Top Villa Blunders
The Phuket Gazette.
BUILDING a new home or villa from scratch on a tropical island is a brave decision. It can be an arduous and drawn-out process trying to find your ideal plot, most sought after designer or builder that fits the bill. Every detail must be scrutinized and that takes time; spades of it.
For some, this process turns out to be a nightmare.
Building from scratch is not necessarily a bad idea, but there are some common mistakes that first-time buyers make along the way. Let's take a moment to go over some of the great villa blunders that seem to occur time and time again.
Knowing the direction of east and west often eludes intelligent individuals. While sunsets and ocean views are all the rage, there is a common tendency for new home shoppers to forget both an early morning tropical sun or exposure to the afternoon's blazing sun can make living spaces unusable.
This doesn't mean a property built in the path of the midday sun-light isn't worth a look, it just means it's going to require some extra features to fix it. Extended overhanging roof lines, solar blinds and – if building has not begun – reorienting the home can often solve this problem.
Consider that Phuket is becoming increasingly populated, has frequent seasonal droughts and lagging infrastructure, and its easy to see that water is and will remain liquid gold for years to come. Those big infinity pools, posh landscape ponds, oversized bath nibs and lush landscaping all soak up this precious commodity and could end up costing a lot more than originally anticipated.
Go to the Caribbean and in many places it's unheard of not to capture and store rain water. The use of guttering, substantial long-term storage, eliminating those fancy ponds (which in many cases end up leaking as soon as the villa is handed over) and using native plants that consume less water are all forward-thinking ideas.
Coming in high on the list of potential surprises is the jack-in-the-box expense of energy costs. While the renderings all look exotic and wonderful during the planning phase, reality tends to come with a bite with the first electricity bill. Tales of monthly cost of 40.000, 60,000 or even 100.000 baht are not uncommon.
Who hasn't seen villas with a hundred blazing lights on in the middle of the night or the thundering of giant compressors needed to fill the arena-sized living spaces?
The real crunch comes once new home owners start renting out their unit and visitors don't have a care for conserving electricity when they're paying a few thousand dollars a day in rental fees.
Designs that don't account for common knowledge – such as the fact that heat rises – often over-look innovative ventilation or capturing the island breeze to cool down buildings. Insulation, designing custom air flow to fit the location and even the scoffed-at solar alternative, which is all-too often dismissed as "too hard- for Phuket, all need to be considered. There are also many other issues seasoned vacation home-owners have all seen.
Make sure you plan for enough parking space for all your vehicles. Why so many builders never seem to contemplate the possibility that villa shoppers could own two vehicles remains a mystery.
When it comes to landscaping, remember the tropics. After the first rain of the season, many are surprised to discover a newly-formed rain forest in their villa. Yes, plants do grow exceptionally fast in this part of the world, so start off small in the beginning.
Also use caution with rooftop patios and stunning sunsails. which work so well next to Sydney Harbor or in Maui but here can turn you into something akin to cat on a hot tin roof.
Whatever decisions you may make, there remains one thing for sure: the local ATM is going to be your wingman and close acquaintance throughout the entire process. The devil indeed remains in the details and for the next decade or so, expect the island's handymen or home improvement companies to be a leading growth segment.