ECONOMY

Real estate leaders meet in the capital next week

From May 30 to June 4, the heart of the international real estate market will be beating in Athens, host of the 56th World Congress of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI). The general theme of the conference will be «Real Estate and Transformation of Cities,» while sessions will examine issues of housing and commercial developments, the relationship of the real estate market to demographic developments, the cohabitation of housing development with natural environment protection, how affordable houses are around the world today, and the current trends in investments and funding of property development plans. This is one of the most high-profile international conferences in the real estate market, given that FIABCI today comprises 48 national branches representing about 1.5 million real estate professionals. More than 700 foreign delegates, including estate agents, developers, builders and consultants will take part in the event at the Hilton Hotel. «What made us bid for the FIABCI World Congress was Greece’s upgraded image after successfully hosting the Olympic Games, the country’s promotion and certainly the modern infrastructures Greece has obtained,» says Dimitris Biniaris, general secretary of FIABCI Greece. «This helped the Greek candidacy considerably as competition was hard considering countries with ultramodern infrastructures and particularly strong real estate market were in the running.» Greece narrowly edged South Korea out in FIABCI members’ votes. Biniaris says Greece’s geographical location is convenient for European industry professionals, and its status as a famous and attractive tourism destination also played a part. «Of course to collect the votes required we had to make many trips to the US, Malaysia, Cannes and St Petersburg to promote the Greek candidacy,» he concedes. Natural beauty and products that have begun developing are increasing the competitiveness of the Greek summer house. The secretary of FIABCI Greece says this can be a future goal for the domestic market, since the summer house domain is not saturated in this country. «For our competitiveness to rise, the well-known legislative and town-planning problems must be resolved,» Biniaris says. «A network must also be set up promoting sales and our product abroad.» On the other hand, the lack of direct air access constitutes a clear disadvantage for Greece as compared to, say, Spain, but Greece has other advantages. Besides summer houses, the logistics sector is showing positive prospects, especially after the voting of the investment incentives law, as do private islands, an investment for a tiny number of very rich people. «From this congress we expect to attract foreign investments to the local market, just as the government does,» Biniaris says. Delegates will provide the local industry a unique opportunity for international acquaintances, cooperations and presentation of the domestic market’s prospects. «To this end there will be tours for delegates around housing or other developments such as the Lamda Development housing complex in Maroussi and that by REDS in Pallini, as well as the Attica department store developed by the Bank of Piraeus in the Athens city center,» Biniaris says. On display to foreign delegates will also be the institutional changes in the Greek market, and mainly the forthcoming imposing of Value Added Tax «that marks a significant step in rationalizing the market and limiting its peculiarities, which foreign investors do not understand,» Biniaris says. He goes on to say that foreigners see the local market as «likeable,» according to his and his colleagues’ impression while preparing the conference. «The country’s promotion through the successful Olympics was immense, but we have hardly capitalized on it,» says Biniaris, suggesting that this congress will use some of last summer’s capital. «We realize the effects will not be immediate, as that will only be the case for those to seal deals during the actual conference, but I believe in the long term there is a lot to gain,» he says. «Organizing a successful conference, for instance, could provide a significant boost to promoting conference tourism in Athens, which now has adequate conference spaces as well as a multitude of refurbished hotels.»