«Where am I going to find a parking space now?» has become an almost rhetorical question Athenians have become accustomed to asking themselves. Despite the construction of a number of large multistory facilities in the last few years, the parking problem does not seem to have eased, particularly in the center and densely populated residential areas like Kypseli, Kolonaki and Pangrati, and is now spreading to some suburbs, such as Holargos, where the opening of the metro station has created a whole new situation in terms of parking needs. Indeed, the cost of buying a parking space now approaches that of a small flat in the city center, varying between 15,000 and 60,000 euros. Realtors go as far as to say that the existence of a parking space is now a key factor in the sale of old homes, while more than one parking space is a frequent bonus given by developers to buyers of upmarket apartments. «At a time when prices in most branches of real estate remain stable and demand is subdued, particularly for housing, parking spaces are an ‘oasis,’ with prices rising steadily,» says Lefteris Potamianos, head of the Search and Find realty agency. «The more people are attracted to an area, the more the demand for parking spaces rises, as in the suburbs of Halandri, Maroussi, Aghia Paraskevi and Neo Psychico.» According to market players, the price of buying and renting parking spaces went up by an average of 15 percent in Athens in 2007 alone. A price tag of 74,000 euros has been reported for an underground parking space in Kolonaki, an amount which could buy a small old apartment in other areas of the city, such as Kypseli. Underground spaces are especially expensive. The average annual return from renting out a parking place is about 10 percent, much more than most other forms of real estate in Greece. Moreover, prices seem to be little affected by market ups and downs, while a parking space requires little if any maintenance. Of course, the more upmarket the area the higher the price of a parking space and the higher the rate of return. The extent of the problem seems to have spurred great profit expectations among developers and construction companies which have built a large number of parking facilities at central locations in Athens and Piraeus. However, most of them seem to have underestimated the impact of the Greek habit of parking illegally and the lack of policing. «As the situation stands, recouping our investment seems a difficult affair,» says Babis Isaias, the general manager of Polis Park, a joint venture of major construction companies, which has built four multistory car parks in Athens at a cost of -35 million. He says that a large segment of the public may be misinformed about the cost of multistory car parks. «The rates at multistory car parks are clearly more competitive than open-air ones, often less than half. But people are perhaps misinformed, considering that the more organized a car park is, the more expensive it is,» he says. «The development of car parks is a risky business, given the general lack of order… and I am referring to the huge problem of illegal parking. For this reason, our group is not going to develop anymore independent facilities but will focus on those that are complementary to commercial facilities, such as malls,» says Thedoros Haragionis, head of the Haragionis group. The Athens metro company also operates multistory car parks adjacent to three stations, Syngrou-Fix (640 spaces), Katehaki (420) and Ethniki Amyna (300), as well as two open-air facilities at Doukissis Plakentias station, totaling 630 spaces.