Baan Yamu Residence

It was not her intention to move from Hong Kong to Phuket. But with the SARS epidemic  raising fears in 2003 a whole group of families left Hong Kong for Phuket, including Maria Kaye and her family.  
All of sudden the Swede found herself at the holiday island, which her British husband who loves yachting was already so fond of, wondering what to do. Today she is one of the investors and Managing Director of the high-end development Baan Yamu, with its first phase to stand ready in December 2006.
In the last few years Phuket has matured from being only an island for tourists and retirees into a market for permanent residents including actively working resident foreigners. Thus the property market will become more and more important as a driving factor for development aside tourism. There is an increasing demand for properties with foreigners in mind, reportedly 63, and increasing, residential projects of international grade in early 2006.
“People who used to travel frequently to Phuket are increasingly moving here. Some of them have been running successful property projects here already. Hong Kong money has always driven the top end of the property market,” says Maria Kaye.
“And what is interesting in the last two years is that it is no longer only expatriates in the region coming here to buy, but also Europeans and Scandinavians who wish to have a vacation home. It has also changed with the Internet – you no longer need to be in the company office to the same extent as before.”
With so many ongoing projects one could think that market prices would suffer. Contrary, the market is steadfast with increasing prices and no negative effect of the tsunami. Baan Yamu stands out due to its exceptional surroundings out on a cape, in company with only two other developers. The fact that it is situated on Phuket’s east coast is also significant, whereas most residential developments so far are located on the west coast, most of them in the Layan and Bang Tao Beach areas.
This is most certainly about to change as prime real estate can still be found to some extent on the east coast, and at a lower price. Phuket Prime Property Ltd, the company behind Baan Yamu, was among the lucky ones to grab a secluded location, a grade A+ piece of land, with sea view in two directions on a narrow cape which does not allow for any real tourism development.
The investors behind Baan Yamu gradually secured all essential land plots – which eventually made the project four times bigger than initially planned – in order to prevent any unpleasant surprises in the neighbourhood that could otherwise destroy their beautiful panorama views.
“As soon as Westerners come to buy, Thai restaurants and hawker shops pop up and someone builds something high and ugly in front of your land so you loose your sea view. So it was important to us to take the time and effort necessary to create something really beautiful.
“On the increasingly expensive West coast, environmental quality is sometimes sacrificed because the developer squeezes in as many units as possible to maximize profits. We have done the opposite, which may sound somewhat strange, but it is partly because we are going to live there ourselves,” Maria explains.
The project started somewhat as a coincidence. Maria had personally wanted for quite some time to build a beautiful villa project. While looking around for land in the Phuket area, an acquaintance contacted her wondering if she could assist his friend who was also looking for land, and wanted “rock star” quality, the best possible. But eventually that investor found everything too expensive. When Maria showed her friend her own favourite place on the East Coast, he too fell in love with the property.  All in all four families, of whom several are Swedes, decided to jointly purchase the land.
As investors they did not become property developers overnight, but are experienced on the island with Twinpalms Phuket, Kamala Bay Garden Resort and Surin Beach Resort in their portfolio. Maria and her husband have owned vacation homes in Phuket since 16 years back, when the Phuket property market was in its infancy and mostly water buffaloes strolled on the beaches. Her husband has been the Chairman of several successful developments in Phuket including Kamala Beach Estate and Lakeshore Villas.
Maria sees the East Coast as a hidden pearl, with its unspoilt Phang Nga bay “that hardly any tourists know about at all.” The East Coast has an archipelago with hundreds of islands offering well-protected waters during monsoon season, offering smooth year-round sailing.
Cape Yamu, Maria points out, is also more centrally located being within 10-20 minutes drive away from several marinas, golf courses, shopping and international schools. Phuket town and the airport are also close by.
And with five marinas planned or under construction in addition to the existing ones, within a sector recently freed from the burden of high taxes, marine-oriented property buyers will be keen on any east coast high-end development.
The project has sold very well through word-of-mouth. Some purchasers also bought off-plan because they knew the shareholders. Maria says she did not even consider advertising in the first year. People have happily bought for example Lap Pool Villas with a living area of 263 m² and very generous land plots for a starting price of THB 17 million.
Indeed it is difficult denying that it would not be worth its price, while standing on the hill overlooking the estate and the magnificent view of the bay to the north and south, and imagining what the images of the homes from the brochure will eventually look like.
“Most people I sell to have been around to all developments on the island, and within our target market they think we offer good value for money. It is not cheap, but when comparing with similar quality that you hardly can get on the West coast first place – then we are cheap. It depends on what glasses you are wearing.” says Maria.
In their category they are aiming at being the best by putting lots of emphasis on quality materials; offering ample space pools of up to 20 metres for a two bedroom villa; having their own well and wastewater treatment plant; being in harmony with the environment; and by hiring “the most experienced staff on the island”.
“Raising the bar in Thailand is what we are doing. We want to be proud of Baan Yamu and deliver over and above what customers normally are expecting.”
Sea views, space and privacy are keywords. In the next phase low-rise buildings with one and two bedroom condominiums of 110 – 135 square metres of interior space will be launched.
When looking at projects such as Baan Yamu one must have a few things in mind about the rapidly maturing development on Phuket and what buyers are attracted to.
“Baan Yamu Lifestyle’ says the attractive brochure’s headline. Indeed when prospective buyers are deciding where to invest these days among the rapidly increasing numbers of attractive developments within Thailand; those choosing Phuket settles for a lifestyle rich in leisure pleasures and recreation including 365 days per year of golfing, sunbathing and boating, and still being able to buy at a fraction of the prices in the Mediterranean.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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