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A guide to luxury retirement in Asia

For the young at heart

Sunplay Bangsaray[/caption]

There are many reasons Asia makes an attractive retirement destination. Year-round sunshine, white-sand beaches, good medical care and increasingly solid infrastructure to name just a few selling points.

Whether Asia is already home and you’re looking for the perfect spot to settle, or if you’re a westerner wanting to move sunnier climbs, there are many options to choose from.

Here are five country destinations which offer fantastic quality of life for retirees, and some up-and-coming properties to invest in.

Thailand


Thailand has long been popular with western seniors, and this is being reflected in a number of new retirement community developments (not to be confused with nursing homes) which aim to offer a vibrant, comfortable home.

One such development is Sunplay Bangsaray, which offers not only sleek sea-view condominiums within a gated community, but also aims to provide a certain lifestyle to its residents. With a superbly equipped clubhouse, lagoon style pool, cycle track and on-site healthcare options, as well as 10 world-class golf courses and Yacht clubs nearby, it’s ideal for those who want to maintain an active and independent life.

It also benefits from its location. Being just outside the popular beach town of Pattaya, it’s a mere 90 minute drive to Suvarnabhumi airport and two hours to central Bangkok. While Pattaya itself may not be to everyone’s taste, once you venture away from the main town, paradise awaits, with a multitude of peaceful beaches and swathes of unspoiled green landscape.

Sunplay, The Heights Bangsaray[/caption]

The first units of Sunplay, The Heights Bangsaray, are expected to be ready H2 2018, with prices ranging from THB9.5m (USD268,665) – THB35m (USD1m).

“We’re not aiming to be the cheapest” said Chris Delaney, Managing Director of Sunplay Asia, “but we are aiming to be the best.” This ambition appears to be paying off - Sunplay is already seeing strong investor interest from both domestic and international markets.

More: Meet the Bangkok high-flyer who found her ideal retreat in Khao Yai

Malaysia


Malaysia recently ranked highly on International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index, and for very good reason. With its rainforests, beaches, mountains and UNESCO heritage sites, it can suit beach bums and adventure junkies just as well as culture vultures.

The healthcare should also match up to those with scrupulous standards. According to International Living’s Malaysia correspondent Keith Hockton, “Malaysia has some of the best-trained doctors in Asia, and most have learned their profession in the U.S. or the U.K.”

Like Thailand, a number of dedicated retirement communities are sprouting up, such as GreenAcres, which aims to be Malaysia’s premiere retirement village. Upon completion it will occupy an area of 10 acres and will comprise 110 units of landed villas together with 70 low-rise apartments,

[caption id="attachment_61528" align="aligncenter" width="800"]

A rendering of GreenAcres[/caption]

The project is located two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur in the city of Ipoh - a favourite retirement destination for Malaysians due to it’s moderate size; providing all the desired amenities, without being too crowded and congested.

Phase One is now open for booking, and there are four variants covering one and two bedroom units.


More: Why Malaysia’s market woes may soon be over

Indonesia


Donald Trump once described Bali as "one of the best resort and residential destinations globally." Whatever your political leanings, it's hard to disagree with him here.

While a long-time favourite with Australians, Bali's appeal in recent years has spread further still with seniors from all over the world choosing here for an extended visit. It’s luxury property market is also thriving, being the "standout performer" in Knight Frank's 2015 Prime International Residential Index (PIRI), with luxury property prices rising by 15 percent y-o-y.

While no high-end communities specifically targeting retirees exist yet (not that we can find, anyway) there are some gorgeous developments to consider.

[caption id="attachment_61533" align="aligncenter" width="738"]

Selong Selo[/caption]

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is set to brand and manage a portfolio of luxury Residences just across from Mandarin Oriental, Bali. Both hotel and residences will be part of an integrated resort development located on Bali's southern Bukit Peninsula. 30 homes are scheduled to be completed in mid-2018 and are sure to become a firm favourite with Asia’s elite.

We also love Selong Selo, an 80 luxury villa community on the island of Lombok - a quick boat ride away from Bali. It includes a clubhouse with a wide range of sporting facilities, as well as a beachside restaurant, pool, spa and children's area (perfect for visiting grandchildren). The first three villas were completed in December 2016, with a further 10 to be finalised this year. Having picked up a number of gongs at the Indonesia Property Awards, it’s clearly doing something right.

