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Monday, 8 November 2010

Koh Samui Newsletter - August 2010

When writing about Koh Samui it would be easy to extract just the negative and many people do only seem to see the down side. I have always tried to keep a balance in reporting both the good and the bad. There is no point in hiding the blemishes but there is also every reason to promote the highlights. I read many articles published on the internet about Samui, many are bland repetitions of much that has gone before but a couple recently caught my eye as being totally absurd. I will not reprint them here but you can follow this link to one which is dated July 2010 but must have been written by someone who has never been here. . Let me look at some of the statements.
“demand is already greater than supply when it comes to the residential market, and shortfalls are already being felt in some sectors” .
Just look at our web site and you will see there is no shortage of supply in any sector.
“There is currently no real secondary property market on Samui as most of the properties are brand new.”
Where on earth does that statement come from?
“without any stock to fall back on, agents are literally having to tell people to wait for more houses to arrive”
“Despite rapid residential growth, some raw land is still available on Samui,”
Unbelievable! How much do you want?

One of the glossy real estate magazines, which is also published on line, recently carried an article by a local real estate agent which discussed buying land in this area. The information given was simply wrong. Unfortunately many people will read this nonsense and believe it. I have no problem with being positive, but anything that is published must reflect reality.

House addresses in Thailand do not seem to have any logic. Take our office address – 52/5 Moo 3, Bophut. The best you can elicit from that is that we are in Chaweng - Moo 3. 52/5 has no relevance to location. Even the Post Office needs a location map for a new address! However, even having the correct address does not always help as I found out in my very early days in the UK doing Building Society valuations. Victorian terraced houses, of which there are hundreds if not thousands in Leicester, look very much alike. One road looks very much like another. So with the confidence of youth I knocked on the door and was greeted by a very charming Indian gentleman to whom I introduced myself as The Surveyor, and he had obviously been expecting me. So tape and damp meter in hand I proceeded to prod and poke, jump up and down on floor boards (an old and tested method of identifying wet and dry rot in floor joists) and generally give the place a good going over. When I got to the Kitchen at the rear of the house he had laid out a set of plans which he proudly showed me of the new bathroom extension he was going to build. It was at this point that the first seeds of doubt were sown. Why would he build a bathroom if he was selling the house? Did I think he would get the grant, he asked me? Time to take a closer look at the plans – and more specifically the address on the plans! Right house number – wrong road! I assured him that I thought everything would be OK and beat a hasty retreat to find the right house. I do hope he got the grant!

Building Society valuations were really just that. They were never intended as structural surveys and the main purpose was to ascertain that there was sufficient value in the property for the intended loan. Obviously condition comes into this and the main things we looked for were wet and dry rot, rising damp, wood worm, ancient electrics and plumbing and of course glaring structural defects, generally evidenced by cracks in the walls. The skill was in deciding if the crack was a result of natural settlement, shrinkage or something more serious which required further investigation. Here in Koh Samui the vast majority of residential buildings are based on reinforced concrete columns and beams which form the main structure and everything else is just infill. Cracks in the infill are not structural and usually the consequence of shrinkage as the mortar in the wall and the plaster rendering dry out. This is a particular problem in hot weather when evaporation occurs too quickly but is in no way serious and is soon taken care of with decoration. That is of course something of a sweeping statement as there can be occasions when the vertical alignment of the infill can be out of line but this is unusual. Nevertheless we have had instances here where so called “experts” have advised against purchasing a property due to serious structural defects which when I looked at them, turned out to be no more than a single hairline crack in some concrete block infill which did not even reach the concrete frame.

Old buildings, and I mean very old buildings, always presented a problem. Technically many of them should not have been standing but when you are talking about a timber frame cottage that has been there for the last 300 or more years how do you justify stating the building is unsound! It has evidence of wood worm and Death Watch Beetle although it is clear the infestation is old and no longer active, but what hidden damage was caused when it was? Yet this old house is a solid as a rock. Modern buildings are not built to last hundreds of years and due to advances in technology and changing social requirements many are out of date within 20 – 30 years – more so perhaps with commercial and industrial buildings than residential, but I doubt we will see many of the houses we have around us today in a couple of hundred years time. Yet I bet that old timber frame, wattle and daub cottage will still be there and there will be another Surveyor standing there scratching his head and wondering how?

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