Villas in Phuket
Peter Tkac of Shibumi Villa Management is a man with secrets. "I can't tell you who my customers are," he said, "because part of my job is to protect their privacy and that of their guests."
But he doesn't mind talking in general terms about what his customers - the owners of multi-million-dollar villas on Phuket - want.
Luxury villas in the tropics, he points out, need good maintenance and this comes at a price; to maintain a large home with four to six bedrooms, on two or three rai of land (a rai is two fifths of an acre, or 1,600 square metres) costs around 100,000 to 150,000 baht a month. There are two levels of villa management company. The first is the company that ensures that the property is always clean, in good shape and ready to be used by the owners or their guests.
The second - and this is Shibumi's speciality - provides extra services as requested by the villa owners, on top of the standard service. Mr Tkac explained that these special services may include, for example, sourcing a particular wine or brand of cigar that cannot be found locally, and which may have to be brought down specially from Bangkok.
How much do such services cost? As they say about Rolls-Royce cars, private yachts and private jets, "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it."
But prices of luxury homes in Phuket are known - and they are rising, with people now ready to pay anything up to US$ 10 million - about 400 million baht - for a tropical escape from the woes of the world.
Of course, not everyone pays that much for a luxury bolt-hole on Phuket. Amous Lee, General Manager of Knight Frank, explained that the Phuket luxury home market can be split into two main categories, which he calls "premium" and "high-end premium".
A typically premium property has upwards of 300 square metres of interior space, a sea view or at least a mountain view, two to four bedrooms and a private swimming pool.
High-end premium villas are larger - 400 square metres or more of living space on a plot of at least 800 square metres - and are generally oceanfront or have a very good sea view. Each has between three and five bedrooms, and a private swimming pool, usually an infinity-edge pool.
A Possible Dream
Looking around the island, Phuket.Com could find no luxury villa priced at less than 15 million baht. Prices for top-end properties start at 40 million baht.
Bill Barnett of consultancy C9 Hotelworks said, "Unofficially, the highest price paid for a property on the island so far was at Amanpuri. That was the home bought by the principal of Kenzo [the Japanese fashion house] last year for about US$ 6 or 7 million. The current market value of that property is in the area of US$ 7 to 10 million," Mr Barnett noted.
Currently, one of the most interesting developments, he said, is Jumeirah Phuket Private Island Resort, formerly called Barama Bay. It is to be built on a private island in Ao Po, in Phang Nga Bay. It has plots-plus-villas touching the five-million-dollar mark," Mr Barnett said. "It will combine a top-tier international hotel, luxury private villas and a private yacht club. This turns a new page in [the story of] luxury homes in Phuket.
Adrian Zecha, the man behind Aman Resorts, probably has the best claim to have started the luxury villa market in Phuket. He opened Amanpuri in 1988 as a high-end resort, but also included in the property were a number of luxury villas for private ownership.
Gulu Lalvani, boss of Britain's Binatone Telecom Group, bought one of these in 1992. He himself now plays a major role in Phuket's high-end property market, having developed the Royal Phuket Marina on the east coast, which features luxury apartments and Villas. A more recent arrival is Allan Zeman of Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments Group. After the success of his Surin Plaza shopping center near Surin Beach, he is now developing Andara, a high-end villa estate. In the southeast corner of the island, on Cape Panwa, major Thai developer Charn Issara has completed much of Sri Panwa, where homes sell for 50 million baht upwards.
This kind of lifestyle home is targeted almost exclusively at rich foreigners who can afford the high initial investment and the ongoing costs of owning one of these fabulous houses. Some buyers, it is said, pay cash from large suitcases. No one, of course, is going to question why they prefer not to use a more convenient bank transfer.
The latest gossip is about a new high-end villa development that will be for sale "by invitation only". Now that's exclusive.