Baan Ing Phu is in several ways a pioneering project for Hua Hin and Thailand; in enabling individually configured homes at the highest standards within one development, and in paving the way for a residential area among the hills inland from the Royal seaside town.
The residential project is also living proof that it is possible to achieve in Thailand what one sets out to do, including if it’s a matter of setting the bar much higher than it what is seen by the local market as high quality.
Customised and high-end
Not much had been developed in the area when Baan Ing Phu was born and this was at the same time when ‘Black Mountain’ – which this residential property today overlooks – just started its construction too. Seeing the golf course coming to life, along with a waterpark, has certainly boosted the development of this inland, quiet resort area, but Baan Ing Phu kept on building more and more villas, based on continuing demand from their clients until all the land was occupied. And no – the residential homeowners are not particularly golfers.
Peter started out with one plot where he was going to realize a residential project a good Dutch friend in Bangkok would be interested in buying. That client also helped setting the bar, as he wanted high-end.
“This client asked a friend if he wanted to join, who bought in as well. And that client asked another client. So before I started construction I had three high-end clients already, so that was the perfect start for the whole project. It makes things easier if you can start with three nice villas from the beginning,” he recalls.
“All villas are individually designed. In total we have around a dozen villa styles in Baan Ing Phu. When a client wanted to do his own concept we helped him or her with the design. We have our own architect, engineers etc. so we delivered the project from A to Z together with the client. We don’t do the butter cookie concept; all the houses are different in shape and in size.”
Peter did not have previous experience in being a developer, so what made him fit to become one and to succeed with people to entrust in him to accomplish what was promised? He comes from a successful background in running IT companies in Holland, Belgium and the U.K, and he had built a few villas for himself – which then became his referrals as villas completed according to his requirements – villas of the kind that were appealing to many friends and people within his wider network.
“I had experience with one construction firm here because I had built one house before in Thailand, so I asked them to help me to build the first house. What I’ve learned is that many builders can in fact accomplish any quality of house but it’s a matter of how you manage them; what you pay them and how detailed do you give the drawings to them. If you tell a Thai builder: Just build this house! Most likely it will not be the house that you want to have, but if you guide them through the whole process and give them all the details that they need to know and you check all the work, from the beginning until the very end – they can build you a great house!”
Learning from mistakes
This may seem as very straightforward as Peter makes it sound really easy - but of course he has gone through a “journey” trying to realise a dream project in Thailand through local contractors.
He works with mainly two contractors in Thailand who both, one can conclude, have been “learning by doing”, including doing mistakes that are not accepted.
“They know that if something is not perfect I don’t accept it. There is never a discussion; they know already that if it’s not as I requested I will say: ‘Take it out and do it all over again!’ So they make sure it is perfect from the beginning – it saves them a lot of time and money. For all the houses I go and check everything. My project managers will go and check every day, while I will walk through myself once a week and in the finishing stages every day.”
“If the contractors and subcontractors make a mistake I will help them the first time financially if they need. The second time I may help them a little bit. The third time I may not.”
“Everybody can make mistake, but there’s a difference between a mistake and a stupid mistake. So if they make a mistake we’ll find a way out, if it’s a stupid mistake they have to redo and I will not help them financially. It’s really a partnership, if you don’t have a partnership with your contractors and sub-contractors you can’t build a high quality house – it’s impossible.”
“You’re in it together. You will all have to earn money. And it has to be fun,” adds Peter.
“The advantage is that by now they know exactly what I want, what I accept and what I don’t accept. So we work with the two main contractors, and then we have a fixed number of sub-contractors. So we have one sub-contractor for all the pools, and one doing all kitchens and built-in furniture, such as walk-in- closets. If the client wants to work with somebody else that’s fine. We don’t stop that but we have our preferred suppliers. We do so also for the gardens, sound systems, alarm systems etc. The good thing with that is that they know exactly what you want to have. And I think that’s one of the biggest values I built up in the last 6-7 years – this whole network of suppliers, builders, contractors that can really do high-end work. That’s worth a lot of money.”
Peter’s company Pure Eight Developments has not had to change contractors once, and there is a key reasons for that.
“I think I’m a very good employer for them. If they give me an invoice I pay it immediately. I don’t a wait a week or two; I pay them the same day. And they really appreciate that - because normally these are not really large companies with a huge cash flow and a surplus of money. So if they send an invoice they need the money.”
Looking at things more closely, there is a lot of teamwork going into accomplishing the high end, customised villas. After Baan Ing Phu was completed, Peter has continued to build individual villas on assignment using the same formula.
“I work with a team of project managers, who work very closely with the client, from the design stage until handing over the villa. Each project manager also has a project assistant. Both are Thai - there are only Thai people on my payroll. So it’s teams of two that guides the whole process of the houses. They in turn report to me. But I also walk around every day and visit the construction sites, once a week if it’s in the beginning stages, every day if it’s in the finishing stage. I check tiling work, painting and technical installations etc. so I’m very much involved. That’s necessary.”