Spacious two bedroom villas start from USD465,000.

More: Could Cambodia’s southern coast be Asia’s next resort hot spot?

Cambodia


Cambodia was recently named the cheapest place in SE Asia to retire. While it may not suit those after ultimate luxury, it can work very well for those wanting a comfortable lifestyle while making their dollar stretch.

Cambodia has “great-value property rentals,” according to International Living correspondent Steven King. “Western style apartments are available to rent from USD300 a month in the capital of Phnom Penh, and go for as little as USD200 a month in the beach town of Sihanoukville.”

D'Seaview[/caption]

D’Seaview in Sihanoukville is one to watch. Shortlisted for Best Mixed-Use Development at Cambodia Property Awards, it will include an exclusive condominium with all units facing south, and will be complete with a swimming pool, state of the art gym and squash court.

One bedroom apartments start at USD76,000.

India


In a society that has traditionally kept the family unit together, the idea of a retirement community in India is new. Nowadays, with a high value placed on study and work in places such as the US, UK and Australia, the older generation are being more frequently left to fend for themselves – no surprise then, that Bloomberg TV called it ‘a potentially huge new industry for India.’

Antara Senior Living Community is leading the way. Located outside the northern city of Dehradun, amidst 14 acres of vibrant green landscape and views of the Himalayas, it's certainly the largest community on our list. The 200 bespoke apartments and 60,000 sqft clubhouse have been created by architects from Spain and New York.

Anantara clubhouse[/caption]

Antara seems to be targeting primarily domestic buyers, but with India steadily opening it’s real estate market to foreign investment, we’re sure those with Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fantasies can get involved too.

There are 6 apartment types which are spread over eight Residences, ranging from INR 1.86 crore (USD269,604) to 7.56 cr. (USD1.1m).

Read next: Is Ubud Bali’s latest affluent enclave?

 

Has Australia had enough of Asian buyers?

Asians love to buy into the lifestyle down under, but there are clouds on the horizon

Long a magnet for Asian investors, Australia's cities offer fantastic lifestyle benefits[/caption]

By Elisabeth Knowles

It’s easy to understand why investors are attracted to Australia. The cities are cosmopolitan, uncrowded, multicultural and predominantly coastal. It is also one of the most attractive countries for Asian migrants due to its temperate climate and the promise of an easy lifestyle transition.

Asian communities abound in Australia’s cities, prompting top American-Chinese comedienne Margaret Cho to note on a television current affairs show that Australia is “so Asian!” Chinatowns are established in each capital city, and increasingly in suburban centres, with abundant restaurants, Asian grocers, and late-night dumpling bars.

Then there’s the sense of community – clusters of Chinese migrants, for example, are drawn to affluent, leafy areas such as Chatswood in Sydney’s north and Box Hill in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, where houses and land sizes are large and construction standards high.

More: 88 million ways Chinese investors saw luck in this Sydney property

Even for those not thinking of making a move Down Under, a thriving rental market and high demand for luxury property means buying property in Australia is unlikely to be a misstep.

[pullquote]You go and ask a lot of people in Sydney, at Hurstville or some of the other suburbs. They feel they have been swamped by Asians[/pullquote]

In Sydney and Melbourne, there’s an almost-guaranteed return on investment. Record low interest rates have seen more Australians investing in real estate – a growth of almost 10 percent in 2015. Sydney’s real estate boom has seen many owners become millionaires in recent years, and Melbourne isn’t far behind.

Over the past four years, house-price growth in Sydney has risen by about 57 percent and almost 40 per cent in Melbourne. Many pundits see the property boom as a bubble that must eventually burst – and soon.

More: This is why the Chinese are beating Australians at their own auctions

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned in June of a “dramatic and destabilising” end to Australia’s housing boom. The assertion was backed by a rise in the number of new apartments, suggesting possible oversupply, and instability following recent inconclusive Federal elections.

Charles Pittar, CEO of Juwai.com, the Chinese international property portal, has his own interpretation of the report, however.



“The OECD report actually predicts that output growth will strengthen towards three percent next year, economic growth will pick up and inflation will fall, he says. “The report also describes ‘receding risks from the housing boom’, but does not predict a ‘dramatic and destabilising end’. It merely says there is always a chance their analysis is incorrect and – in that case – there could be such an outcome. To call that a prediction is a mistake.”

