Those looking to buy an existing house or villa on Koh Samui will still find considerable value when compared with their home country. The island has a pleasant, tropical atmosphere, making it popular with retirees and Thai-foreign families. The abundance of land, combined with plenty of local character means that living locally on Samui can also be an interesting cultural experience.
Foreign ownership of land is complicated. If you do not have a Thai spouse to own the title deeds, the simplest option is currently a 30-year lease from a Thai owner, renewable by common consent. This has worked well for many individuals but both private and corporate buyers have also bought land through a Thai limited company. This is now less popular, however, since the authorities recently began applying strict regulations regarding the use of nominee shareholders for the required 51 per cent Thai ownership. The laws may soon be revamped to allow longer leases, but it is important to bear in mind that in order to buy a property legally on Samui, you will also have to meet requirements for land ownership.
There are plenty of agents to help you buy a house on Samui, but the normal rules apply when it comes to choosing a reputable company. Since there is little clarity with regard to zones or neighbourhoods, its difficult to pinpoint a suitablea area. Hillside developments are currently popular, although these are often some distance from the islands main amenities. Meanwhile, a house in a local village might be subjected to noisy early morning announcement, feral dogs and the local karaoke bar.
Before you buy a house anywhere on Samui, its advisable to fully familiarise yourself with the various areas, do some due diligence on the neighbourhood at various times of the day and check for latent defects, as sellers are obviously not keen on pointing out chronic problems.
Perhaps the safest option is to consider a house in a gated community. There has been a prolific rise in the number of these developments in recent years, although many are yet to be fully completed. Those at the top end however often offer a comfortable, suburban feel and many include a choice of onsite facilities such as swimming pools, clubhouses and even spas. To buy a house on Samui in such a setting can mean a comfortable, relaxed lifestyle with plenty of supporting facilities. However, such developments tend to be markedly more expensive, as you pay for the prestige of joining the community. In addition, with many built off plan, there is a danger that you find yourself living for months, or even years surrounded by building noise.