Less expensive areas may hold treasure for investors

Discouraged by skyrocketing property prices in Athens? Don’t be. The so-called «downgraded» areas of Votanikos, Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos in the center of the city offer good opportunities for investors with patience, according to real estate professionals. «These areas definitely satisfy the criteria of an investment opportunity, as they show positive prospects via facelifts and the general trend of building renovation and change of use that will significantly reduce the presence of industrial and manufacturing activities in the broader region,» predicts Miltos Epithymiadis, CEO at Aspis Real Estate. «Ground-floor flats currently used as warehouses or workshops have very good prospects from an investor’s point of view, as the changes of use expected could provide them with great value,» Epithymiadis says, adding that «potential investors would be advised to focus their search on zones of general and not exclusively residential areas.» Of the three areas, market experts clearly give priority to Votanikos: «The risk every investor takes when investing in the property market of downgraded areas, expecting capital gains from facelifts and upgrades, is whether those projects will be realized or not,» argues Nikos Yiannoulelis, a property consultant. «In Votanikos’s case, the plans for the facelift of the broader area of Elaionas through the creation of a metro station, a new coach terminal, the Panathinaikos sports ground as well as office and commercial space, make the upgrade of Votanikos certain. This is seen in the prices of old houses there that are usually sold needing extensive renovation,» he says. Sale rates in the area have risen from 500 euros per square meter five years ago to 1,200-1,800 euros/sq.m. now. «The rising course of prices will continue, if not at the same rapid rate, but they will definitely mean considerable capital gains to anyone who chooses to buy a property in these areas near the city center,» suggests Yiannoulelis, adding that «those neighborhoods are sparsely populated and will not change their profile given the number of antiquities that hamper the building of blocks of flats.» Kerameikos, too, has very positive prospects; this is an area that has been significantly upgraded over the last few years, thanks to the interventions conducted within the context of the Archaeological Sites Unification Project in Athens. Estate agents stress, however, that the interventions accomplished at Kerameikos were limited and the whole effort was in fact restricted to pedestrianizations, which is not always positive for house values, particularly in general residence zones that can host clubs and other noisy activities. They add that the overall picture of the area will greatly depend on the success of the Unification Project’s plans. Local agents say the good side of Kerameikos is that it is close to the beginning of Iera Odos, which includes most theaters and cultural centers in the area. The cultural upgrade of Kerameikos in recent years has attracted many artists and famous personalities to the area, lifting its social status as well as housing prices. On the good side, Kerameikos sale rates reach 1,900 euros/sq.m., although most houses need renovation here, too. Finally the area of Metaxourgeio seems to be the least favored, at least with the estate agents we spoke to. The expectations from the creation of the Metaxourgeio metro station at Karaiskaki Square were not fully realized. The large number of immigrants in the area seems to have discouraged buyers and investors, although estate agents consider the existence of older buildings than those in Votanikos and Kerameikos a greater obstacle, because this considerably raises the cost of a radical renovation of houses. At Metaxourgeio one finds the lowest sale rates in the broader area, with prices ranging between of 1,500 and 1,700 euros per sq.m. Notably, in this area there are several large-surface old houses, which are not so common in Votanikos and Kerameikos.