More: Chinese billionaire snaps up Aussie trophy home for USD50 million

Asian investment is one of the largest contributing factors to Australia’s real estate boom, be it industrial and office space or high-end luxury residential stock.

“Australia is still the number two destination for Chinese investment in the world,” adds Pittar. “The fact that the Australian dollar is still relatively low against the Chinese renminbi, the high quality of life and the appeal of an Australian education all support demand.”

[pullquote]Australia trades heavily off a reputation as a highly transparent, well-regulated real estate market underpinned by a sophisticated legal system and a stable economic environment[/pullquote]

Most offshore investors generally buy either for investment or to house a child looking to study in Australia, although property acquisitions are increasingly being driven by lifestyle opportunities, according to Nerida Conisbee, chief economist for the REA Group, a digital advertising company that operates Australian property websites.

More: Australia cracks down on illegal foreign home buyers

“Investors are still looking for a rental return; however, it is likely they would also like to get capital growth,” she says. “There may be some people looking to buy holiday homes – we are seeing strong demand in places like Gold Coast from offshore buyers.”

Asian countries make up three of the top five foreign real estate investors in Australia, according to data released earlier this year by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). While mainland Chinese buyers topped the list of foreign investors in the Australian real estate market in 2014 with USD46 billion worth of approved investments, recent years have seen increased interest from Malaysian, Singaporean and Hong Kong property hunters. Over the same period, those markets combined spent more than AUD7 billion (USD5.4 billion) on property.



“Australia trades heavily off a reputation as a highly transparent, well-regulated real estate market underpinned by a sophisticated legal system and a stable economic environment,” according to Les Koltai, head of real estate for global law firm DLA Piper. “It’s perceived as an easy place to do business. What has also assisted in recent years is the introduction of the Significant Investor Visa in 2012, which gives high-net-worth individuals the ability to apply for an Australian visa and ultimately permanent residency on the basis of a minimum investment in Australia of five million dollars.”

More: Hong Kong buyer just snapped up luxury home in Sydney…via FaceTime

After a decades-long mining boom, the industry has slowed and Australia needs to stimulate its economy from alternative sources. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the issue during his Federal election campaign, by pushing for the embrace of newer industries such as technology and innovation. One of the quicker fixes is allowing foreign investment into previously government-owned assets, such as energy. Hong Kong-based China Light and Power own one of the largest energy retailers in the country, EnergyAustralia, for instance.

[pullquote]Australia is still the number two destination for Chinese investment in the world[/pullquote]

Real estate is yet another area primed for foreign investment. “The [Australian] government’s policy is to channel foreign investment into new dwellings as this creates additional jobs in the construction industry and helps support Australia’s economic growth,” says an FIRB spokesperson. “It can also increase government revenues, in the form of stamp duties and other taxes. Foreign investment applications are therefore generally considered in light of the overarching principle that the proposed investment should increase Australia’s housing stock – by creating at least one new additional dwelling.”

In August, the Victorian Government unveiled plans for a new residential suburb, Arden, on the northern edge of Melbourne’s inner city, to be developed over the next three decades on former Crown land. The low-rise, high-tech, sustainable suburb will have its own Metro station (a transport hub for the nearby CBD) and is expected to house 15,000 residents and create up to 34,000 jobs.

More: Are Asian home buyers facing racist backlash in Australia?

Universities remain a huge drawcard for buyers looking to provide accommodation for their children and invest in a low-risk property portfolio. In Melbourne, the inner-city suburb of Carlton is near the University of Melbourne and RMIT; a third of the suburb's residents are international students, predominantly Chinese, Malaysian and Singaporean.

Politics, however, is threatening the market. Upheavals in government, including the serial ousting of prime ministers, saw a shock result in the federal elections this year, installing a motley crew of senators with different points of view on foreign policy. Some of these senators have strongly criticised the country’s reliance on foreign, particularly Asian, investment.

[caption id="attachment_61595" align="aligncenter" width="740"]

Melbourne consistently ranks among the world's most livable cities. Gordon Bell/Shutterstock
Melbourne CBD[/caption]

 

"You go and ask a lot of people in Sydney, at Hurstville or some of the other suburbs (which have large populations from China and other Asian countries)," one senator, Pauline Henson, told the media in July. "They feel they have been swamped by Asians and, regardless of that now, a lot of Australians feel that Asians are buying up prime agricultural land, housing."

