Is your house overvalued? Survey says real estate costly

«Sell in Athens, buy in Paris» could have been the conclusion of the joint survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Urban Land Institute about the investment prospects in European real estate this year, taken from a sample of 270 professionals from the sector across the continent. Athens and Dublin, considered the two most overvalued markets, are thought the best for selling property in order to reinvest the capital in other cities with more positive prospects in 2005. Topping the best-buy list is Paris, followed by Milan, London, Lyon and Brussels. Compared with the broader European market, the Greek one is far behind and 2005 does not seem to represent any turning point. Constantinos Pechlivanidis, head of the PwC’s property consultancy branch in Athens, attributes the improvement seen in the domestic market to the post-Olympic Games impressions and psychology. «Nothing has changed about the institutional inadequacy and the unclear town planning which drive foreign investors away. Many funds probe the market and fewer foreign institutionals proceed to investments,» Pechlivanidis says, citing the example of Babis Vovos International Construction: «Foreign institutionals purchased 20 percent of it, being indirectly active in the market. Despite the problems, there are some investments from abroad, showing the Greek market has prospects. I have a horrifying suspicion that the existing inflexibility serves, to a degree, the interests of domestic players, who operate in a closed market without intense competition,» stresses the CwP’s property section head in Greece. European property market professionals appear particularly optimistic and consider 2005 to be another good year for investing in property. The survey shows that the rise of stock markets does not harm investments in real estate, with 87 percent of the sample forecasting that this year as well, returns from real estate will be higher than investments in stocks or bonds. On the types of property to stand out in 2005, the survey predicts that shopping centers will offer the greatest returns, followed by retail sales «parks,» industrial warehouses and housing developments, while offices and hotels have limited prospects. The Greek section of CwP gives precedence to logistics within Attica. Theme parks, for example, present a number of difficulties such as locating big enough plots with specific constructing terms, a rather hard-to-find combination. «Jointly funded projects could offer solutions to the problem of expensive land, but this peculiar partnership with the state is beyond the foreigners’ comprehension, as they are used to buying a plot and developing it,» says Pechlivanidis, predicting this will slow down the pace just as new markets emerge in the Balkans and Central Europe.