Essential Information for Expats: Buying Property in Koh Samui

June 30, 2024
Essential Information for Expats: Buying Property in Koh Samui

Koh Samui: Thailand’s Second Largest Island and Investment Hub


Koh Samui, also known as Coconut Island, is Thailand’s second-largest island, just behind Phuket. It has rapidly emerged as a premier beachside tourist destination, rivaling the likes of Phuket, Hawaii, Acapulco, and Caribbean islands. The island has become a significant hub for property sales and investments in Thailand, conveniently located just a few hours from Phuket.

This guide provides essential information for expatriates interested in investing in Thailand's real estate market, particularly in Koh Samui.

Buying Land vs. Buying Property in Koh Samui


When purchasing or leasing land in Koh Samui, you can construct any building you desire, subject to the island's zoning regulations. Alternatively, buying pre-built real estate, such as condos or apartments, is a more straightforward option since the property is already developed. Note that when buying a condo or apartment, you own the unit but not the land it sits on.

Understanding Thailand's land measurement units is also crucial:

Talang Ngan: 4 square meters

Ngan: 400 square meters or 100 talang ngan

Rai: 1,600 square meters or 4 ngan or 400 talang ngan

Foreign expatriates cannot directly own land in Thailand or Koh Samui. They can acquire land through a 30-year leasehold renewable twice, totaling a maximum of 90 years. Alternatively, they can establish a Thai Limited Company with a majority of local shareholders to purchase land. Naturalization as a Thai citizen is another route to legal land ownership.

Land prices on Koh Samui are on the rise, making it a lucrative investment opportunity.


Understanding the Property Market in Koh Samui

Koh Samui offers a diverse range of properties, catering to different budgets and preferences, including villas, condominiums, and land investments. For instance, a 30-square-meter studio condo can be purchased for $30,000, while luxury villas with comprehensive amenities can cost several million dollars.

The island’s northeastern part, being the most developed and central tourist hub, is where most villas and condos are located.

Villas and Houses: Koh Samui has an extensive selection of villas and houses, from small bungalows to multi-story garden homes, starting at approximately ฿2 to ฿3 million ($50,000 to $80,000). Prices increase for properties with views beyond gardens, such as mountainside or seaside views.

Garden-View Villas: Villas with swimming pools typically cost around ฿5 to ฿6 million ($130,000 to $160,000), depending on the pool size.

Sea-View Villas: These start at approximately ฿10 to ฿12 million ($200,000 to $300,000).

Beachfront Villas: Properties with direct beach access begin at around ฿30 to ฿40 million ($800,000 to $1 million) due to the high demand for beachfront land.

The most sought-after properties are sea-view villas with three or more bedrooms, located in the northeastern part of the island, priced between ฿12 to ฿16 million.


Buying Apartments and Condominiums


First, let's clarify the difference between apartments and condominiums. An apartment is a unit for sale within a building, whereas a condominium is a unit that includes the right to use shared amenities such as recreational rooms or swimming pools.

Due to building and zoning laws, Koh Samui has fewer high-rise structures, limiting the availability of condos and apartments compared to other Thai destinations like Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Phuket. 

Foreigners can own up to 49% of the units in any given building, with the remaining 51% reserved for Thai locals. The northeastern part of the island offers various apartment and condo options, with smaller units around 30 square meters priced at approximately $30,000. Keep in mind that direct freehold ownership of condos by foreigners generally comes at a higher price compared to those purchased through Thai holding companies.


Buying Land for Sale


In 2006, Thailand's government implemented zoning regulations for Koh Samui, designating different uses for each zone. Some zones are for agricultural use, while others permit the construction of villas but not hotels, and some allow hotels and resorts. These regulations prevent overdevelopment, which can lead to traffic congestion and inflated land prices, and ensure a balance between development and agricultural needs.

Foreigners interested in buying land in Koh Samui should hire a lawyer or law firm to navigate the local regulations and zoning laws. A lawyer can verify the zone designation of the land you’re purchasing, ensuring that it aligns with your intended use, whether it's for a commercial building or a villa. Additionally, they can advise on building and environmental regulations specific to zones where villa construction is allowed, helping you comply with design and size requirements.


