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Why you should invest in Athens real estate

In recent years, many European countries have become awash with cheap money: mortgages covering 80% of property value for residents and 50% for non-residents have become available at 1.5–2.0% per annum. As a result, property prices in most European countries exceed pre-crisis levels.

One of the few exceptions is Greece, where the financial drought continues and the property market has not recovered since its crash in 2008. if the European Central Bank (ECB) maintains its monetary policy (and there is no reason to assume the opposite), it is very probable that capital would reach this country as well. Demand from foreign investors is currently being fuelled by cheap so-called golden visas: a Greek residence permit can be obtained through the purchase of a property of at least €250,000. In the rival markets of Spain and Portugal, the thresholds are set at €500,000, and Latvia, where such a visa also costs €250,000, investors are only allowed to purchase a single property.

Why Athens?

The market of property in Greece is heterogeneous. Locations like Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, for example, are already alive and kicking – local hotel occupancy rates run at 80–90%, and property prices in popular districts exceed €10,000/m².

Athens is very likely to become the next Greek city to witness another period of growth in the real estate segment. For this to happen, a number of preconditions are already being fulfilled:

1. Economic recovery

Athens is the economic centre of Greece, generating 19.9% of the country’s GDP – more than any other EU capital. It is logical to presume that the recovery of the Greek economy would have a direct impact on the capital.

The general decline in the national economy, which began in 2008, is now slowing down. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Greece’s GDP will grow by 2.8% in 2017. According to Trading Economics forecasts, the country’s economy will continue to grow by 1.2% per annum on average up to 2020.

Greece's GDP

According to the IMF, unemployment in Greece declined from a record 27.5% in 2013 to 21.5% in 2017. Trading Economics expects this figure to shrink to 18.8% by 2020.

Unemployment rate in Greece

2. An increase in the number of tourists

Athens is the country’s tourist capital, thanks to its well-preserved cultural heritage and comfortable climate. According to the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), in 2016, the capital attracted every third international tourist to the country, which is 1.5 times more than the second-most popular city, Heraklion.

According to SETE, the number of international tourists visiting Athens almost doubled between 2012 and 2016, growing from 2.6 million to 4.5 million

Number of international tourist arrivals in Athens

Overall, this is a good time for the country’s tourism industry, with rival destinations being seen as unstable. According to the preliminary data from UNWTO, tourist arrivals in Turkey fell by 29% in 2016, while the number of visitors to Greece increased 5%.

According to MasterCard, Athens is among the top 20 European cities in terms of number of international tourists spending a minimum of one night at their destinations. Prices are relatively low there: according to 2016 data from global hospitality industry tracker STR, hotel rates in Athens are lower than tourist hubs like Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London and Dublin.

3. Low prices with a potential for growth

Property in Athens is cheaper compared to many other European capitals: about thrice cheaper than Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin, five times cheaper than Vienna and almost eight times cheaper than Paris.

Average property prices in the centres of European capitals

Local prices are well below pre-crisis levels. According to the Bank of Greece, in Q1/2017, Athens property was 44% cheaper than its 2008 peak.

Average property prices in the centres of European capitals

Today, residential properties sell almost at construction cost price in Athens. According to Numbeo, the average price is €1,265/m², and there are even offers in need of repair at €500–1,000/m².

According to Trading Economics forecasts, property prices across the country will grow by 22% on average between 2016 and 2020.

What to invest in?

We recommend investing in rental residential and hotel real estate, as Greece will keep attracting tourists regardless of its GDP dynamics. Office, retail or warehousing properties are more dependent on the state of the economy, which still needs time to completely recover from the 2008 crisis.

An easy way into the market is to buy a flat that is ready for tourist lease. One of the advantages of Athens is that, unlike Berlin or San Francisco, the Greek market for rental residential property is loosely regulated. Obtaining a tourist license is enough to be allowed to rent out the property for short terms. This document is issued for 5 years and usually costs €3,000-5,000, while extensions are significantly cheaper. However, to obtain the permit, the owner needs the consent of all neighbours. Otherwise, the licence will not be granted.

Tranio offers flats in Athens listed on Airbnb, which have yields of about 7–8%.

One-bedroom flat in Athens
This one-bedroom flat in Athens generates an annual return of €12,000

A more complex but more profitable strategy is to participate in a redevelopment project. One can buy cheap real estate, make repairs and lease or sell at a higher price. The return on investment is 10–15% per annum, and the projects last 1–3 years.

Building new residential units is less profitable, as the demand for new-build properties is lower in Greece. Buyers of new-build flats pay 24% of the property's cadastral value in VAT, while for projects for which permits were issued before 2006, buyers only have to pay a transfer tax, which amounts to about 3%.

With Tranio, investors can redevelop a single flat. Tranio will manage the repairs and the subsequent short-term lease in situ, providing the investors with yield of about 15%.

Investors can also take part in larger projects, such as the renovation of an apartment hotel (a hotel with serviced rental tourist apartments that can be bought separately, unlike conventional hotel rooms). In this case, the operator provides the building, while Tranio and the investor finance the repairs.

Building for renovation in the hirstoric centre of Athens
This building for renovation in the historic centre of Athens is offered for sale at €250,000

When the rental business starts operating, Tranio sells the apartments to foreign buyers seeking golden visas and rental incomes, and distributes the profits to the project’s participants. Investors can expect yields of about 10% when keeping such a property, and profits of about 70% when selling it.

A revival can already be seen in the Athens hospitality market. In the past two years, hotels belonging to several major chains, including Wyndham and Aman, have opened in the capital. In June 2017, Hines bought one of the city’s most famous buildings, Athens Ledra, a former Marriott hotel. Investors who want to ride on the growth of this market are advised to start acting now.

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    Tranio’s managers offer advice on buying real estate overseas
    Anna Boyarchukova
    Anna Boyarchukova
    Head of Residential Department
    +44 17 4822 0039
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