Traditionally, one of the first things to do before buying a property is to visit it in person, whether to examine its floor plan or inspect its amenities, from the strength of its foundation to the quality of its plumbing. With more homes being sold at auction, though, a new crop of buyers is emerging, who bid for their million-dirham residential or investment properties over the phone or even online.
It could be that having an international auction house overseeing a sale instils a measure of confidence. Or that a developer's reputation for delivering catalogue-quality spaces is undisputed. Or that the signing amount can be refunded if the buyer finds something amiss. Strategic adviser Charlie Smith says that 20 per cent of buyers of Emea (Europe, Middle East and Africa) properties sold through Concierge Auctions have successfully bid for their property "site-unseen", that is, not having visited it in person until they acquired it. Should you be tempted to pick up a residence in this way, consider the Amanpuri beach home on the island of Phuket in Thailand.
The luxurious Villa 35 is going under the hammer through Concierge Auctions on March 29, at a starting price of half the amount it is listed for, at $17.75 million (Dh65.1 million), down from $35m. So there is plenty of potential for bidders to bag a bargain. Located within the flagship hotel that the Aman Resorts group has been operating for 30 years, the space makes for an idyllic holiday home, lavish entertainment spot and, should yours be the lucky bid, a healthy investment, too.
Home on the beach
Villa 35 sits on Phuket's Pansea Beach, a 400-metre-long stretch that's a 15-minute walk north of the island's popular Surin Beach, yet secluded from its hordes of tourists. Located within a gated resort, the property is entirely private, but close enough to the island's marinas, watersport amenities, golf courses, Buddhist temples and fine-dining restaurants, should you feel the need to leave the luxury resort at all.
Amanpuri, which has hosted the likes of Beyonce and Bill Gates, is a microcosm of luxury unto itself – its zigzagging paths lead you through forests of frangipani to thatched-roof pavilions and a temple-like courtyard in one corner, while a black-tile swimming pool beckons from another.
Last year, the resort added a hip Japanese eatery to its roster of Thai and Italian restaurants, plus an upgraded spa with six new suites. Chefs Keiji Matoba, Kannika Jitsangworn and Stefano Artosin could also serve their delicacies to your doorstep, as you relax in the in-house spa and hair salon located across from the villa's master suite.
The villa's seven bedrooms are arranged across four pavilions, with a private pool in their midst, an arrangement that's typical of Thai architecture, as are the pagoda-style roofs, wooden columns, rectangular latticework and low seating. Teak is the dominant material here, appearing on walls, ceilings, floors and furniture. The resort's architect, Ed Tuttle, has cherry-picked the villa's art, sculptures and antiques, influenced by Thai motifs and totems, including Buddha figurines, wall hangings with mirrorwork, carved panel bedheads, ornate vases and urns, and temple-bell-shaped trinkets.
Room for more
Although it sleeps about 20, Villa 35 offers a total living space of 46,263 square feet – that's comparable to the playable area of a football field. "The villa has hosted 200 guests in the past," says Smith. "And it comes with three full-time staff, two chambermaids and a dedicated chef, plus more staff if the property is fully occupied or if the owners are hosting."
The property includes an expansive living room, separate sunken salas for dining and a large kitchen. The pool area is surrounded by an open-air entertaining space, with cabanas and unobstructed views of the Andaman Sea. “The spacious plot makes Villa 35 ideal for entertaining. It further benefits from being situated on the private western side of the island, allowing residents and guests to relax in peace,” says Smith.
"In the past decade, only one property at Amanpuri has come to the open market, which is a testament to the unique nature of this sale. The cachet associated with the Aman brand will drum up significant interest among the resort's devotees, [many of whom are] high-profile figures."
The bid and gavel game
Villa 35 will be auctioned on March 29, with bids being accepted from March 23, Smith tells us as he takes us through the procedure. "Once a buyer has expressed their wish to participate in the sale, we confirm their identity, ask that they give us a simple bank reference, complete our terms and conditions, and deposit a $100,000 bidding deposit with the third party escrow company.
“Once we have them registered for the sale, come auction day we will assign them a bid assistant to help and guide them through the process over the phone, or, if they prefer, they can bid online at their own pace.
"If they are the successful bidder, the deposit goes towards the purchase price. If they are unsuccessful, it is returned in full within 24 hours. At all times, whether a bidder is experienced at auctions or not, we are available to guide them through the process. An auction is extremely exciting, yet very straightforward.
Phuket is enjoying a buoyant property market. An August report from Thai Residential property agency states that over the past decade, Thailand's house price index is up 48.91 per cent, which works out to a 3.7 per cent compound annual rate of return for investors. Consistently strong demand from foreign buyers in Phuket shields the island from economic factors that may have an impact on the rest of the country's property market. The Amanpuri beach house auction, then, presents the perfect opportunity to test the waters.