Greece: A Real Estate Investment Destination
Showcasing investment opportunities to international businesspeople is one of the primary functions of the Hellenic Center for Investment. Within this framework, ELKE was a main sponsor of the 2nd International Real Estate Development Symposium: Investing in Destinations, held in Athens October 3-4, 2007. The two-day event examined the numerous opportunities in the Greek real estate market, presented the evolution of the legislation related to new forms of real estate products, and provided a forum for the international investment community to become more familiar with the extensive potential Greece offers in this wide-ranging area.
Mr. Aristide Simeonoglou, Chairman of ELKE, provided an overview of Greece as a destination for real estate investment. Noting that the priority of the Greek government is to increase investment, especially in the tourism sector, the Chairman underlined the radical shift that has taken place since the beginning of the new century, leading to today's investor friendly environment. With the most advanced infrastructure in Southeast Europe, a Mediterranean climate that is attractive year round, and unprecedented opportunities in a wide variety of real estate ventures, the Chairman pointed out that Greece offers the most attractive incentives in the EU today, with grants up to 40% of a project's value. Mr. Simeonoglou also cautioned that as the Greek real estate market matures, these incentives will necessarily be decreased, emphasizing that today is the optimal time for investment in such areas as golf courses, residential real estate, integrated resorts, marinas, spas, and agro-tourism related projects. ELKE, as Greece's official investment promotion agency, is ready to assist investors at every stage of the investment process, from advising on projects and finding large tracts of land, to helping with legal issues on complex projects, and the Chairman characterised the present as "the golden age for investment in tourism."
Mrs. Helen Desylla, Senior Investment Manager at ELKE, examined the tourism real estate environment in Greece today and noted that Greece offers superb natural advantages and opportunities not likely to be repeated soon. This, according to Mrs. Desylla, has not gone unnoticed by the international investment community, and there is currently a strong interest in Greece. ELKE has numerous proposals it is examining, proposals that are at the initial stages of development. Although the region of Southern Europe does have a strong competitive environment, Greece offers qualities that are unique, including its highly attractive climate, superb natural beauty, a rich culture and extensive history, an exciting gastronomical tradition, and a renowned sense of hospitality.
Greece is ranked 24th of 124 countries as a tourism destination, and is increasingly being visited by travelers from new markets such as Russia and the Far East, is increasingly attracting high-end visitors, and is now beginning to develop its second-home and integrated resort market. Although this market has been delayed in advancing, many analysts point out that Greece today has the advantage of being in a position to avoid the costly mistakes of other Southern Europe destinations that have suffered from overbuilding with sever consequences on the environment. Today, Greece is finalising its legislation for residential holiday real estate and integrated resort development so that new projects will proceed within a framework of sustainable development and financial viability. Mrs. Desylla pointed out that a survey of potential second home buyers from Europe has shown that Greece is consistently rated the number one choice by respondents when asked where they would like to own a second home. Greece, she said, is well positioned to draw buyers who might consider other destinations, such as Spain, France, Portugal, Florida, Dubai, and Croatia, especially as access by air constantly expands, the quality of offerings improves, the number of residential resorts increases, and the availability of information becomes more widespread.
The numerous speakers and participants at Investing in Destinations highlighted the numerous and varied opportunities in today's market. Today, Greece is preparing to offer such products as time sharing, condo hotels, fractional ownership, residential clubs and destination clubs, as the demand for flexible and varied options grows. The interest in golf courses is becoming noticeable as developers appreciate the spectacular locations available and the shortage of supply.
Miltos Kambourides, Managing Partner, Dolphin Capital, a company that participated in the Symposium and has a strong presence in Greece's real estate market, says: "The Greek investment environment has slowly been improving over the last few years. I believe that the time has come for the Greek government to accelerate the introduction of a series of long-awaited reforms that will attract foreign capital, generate jobs and give the economy a significant boost. Dolphin Capital has committed substantial resources and capital already in the country, having invested over ¤200 million of equity funds to date and by committing into several up-market large scale tourism projects with a total expected cost in excess of ¤3 billion."
In addition, urban real estate is getting the nod as studies show that projects such as shopping centres, office buildings, and industrial and commercial real estate all are promising areas for the future. Frank Kostopoulos, Head of Research Greece at Cushman and Wakefield, who recently settled in Greece from Canada to be part of today's booming real estate opportunities, is bullish on Greece: "Continued economic and consumer growth, fueled by new infrastructure, is creating a huge investment opportunity. Shopping centres have further to develop in this maturing market. Premier office space and industrial/logistics centres are in demand by major international companies. Development of more high-end tourism facilities and emerging second homes market can increase expenditures per tourist visitor and can create year-round tourism for this seasonal market."
And George Kyriazis, Managing Director of Hippodamos Properties, with its prime office in Athens, notes that Hippodamos aims at creating value-added market awareness for land and property located in Greece to overseas investors from the Far East (China), Australia, Northern Europe, and Ireland. Mr. Kyriazis says, "With the recent and planned changes in the nation's infrastructure, the excellent climate, history, civilization, sun, sea, and membership in the EU, Greece represents a unique chance to invest in a country that indeed promises high ROI. A tremendous opportunity to overseas investors to invest in Greece is clear."