Luxury real estate costing less to buy
Athens Plus, 6 February 2009

The economic crisis has not left the luxury residential market untouched, affecting mainly large dwellings in the so-called privileged areas of the Athens conurbation.

"The absorption time for apartments in neighborhoods such as Kolonaki, Psychico and Filothei has increased significantly, as we have cases of units measuring over 250 square meters remaining empty longer than eight months. As a result, owners short of liquidity have been forced to scale down their prices in order to sell their properties. We have seen cases where the difference between the initially quoted price and the final sale price was as high as 20 percent," said one real estate agent.

An average drop of more than 5 percent is also estimated in the rental prices of luxury homes.

"The number of customers interested in such homes has decreased significantly. For instance, executives of multinational companies, who were an important source of demand in past years, have either fallen in number or their employers, as part of cost cutbacks, have set ceilings on expenses," observed another realty agent specializing in luxury housing. "The crisis has hit everywhere; even leading luxtury goods retailers are recording a significant drop in sales and profitability. Of course the luxury housing market could not be the exception. It is an international phenomenon that will not disappear in the near future," he added.

Analysts are attributing the slide in prices and demand to the fact that prospective buyers who have the money to buy are adopting a wait-and-see attitude, expecting even lower prices. At the same time, buyers who maintained demand in the previous year by offering record prices have virtually disappeared.

Meanwhile, statistical data based on a sample of 70,000 new residential homes across Greece show that sale prices remained at 2007 levels last year.

Now discounts of 5-10 percent on initially quoted prices are generally considered quite possible after some hard bargaining. The drop in sales last month is estimated at 20 percent, year-on-year, in line with estimates of the decline in mortgage lending.

Developers on the whole are now focusing on small apartments with an area of 70 to 80 sq.m. Construction of dwellings measuring over 170 sq.m. has dropped sharply.