Holiday Home Times

In Conversation with Anthony McDonald of X2 Group of Companies, Thailand

Anthony McDonaldSeven years ago he set foot in Thailand as a traveler. Dissatisfied with the traditional tropical style resorts and the “un-interesting, un-refreshing” service and accommodation on offer, he made it a mission to fill this gap in the resort market of the island. Today his company has created its own brand of resorts – “something as you can see are very different and pleasantly refreshing for people traveling for business and pleasure.” Meet Anthony McDonald, the CEO and Co-Founder of the X2 (CrossTo) Group of companies as he speaks to us about his properties, the general changes he has noticed in Thailand over the years and what buyers of holiday homes can expect in this tropical island.

The interview…

In brief please tell our readers about your work in Thailand and lately in Sydney?
This year we are also going to market with the expansion of our resorts in Samui and Kui Buri, with our X2 Residences. These residences are a combination of private pool villas and apartments that people can buy and own for themselves as holiday homes. What we are offering here is very similar to the private residences offered by Banyan Tree, W Resorts and Ritz Carlton to name but a few; fully branded and serviced resort residences. Along with the two existing locations we will add two other new X2 Residence locations. The first will be on the unseen island of Koh Kood, the other on the more well-known island of Phuket, and to be known as X2 Kamala.

In Sydney we have just launched our first X2 Apartment in the shape of an amazing 4 bedroom luxury property. X2 Sydney has a huge list of unique selling points that include a truly awe-inspiring views directly across to the Harbour Bridge and Opera house, living and sleeping spaces beyond expectations and a level of creature comforts and appliances to service your every whim. X2 Sydney is available to guests who want a serious luxury apartment as of now.

Please tell our readers about your two newly launched X2 Holiday destinations – X2 Villa Chiangmai and X2 Apartment Sydney.
In Chiang Mai we have a very large 5 bedroom pool villa, right in the centre of the town that we just knew would fit right into the X2 brand. Opening in the coming months, it will represent the very best option for anyone who needs a large, luxurious and very private pool villa but also wants to stay within the town centre itself.

X2 Sydney Apartment is ready to be offered out to the executive & luxury vacation rental market place. The views offered at X2 Sydney are reason enough for most to book but if you do flick further through our gallery of pictures you will be convinced when you see the huge designer interior spaces, chic trendy looks and comprehensive list of creature comforts, gadgets and appliances. There is quite literally nothing that this apartment does not offer!

According to you, where in Thailand should one look for a property? Why do you recommend these locations?
Thailand is like many countries in the region, to be safe in your investment choice you need to make sure that what you buy has a true uniqueness. If you buy in a condo in a development of 200 units, when it comes to resale or rentals, what differentiates yours from all the others? If you buy a limited edition niche property you will protect your asset value due to its uniqueness. It is this uniqueness that you are assured of when buying resort residences such as X2. A limited number of truly first class quality properties, in a first class location and with a range of first class services and facilities, all run by a professional and experienced resort company.

The traditional markets of Phuket and Pattaya tend now to have been over played and to a point over developed, though in both cases there is still room or those specialist niche developments like X2. This is why we looked to the upcoming destinations along the gulf of Thailand strip from Pranburi down to Prachuab Khiri Khan, and the eastern most island chain including Koh Chang and Koh Kood. These are still very much less developed that the other more well-known destinations and as such have a lot greater scope for future increases in land and property values.

What is the buyer profile that you usually see who are buying property in Thailand? Are they largely expats? From which country/ region do you ideally see buyers inquiring or investing in a property in Thailand?
At X2 the vast majority of our sales inquiries come from expats who are themselves based in SE Asia. We find these buyers to be 30-45 years old age, successful, more often than not running their own business and in industries with creative edges such as architects, media, designers and similar. Whereas we used to have inquiries from Europe and the USA, now we see a much greater shift towards inquiries coming from China, Singapore, Hong Kong and India. In the case of X2 Kui Buri the majority of inquiries are actually from wealthy Thai clients, past guests of X2 Resorts who know how special these places are going to be.

Are most of these buyers just investors or they are buying to stay? What is the rough ratio between investors to residents?
The majority are buying at X2 for lifestyle, a holiday home that they genuinely love and will come to enjoy a few times a year; though they do also have a trained eye on the investment angle, rental income and future gains. Few clients view X2 with a view to using it as a full time home.  

For a buyer, what are the things one should keep in mind while choosing a property to buy?
With respect to resort residences like X2 the main things to look out for are the upcoming locations, a niche property with a very different appeal and angle, rarity value, not one of hundreds of units that all look the same. Be careful to look at the track record of the company you are buying into, first time developers often make mistakes in materials they use and in terms of management and running a site they have little if any experience. Of course if you are buying for investment you need to look in depth at the likely rental income scenarios, checking the local competition and such like.

Are there many developments getting underway in both locations? What makes X2 different from them in terms of design, facilities, etc?
In fact in the case of X2 Kui Buri and Koh Kood there will be little if anything else being built. Certainly on the island of Koh Kood X2 is the only villa development that will be on sale.

In the case of X2 Samui there will of course be other developments on sale around the island, but our research tells us there are no other condos for sale with Freehold title within the confines of a 5 star beach front niche resort, and there lies your main difference in terms of facilities.

You may find other condos on sale, even with freehold title, but they will be the more traditional condo offering that come with just pool, gym and basic site management and maintenance. They will also have very little if any resource for rental programs, in most cases the owners have to take care of this aspect themselves by appointing agents and maintenance people.

Our new X2 Kamala Residences site will have similar competition to X2 Samui from other branded residences projects from Banyan Tree, Marriott, Twin Palms and similar. Again, with X2 the offer is to buy into an internationally recognised brand at much more realistic prices, at a time when the brand is about to explode. This is the unique investment opportunity X2 can give that the so called established brands cannot. They have already done their growing and thus have reached their peak value.

At X2 you are buying a hotel property, just like the offers from Banyan Tree, Ritz Carlton & W resorts but without the multi-million dollar price tag; properties that will be run, maintained and rented for you, every aspect taken care of by the resort company, even the accounting!

For a buyer what is the kind of appreciation can he expect in 5, 10 and 15 years in Thailand?
With regards to our collection of resort residences, the growth of the locations and the growth of the brand combined should see values double within 5 years at our Koh Kood development. At X2 Kui Buri we are also very optimistic of similar results within a similar period of time, whereas in the much more mature and established markets of Koh Samui and Phuket we are held back more in terms of the overall property values seeing large value increases, much more dependent on the continued successes of brand growth.