ECONOMY

IAS adoption is unlikely to affect property prices

Will the adoption of International Accounting Standards (IAS) by listed companies affect the property market, especially where prices are concerned? Most experts from the banking sector agree that at least in the near future, it will not have a significant impact on the property market, even on sub-markets such as commercial space. The reason for this is that the property portfolios of listed companies are small relative to the size of the property market. The same analysts believe that the adoption of IAS will have a significant effect only at the level of business and investment behavior of top managers (and, by extension, of main shareholders), especially in transactions where, for obvious tax reasons, the official value of the transaction did not reflect the real value. However, some bankers doubted whether listed companies actually plan to take advantage of the opportunity to declare the current market value of their properties and present an updated and truer picture of the value of their property portfolios. They explain that valuation using current values carries the risk of a market downturn negatively affecting their results. On the other hand, a current valuation would lead in many cases – especially bigger and older firms – to a spectacular improvement in their net position. The analysts believe that the Greek property market remains a rather peculiar business sector because of high taxation, a bureaucracy hindering the speed of transactions, the unusually high percentage of ownership-occupancy, the lack of construction quality certification and the severe delays in implementing the land register, as well as other factors. If property does not become a regular product, able to be transferred or liquidated quickly, with few regulations and a smaller tax burden, we will see few changes in the property market in coming years. Thus, a more crucial factor for the future trend of property prices, especially concerning the Athens area, is the inclusion of new land into the town plan, as well as the regulations concerning land use. The amount of land available for property development in the Athens area remains very low, even though there are several areas where organized planning would mitigate any adverse effects on the environment. Current regulations are holding back supply and thus prices remain at their current levels. This status quo benefits managers of big property portfolios – including some specialized bank subsidiaries – which have, so far, avoided direct involvement in real estate development. In other words, blessed are the Attica landowners.