Pattaya property market shifting away from condos, say developers

Pattaya’s Land Office (Grom Tee Din) which registers all formal property transactions, is now promoting mobile banking and investment strategies by downloading the apps. However, it’s the Thai language only.

Thailand’s Real Estate Information Center (REIC) in its September 2022 report indicates what everyone knows: there are a lot of unsold condominium units in Pattaya. Last June, the total number awaiting a buyer in Chonburi province (which includes Pattaya) was just short of 17,000, worth on paper 78 billion baht or just under 2 billion pounds. REIC suggests a slowdown in new high-rise developments to allow the “absorption” rate to kick in.

A revival is certainly on the cards. Property consultant Colliers Thailand points out that sales in early 2022 were much better than in the recent past. Several future developments could well transform prospects, including the return of the Chinese who already own half the foreign-owned condominium units in all major Thai cities. Pattaya is strategically located in the Eastern Economic Corridor which is rapidly transforming infrastructure links, especially transport, and continues to upgrade technologically the Thai economy, especially in Rayong province.

A major problem with the condo market is a glut of studio apartments, those 30 sqm apartments in which a cat cannot be swung around. According to some realtors, the possible advent of casinos might help to resolve even that issue as international and home-based gamblers seek a pied-a-terre not too far from the luxurious betting emporium of their choice. Others say that the revival of international tourism in Pattaya will create more job opportunities for Thais who, in turn, will seek their first step on the property ladder.

However, some companies are increasing their portfolios in expensive low-rise branded residences and vacation homes for the super-rich. Tokyu, Sansiri, Ametus and Habitat amongst others are partly switching from reliance on condos. Habitat is doubling its investment portfolio exposure to 40 percent in coming years, whilst Ametus is currently promoting a luxurious seafront villa on Jomtien under the label Billionaire Street.

Meanwhile the government has controversially relaxed the ruling that foreigners cannot own freehold property under their own name. Those who are willing to invest 40 million baht, about one million pounds, in property, security or funds over a three-year period can qualify for one rai or 1,600 sqm in Thailand, not a particularly generous upper limit. Many social media critics say only rich idiots would contemplate such an offer in Sin City. But others would argue that the area is changing fast and rapidly moving upmarket. Admittedly Pattaya is still dominated by bars, massage parlors and entertainment for western tourists in particular. The question is whether that’s permanent.