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SG Mixed messages over latest political wranglings in Thailand

Property Here - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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EXCLUSIVE: Thailand’s recent renewed thrust into the global media spotlight and the subsequent calling of a general election in early February has understandably unnerved a few property buyers and investors who were considering investing in the Land of Smiles.

But for those who know the country well the occasional period of instability is really nothing new or nothing to worry about. In fact, throughout the 2010 street violence property prices rose – a clear indication that Thai buyers were not fazed by the ongoing turmoil in the slightest.

With Thailand again hitting front pages and television screens around the world, what has the impact been on Thailand’s property and real estate business?PropertyGuru.com spoke to some agents and developers to test the water.

Veteran real estate agent Clayton Wade of Premier Homes in Pattaya told PropertyGuru.com that his business had been unaffected by the street protests in the Thai capital.

He said: “We are as busy with corporate relocations as we have ever been, this month and last month.”

He joked: “One amusing story is that one of our clients delayed their property tour for a couple days so that they could join the protests. and then returned to look at properties a couple days later.”

Wade added: “We seem to be weathering the storm pretty well, and if it doesn’t get too much more hostile we might be able to get through this one unscathed. Calling it a ‘Peoples Coup’ really helped, and obviously the Police are holding back with the military looking down on them. It just might be a very positive change for the country this time.”

Kipsan Beck, Chief Marketing Office for Pace Development, the developer of MahaNakhon – what will be Thailand’s tallest building when completed in 2015 - was pleased with the ‘better than expected’ leads they received from a recent exhibition in Singapore held at the height of the troubles.

He said: “Thailand remains an attractive place to do business long term.  While there are protests currently, the rights to speak up against the government are part of the Thai Constitution and part of a normal functioning democracy.  They have, for the most part, remained very peaceful and localised to specific parts of the city. 

“It is true that a few buyers have delayed trips to visit or sign documents in the last few weeks as a result of the political issues, however at this point it appears only a short term impact and one we expect to resolve itself as things settle down again.”

Nick Thatcher of Koh Samui-based Thai-real.com has also seen no impact from the current trouble.

He said: “Inquiries have remained at a similar level as before and I haven't had anyone delay a purchase because of the unrest.

He added: “I think Thailand is quite hardened to these situations, there are regular marches and protests. The point at which this will affect the market is if anything like the coup or airport closurea happens again.”

Mark Bowling, Associate Director and head of Colliers office in Pattaya noted that the traditional ‘low season’ was pretty quiet for all concerned in the property business in Pattaya.

He said:” I feel that many were counting on a good high season to pull them out of the doldrums. I’m not sure I’d use the term “high or low season” so much these days, because it’s generally busy throughout the year but with a different demographic in winter and summer months.

“Unfortunately I don’t see these winter months being the saving grace that everyone had expected and the political tensions are without question having a devastating effect on the local economy and property market.

Bowling cited one example where the political situation had a direct impact on his business.

He said: “I was recently corresponding with an existing client over a period of a couple of weeks, trying to explain that the problem is generally centred around Bangkok, but when various embassies issue travel warnings it doesn’t help.

“His last comment to me was “I have decided not to travel as I believe the situation is changing hourly and anything could happen, it might be resolved in one-hour, one-day, one-week, one-month – who knows?”

“When the media reports show security forces using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets in the nation’s capital it puts the fear of god into the outside world and isn’t conducive to a relaxed holiday atmosphere.

Bowling added that people living in Thailand are generally unfazed with this sort of thing, with a ‘seen it all before’ attitude, but the uninitiated are the first to cancel their flights.

He added: In the short term the political woes will be detrimental with regards to foreign buyers investing in Thailand, however I doubt very much if the large number of Bangkokian buyers will be affected; they may even be encouraged to buy in Pattaya as they were with the flooding several years ago.

“I feel this is a bit of a glitch, and that Thailand has a bit of a history of shooting itself in the foot, with the timing of the airport being overrun by yellow shirts a few years ago was almost identical. However in the long term, due to the country’s worldwide popularity, it’s become known for bouncing back from natural and political disasters, so let’s all hope it does this time.”

Everyone involved in Thailand's real estate industry will certainly echo those comments.