Property Watch: Not everything can be ‘unique’

PHUKET: No other word suffers as much abuse in the Phuket property market as the word ‘unique’, to the extent that the misuse itself is almost unique.

The word is important for property investors, because the ‘Unique Selling Point’ is a factor that ought to be addressed at an early stage of investment. However, items that are not unique could sell well if they were commodities. But property in Phuket, while in greater demand from prospective residents, is still a long way from being a commodity. Investment into the property market is often a test by a new investor, a belief in Phuket’s future or a punt on capital appreciation, while other markets appear to hit a flattish ceiling combined with unattractive ‘cooling measure’ taxes.

When I see the words ‘unique location’ in property ads and brochures, I always wonder what that means, and whether investors are paying attention or care about correct usage of the word.

For instance, it is unique not to have to sit in a series of traffic jams for half an hour or more on your way to a destination? It is also unique to have an uninterrupted sea view, as most properties in Phuket don’t have one due to the inevitable geographical and building permit limitations.

Looking at comparable resort based property markets in Europe, the US, South America, Australia and the Caribbean, it is now easy to see that many offerings are not unique. ‘Near a golf course’ isn’t unique considering the number of courses dotted around all of these destinations. In a developed area, being near ‘the school’ isn’t unique if there are plenty of schools to choose from. Being part of an ‘exclusive gated community’ isn’t unique anymore; there are hundreds of those.

These days, Phuket is no longer ‘unique’ in terms of any single offering. What makes it unique now is the combinations it has to offer and the environment in which it is offering those. You can have a locally flavored Southern Thai meal overlooking Phuket from the hills in Phuket Town, and the next day you can have a great steak with the meat sourced from meat lovers’ paradise. You can live near a golf course and a marina, and keep your golf clubs on your boat.

Phuket’s uniqueness, in my opinion still exists, and still helps prop up a sometimes unimaginative majority property market. I concede that this is certainly not true of all developers and professionals. To maintain this unique selling point, a collective effort of all those involved in it to preserve its uniqueness will be required. We should celebrate when investors create new attractions, build new malls, expand golf courses and build new roadways, making the combination of uniqueness more convenient.

I see that successful businesses in Phuket and Thailand have tapped into the gaps really well. I can now order my cheese from cheesemakers in Hua Hin or Pattaya, have it packed in dry ice and delivered to my door. The people who made this happen are innovators.

Innovation is an economic marker of advanced development and I really hope it continues in Phuket. I hope we all do that, and without sounding too ‘socialist’, we can do that as a team. Team Phuket, Unique Phuket.

Desmond Hughes has been an owner and operator of his law firm in Thailand for 14 years, and is a Senior Partner at Hughes Krupica law firm

— Desmond Hughes

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