Sharp decline likely for property prices
Athens News, 5 June 2010

Greece's deepening economic woes and the prospect of a protracted recession have paralyzed the real estate market. Specialists describe the situation in 2010 so far as the worst in living memory and forecast rapid developments in the six months ahead, with dropping prices, an increase in the unsold stock of houses, developers in a dire financial situation and houses going on the block.

"We are in the heart of the crisis. The trend will continue and we are not likely to see prices stabilizing before the second half of 2012," said realtor Costas Loukopoulos.

Since 2007, sales have been in a free fall that does not seem to have come to an end. Last year, transactions fell to about 80,000, and are projected to reach 20,000 in the first half and 50,000 in the year as a whole.

No one seems prepared to make predictions as to how prices will develop, as they vary considerably according to area or even neighborhood.

Market specialists on the whole estimate that prices have fallen by about 30 percent since the 2007 peak. For instance, a developer asking 200,000 euros for a newly built house would have to settle for around 150,000 euros now. And from 3,000 euros per square meter, prices have now fallen to 2,200 euros.

Although prices appear sticky at first sight, the final cost after negotiations drops considerably - which favors prospective investors with cash in hand.

The working- and lower-middle-class areas have been especially hit by the economic downturn and in most of these, prices have fallen below 2,000 euros/sq.m.

Properties on the other end of the spectrum, between 400,000 and 1 million euros, have also taken a hard hit. Many such properties, five to 10 years old as well as many new ones, which have been put up for sale either due to economic difficulties or due to high taxation, remain unsold.

The optimistic scenario foresees a drop in prices of possibly more than 10 percent this year. The pessimistic scenario, related to the prospects of a deepening recession and the likelihood of Greece abandoning the euro- zone, sees a crash in prices, as few will be able to buy at current rates and many mortgages will default. The latter is already occurring at an increasing pace.