Home sales fell in Athens in the first nine months of the year despite rising property prices as buying trends show that apartments in the heart of the city remain in strong demand, according to industry data.
Shifting demand for living space reflects changing economic conditions and record high inflations levels, experts say, while investors also keep an eye on improving infrastructure and the city's expanding underground Metro train network.
Figures put together by RE/MAX estate show that in most areas of broader Athens there was a drop in the number of homes being purchased with the steepest fall recorded in the eastern suburbs (-34%) and the port area of Piraeus (-33%).
In the northern suburbs, home sales also slumped by 30% as was the case in the western suburbs (-21%).
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Nearby islands remain popular
Bucking the trend is central Athens, a district where demand for short term rentals is very strong, as the number of transactions that took place in the January to September period were flat (+1%). At the same time, the number of housing deals completed on the Saronic islands, which include Aegina, Hydra, Spetses and Agistri, jumped 10%.
The figures indicate that Greece's real estate market is heading for a slowdown even though prices have been rising.
The latest figures from the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, show that apartment prices rose in the third quarter by an annual pace of 11.2 percent. This comes after price hikes of 9.8% and 10.1% in the first and second quarters of the year.
Market sources and economists point out to GreekGuru.net that the real price increase is much smaller when adjusted for core inflation which stands at just over 5%.
Price hikes though have slowed somewhat in recent months, as was the case in Turkey where astronomical inflation dipped for the first time since May last year.
Where investors are buying in Athens
A closer look at the RE/MAX data shows that home sales also rose in Glyfada (+4%), Moschato (+21%), Nea Smirni (+10%), Penteli (+10%) and Korydallos (13%).
In regards to prices, figures from real estate classifieds site Spitogatos show that the most expensive are located in southern Athens, along the beach stretch, at 3,167 euros per square meter. The cheapest homes are located in the western areas, such as Egaleo and Peristeri, at an average out at 1,510 euros per square meter.
In the city center supply levels remain particularly tight but prices are more affordable at 1,748 euros per square meter, according to figures from Spitogatos.gr.
Growing train network adds new dimension
The growing Metro network in the Greek capital is reshaping the city's real estate map and another key factor for investors to take into consideration when assessing their options.
The underground Metro line is being expanded in changes seen having a significant impact on Athens, easing traffic congestion and pollution levels. Based on the plans, 35 new stations will be added to the sprawling networks in a bid to make Athens a greener and friendlier place to live in.
(The full RE/MAX Estate announcement in Greek.)