BANGKOK RESIDENTIAL properties are attracting foreign buyers in a big way, especially the grade-A condominium projects in downtown areas. Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, managing director of CB Richard Ellis (Thailand), said the demand was coming from end users and long-term investors. About 20 per cent of grade-A condominium units on sale are bought by foreigners who are both end users and investors, according to a recent survey conducted by the international consultant. 'The demand for grade-A developments from overseas continues to increase because the market is giving attractive returns of 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent,' she said. 'The prices are reasonable and the products are of international standard. It is likely that prices will go up further, and that buyers will be focusing on downtown areas and areas close to the mass transit rail systems.' She said one example was Athenee Residence, a new grade-A condominium project on Wireless Road. The 41-storey development, comprising 219 units, was 70 per cent sold within two months of its launch, at prices as high as 100,000-120,000 baht ($20,300 to $24,400) per square metre. There were 38,148 condominium units in downtown areas at the end of last year - 36,549 freehold units and 1,599 leasehold units. The occupancy rate was 86.4 per cent, a slight increase on the previous quarter's 83.7 per cent. The developers have promised to complete 4,546 units this year, 5,679 units next year and 3,185 units by 2007, according to CB Richard Ellis. 'We noted a slowdown in new condominium projects in the second half of last year. The market was aware of the competitive environment and the tightening of bank credit for developers,' Ms Aliwassa said. 'This is a sign of awareness of true market demand and the industry's ability to balance between supply and demand.' Although the market is competitive, prices for grade-A condominium projects are not expected to drop. Average prices for existing grade-A condominiums in the Sukhumvit area range from 80,000-85,000 baht per square metre to 100,000-120,000 baht per square metre in the Wireless Road area. The number of foreign condominium buyers in Bangkok is growing. Especially eager buyers are business travellers operating in the region. Most of the buyers - about 40 per cent - are from Europe, followed by 38 per cent from Asia and the rest from the United States and Australia. Half of them are permanent residents in Thailand and want to live in the units. The other half are overseas residents who are long-term investors with plans to rent out the units, with an expectation of 4 per cent to 6 per cent in rental returns, or to live in Thailand in the future.