House prices are resisting the slide
Athens Plus, 24 December 2008

Demand for newly built houses continues to be subdued in the Attica area but this appears to have had little effect toward inducing developers to bring down their prices. Sales of new homes have fallen by 50 percent this year, but prices have rarely dropped more than 5 percent.

This kind of decline would have appeared especially steep only a few months ago in the Greek market but is virtually negligible compared to the slump in property prices elsewhere in Europe.

The large gains of recent years and limited bank lending are the main factors behind the vast majority of developers’ stamina in maintaining their asking prices. What’s surprising, however, is that even older apartment prices appear to be sticking.

According to a survey by the Statistics Department at the Athens University of Economics and Business, based on sale ads in November 2008 and compared to those of a year earlier, the decline in asking prices in Attica appears to be especially limited. In the center of the capital, the drop averages just 0.79 percent, in the northern suburbs 1.54 percent, in the southern suburbs 0.25 percent and in Piraeus 3.45 percent.

The steepest declines were in western Attica, at 4.81 percent, as well as in eastern Mesogeia, at 4 percent. The average asking price within the limits of the city of Athens is today estimated at 1,785 euros per square meter, in the northern suburbs 2,750 euros/sq.m. and 2,739 euros/sq.m. in the southern suburbs. In western Attica, it is just over 2,000 euros/sq.m., in Piraeus it is exactly the same price and in Mesogeia it has fallen to 2,087 euros/sq.m.

Variations between different areas within each zone and comparisons with November 2007 do not allow the researchers to draw any safe conclusions, says Professor Epameinondas Panas, who oversaw the survey. But he notes that in the upmarket areas of each zone, prices have either remained stable or even risen.

For their part, realtors say that the survey clearly shows a trend in the market toward older apartments, which has now eclipsed that of new buildings, but claim that the actual drop in prices is greater than the survey shows.

This appears reasonable, given that the study is based on asking rather than final prices, which are subject to negotiation, especially given the conditions prevailing in today’s market.

Land prices in Attica seem to have receded much more, around 20-30 percent, compared to last year. Even so, the number of transactions is minimal, as prices had skyrocketed in recent years.

Prospects are directly related to the housing market and building activity and for this reason no substantial recovery in prices is expected within the next two years.