Buying Property in Ko Samui: The Ultimate Guide

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Ko Samui is popular among foreigners who wish to settle down in Thailand, or just stay there for a couple of weeks, recharging their batteries from the hustle and bustle back home.

I have a number of friends and old colleagues who have Ko Samui as their first choice when choosing among different resort islands in Asia. I’m not surprised.

Today, I will explain some of the basics you need to know when buying property in Ko Samui: About the market, local property regulations you probably haven’t heard of, and more.

Ko Samui property market

Being the second largest island in Thailand, Ko Samui is more relaxed and with a market that is less mature than Phuket’s.

You should also keep in mind that there are some differences in regulations when buying property in Ko Samui compared to other places, something I will explain more about in this article.

Famous for attracting foreigners to buy a plot of land to build a house in the past, it’s becoming increasingly popular to buy condos and off-plan – simply letting someone else doing the work for you.

Even if condos become increasingly popular, buying a house has been and is a preferred choice.

So who buys property in Ko Samui?

While a big chunk of the buyers have been wealthier Europeans (especially from the UK) and Hong Kong, we see a big increase of Chinese property buyers who look for cheaper property. Still, the biggest demand is seen for villas in the higher price segment, not rarely ranging up to USD 1 million.

The mix of different nationalities is diverse which puts Ko Samui in a better position compared to some other places, Pattaya has many Russian buyers for example, which means that the Pattaya market is affected depending on the economic situation in Russia.

The real estate market in Ko Samui seems promising, as it’s not as mature compared to Phuket as mentioned, in addition, prices have been pushed down especially for resale properties.

The increased number of flights going to Ko Samui is also a sign that the island is becoming increasingly more popular.

Building regulations in Ko Samui

There are a couple of regulations that apply solely to Ko Samui and that you should beware of, especially before buying a house. The regulations were introduced to protect the environment and natural landscape.

Restrictions due to the distance from the beach

First of all, you can’t freely build a house, the first step should be to request a building permit from the municipality office. The following restrictions apply, depending on the distance from the beach.

Land located less than 10 meters from the beach

You can’t build a house on a plot of land that’s located 10 meters or less from the beach.

Land located 10-50 meters from the beach

If your land is located 10-50 meters from the beach, the total area of the building should not be bigger than 75 square meters. In addition, the house should have one floor (single level) with a height not exceeding 6 meters.

Land located 50 – 200 meters from the beach

If your land is located 50-200 meters away from the beach, you’re allowed to build a physical structure of maximum 12 meters. The total area of the building’s bottom floor space should
be less than 2000 square meters.

Land located more than 200 meters from the beach

The property can be up to 12 floors, there’s no restriction to the size that can be used for the total floor space.

Also keep in mind that all houses should have peaked roofs, flat roofs are not allowed anymore.

Restrictions related to the height above sea level

Not only are there limitations and restrictions depending on the distance to the beach, you’ll also need to deal with a couple of regulations related to the height above the sea level.

It goes as follows:

Land that is 80 meters or less above sea level

You’re allowed to build if at least 10 units will be built, these should also have water facilities and approved waste treatment. For hotels, 50% of the land area can be used for the building, the remaining 50% need to be left empty.

Land that is 80 – 140 meters above sea level

You’re allowed to build a single house with a height restriction set to six meters. In addition, the following restrictions apply:

a. The design should be in accordance with traditional Thai style

b. 50% of the land must be kept “green”

c. The property needs an approved water drainage system

d. The roof must have a colour that is considered appropriate, next to its natural surroundings

e. The roof should consist of 80% of the total building area

f. The size of the land to be at least 100 square wah (400 square meters)

Land that is more than 140 meters above sea level

Same regulations as for the one above, but the area of the structure should not be bigger than 90 square meters.

So does it stop here? Not yet.

Gradient of land

As Ko Samui is mountainous and you might need to build a house with a steep gradient of the land (trust me, the houses close to the beach are expensive) you should keep in mind that there are building restrictions depending on the gradient of the land.

This should be studied well in advance and together with local professionals who can assure that you avoid any cost some mistakes.

If the steepness is between 35-50 degrees (the steepness can’t be more than 50 degrees), you can only build a single family house of 80 square meters. 50% of the land area should be kept empty (green) and 75% of the land area should remain empty. The land area should be at least 120 wah (480 square meters).

Notice: These are just some examples and you should seek help from a third party to assure that you get everything done in the right way.

Where should I buy in Ko Samui?

The North Eastern has been by far the most popular area for local and foreign buyers. Prices here are also a bit higher compared to other areas. Places worth mentioning include:

  • Choeng Mon
  • Chaweng
  • Plai Laem
  • Bo Phut
  • Chaweng Noi

The North coast also becomes increasingly popular with places like Maenam.

Just be sure that you follow the above mentioned regulations, if you plan to build a house yourself.

Renting out property in Ko Samui

One of the reasons why many decide to store some of their cash in a Ko Samui property is to bring in profits from rental incomes. This is something we see in Phuket as well, where especially many Chinese buy so called condotels to rent out.

Location is not strangely of great importance and will determine whether you’ll be able to bring in decent rental incomes successfully. It’s not rare that yields stretch up to as high as 8% in Ko Samui.

The North Eastern part still brings in many tourists and should be of interest if you want to earn good rental incomes, even if there are other upcoming areas.

Hiring a reputable real estate agent who knows the local market in and out is highly recommended.

Real estate agents

There are a handful of agencies that work on Ko Samui island, you don’t necessarily need to go to an agency in Bangkok for help. Some of the most popular real estate agencies include:

  • Real-samui-properties
  • Kosamuiproperties
  • Samui Property Locator
  • Horizonhomes-Samui

I’ve already made an interview with Kosamuiproperties where Harry Bonning, who participated in the interview, provide a lot of fruitful information as he’s been in Ko Samui for years.

Agent commissions usually stretches up to 3%, depending on the property value. The cheaper the property, the higher the commission.

Conclusion

Ko Samui’s property market is less mature compared to Phuket’s and see great potentials. While it was common that foreigners bought a plot of land and built a house themselves, it’s becoming increasingly popular to buy off-plan from developers.

Prices, especially for established property, have been kept down, a reason why there might be a good time to buy this kind of property in Ko Samui.

With an influx of more Chinese buyers, foreign expats and significantly more flights going to Ko Samui, the market is predicted to perform well over the years.

Rental yields can not rarely stretch up to 8%, location and the type of property is of great importance. While the North Eastern area has, and is, most popular there are some upcoming areas, in the North for example.

I hope that you found this article interesting and recommend you to read my separate guide that explains how you can bbuy property in Thailand as a foreigner.

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