But with Asian (particularly Chinese) private individuals seemingly minded to invest, a slowdown seems – on the face of it at least – to be some time off. “We see Chinese buying growing in the next few years to new highs,” says Pittar of Juwai.com. “They are still eager to diversify their investments and to open up opportunities for their children overseas. And Australia is still a well-regarded destination for investment, education and immigration.”

Where to buy

 

SYDNEY


PROS: World-famous urban beach lifestyle; diverse ethnicity; financial stability

CONS: Stamp duty on foreign buyers; high beachfront property prices; decreasing auction rates

 

MELBOURNE


PROS: Dubbed world’s most liveable city six years in a row; fastgrowing prime property values

CONS: Lack of medium-density dwellings in the suburbs; rising living costs; expensive public transport fares

 

Three things to consider before buying property in Australia

 

  • Know the rules: The Foreign Investment Review Board is a handy place to get the latest information on notification requirements and guidance. Go here.

  • Apply for approval before purchase: In the case of established residential dwellings, as a foreign investor you’ll need to apply for an established dwelling exemption certificate via the Australian Tax Office.

  • Be wary of unexpected fees and taxes: “Keep in mind there are additional taxes for offshore buyers, as well as potential difficulties in accessing finance,” says Nerida Conisbee, REA Group chief economist. The most recent is a 10 per cent capital-gains tax on the sale price of the home, payable to the ATO by foreign investors.


  •  
 

How education is driving Australia’s property market


Education is the leading service export in Australia, and its fourth biggest export after iron ore, coal and natural gas. Over a quarter, or 26.6 percent, of foreign students in Australia are from China. Just 11 percent are from India, a historically significant market for foreign students in Australia.

According to Charles Pittar, CEO of property portal Juwai.com, “Chinese consumers increasingly say education is their primary purpose for property investment in Australia – 59.5 percent of all enquiries in 2015, up from 35.3 percent of all enquiries in 2014.”

International student education supports more than 130,000 jobs in Australia and brought in over 19 billion dollars in the year ending March 2016. And the benefits go both ways - only the United States and United Kingdom have more institutions in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings than Australia. Some of the best include Australian National University in Canberra (ranked at 26), the University of Melbourne (31), University of Sydney (38), University of Queensland (48), and University of New South Wales (49).

Read next: Meet the Sydney-based real estate boss who does his own PR

 

Why British property has such enduring appeal

With the sterling plumbing record lows, Asian investors have been jumping at the chance to snap up a bargain

London is an important global intersection for investors, international students, and tourists from
Asia and the Middle East[/caption]

Since the British electorate’s surprise decision on 23 June 2016 to break away from the European Union – taking its “Brexit” – one of the few certainties in British politics has been uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the incendiary subject of immigration – which many pro-Brexit voters hope will soon be more tightly controlled – is rarely absent from the news. Racist incidents are on the rise since the vote, and many people claim that post-Brexit Britain is now less welcoming to foreigners. So amid all the turmoil, uncertainty and apparent hostility to foreigners, who would want to dive into British property right now?

Foreigners – that’s who. That’s largely because the sterling has plummeted – hitting its lowest point against the dollar for 30 years. Indeed, the British pound joined the likes of the Venezuelan Bolivar and Nigerian Naira in the table of the world’s worst-performing currencies of 2016.

[pullquote]There’s no shortage of irony in the fact that Brexit has inadvertently made British real estate irresistibly cheap[/pullquote]

According to Bernie Morris, president for the UK, Europe and the Middle East for leading Chinese international property site, Juwai.com, Asian investors wasted no time after the Brexit vote.

“With Sterling down, the number of Chinese buyer enquiries made in each of the four weeks after the vote was 30-40 percent higher than in an average week in the year to-date,” he says. “The week of 4 July was the biggest of the year so far for Chinese UK buying inquiries.”

Kensington is one of the most in-demand areas for wealthy overseas buyers[/caption]

There’s no shortage of irony in the fact that Brexit – which many of its proponents saw as being an opportunity “to take our country back” – has inadvertently made British real estate irresistibly cheap to foreign property investors, whose dollars, yuan and roubles can more easily trump the British pound.

