Square meters which are measured in gold
The dream of owning one’s own home, deeply rooted in the tradition of handing down property to one’s offspring, is likely to remain a dream for a large sector of Attica’s residents. When a 100-square meter apartment in Kypseli, central Athens, costs up to 65 million drachmas, 70 million in Pangrati and 180 million in Metz, it is clear that prices have skyrocketed way beyond the reach of the average Greek pocket. Not to mention the more expensive northern and southern suburbs, or the upwardly mobile Mesogeia Plain, where property costs a small fortune. A new 100-square meter apartment in the beachside suburb of Voula is going for 125 million drachmas, and in Kifissia for 130 million. In Kavouri, an apartment by the sea costs up to 400 million drachmas. Real estate agents say these prices are not always a reflection of the true value of the property, or the particular area. Overpriced property often remains unsold, although there are instances in which apartments priced at 100 or 200 million are snatched up overnight, either because there is nothing else on offer or for investment purposes, particularly in view of infrastructure works in progress. As a result, rising prices in the upwardly mobile areas of Attica have taken the rest of the market with them. Back to the city center The focus of the property market is slowly returning to the center of Athens, Marianna Stavropoulou of the Greek Realtors’ Association told Kathimerini. Districts such as Kypseli, Patissia and Koukaki are attracting more and more homebuyers. Prices in the center have risen, yet more people are buying, either to be close to work or as an investment. In Kypseli, prices have risen to an extent that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. New apartments are being sold for as much as 650,000 per square meter, comparable to similar homes in the northern suburbs. Even in other areas, which until recently were considered down-market, such as Plateia Amerikis, a 1970s apartment of 100 square meters could cost as much as 40 million. On once-fashionable Fokionos Negri Street, 30-year-old apartments are going for 500,000 drachmas per square meter. These are areas that do not have good transport connections and are inside the traffic ring restrictions. Areas just outside the inner traffic ring, such as Ambelokipi, are also seeing property prices skyrocket up to 500,000 drachmas per square meter, although it is doubtful whether these neighborhoods offer much in the way of the quality of life, the quality of construction or the general environment that homebuyers demand today. The arrival of the metro has had a major influence on rising prices here. Alexis Loizos, the owner of the real estate company Ktimatemboriki, said that demand is up by 20 percent, taking prices up with it as much as 15 percent. Metz is another district where prices have reached dizzying heights, even in what has always been a more expensive area. Now, demands for 180 million drachmas for 100 square meters are not unheard of. Even in the neighboring but less trendy Pangrati, a new apartment costs 650,000 drachmas per square meter, or 850,000 drachmas for a penthouse. This is what people are paying in the densely built-up residential areas of Athens but even in forgotten and unexploited parts of the center, such as Metaxourgeio, Kerameikos or Gazi, investors have sniffed out a potential treasure-trove and are rushing to buy up ruined buildings, abandoned properties and old warehouses. Metaxourgeio is one of those districts where most buildings are historically listed. In about five years’ time I think that the situation will be similar to that in Psyrri today, said Anastasios Kotaridis, president of the Athens Realtors’ Association. In Metaxourgeio and Gazi, it is mostly business owners who are buying, as an investment in commercial property. The opposite is true in Kerameikos, where the interest is in residential properties. Stavropoulou says that over the past three years, prices in Metaxourgeio have more than doubled: From 15 million for 100 square meters they have jumped to 30 or 40 million. Add to that the considerable cost of repairs. Plans to unify the city’s archaeological sites will raise prices in Makriyianni and Koukaki. In Kalisperi Street, just below Dionysiou Areopagitou, a 30-year-old apartment without a view of the Acropolis costs 50 million drachmas for 100 square meters. Investors are buying up everything going along Dionysiou Areopagitou but not much is for sale. Prices in Makriyianni are taking property prices in Koukaki with them. It isn’t property that is for sale, but the archaeological unification, say experts. Despite these increases, the center of Athens still has many properties selling at reasonable prices. Home-buyers in the middle of the market aren’t able to buy a decent apartment in the northern suburbs, even with a housing loan. At the same time, conditions in the center are improving and districts once considered down-market are beginning to improve as new apartment buildings are built and old homes restored. Buildings in the city center will not lose their value, said Kotaridis. Mesogeia: Villas and maisonettes If the city center is now out of the reach of the average Greek (who doesn’t have the 40 or 50 million drachmas for an apartment in Kypseli or Ambelokipi), further out, the situation is even more discouraging. The Mesogeia Plain, once