GIG: What is your core business activity? Can you tell us about some of your key projects, and in which parts of Greece your business is focused?
Kteniadis: V2 Development is the number one development company in Greece. Since 1962, when our company was established, we have assisted more than 7,000 clients in purchasing properties under our exclusive ownership. This experience gives our company a significant advantage in assisting our clients in their property selection process.
Our core business activity is the development of land, construction, trading, and property management. We mainly conduct business in the southeast suburbs of Athens and almost 90% of our projects and individual properties are located there, but we also have a few individual properties downtown. Some of our key projects in Greece are known as Nagia, Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne, Glenvar Heights, Malibu, Pasadena, Kendall, and Omni.
In addition, I am also the master franchisor for Von Poll Real Estate. Von Poll, together with Engel & Völkers, are the two most prestigious real estate firms in Germany. As the master franchiser, we’ve established our headquarters in the heart of Athens, in Syntagma Square. Our next step is to open 10 shops all around Greece, on classic vacation destinations like Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, and more.
GIG: Most of your investors are international. From which countries do they predominantly come?
Kteniadis: So far, international clientele makes up around 90-95% of our portfolio. Many of our international investors come from China, with quite a few Turkish, Russian, and Arab investors, as well as some from Southeast Asia.
GIG: What kind of expansion plans do you have for the future?
Kteniadis: We currently have three offices in China, located in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. We’re very interested in the Southeast Asian market in general, and in Vietnam in particular – where we have a strong presence in Ho Chi Minh City. In addition to Southeast Asia and the various countries there, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, we have a very strong partnership with a company that provides us with access to all of the Southeast Asian markets – from India all the way to the Philippines. We have an office in Nairobi, Kenya, and in early 2020 we will open our office in Dubai, UAE, which will also cater to the Indian market.
GIG: Greece’s Golden Visa programme has been one of the most popular in Europe. What do you believe is the key reason for this?
Kteniadis: The Greek Permanent Residency Programme is the most popular programme in Europe, and in 2018 it was actually the most popular programme in the world – marking the first time in history that another country surpassed the U.S. EB-5 visa programme in accepted applications. The key reason for its popularity is that it offers investors the most rewards. Specifically, the programme gives accepted applicants the ability to freely travel to the 26 countries within the Schengen Area, and it also provides the opportunity for an entrepreneurial applicant to register their company in Greece and conduct business with the rest of Europe, or with their country of origin. If a family stays in Greece for seven consecutive years, adults who stay more than 183 days per year are provided with the ability, through the programme, to apply for citizenship at the end of this period. As for minors – meaning children up to 18 years of age – the criterion to apply for citizenship is school attendance for six consecutive years. The Greek Investment Programme and Permanent Residency scheme has definitely played a huge part, in my opinion the biggest part, in the recovery of the Greek real estate market.
GIG: The Greek government recently broadened the criteria under which it awards the residency permit (e.g. the visa is now given to non-EU nationals for investments in Greek government bonds). How do you see this impacting the programme? What kind of impact will this have?
Kteniadis: The criteria were indeed broadened and now include the purchase of Greek government bonds (GGBs) and investment into Greek companies. However, so far this hasn’t had an impact on the real estate market or on our business. I believe it is a difficult prospect for someone to invest €400,000 in a company where they do not control management, or €800,000 in GGBs, which is the debt of a country that is still in a recovery process, as opposed to investment into property ownership.
GIG: The Golden Visa programme has come under heavy criticism from some in Europe, particularly in relation to countries such as Cyprus and Malta. What is your view on this?
Kteniadis: It is true that some investor programmes have come under heavy criticism, especially from those in northern and central Europe. But many of these countries have not experienced the prolonged crisis that southern Europe has had to contend with for many years. It is not a coincidence that similar programmes exist in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta, and Cyprus.
Of course, it is their prerogative to not use such a programme; similarly, for us, it is our prerogative to do so. Approximately 10,000-15,000 people per year decide to invest in developing countries within a developed continent, and this enables us to improve our living standards by means of fresh money flowing into the country. I believe we need to be extroverted in our approach toward investments.
GIG: Greece’s property market is recovering from a ten-year slump. What is your forecast for the residential housing market?
Kteniadis: My forecast for the Greek residential housing market is that it will continue to drive growth, and we foresee a tremendous increase in prices. I believe we will not only recover the loss sustained in this crisis, but we will go above and beyond previous levels because Greece, and Athens in particular, is set to become a world destination as far as real estate is concerned.
We are currently experiencing 40,000 more deaths than births every year in Greece, which causes around 9,000-10,000 properties to become available on the market. This allows the prices to remain logical.
In my opinion, residential properties have a higher return on investments (ROIs) in Greece, especially because the country is a vacation destination. In 2018, we welcomed 32 million tourists, almost three times our population, and that exposure gives visitors the opportunity to come and explore Greece. Many people fall in love with the country and make the decision to purchase here, which increases the necessity of residential properties.
GIG: What impact will the long-awaited Hellinikon development have on the residential property market, especially on the so-called Athens Riviera and surrounding areas? What kind of rises have been seen in residential property prices and rentals in recent years, and what do you expect in the coming years? Is this still a good time to invest? What areas offer the best potential for growth and returns/yields?
Kteniadis: With €8 billion in investment, Hellinikon is the largest real estate project in Europe, and the impact of this development on the retail property market, especially on the Athens Riviera, will be positive. There will certainly be an increased value in properties, which will impact rentals and residential property prices for years to come. It is the perfect time to invest in Greece because the crisis that lasted for almost eight to nine years is behind us, and recovery has been steady.
The best potential for growth and retention yields are in the southeast suburbs of Athens. We call this area of unparalleled beauty the Athens Riviera, and it offers anything and everything one could ask for. Meanwhile, some downtown areas that were hit the hardest during the crisis, and where the price drops were the sharpest, also stand to offer high yields.
GIG: What is needed for Greece’s real estate market to move ahead, catch up, and mature in line with property sectors in other countries? Is it just a case of economic growth, or something more?
Kteniadis: Specialisation is what is needed for Greece’s real estate market to move forward. We need to have corporate sense and trust professionals to run these companies. That is key to catching up with property sectors in other markets.
We have a thirst for new investments. All of this money that is coming in from investors, who are purchasing properties in Greece, is money that is much needed in the Greek economy, which has shown clear signs of recovery especially over the last year. I believe that the country is poised to pull slowly but surely alongside real estate markets in other countries.
GIG: What impact has the dramatic growth in recent years in the Airbnb market had on the residential market in Athens and other parts of Greece? Is there a need for more regulation, especially after protests by local residents in many popular areas that have seen rents skyrocket and locals priced out of their own neighbourhoods?
Kteniadis: The impact of Airbnb has been huge in many areas, especially downtown. Airbnb has driven rent prices up to very high levels, creating issues that include a decline in property availability for long-term rentals. Regulation is needed, especially in a heavy industry that sees 34 million tourists per year. If we have too many Airbnb apartments across the country, eventually the hospitality industry will be affected. It does appear that the current administration is actively working to implement new laws that will hold Airbnb property owners accountable for paying the appropriate taxes and ensuring a high-quality experience to tourists.