Bangkok property sales strong despite political unrest

BANGKOK — Investments in Bangkok’s property sector were robust in the first half of 2010 despite protests that paralyzed parts of the capital and ended in a looting and arson rampage, a leading property broker said Tuesday.

“For the past six months, investment activity in the Bangkok property market was buoyant,” said Umpon Thepnumsommanus, director of investment at the property services company Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

The firm said it handled transactions worth 3.5 billion baht (US$109.4 million) during the six-month period.

Violent anti-government protests were staged in Bangkok from March 12 to May 19, leaving 90 people dead, 1,885 injured and culminating in a looting and arson rampage that left 36 buildings in flames.

The good news was that the unrest might have persuaded some property owners to sell their assets at reduced prices, Jones Lang LaSalle said.

“As the political unrest that intensified between April and May softened investor sentiment, sellers adopted a more compromising approach with their asking prices, allowing faster sales transactions,” Umpon said.

Bangkok property owners are somewhat notorious for never reducing their selling prices, no matter how severe the economic or political crises battering the kingdom.

Another factor hastening sales during the first half of the year was the approaching expiration of the government’s property stimulus package, such as reduced transfer fees on transactions.

“Many sellers became more flexible during the negotiation process in order to complete the sale and have the property transferred in time prior to the expiry of the property stimulus package on June 30,” Umpon said.

While property sales were strong in politically challenged Bangkok, they were “subdued” in Thailand’s coastal holiday destinations such as Pattaya, Phuket and Samui, the company said.

Jones Lang LaSalle noted that sales at Thailand’s beach resorts have traditionally been dominated by foreign investors, who have been bearish since the global financial crisis hit in late 2008.

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