The Phuket property market surge is expected to continue for at least two more years, buoyed by the strong growth of the tourism sector.
Phattanan Phisutvimol, president of the Phuket Real Estate Association, said the key driver for the property market rebound was foreign buyers, particularly Russians fleeing the war and Germans escaping the energy crisis.
"They moved in such great numbers that the rental residential units were completely occupied," he said.
"Luxury villas were in high demand, especially those near Laguna, which were particularly popular among Russians, Chinese and Europeans."
Mr Phattanan said Russian buyers purchased half a pool villa project, while other groups bought pool villas to rent out to their compatriots.
The Real Estate Information Center (REIC) said the number of newly sold villas in Phuket last year increased more than four times, from 34 units in 2021 to 149 units in 2022.
In the second half of 2022, 129 villas were sold, compared with 131 for the whole of 2019.
Phuket ranked as the country's third-largest market for transfers of condo units to foreigners, behind Bangkok and Chon Buri.
The island reported transfers recovered last year to 637 units worth 3 billion baht, rising 85% and 53% respectively, from 345 units worth 1.95 billion baht in 2021.
The 2022 numbers also beat pre-pandemic sales, which tallied 476 unit transfers worth 2.37 billion baht in 2018 and 505 units worth 2.5 billion in 2019.
With the Chinese absent for years, Russians reclaimed the top spot in terms of most condo transfers in 2022: 240 units worth 875 million baht, accounting for 32% and 29%, respectively, of the total transfers in the province.
According to the association, the total number of condos transferred to all buyers last year rose to 1,966 units. That compares with 1,425 units in both 2021 and 2020, 1,763 units in 2019, and 2,163 units in 2018.
The proportion of units transferred to foreigners rose to 32.4% last year from 24% in 2021, 27% in 2020 and 28.6% in 2019.
"The number of condo units transferred in November and December of 2022 was 30% higher than pre-Covid levels," said Mr Phattanan.
"This momentum is expected to continue over the next two years as the tourism sector makes a powerful comeback."
According to REIC, Phuket's tourism sector revenue in 2022 skyrocketed to 139 billion baht, increasing more than 10 times after falling to 13.1 billion baht in 2021.
This was a significant improvement from revenue of 87.5 billion baht in 2020, which plummeted from 393 billion in 2019 and 425 billion in 2018, according to the centre.
"The tourism sector recovery had a strong impact on the rebound of housing demand in Phuket, with a good sales rate for all residential categories in the second half of last year," said Vichai Viratkapan, acting director-general of the REIC.
Despite a thriving tourism industry and increasing incomes, many locals working in the hospitality sector are still unable to secure home loan approvals because of insufficient financial records and savings, said Mr Phattanan.
"Many people with real demand are unable to book a home loan or make a down payment as their savings were depleted during the pandemic," he said.