With no end in sight for the current Eurozone crisis, and the Greek economy in particular under intense scrutiny, this may not appear to be the best time for Mediterranean real estate. Yet getting into today’s luxury real estate market in Greece is actually a great opportunity, according to Greece Sotheby’s International Realty, which handles property transactions for some of the most prestigious clients in the world.
High-end real estate is one of the few sectors that is relatively recession proof and actually represents a very sound investment amidst the turmoil affecting European countries and causing great concern at the highest levels of the EU. Rescue plans, bailouts, tax reforms and belt tightening may be the order of the day when it comes to policy agendas and economic measures, but property, particularly at the top of the market, can sometimes defy other economic trends.
With over sixty inhabited islands and a mainland stretching from the Aegean Sea to the Balkans, Greece offers an endless paradise in the southern Mediterranean region. Athens itself boasts sumptuous suburbs such as Attica with quality properties constantly in demand, and the country’s strong transport infrastructure ensures easy access through numerous connections.
The difference with Greek real estate becomes apparent at the higher end of the market. Any buyer looking at or above a €3m property will most likely be insulated from the general contagion in Europe at the moment. Because of Greece’s natural beauty, transport links and ongoing attraction, quality Greek properties are an investment that still merits consideration. History is also a valuable teacher. Luxury property in Greece has proven a sound long-term buy as it is often seen as a secure investment in an otherwise unstable market. Sotheby’s International Realty comes to the fore with experience in identifying not just the properties, but the right type of investment. With over 11,000 sales associates located in more than 550 offices in the US and 40 other countries and territories, the Sotheby’s International Realty network enjoys considerable market reach among established real estate investors globally.
Sotheby’s International Realty in Greece
Panagiotis Farmakis, Greece Sotheby’s International Realty Manager, talks to us about Sotheby’s International Realty and the hidden opportunities of investing in real estate during a time of crisis.
Everyone who thinks of Sotheby’s thinks very high-end. How much of a niche is your market and how does it fit in today’s crisis-struck Greece?
High end does not always mean expensive. There are numerous new projects under construction which are extremely interesting – modern classics, great examples of architecture and design – and come with very attractive prices. These may be above the average price point, but they still exhibit excellent investment prospects. When working with a client, we always listen to their needs first and work to that goal for the best results.
Not many people trust the economy in Greece right now. Why do you think someone would want to invest in real estate right now?
Historically, investing in real estate has consistently exhibited strong returns so long as one takes a long-term view. It is hard to recall a case where someone bought real estate and sold it without profit over any ten-year period.
Has the crisis hit mass market real estate and luxury estate in a different way?
Yes it has. But while luxury real estate has indeed been less affected overall, prices across the board have reduced so it could be argued that it is a buyer’s market, particularly for anyone with a strong cash position.
How has the crisis affected different parts of the country?
Retail stores have seen a drop in spending which has of course affected government revenues, so there is inevitably more of an effect on the economy in areas where debts are high and incomes lower.
Have the prices of luxury estates been affected by the crisis and to what degree?
Officially, prices have declined by around 10-20% in desirable locations.
Sotheby’s International Realty specializes in high-end properties. Have you noticed a decline in luxury properties in Greece or is the amount of movement the same?
The quantity of luxury properties on the market has declined as demand has inevitably been suppressed. But paradoxically this dearth of luxury properties helps uphold the value of those that are on the market.
What are the Greek real estate hot-spots right now?
The north and south suburbs of Athens, islands with airport access, and attractive landscaped properties continue to be in demand. This has been the case for some time, and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
What is a benefit of the Sotheby’s International Realty brand to clients who are buying or selling a home around €1 million?
There is no doubt that the presence of a renowned brand like Sotheby’s sends a signal to the marketplace that underwrites both the quality of the property and the pool of potential buyers. Each of our clients is unique with their own needs, so we tend not to bracket them by budget. Whether someone is selling a €10m property or €500,000 property, they will get the same service. It’s never about the price for us, but the relationship. That is why so many people come to us as their partner in real estate services.
Looking back at your time in residential real estate in Greece, what changes would you say have happened in the way buyers buy a home now compared to the past?
There are a number of changes. Some of them include a tendency towards safer neighborhoods, new developments, accessible transport links etc. The most important of all is the value gained with a professional and experienced real estate broker. The broker can help manage hidden costs in any transaction.
How do you differentiate in such a competitive market?
Our brand is our competitive advantage in many ways. In this way we can use our international presence and network to deliver great service for our clients.
How do you thing the real estate landscape will be in Greece in say ten to fifteen years from now?
No one can see into the future. We just have to make a balanced decision based on today’s economic reality and the many lessons of history that have demonstrated the long term value growth of real estate.
As someone who has purchased and sold many homes in your lifetime, what are a couple of important tips you may have for helping a family to feel at home in their new space?
Really, it’s about understanding how you live now and how you would like to translate that into a new property. Are you looking for more space, or a different kind of property? Do you need to consider distance, or facilities, both within the property and nearby? It is always best to profile where you are and look at how the property fits with your life needs. Then, you can consider what type of thing you need next. We always help our clients with this. It’s part of the service.