Types of Land Deed Titles


Thailand has several types of land deed title documents. The Chanote (Nor Sor 4 Jor) and Nor Sor 3 Gor/Kor (NS3G/NS3K) titles are the most relevant for purchasing, subdividing, or selling property with minimal legal complications.

Chanote Land Title (Nor Sor 4 Jor): This is the only document that provides full private ownership of the land. It features unique numbered concrete markers and accurately surveyed GPS coordinates linked to the national survey grid.

Nor Sor 3 Gor/Kor Land Titles: These titles use aerial survey techniques to ensure perimeter accuracy. They can be upgraded to full Chanote titles and subdivided if necessary.

Nor Sor 3 Land Title (without Gor/Kor extension): Avoid titles without the Gor/Kor extension, as they lack accurate surveying. The borders are only confirmed by the surrounding land plots, which can lead to disputes if neighbors encroach on your property.

By understanding these property types and legal considerations, you can make an informed decision when investing in Koh Samui real estate.


Types of Property Ownership for Thailand Expatriates

Expatriates interested in purchasing property in Koh Samui have several options available to them. While Thai law prohibits foreigners from directly owning land, expats can own structures through leasehold deals or other legal arrangements.

Expats can find various properties in Koh Samui, including villas, resorts, apartments, and condo units. For assistance, they can contact Conrad Properties.

Expats can control land through a 30-year lease or by setting up a Thai Limited Company. Additionally, they can own condominium units, which are part of the 49% of total units in a building allocated for foreigners, while the remaining 51% is reserved for locals.

Land Ownership Through 30-Year Leasehold


Expats can control land by purchasing a property and securing a 30-year leasehold, the maximum term allowed by Thai law, which can be registered at the Thailand Land Office. Lease structures vary; some leases can be renewed upon expiration, some anytime, and others allow a change to freehold ownership through a Thai holding company. Leases can be renewed twice, allowing for up to 90 years of land control.

Typically, with villas and houses under lease, the land is leased while the structure is owned by the lessee, even if they are a foreigner.


Land Ownership with a Thai Limited Company


Expats can set up a Thai Limited Company to purchase land. This company should have a majority of Thai shareholders and be structured by a lawyer to ensure the expat retains full control. The building or structure on the land can be deeded to the expat or held by the company, which can help lower taxes and fees during property resale. Some property owners offer resale of villas and land along with their Thai Limited Company, simplifying ownership transfer.


Buying a Condominium Freehold


The Thai Condominium Act allows expats to purchase freehold condominium units directly under their name, provided no more than 49% of the units or area are owned by foreigners. The remaining 51% is available to locals or foreign expats via leasehold or through a Thai Limited Company. All property purchases must be registered at the Koh Samui Land Office, and expats need a property registration document known as a blue address book or “Tambien Baan”.


Further Tips for Expats Buying Koh Samui Property

When searching for real estate in Koh Samui, expats should prioritize substance over style. Consider aspects of the property that cannot be changed, such as:

Zoning Laws: Ensure the property complies with Koh Samui zoning laws, which dictate structure size and story limits.

Convenience: Evaluate the property’s location, view, accessibility to beaches, cities, and schools.

Unchangeable Aspects: Focus on the floor plans, number of floors, pools, and other foundational elements.

Most real estate in Koh Samui is located in the northeastern part of the island, from Bophut to Chaweng Noi. Highly sought-after beachfront properties are found in the northeast, while more secluded options are available in the southern and western parts of the island.


In Conclusion


Investors and potential expatriates have a variety of land, condos, and villas to choose from in Koh Samui. Villas offer private amenities, while condos provide shared facilities. Expats should seek legal assistance when purchasing land to navigate leasehold deals or set up a Thai Limited Company. 

Start your search for the perfect home or land with Conrad Properties. Browse through our listings of Koh Samui real estate for sale in Thailand!