And it’s not just the sliding Sterling that’s caught the eye of Asian investors, according to Morris. “Many thought they might get a bargain in a distressed market. For example, they were looking for a cut-price, off-plan apartment that a previous buyer had forfeited because of the vote, after having put down a deposit.”

London, of course, will always be a major draw. As Julian Walker, director at InternationalPropertyForSale.com, explains: “For pure investors, London’s buy-to-let market remains one of the strongest in the UK, with upward pressure on rental demand and the value of rental homes. In terms of price, London suits a wide range of budgets – average flat prices across the city are USD550,633, ranging from an average of USD1.75 million in Kensington and Chelsea to USD259,700 in Barking and Dagenham.”

More: 3 things UK property experts have told us about London Mayor’s investigation into foreign investment

However, according to Juwai, the primary driver – prompting 54.6 percent of its inquiries in London – is education. Outside the capital, that proportion soars. Education is the main factor in 72 percent of Juwai’s inquiries about properties in Birmingham, while, in Scotland, that proportion hits 92 percent.

Ironically, that is down to Asian buyers’ education – or lack of it – about the wider UK market. “Chinese are relatively less knowledgeable about the markets outside of London, so you see a higher proportion of buyers that are primarily motivated by education, rather than just investment,” says Morris. “This means property markets are directly linked to the degree to which local universities attract overseas students.”

One major market bucks this trend, though. According to Juwai, 71.6 percent of inquiries about properties in Manchester – the site’s second most popular UK city after London – are motivated by investment, not education.

The city is a cornerstone of the UK Government’s “Northern Powerhouse” initiative, which involves a GBP13 billion (USD16 billion) investment in improving transport infrastructure in the north of England.

Manchester pipped London as the most livable place in the UK, according to the Economist Intelligence
Unit’s Global Livability Survey[/caption]

“Manchester is the second biggest economy in the UK and is a good hedge to any investments in London,” says Rob Weaver, director of investments for residential crowd funding platform Property Partner. “There’s been significant investment from both the private and public sector, which is expected to have a positive impact on both house prices and rents. The city is served by a large transport infrastructure including the largest airport in the UK (outside London) and a network of motorways.”

Across Manchester, new buildings are springing up. Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG) has invested GBP12 million (USD14.7 million) for a 20 percent share in the GBP800 million (USD980 million) Airport City development and is also investing in St Michael’s, a mixed-use city-centre scheme,” notes Rhys Whalley, executive director of the Manchester-China Forum, a business-led initiative aimed at enhancing the Manchester’s connections with China.

BCEG is also the main contractor on the USD856 million Middlewood Locks project, involving 2,000 new waterside homes and 750,000 square feet of commercial development space. Also significant is Hong Kong property group Peterson Group’s USD367 million Great Northern Warehouse project, which will create a 780,000-square-foot district with offices, shops, restaurants, a cinema and apartments created in the city centre.

More: Why London’s property market remains a solid bet

Dominating Manchester’s property sector – and by 2018 its skyline – is the USD245m X1 Media City project. The joint venture by X1 Developments and Knight Knox International will see four skyscrapers with 1,100 apartments plus 22,700 square foot of commercial space spring up at Salford Quays.

[pullquote]Whether or not the country’s property developers will be able to keep up with demand, one thing seems certain – a good portion of that demand will continue to come from Asia and in particular China[/pullquote]

In fact those wanting to rent in central Manchester have to be quick off the mark. Local estate agents have reported that properties have been let within an hour of being advertised thanks to huge tenant demand – which is naturally driving up prices.

“The market has changed massively in the last decade,” James Favas of local estate agency Purplebricks told the Manchester Evening News. “Prices can range between GBP750 (USD900) to GBP2,500 (USD3,050) a month. I would say the prices are going up around GBP50 (USD60) to GBP75 (USD90) a month.”

Numbers like these, combined with the significantly lower price of property compared to London, are eye-catching. “Yields are greater than those that can be achieved in prime central London,” confirms Whalley of the Manchester-China Forum.

