Examples of high-profile condominium projects undertaken by Singaporeans in Bangkok include the Athenee Residences and The Met. It is rumored that the British embassy is planning to sell part of its land in Bangkok at one million baht a square wah and Mr. Songkran said that perhaps Singaporean companies would be interested in paying such a steep sum. In the past Singaporeans went to Indonesia because it is closer to them but most got burned there. They were also not very successful in Burma. Then they went to Cambodia and were reasonably successful with some hotels in Siem Reap. They also went to Vietnam and India but were not too successful in the latter because it’s a very tough market, he noted. “Now they have decided on Thailand so they have been trying to come here, I think, for the last six to seven years.” While the pattern so far has been for Singaporeans to flash big money in properties to which few Thais can aspire, some have now drifted to lower market segments by teaming up with Thai developers. “I am not sure how successful they are competing on the same ground,” Mr Songkran said. Thai developers, he says, are used to surviving in a fiercely competitive market while Singaporeans function in an oligopoly structure and are used to being big players in their field and not accustomed to a stiff fight with marketing tactics such as giving free cars to homebuyers. “Singaporeans have no choice but to move abroad because otherwise they would be sleeping on their money which is shrinking every day.” However the situation is different in Hong Kong because the people there can go to mainland Chine to do more business. Thai developers have the option of developing abroad but the Charn Issara chief says they lack the competitive advantage, notably on the financial side. Besides there is plenty of land in Thailand to develop whereas this is limited in Singapore. Mr Songkran said that Charn Issara’s Sri Panwa villa and hotel project on Phuket’s east coast has exposed his company to the international market. He has noted a change in the buying pattern on Thailand’s most famous resort island because it is now attracting expatriate buyers located in Japan and not just Hong Kong and Singapore as in the past. Expats in Japan have deeper pockets and some already have houses in Spain. There are also a lot of Russian and Scandinavian buyers. “Scandinavians used to go to Khao Lak but now there is not much left there (since the tsunami) so they also have moved to Phuket. But Russians are everywhere now, very strong players.” The company has been marketing Sri Panwa project on its own, helped by the hotel on the beautiful estate. Prices of large villas are US$1.5 million to $3 million but smaller two-bedroom villas cost 26million baht. It has moved into the second phase of the project with 200 million baht in sales so far and hopes to achieve the remaining 500 million this year. Charn Isssara is also currently designing a second condominium project in Cha-am because its first one, Baan Ploen Talay, is completed and ready for transfer. “I think we will try to do it in the middle of this year,” Mr. Songkran said. Of the two resort areas, Cha-am-hua Hin and Phuket, it is the former, favored by Thais, that is very hot right now because of limited prime land plots, he said. In Bangkok Charn Issara has begun a campaign offering BMW Series 3, 5 and 7 sedans to those buying the last 10 houses at its 52-unit Baan Isaara estate depending on the price. Around the middle of the year it will also launch a high-rise condominium project in the center of Bangkok with prices starting at around two million baht. Mr Songkran said that in developing property his company focused not only on delivering bricks and mortar but creating a lifestyle and atmosphere. “We add value as at Sri Panwa (in Phuket) we added the hotel to create more atmospheres, it’s easier to sell …In the stock market we should not be listed as a property but lifestyle developer.” On the overall direction of the property market, Mr Songkran expects demand to increase at around 5% this year, which is acceptable. “The market is still growing, not by 10-15% but 5%, I think it’s healthy.” Mr Songkran would also like the authorities to consider lengthening property leases available to foreigners currently set at 30 years to around 50 to 60 years. “we have been talking about this for many years and I think we can do that, it’s the easiest thing.” Doing so would mean the property market is better regulated and foreigners would also be able to get bank financing, something that is very difficult for them to obtain at the moment. “With 60 years I think the banks will be more relaxed and the market can expand.” Whether one should buy property in the capital or in a resort like Phuket depends on one’s lifestyle with money not being the sole issue. “A lot of my friends who have money, I don’t want to take them to Phuket if they don’t like snorkeling, why should they spend that much money? You have to have a lifestyle that goes along with it,” he said .