News: Could This Be Thailand’s Next Investment Hotspot?

Nov 30, 2017

Just a couple of years ago, few people could have pointed to Bangsaray on a map of Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard. Even those well acquainted with its much noisier neighbour, Pattaya, would have struggled to locate the sleepy coastal town situated only 20 kilometres south of the country’s liveliest beach resort.

While Pattaya – itself nothing more than a backwater fisherman’s village 40 years ago – is now one of Thailand’s most in-demand tourist and real estate investment destinations, Bangsaray has largely been overlooked. This, however, is gradually beginning to change.

Bangsaray’s blossoming appeal primarily hinges on its natural attractions and lifestyle amenities. The area is home to dozens of golf courses, 20 of which rank among the top PGA courses in Thailand. The calm waters around Bangsaray, meanwhile, are a rolling invitation to engage in sailing and various watersports. Biking, running and hiking routes also abound in the area.

“As a destination, Bangsaray is mostly unspoilt by high-rise buildings and large hotels; it retains a unique quaintness and fishing village charm, with great beaches and seafood restaurants,” says Chris Delaney, managing director of Sunplay Asia, the property developer behind the 28-hectare (175 rai) Sunplay Bangsaray project.

Part of the kingdom’s 20-year national strategy, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Thailand’s biggest economic zone to date, will strengthen Bangsaray’s links to the larger world. Around THB1.5 trillion (USD43 billion) in infrastructure projects are slated for the zone, including the expansion of the U-Tapao International Airport and the construction of a high-speed railway between Bangkok and nearby Rayong, hailed Asia’s “Small City of the Future” by the Financial Times’ FDI Intelligence unit.
Set to become Thailand’s third largest airport, U-Tapao will reduce the area’s dependence on Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi. Early projections claim passenger arrivals could surpass 3 million in the next few years.

“Given the planned infrastructure improvements around Bangsaray, there is no doubt that land prices will climb, most probably at a higher rate than many other areas in the kingdom,” says Tim Skevington, founder and CEO of Landscope Thailand, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.

Beachfront land in Bangsaray has increased by as much as 225 percent over the last 15 years, according to Clayton Wade, managing director of Pattaya-based real estate agency Premier Homes. A 3-rai beachfront parcel now lists at about THB30 million baht per rai, compared with THB7 to THB8 million in 2002.

“This is one of the most positive aspects of Bangsaray’s rise as a boutique resort hot spot,” Wade says. “Land prices in Pattaya, Jomtien and Na Jomtien went up even higher over the same period but Bangsaray hung in there with some very attractive land price increases.”

Skevington believes the high-end residential property segment will find its niche first in Bangsaray. Sunplay Asia’s expansive Sunplay Bangsaray project is a prime example of a new development already piquing the interest of local and overseas investors.

Sunplay The Heights, the 12,500-square-metre complex of condominiums that makes up the first phase of the Sunplay Bangsaray project, is already on the market with unit prices ranging from THB9 million to THB35 million (USD270,000-1m).

“As a high-end development, and an environmentally friendly, low-rise community, Sunplay will undoubtedly have a positive effect on land prices in the Bangsaray area,” Skevington adds.

The project includes The Sunplay Club, a multi-purpose private facility that includes an expansive pool, fine-dining restaurant, bar, deli, and café. Sunplay The Heights Bangsaray is expected to be completed by 2018, while a private gated community of pool villas is due for a 2020 finish.

“Judging by current demand, partially due to the developing EEC zone, we expect investors to see returns of 4 percent for the first three years until stabilisation, rising up to 6 percent thereafter,” Delaney says.

While it is built ideally for property seekers of a certain age, Sunplay Bangsaray is actively courting those who lead active lifestyles, with a wide range of amenities including a fitness centre, yoga studio, and a network of jogging paths. “Today’s over 50s are more active and adventurous than ever before; they won’t simply settle for a quiet retirement – they want to maximise their new-found leisure time, meet like-minded people and learn new skills,” Delaney adds.
Thailand is one of the ripest markets for retirement living. By 2040, the kingdom will be home to 17 million people aged 65 years or older, one of the highest ratios of elderly inhabitants to the general populace in Asia, according to the World Bank. Bangsaray has been luring a “large and growing” retirement market from Europe, Delaney says.

Even though demographic upheavals have led to an uptick in the development of retirement communities in Thailand’s resort areas, Sunplay Bangsaray remains a standout, according to Skevington.

“Many such communities are located further away from Bangkok, and from the international airport, and therefore not as easily accessible as Sunplay Bangsaray,” he says.

Longer-term visas for expatriates make Bangsaray even more appealing to international property purchasers. The Thai government this year made foreigners from 14 countries eligible for a 10-year retirement visa. Better access to healthcare also makes Bangsaray a sensible retirement destination, the area is home to a growing list of hospitals and clinics.

“It will be retirees whom investors will eventually want to sell or rent their Bangsaray properties to,” Wade says.

“I predicted in 2007 that Bangsaray would evolve from a sleepy fishing village image to a top Thailand boutique resort in 10 years. Well, it’s been 10 years and we haven’t quite gotten there yet but Bangsaray is well on its way.”

Even though Bangsaray is a long way from reaching Pattaya levels of brand recall, emerging infrastructural connections between the towns, as well as nearby Rayong, look set to fast-track this once overlooked enclave on the Eastern Seaboard to become an internationally renowned resort destination.

With all roads literally leading to it, the future looks bright for Bangsaray.

This story originally appeared in Property Report.

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Shaiful Safar
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