The new Chinatown development in Liverpool is a testament to an increasing Asian presence in British property[/caption]

Still, rental supply remains a major issue in the UK. “While growth may have recently slowed down because of uncertainty, the continued shortage of housing stock, particularly in the south east of England, is acting as a support,” explains Weaver. “Britain simply doesn’t have enough homes, to buy or rent, and this problem is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.”

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has warned that with home ownership becoming unaffordable for many, there will be a shortfall of 1.8 million rental homes by the year 2025 unless something is done.

“We are facing a critical rental shortage and need to get Britain building in a way that benefits a cross section of society,” says Jeremy Blackburn, RICS head of UK Policy. “We must ensure that [the rental sector] is fit for purpose, and the government must put in place the measures that will allow the rental sector to thrive.”

More: Unstoppable foreign investors are the real drivers of London property

It seems the government is listening. In October, it unveiled a USD3.67 billion bundle of measures aimed at speeding up construction by making it easier for developers to access funding. The Home Building Fund will be a fundamental part of helping the government achieve its goal of delivering a million new homes by 2020.

Whether or not the country’s property developers will be able to keep up with demand, one thing seems certain – a good portion of that demand will continue to come from Asia and in particular China.

As Juwai’s Morris says, it’s all about weight of numbers: “Because of its rapid economic growth, there will be 74 percent more dollar millionaires in China by 2020, reaching a new total of 2.3 million. Chinese investors have already put more than USD12 billion into UK property, and this asset class accounts for nearly one-third of the country’s total investment in Britain.”

Statue of the Lion at Trafalgar Square. Zabotnova Inna/Shutterstock[/caption]

More: UK property is still top for Chinese buyers, with a few differences

Where to buy

 

London


PROS: Alpha city; world’s most visited city; home to more ultra HNWI than any other city; international education hub
CONS: High living costs; unpredictable weather

[gallery type="slideshow" size="large" ids="61727,61719,61724" orderby="rand"]

Manchester


PROS: Dubbed most livable city in the UK; world-class shopping; thriving arts, culture, and entertainment scene; largest student populace in the UK; growing tech hub
CONS: Decreasing home ownership rate; high crime rate

[gallery type="slideshow" size="large" ids="61726,61723,61721" orderby="rand"]

Edinburgh


PROS: Large financial centre; British cultural hub with massive arts festivals; thriving tourism; medical education destination
CONS: Housing shortage; the cold weather

[gallery type="slideshow" size="large" ids="61725,61722,61720" orderby="rand"]

What to know about markets outside London


In terms of British finance, property, business and media, London can seem like a black hole, its gravitational pull drawing in people and money alike. In a bid to change the balance, the Conservative government came up with its “Northern Powerhouse” project in 2014. The wide-ranging proposal aims to nurture economic growth in the northern English cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. Key to the plans are transport improvements, including the east-west High Speed 3, which will connect Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

The UK government is heavily reliant on Chinese money to achieve its goals. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Manchester in 2015, he announced the direct Manchester-Beijing route that Hainan Airlines now flies four times a week and which is expected to bring in USD300 million-worth of economic benefits to the area. Chinese firms such as Beijing Construction Engineering Group, meanwhile, are involved in major building projects in the area while firms such as Hong Kong Homes are selling homes direct to Asian buyers.

Read next: Why Asian investors in London should focus on older residential stock

 

Why this Miss Universe prefers to live in Thai property

Natalie Glebova talks luxury Asian homes and life after coronation

 

 

 

Former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova has called Thailand home for over 10 years.

When the scepter has been put down, when the crown has been handed over, when the final walk has been walked, a Miss Universe contemplates life unlike anyone. The world’s most coveted beauty pageant title subjects its holders through a whirlwind year of travels and oft-gainful contracts, and it is a maelstrom that promises no soft landing. Beauty queens eventually face a crossroads leading stateside or home, bright lights all.

But those crossroads have turned out to be home itself for Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova. After flying the flag high for Canada that year, the pageant monarch found herself in a series of serendipitous return trips to then Miss Universe host country Thailand. By the end of her reign, Natalie had received an offer from Thai lager maker Singha to be their brand ambassador.

More than 10 years later, the Russian-Canadian model and television personality still calls the Southeast Asian nation her base, with husband, 2001 Mister Panamá Dean Kelly, and their daughter Maya. Locals have grown endeared to the lanky expatriate, nicknamed Fah ("blue" in Thai) for her steely eye colour.

