by Symela Touchtidou, @stouchtidou

There used to be a good reason for choosing to live in Greece (other than the obvious ones, the weather and the landscape): affordable housing.

Buying or renting a house in Greece used to be a “middle class thing”. Prices were at the lower end of the European market and the recent financial crisis (2010–2018) pushed prices even lower.

The tide, though, has been turning the past two years.

In Europe, house prices, and in fact most real estate assets, have been rising since 2016, a trend that oddly enough was not subdued because of the pandemic. On the contrary, it was reinforced.

Since early 2016, house prices in the EU have risen by 4.6% year-on-year on average, outperforming inflation, wages and GDP growth (source: Caixa Bank).

In 2020, house prices increased by 5.5%, faster than inflation, in all 27 European Union countries, a trend not observed in at least two decades.

In the second quarter of 2021, the latest Eurostat data show that house prices were up by 6.8% in the euro area and by 7.3% in the European Union compared with the same quarter of 2020.

There are several reasons for that:

  • in a zero to negative interest rates and bond yields world, investors are looking for assets to offer return on their money. Real estate is seen as a relatively safe alternative and Europe is particularly popular among investors. According to the EMEA Investors Intentions survey 2021, by CBRE Group, a leading American commercial real estate services and investment firm, the real estate market in Europe is the most attractive region worldwide for investments in real estate. Before Covid-19 hit the continent, industry experts were targeting a return level between 5 and 10% for their property investments.
  • institutional investment has boomed. Data from Real Capital Analytics shows that institutional investment into Europe’s residential market hit a new record in 2020, accounting for nearly 30% of total activity.
  • increased demand opposite to a shortage of supply, especially in cities. A generalized trend towards urbanization fails to be satisfied by the available assets.

An analysis by Bloomberg Economics shows that housing markets are exhibiting 2008-style bubble warnings.

Source: Bloomberg/ eurostat

The Greek real estate “resurrection”

Greece is no exception to the trend.

Real estate in the country has become attractive to investors due to the market’s crash of the years 2010–2017.

As Eurostat data shows, Greek residential property prices fell by more than 40% in that period. The market started recovering since 2018 and hit a 7% rise in 2019.

The average asking price (€/m2) in houses for the third quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year has risen by an average of 7% for sales and by a 1.3% for rents, according to property data from Spitogatos, the most popular real estate website in Greece.

Τhe young people are the main victims of the rising prices. Though the problem hits all European countries, Greece constitutes an extreme case: almost 58% of 25 to 34-year-olds live with their parents, the second highest percentage in EU (behind Croatia’s 62%, source: Eurostat).

Still, Greece remains below the radar of most global surveys on “real estate hotspots”. Contrary to Spain or Italy, Greece –and more specifically its capital Athens– do not pop up in the “top 10” of attractive real estate investment destinations.

Germany, France and the Netherlands is where the main action happens. The European Central Bank reported that these three countries accounted for almost three-quarters of the eurozone’s total increase in house prices last year.

Source: Emerging Trends in Real Estate- Europe 2021, PwC & the Urban Land Institute, 2021

Incentives

The Greek government has introduced a number of measures to boost the real estate market:

  • reduction of the Uniform Real Estate Property Tax (ENFIA)
  • suspension of VAT and capital gains tax on newly built properties until the end of 2022
  • 40% tax deduction for energy, functional and aesthetic upgrade of old buildings.

Nevertheless, real estate properties are heavily taxed in Greece. Owners have to pay:

  • ENFIA
  • Supplement tax for properties of over 250,000 value
  • Corporate Income Tax (on gains from sales and rental income)
  • Divided WHT
  • Real Estate Transfer Tax
  • Municipality Duty (TAP)

  • Duty for the provision of cleaning and lighting services.

The Greek real estate market has significantly benefited by programs to attract foreigners to Greece, especially before the Covid-19 crisis.

Programs such as the introduction of Family Offices, the Golden Visa, the “non-dom” scheme, the 7% flat tax rate for foreign retirees have poured money into the Greek real estate market.

The Golden Visa program alone has brought more than € 2 billion in real estate acquisitions, from its start in 2013 to 2020. Investments plummeted, though, in 2021 (source: Enterprise Greece).

Shaping the future: the mobility factor

Arval Consulting and BNP Paribas Real Estate’s latest research has shown that up to 25% of all European workers could, in theory, work from home in the future compared with an average of 5.4% pre-pandemic.

The rise in teleworking is likely to change the office usage and the organization of work.

It is expected that a hybrid form of work will become the rule, with an average of two days per week of remote working. This will have an impact on the market.

Companies may decide to reduce their office space not only due to the increasing share of their workforce working remotely every day but also to review their real estate strategy.

Nevertheless, despite the implementation of flexible work patterns, offices still remain the most preferred asset type for European-based investors (source: EMEA Investors Intentions survey 2021, CBRE Group).

More careful choices of location, easily accessible by all transportation means (from mass transit to soft mobility), a high-quality work environment and more flexibility should be keys to understand the future of the office markets. (source: Impact of remote working on mobility and real estate offices, BNP Paribas Real Estate, October 2021).

Graphic design of the “15 minute city”, source: Carlos Moreno presentation, TED.com, October 2020

The “15-minute city”

Polycentric city planning is among the ideas accelerated by Covid-19 as a direct response to residents traveling less.

The “15-minute city” concept is one in which daily urban necessities are within a 15 minute reach on foot or by bike. The six essential urban social functions would be fulfilled within short distances: living, working, supplying, caring, learning and enjoying.

Such plans have recently been implemented in cities including Paris, Madrid, Milan and Edinburgh.

The “15-minute city” concept was referenced in the C40 Mayors’ agenda for a Green and Just Recovery – a network of the world’s 96 megacities committed to addressing climate change.

Carlos Moreno, associate professor at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne / IAE Sorbonne Business School and co-founder of the ETI (‘Entrepreneurship, Territory, Innovation’) Chair

The concept of the “15-minute city” was originally conceived by cities expert and Sorbonne University professor Carlos Moreno.

The “20-minute neighborhood” is similar in theory.

The concept looks at having all your basic needs –health and social care, shops, work hubs, places to socialize– met within a 20-minute walk, wheel or cycle from where you live.

It has been developed in cities such as Melbourne and Portland. The Scottish government’s program 2020–21 has also announced plans for “20-minute neighborhoods”.

Mixed-use buildings could also deliver multiple efficiencies by combining the dual urban functions of office or other commercial space with residential areas.

They have the potential to reduce environmental impact, as they take up less space, discourage car use and can combine new, second-hand or even formerly disused properties.

Such concepts champion the notion of “smart density”, which involves accommodating inevitably rising city populations within broader, decentralized areas, spread around the conurbation offering a more sustainable form of urban real estate growth and development.

Sustainability

The shift towards net zero is also driving the attractiveness of buildings which are as self-sufficient as possible, for example generating their own power or processing their own wastewater. This is likely to be a growing area of interest in the coming years (source: Emerging Trends in Real Estate® Europe 2021, PwC Global).

The first autonomous building in France, source: Valode et Pistre Architectes

In September, the first autonomous building in France has opened its gates. It is located in Grenoble and consists of 62 apartments.

The building, the idea of which was born 9 years ago, aims to achieve 70% annual energy autonomy, a 2/3 reduction in water consumption and a 40% reduction in household waste.


This article is part of the Greek Business File November/December 2021 Cover story. We look into the “resurrection” of Greek properties, the “hottest” areas for investment, the landscape in the house/office/ holiday homes market and the latest trends in consturction.

The November/December 2021 of Greek Business File is available here.