The Phuket property market has matured well beyond a destination for those simply seeking an investment property or a holiday home. While the island of Phuket is still ideal for investors or vacation home buyers, it has gradually developed into a primary residential destination for foreigners and Thais alike.
Phuket is called the “Jewel of the Andaman” for a reason: its immaculate scenery, crystal clear waters, and pristine sun-drenched beaches have attracted holiday makers here for decades.
Arriving at first as awe-struck tourists, ‘farang’ quickly began buying property. Over the years we have seen foreigners buy condos or villas for holiday homes, then investment properties, but never before have we seen so many young professionals, families and retirees make Phuket their home.
So in this issue we ask what it is about Phuket that has lured so many people to live here full-time. Of all the sun-drenched islands in the world, what makes Phuket so special?
Working and living in paradise
Prior to the pandemic, Phuket was already a popular destination for people working in Asia’s major cities, but wanting to live somewhere more relaxing and less expensive.This was especially true of families with young children. One parent could spend Monday to Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai, before flying back to their family in Phuket on a Friday evening.
In fact, long before the pandemic popularised the term ‘digital nomad’, Phuket had a thriving population of IT professionals who could connect remotely to their offices or customers around the world. When lockdowns came, digital nomads in every industry flocked to Phuket and saw out the pandemic from a tropical island.
The fear of new variants and new lockdowns has seen unprecedented numbers of people continuing to arrive in Phuket, and the numbers do not seem to be abating.
The high demand for real estate has been accompanied by constant upgrades in the infrastructure and services on the island, from roads to restaurants, from shopping to schools.
Taking care of yourself and your family
Covid-19 highlighted for many people what was truly important in their lives, and prompted millions of people around the world to reassess their priorities. This article is not about the pandemic, but the lifestyle changes many people chose to make as a result – which include relocating to idyllic destinations like Phuket.
One key attraction Phuket offered to young families with children was a large choice of international schools, with a range of competitive fees and high standards of education.To satisfy the growing demand, each year seems to see new international schools opening across the island.
While the schools have helped many families of all nationalities settle in Phuket, after a global medical emergency it was also the quality of the hospitals on the island which appealed to foreigners of all ages.
Phuket is home to two internationally accredited hospitals, offering first class care ranging from pre-natal to childbirth to old age. In addition to the hospitals, there are modern dental offices and smaller medical centres offering routine care in every area of the island.
This high standard of medical care has made Phuket an attractive place for foreigners to retire. In fact, Thailand is a major hub for medical tourism in Southeast Asia.
Stay just a little bit longer
Any foreigner who wants to travel to Thailand needs some type of visa to travel here. Of course, a 30-day visa exemption for tourism is automatic for many nationalities, but anyone wishing to stay longer needs a long-stay visa. This will require a little homework and a fair amount of paperwork.
There are a few different categories of visa which may be suitable for someone buying a property in Phuket, but these are the main ones a foreigner might consider (requirements and conditions for each visa are subject to change, but are accurate at the time of writing):
Thai Elite Visa: this is a long-term visa offered to Thailand Privilege Card members, which can be 5, 10 or 20 years in duration. Fees for the Elite Visa/Privilege Card range from THB 900,000 to THB 5 million (prices are expected to rise soon), and come with perks ranging from annual medical check-ups and expedited immigration processing to free domestic flights or the chance to test drive supercars.
Thailand SMART Visa: this visa was established to attract highly skilled workers, executives and entrepreneurs in specific targeted industries in Thailand.
Retirement Visa (1-Year or 5-Year): this visa allows uninterrupted stay to any foreigner 50 years or older. For a 1-year visa, you require THB 800,000 in a Thai bank or a monthly income of THB 65,000. For the 5-year Retirement Visa, you need to have THB 3 million on deposit in a Thai Bank 12 months prior to applying.
Business Visa Thailand (Non-Immigrant ‘B’ Visa): before arriving in Thailand, any foreigner looking to work here should initially apply for the 90-Day Non-Immigrant B visa. After the employer secures a valid work permit, the 1-Year Non-Immigrant B visa extension can be done at local immigration office.
Non-Immigrant ‘O’ Visa: this visa should applied at the Royal Thai Embassy where you live, and is valid for 90 days. It is ideal for any for property owner who is coming stay in their condo or villa for up to 3 months.
Non-Immigrant ED Visa: foreign children studying in the Kingdom must hold a valid Education Visa. Any parent accompanying their child to live in Phuket can apply for a single entry Non-Immigrant ‘O’ Visa.
Whether you are buying a property for investment, holiday or for permanent relocation, Phuket has something to offer everyone. The infrastructure caters to individuals of all ages, as well as families, and the array of visas available to foreigners means your personal circumstances and length of stay can be well catered for.