“Even if a Thai project manager is very well trained and experienced they still look with different eyes than I do – I have a much more critical look. So it’s a combination. And I can assure that if I say it’s good the customer will agree it’s good. I am a really the demanding and critical one. But the good thing is that I’ve always been very open with that to my builders. So as long as they’re O.K with that I will not negotiate to the last baht; I will pay fair prices – and pay immediately, but they have to do it my way.”
At this point, Peter has built up a lot of know-how and a very good team which together makes it possible for him to focus on the concepts of the selling and marketing, which he likes.
“I’m not an architect but I’m a designer by heart. So I do a lot of designs together with my clients. Apart from that I work with external architects, for example one architect in Holland, a friend of mine, who has a small architect firm but really doing out-of-the-box designs. Some clients like very extreme, really modern designs.”
“Some clients know very well what they want. I built one family resort for a client who came here and said: “Peter, I’ve been staying at the Anantara hotel in Hua Hin for a couple of months every year for ten years. That’s the feeling I want to have for my villa. So I want to have a big piece of land, with a private villa, guest houses and a nice landscape around it.”
Then you know already what the customer wants, so the job is to work closely with the client to design a villa that has that ambience, and it will take a couple of months. Some customers are very involved in the whole design process, while others are less.”
Many of his clients materialised through word-of-mouth and many completely entrusted Baan Ing Phu to deliver their dream.
“It’s been interesting to see that some clients completely trusted what my team and I were doing. They said: ‘Build the house, we’ll send you the money. Let us know when it’s ready.’ But before that they have been here for three months or so and seen what we are doing, they have seen the houses and they say they trust us, and just tell us to go ahead!”
There are also clients saying: ‘Just build a villa similar to that one, put in your own thoughts because we know you have good taste. And we will come back when the villa is finished.’
“It is a fantastic responsibility based on that they trust my taste!”
During the construction period, every client gets sent a weekly progress report, including a series of photos, so they can exactly follow what’s happening with their house.
High-end in demand
According to Peter, high-end villas like his cost significantly more today than was the case just some 5+ years ago.
“Significantly more – I think in the last few years the prices went up around 40 per cent.”
Commenting on where the market is heading Peter expresses surprise that there are so few in Hua Hin going for the high-end.
“Most developments are still between 5-10 million. The vast majority stay away from high-end villas. I think they feel safer when building for the mass market as there’s a much larger group of people interested in villas costing between 5 – 12 million baht. There are not so many clients in our price range between 15 to 50 million baht but when you find one it is more lucrative to serve this one client than two of the mid- and lower end clients.”
“It seems that the clients in the high-end are also not so worried about a military coup in Bangkok or about economical instability in general. The big difference is it’s not their last money they’re going to spend. So they will say: ‘Things will change again.’ Compare that with a group of clients saying: ‘this is what we saved in the last 30 – 35 years.’ Our customers don’t mind that much, for them it’s a pure lifestyle decision.”
“Interestingly, 75 per cent of the clients live permanently here at Ban Ing Phu. So they really made the lifestyle decision, preferring the lifestyle in Thailand better than Europe. And it gives them of course a financial advantage as well.”
His customers also did not mind a leasehold arrangement.
“We sold very expensive villas on leasehold and the clients couldn’t care less. There has never been a client saying she/he would not want to buy because it’s leasehold.”
“As a foreigner you know you can’t own the land and we decided not to do all this semi-illegal or illegal constructions where you have companies with nominee shareholders. It doesn’t add value. Our lawyers created the best possible lease contracts for the clients. They are very safe, very secure.”
When Peter first came to the area where Baan Ing Phu today lies he had this wow feeling.
“I thought: I could live here. Now I do - so I won’t move. It’s certainly a fantastic mountain area, and I also like a lot that it’s really quiet because I find Hua Hin quite busy now. In the evening it’s really dark; here’s no light pollution, or sound, and it’s only ten minutes from town. So for me, and the people who reside here, it’s worth the ten minutes drive. Of course, the first time you come here you may think it’s quite far from town. But once you live here it’s a different lifestyle; then you don’t need to go to town every day.”
Peter also highlights the big benefit of being relatively close to the metropolitan Bangkok: “Living here, you can decide in the morning to go for lunch in Bangkok or do some shopping. And if you go with your driver you can step in the car at eight o’clock, be there at lunch time, do some shopping and come back late evening or stay the night and come back then next day. Many residents do this often, they love to be in this area here but sometimes you need some action around you. I think that’s a perfect combination.”
What did you feel when you were winning the Thailand Property Awards?
“It was a very nice as recognition and it felt great in particular because it was not us saying that we were good, or our clients saying it – but the outside world. I don’t think I will sell more because I have been given this award but it will for sure give some client some extra confidence in us.”
Author: Joakim Persson