Doug Ferguson, the man behind some of the most successful villa development projects in Phuket, shares his insight on Phuket’s property market, and more.
What brought you to Phuket?
I’m 54 years old and I’ve lived in Asia for 28 years, 14 in Hong Kong and Singapore and 14 in Thailand. I used to be in IT business, but in 2003 I was at a conference call in Singapore, and I put the phone down, stood up and said: “That’s it, I’m done with this business.”
I already had a house in Phuket since 2000, right at the entrance to Laguna, so I moved here. And I talked to a couple of friends and we decided to get into the property business. We launched a project called Sai Taan, which started with the vision of building 12 houses and over time it went up to 75. It was one of the best-received projects in Phuket.
Many people were trying to do property at that time, but the three of us we had some money and had some business acumen so, we were able to deliver, sell quickly and build a good reputation. And having done Sai Taan, I took a year off and then we looked to the marked, my wife and I, and we reckoned that in the segment of two to three-bedroom villas, in the price range of 11 to 17 million, there was not enough quality being delivered and no nice design. So that’s what we did.
And that’s how Trichada began
We started on that four years ago and at that time, we had no design, we just bought the land and we chose a local architect, who also designed the Kalima hotel in Kalim. We worked very closely with him and by the end of 2014 we had the design and by the end of 2015, we had the show house. And now each of the 24 villas has been delivered so we decided to do the same thing, on the other side of the road.
Why do you think you were successful in your switch from IT to property?
In 2003, when we were looking for a business, Phuket was starting to boom. And I’ve already been through an experience of working with architects and making some changes to my own house here on the island. And we also had some money and business acumen so, we looked at the market and decided this was the way to make business here. Without going ultra-high-end, without taking massive risks but trying to do what we perceived as mid-market. And we continue to do this because this is our background and I think there will always be a demand for this kind of villas.
Many people try their hand in the property business in Phuket but few succeed. What’s the secret of your success?
First, we always focus on design. And then, we do it full time, we don’t just come here, build it and then fly away giving it to someone else to manage; we manage it ourselves on a daily basis. But frankly, it took us a couple of years to get it going at Trichada, with the experience I had at Sai Taan, I thought it would go much quicker, but it wasn’t.
So Sai Taan was all nice and smooth?
Well, we went through coups, tsunami, red shirts, yellow shirts, you name it; so smooth wouldn’t be the word I’d use; but we endured, we had pockets deep enough and enough of a perspective to wait out the dips and enjoy the rewards when they came. Because that’s what you’ve got to do; if you want to be successful in anything, you have to perceiver to the end. You can give up halfway through, but if you stay focused and gut it out, you’ll get there.
You’re deep into your second decade in Phuket, what changes have you observed?
I’ve seen the island change a lot, in some aspects for the better, in some not so. The traffic is more difficult than it was, but the place is way more livable now. When we first came here, we had ISDN dial-up internet, now you can have 1 GB at home if you want. We are in a developed marked and can buy anting from anywhere. If you want to live on a desert island somewhere, you can, as long as you like eating steamed fish every day. In Phuket, we’ve got everything, great beaches and you can still find quiet ones…the advantages way out the disadvantages.
And changes in the property market?
Right now, there are a lot of condos being built, because they are more financially accessible to many people and there is this big thing about freehold ownership, and I say yes, you can, but it’s only for 41% and the rest has to somehow belong to Thais. Condos also overview the sea. But if you value privacy, want a private pool, then you go for a villa. The boom for condos doesn’t affect us.
And the future? What would you bet on?
What I hope is that the government grasps the nettle of ownership and the land leases in particular and expand that to 50 or better 100 years, because that would make sense. If you lease land for 100 years, you can’t take it away and so I hope the government addresses that because that would make thing easier. The ownership structures we have in place are good enough, but it would make things easier.
As for my crystal ball, I think the next most important thing will be the road they will put through from the airport down to the Bypass road; that will make everybody’s lives easier and it will ease the traffic in Cherngtalay.
It’s not easy, predicating Phuket’s future, is it?
Phuket is affected by what is happening in Thailand, political stability, or instability. We are going through a period of stability now and it would be great if the government just said: “We are here for 20 years, get over it.” Economic issues in Europe affect us. Clamps down on people sending money from China affect us, currency rates affect us. The whole world is connected now and Phuket is in it too. When a butterfly flaps its wing in South America it can create an earthquake in China.
But one this is certain, Phuket is your home now.
For sure. We do go back to Europe three times a year – I go on a boy’s ski trip in January, then in March we do a family trip in Switzerland and another European trip in the Summer. But we do return to Phuket. Everything is so easy here, nice weather, nice beaches…
And if you could make one thing better here, what would it be?
I’d learn Thai (laughs).
Learn more at trichada.com