy beaches. There's Baan Kata,
between KataNoi and Kata beaches, Laem Son, Samsara and Jomchang
between Kalim and Kamala beaches, Amanpuri between Pansea and Bang
Tao beaches and Trisara planned on a headland between Bang Tao and
Nai Thorn beaches.
So can luxury villas be built just anywhere? According to OB, better
classes of neighbourhoods are already developing. "There are
about 3,000 five star hotel rooms on the Island and 1,200 of them
are just up the road from this office. The future for luxury homes
is away from the cheap package holiday accomodation; the Northwest
of Phuket will become the upper-class end of the island. Coastal
properties from Kalim to Mai Kao beach will appreciate the most.
That's not to say inland properties won't hold their value, he said,
"but if you build a million dollar home with or without a sea
view in say, Ao Chalong, then you're going to have a hard time selling
Clearly the rule isn't hard and fast. Take The Boat Lagoon for
example; it is a remarkable transformation of what was basically
a swamp. Cape Panwa has been handled well, and is still desirable.
There are also the old niches like Kata with Baan Kata and the new
Katamanda development, both bolstered by the proximity to the Boathouse
and Le Meridien."
Another essential ingredient is being part of a well run complex
with quality management. Villas in boutique hotels are preferable
and leaseback homes are the most successful in the long term. "In
the Amanpuri few people originally took this option," explains
OB. "But most found that trying to run their own home,while
being absent a large part of the year, completely detracted from
the lifestyle the holiday retreat was supposed to provide. Now nearly
all of the Amanpuri privately owned villas, are leased back to the
hotel. You have to consider that the average all-in running and
maintenance cost of these houses is about USD5,000 to 6,000 per
month. If you lease back you can recoup the annual cost in a couple
So what makes a good investment? Tropical sea views enjoyed from
the peace and quiet of a hassle free luxurious home, in close proximity
to a world renowned luxury hotel. Phuket's exclusive villas like
Layan Villas and Laem Son are priced at USD 2-3 million and they
are often sold out before completion.
Surrounded by lush tropical rainforests, offering breathtaking
sea views and private access roads to semi-private white sandy beaches,
these Asian style villas are built in one of the world's choicest
Buildings are constructed to fit the contours of the land, which
ensures that each villa has both uninterrupted views and privacy.
All the villas are positioned to enjoy spectacular views of the
Andaman Sea and surrounding areas.
Attention to detail in every aspect of design and construction,
including interior design, is paramount to these developments. As
one developer says, "Phuket is no longer selling houses. It
is selling a life-style."
And what a life-style! These lavish homes with large, picture windows
offering captivating sea views take tropical living to new heights.
Details such as vaulted ceiling, wooden floors and spacious rooms
further enchance the beauty and comfort of these homes. All of these
luxury homes, not surprisingly, have private swimming pools. A smooth
transition from indoor to outdoor living space is provided by the
use of wraparound terraces . These terraces are generally surrounded
by magnificent landscaped gardens.
High in demend, these homes are being snatched-up by global nomads
of all kinds. Expatriates moving out of Hong Kong, Asian based Europeans
and Americans. In addition, Asian and Australian busiessmen and
wealthy retirees looking for a warm climate in a stable country
with excellent infrastructure, are just some of the buyers of these
vacation or permanent residences.
The fully managed property services provided include pool maintenance,
gardening and 24-hour security. During an occupant's absence, all
the bills are paid, the property is maintained and a pick-up and
drop-off service to and from the airport is provided. Living in
these superb villas is a peaceful and joyous experience especially
for those seeking respite from a highly stressful business life.