Old apartments gaining points in market
Athens Plus, 23 October 2009

In contrast to the market for newly built houses and apartments, where the climate remains subdued, demand for older properties has picked up in recent months, although their availability lags by comparison. For a start, their considerably lower prices makes financing much easier and opportunities are not hard to come by.

According to realty agents, demand is stronger for properties near metro stations. And, although their prices are higher, they remain lower than the respective ones for new construction. In the particular category, demand is strongest for apartments built after the 1981 earthquake, when building specifications changed. But sometimes it extends even to 30-year-old properties, as their costs rarely exceeds 1,500-1,600 euros per square meter - when a new apartment in the same area is near the 2,500-euro level.

A noticeable change concerns size. Most prospective buyers are now looking for smaller residences - measuring between 70 and 110 square meters - than they were previously. Conditions in mortgage credit at this time favour the purchase of old apartments, especially if the sum involved is no more than 150,000 euros.

Opportunities seem harder to find in the suburbs but this does not mean that there is no margin for bargaining. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of sales in the suburbs concern new constructions, usually by developers who continue to maintain a "hard" stance and are not easily amenable to bargaining. Cases have been reported of new apartments that remained unsold for three of four years - their owners preferring to rent them out rather than lower the sale price.

According to the Bank of Greece's monetary report, which came out on Tuesday, new property prices in the Athens area in the first nine months of 2009 were on average 4 percent lower than in the same period last year. According to realtors, 2009 looks like one of the worst in the property market in the last 15 years. Much regarding the sector's prospects will depend on how the new government settles the issue of the illegally altered areas ("imiypaithrioi") in older apartments and other initiatives regarding property taxes.

A key factor will also be the availability of mortgage credit, which remains in a slump.