I got the following PM and thought I'd post it here for future reference:
I have a few questions regarding renting a house/apartment in Phuket I hope you can help me with.
I plan on going to Thailand this fall. probably sept or october and stay there for 6+ months. It looks like Phuket is what fits me the best. I might go alone or with a friend. What is the best way to find a decent 1 or 2 bedroom appartment without getting screwed? I dont need super luxus just a decent place with stable internet connection since I will be playing poker from there.
The best advice I can give you is to take a week or so and explore the island. Spend a night in each area/town and spend the day looking at houses and apartments. I think you're coming at the start of the busy season, but that shouldn't matter since you'll be looking at a different market than the tourists. If you're willing to commit to staying somewhere for 6 months, you'll be able to live in a nice Thai neighborhood at a great rate. Most landlords and real estate companies will want you to stay for a year, but there's no way they'll refuse an offer of 6 months from a farang.
Find a Thai person to call realtors and negotiate for you. Even if you have to pay a bar girl or something, just do it. You'll save thousands of baht every month. Any place savvy enough to advertise on the internet (especially in English and espcecially on Google) is going to be more than the going rate. This isn't to say you'll be completely ripped off or anything, but you'll pay more than a local would. Don't speak while your Thai assistant is on the phone and always have them quote a price up front. This price is just an offer--you will be able to bring it down, but it will still be in the general area of the original quote. They may be hesitant to rent to you and will want the lease in a Thai person's name. I'd probably just offer to pay each month in advance. Under no circumstances would I give them the full 6 months up front. Even with a signed lease, you'd probably have little legal recourse if they kicked you out.
Make sure you get a place that is already wired for internet access. Make sure they can turn it on right away. This will limit your housing options, but it can take up to a month to install a line, so it's a necessary hassle. Upgrade to the best residential connection--it should be B2k-4k per month. Internet in Phuket can be unreliable by western standards, so as soon as you're moved in, contact another company and have a 2nd line installed. Get one of those two-source modems that will give you an uninterrupted connection if one of your lines goes out. You can find information about internet services in Thailand and a list of Phuket providers here.
Option #2 is to play in internet cafes or places offering free wifi. There's free wifi all over Patong, but I'm not sure if this is true in the rest of Phuket. Personally I don't feel comfortable entering my passwords over unsecure connections plus I lugged my 24" monitor here so I could play at home.