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KOH SAMUI : A Samui brokerage agent says he found a life-changing opportunity after his first visit to the island 10 years ago. After graduating in marketing from a university in Australia, Bangkok resident Chaiyakarn 'Heng' Sudampanthorn visited Samui to take care of his parents' hotel business. Two years later he became a real-estate broker after he than doubled his money from trading a land plot on the island within six months. He decided to leave the hotel business by selling it to one of his friends, and further his eduction in the real-estate business.

'I started from buying a one-rai plot of uphill land priced at 2.5 million baht and sold half of it at five million baht six months later,' he recalled. Three years later, the second half was sold at 13 million baht.

'The tsunami was a crisis for Phuket but a great opportunity for Samui,' said Mr Chaiyaporn, now 36 years old. His company made windfall profits as demand for beach villas and resorts overflowed into Samui, more than doubling land prices.

After he received a broker's licence, he took more short courses on real estate and sat in an examination to obtain a certified international property specialist (CIPS) licence. Then he set up Samui Estate Corporation Co Ltd in 2003 as a real-estate broker and consultant.

Two years ago, the company obtained a new investor from the Middle East, who helped the company double its registered capital to 20 million baht. Each year, it manages property sales of around two billion baht.

Last year, it decided to cover the Phuket market by setting up Phuket Estate Corporation Co Ltd and changed the name of the original company from Samui Estate Corporation to Thailand Estates Corporation.

'A big boy (a large international property consultant) is coming soon to Koh Samui.

We have two choices: buying international brands to market or managing our own Thai brand,' said Mr Chaiyakarn. 'But we're quite confident in our local knowledge and connections.'

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