In 2014, she bought a three-bedroom, 180-square-metre condominium unit near Bangkok's plush Thonglor neighbourhood. She also owns two condos by the beach, one in Na Jomtien, near Pattaya, and the other in Rayong.

Her feet firmly planted in Asia, Natalie sounds proud of her decision to stay and explore the region's real estate offerings — make no Steve-Harvey-sized mistake about it.

What made your decision to move to Thailand?

The country and the people gave us such a warm welcome; it was hard not to fall in love with it. I felt so comfortable in Thailand and the Thais have even given me a local nickname, Fah. I’m very happy with my decision to settle here, because so many wonderful and amazing things have happened to me to make this a very special place in my heart.

Tell us more about your Thai condo. What drew you to it?

I loved the fact that it has only seven floors and doesn’t have too many units. I prefer to stay close to the ground — I don’t like to live in high-rises up in the sky — and also fewer units, so it’s quieter and not so crowded.

More: Asia Property Report speaks with Donald Trump

What drew you to Thonglor? What's so great about the area?


View from the top of the Octave bar in the Thong Lor district of Bangkok. Stephane Bidouze/Shutterstock

Ever since I started living in Thailand, I have loved coming to Thonglor to hang out with friends, go to restaurants and shopping plazas, and get all my beauty services. So when I decided to buy a condo, I looked very closely at properties in this area, not only because I was familiar with it, but also because it’s clean, has a lot of variety, and quite international with people from all over the world living in this area. Now I like it also for the fact that there are a lot of schools and kids’ facilities around here.

More: Why Thonglor remains Bangkok’s epicenter of cool
 

How great is Thailand, or Asia for that matter, in raising a family?


Natalie and husband Dean run a travel startup called Travelbook

Thailand is fantastic for raising a family simply because of ease of lifestyle and affordability. It’s easy to hire help and the schools are of very high international standards. There’s always something to do and places to go in Thailand, and we personally love to travel together as a family all over the region. Our favorite destinations are Phi Phi Islands, Bali, and Hong Kong.
 

Are you thinking of buying more houses in Thailand or Asia?


Sure, I’d love to own more property in Asia. I would love to have another condo in the south of Thailand like Krabi or Trat.

Which other countries in Asia would you like to live in someday?


I’d love to live in Bali, Indonesia one day. It has such a lovely charm and atmosphere, and the food there is just as good as Thailand. I could also see myself living in Hong Kong, as it reminds me of New York City in some ways, and I love NYC!

What is your current relationship with real estate developers?


I did an endorsement for Henderson Land a while ago. I am interested in exploring more real estate deals. I am urbanised and love to travel so I’m looking for properties that match my lifestyle.
 

What's a great final question you really would like to answer?


How do you define success? This was actually a question I asked one of the finalists in Miss Universe 2006 when I was passing on the title. I like this question because there are many ways to answer as success means different things to different people. For me, success has always been about reaching your personal goals, being satisfied with your life and what you’ve achieved, and having an inner happiness that doesn’t come from material things or possessions but from wealth of experience, love, and personal development.

 Natalie and Dean with daughter Maya, born April 2016

Read next: Ivanka Trump, scion of brand sophistication

 

If we lived in this Bangkok condo we might actually do some exercise

The first LED sports pitch in the region

Peekaboo! Can you spot it?

We're assuming it's not possible to run off the top in a fit of sporting zeal...[/caption]

In order to stay competitive, the property developer of today needs to think about ways they can set their project apart from others and we're seeing some pretty nifty tech features making their way into new condos.

Thai developer Sansiri understands this need for novelty, and they can now claim to have a regional first in one of their new developments. ‘The Line Sukhumvit 101’ features an LED multi-sports court - a feature so cool we might actually be tempted to dredge up our running shoes just to give it a whirl.

roof-top_final-sansiri

More: 5 of the best property tech companies

The pitch has lines embedded in the thick LED glass, which change at the mere touch of a button according to which sport you want to play, be it basketball, football, tennis and more.

While not the first in Asia (South Korea won that race) Sansiri’s pitch is the first in South East Asia.

In case you’re wondering – the glass is non-slip and very strong (this was the first thing we asked).

See how it works here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh9taTtg3qQ

Read next: Mixed reality is here to change everything about real estate tech

 

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