ECONOMY

Greeks becoming more familiar with realty portfolio investment

The management of a property portfolio is no doubt a complex task, requiring knowledge and specialization. In Greece, the concept has not yet become fully familiar, but this will have to change, and soon: The first realty investment companies are expected soon. Kathimerini recently spoke with Dr Colin Jones, professor at Edinburgh’s Heriott Watt University, who visited Greece as part of his involvement in an MSc program in Property Investment and Finance, offered here by iCon International Training (www.icon.gr). Jones is an economist specializing in the real estate market, particularly company property. How would you define the terms «property investment» and «finance»? Who are the players in this activity and why does proper training play such an important role? The terms refer to the investment in the real estate market; it is also linked to investment in shares and bonds. Finance houses and institutional investors – insurance companies and pension funds – treat real estate as an alternative investment to be included in their portfolios. Investment in realty may be effected either through direct purchase or by buying shares in realty investment mutual funds or firms of realty agents. Banks provide loans to investors and construction companies and, therefore, need special knowledge for understanding the peculiarities of the property market; this concerns not only financial appraisal but also the local legal and town-planning frameworks. Realty investment finance is being increasingly treated as a specialized sector. Investors must be able to fully understand the property market and the estate agents must be able to communicate with bankers and stockbrokers. What factors have to be taken into account before investing? The basic factor is the discounting of future net profits/income after the projection of costs. This calculation must take into account all types of leasing income if necessary, and the related risks and insurance. The structure of the portfolio can also influence projected profits and costs; they can largely depend on the exact location of the property, the local and regional markets and ultimately, the national economy. Would you say there is some secret for someone to secure a satisfactory return to investment? No secret, just good research. What is your view of the property investment market in Europe? Has the introduction of the euro boosted cross-border exchanges? In the last five years, realty has yielded higher returns than shares as stock prices have kept falling, and has therefore become a more attractive investment. The adoption of the euro will probably make property investment in non-traditional markets even more attractive, as it reduces the currency risks. What is the prevalent trend in realty investment during the current period of war? Do you believe the present juncture affects investment psychology? What advice would you give to investment fund managers? In contrast to investing in multinational companies, investment in realty usually involves specific locations and must be less affected by the problems of international commerce – the price of oil, for instance. Nevertheless, rents are clearly influenced by national economies, which have been in an upheaval recently, but this cannot be attributed to the war. However, the uncertainty caused by war has in all probability affected investment strategies. What do you say to your students in their first lecture? I advise them to consider property as a financial asset which yields income from rents and creates expenses in the form of maintenance costs. How difficult is it to explain the term «property investment and finance» to beginners? It is a specialized extension of the subject of investment and finance already taught in Greece. The discipline also corresponds to other types of investment; being new in Greece, it needs some time to become familiar.