Commercial realty prices in a slump
Athens Plus, 6 November 2009

The economic downturn has had strong repercussions on realty values but also accelerated a trend of change in the uses of commercial properties in a large part of Athensís city center, especially in the area around Omonia Square, as well as in outlying neighborhoods.

According to traders and realty agents, the availability of empty properties has risen to around 20 percent in the center and even higher farther out. This sharp increase in supply has driven the price of rentals about 20 percent lower on average over the last three years. It has also led to many properties previously used as retail outlets being taken over by entertainment and catering establishments.

The impact appears to have been harder regarding properties on the upper stories of commercial blocks - which remain empty for more than six months on average - where rents are around 30 percent lower than they were three years ago.

"The problem does not only affect the traders but also the owners who are seeing their properties lose value," said an agent.

The downturn has also given rise to another serious problem in the commercial as well as the residential property market. It has had such an impact in the so-called "gray" triangle of the city - the area between Halkokondyli Street, north of Omonia, and Evripidou, south of City Hall, that commercial values have fallen below those officially set for tax purposes in transactions ("antikimenikes") - by as much as 50 percent. Antikimenikes values are periodically reviewed by the government, in line with market trends, but until that happens again, they pose an additional obstacle to transactions.

One of the scenarios proposed for a revival of the capitalís commercial center is its redevelopment into a business park with specific uses and infrastructure that would make it more friendly to traders as well as inducing consumers to stay longer.