the realm of the petite bourgeoisie, has turned into a luxury residential area. In Gerakas, Pallini and Paeania, maisonettes and luxury apartments on blocks of land with swimming pools and gardens are appearing at an incredible rate. What were once vineyards and open spaces are now being dug up to become the Ekali of eastern Attica. Prices are at a peak, and not only because of the new airport at Spata and the Attiki Odos. Only the very high-income groups can think of moving here, where property is selling for about 800,000 drachmas per square meter. These are families who are looking for a better quality of life with open green spaces for their children. The parents work in the northern or eastern suburbs, or even the center, as new highways are likely to reduce travel time considerably. Demand has risen even further out, as in Pikermi, which is also seeing luxury maisonettes pop up everywhere. There has been a great influx to Pikermi, mainly of working professionals and families looking to move out of the city, said Maria Pizani, sales director for the construction company Kinitro. Interest began to grow at the beginning of this year, just a few months before the new airport opened. Property prices in Pikermi now range from 500,000 to 800,000 drachmas per square meter. Other buyers are investing in the prospect of new road networks being built. Decentralization comes at a (high) price. Northern suburbs: High demand, few purchases There is a great demand for homes in the northern suburbs but not many people are buying, either because of the exorbitant prices or because very few homes are for sale. There is a demand for ‘special’ properties, such as penthouses or good single-family homes. Generally, however, people come to the northern suburbs to look around but do not end up buying, said realtor Iakovos Spanoudakis. We think that major projects such as the Attiki Odos and the completion of work on the Kifissos River will have a positive effect on the northern suburbs market, as access will be much easier, he added. The home market in the northern suburbs is relatively healthy, although prices are high, said Giorgos Lenakakis, the owner of Place Realtors. There are many up-and-coming areas such as Kato Kifissia, where apartment prices range from 800,000 to 900,000 drachmas per square meter and Nea Erythraia, where prices start at 600,000 drachmas but go up as high as 1 million per square meter, according to the property and the district. Still at the top of the market is Kefalari (900,000 to 1.8 million drachmas per square meter), as there is very little left to sell, Ekali (1-1.4 million), Politeia (900,000 to 1.3 million), Kastri and Strofyli, followed by central Kifissia (700,000 – 1.3 million), Nea Kifissia, Mortero (Erythraia) and further down the list, Maroussi and its surrounding areas (550,000 -900,000 drachmas). Prices have gone as high as they can go in the northern suburbs, way out of the reach of the majority of buyers, said Lenakakis. Many who had invested gains from the stock market by buying at high prices are now trapped, as there aren’t enough buyers in that range. At this stage, they would be advised to lower their expectations, so that the market can get moving again, he added. Saronic coast prices skyrocketing The picture is somewhat similar in Athens’s southern suburbs, where the closure of the old airport and plans for Olympic Games projects have sent prices skyrocketing in these already overpriced areas. The quality of life, however, is a strong attraction for those who have the money to move down to the coast. Although the more aesthetically attractive properties are in the northern suburbs, the south is more expensive, points out Giorgos Kontoravdis of Monopoly Realtors. There has been an ‘invasion from the north’ in recent years because of the low-density housing, although the new objective values (set by the taxation bureau) are exaggerated, particularly for older homes. Of course, new apartments are never sold for less than their objective values. The most expensive areas in the south are Vouliagmeni and Kavouri, where new apartments are priced at 2-4 million drachmas per square meter. There are only about 50 properties for sale throughout the entire area. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to obtain a building permit, explained Kontoravdis. Next in line, as regards price, are Varkiza and Voula (usually 1.25 million drachmas per square meter) followed by Glyfada, Hellenikon and Palaio Faliron. After the Hellenikon airport closed and the Olympic Games projects were scheduled, prices at Hellenikon went sky-high. In Ano Hellenikon, prices are around 900,000 – 1 million per sq. m., at Kato Hellenikon, around 1.2 million. Palaio Faliron is overpriced, perhaps because of its proximity to Athens and Piraeus. New homes cost around 900,000 per square meter but can be as low as 400,000 drachmas per sq. m. for an old ground-floor apartment or as high as 1.5 million for a luxury home, he explained. So buying a home in Athens is likely to remain a dream for the average Greek, and overpriced properties will stay on the shelf, until further notice. Judging from the average salary of a civil servant and the limited opportunity to put anything aside, concerned parents wanting to hand something down to their children will have to squirrel away savings for many decades to come, and their requirements will be limited accordingly.