Real estate sales, a booming sector in Lebanon (Feature)
By Weedah Hamzah Jul 4, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Beirut - Lebanon's real estate sector is enjoying a boom, with record levels of sales and high returns for investors, bankers and real estate officials and executives are reporting.
'We can easily say that the real estate sector is booming, and our main customers are Lebanese expatriates,' Wahid Kenaan, president of the Al Amana Real Estate Firm, told the German News Agency dpa.
'Usually the few months before the summer and as expatriates are preparing to come for vacations in their homeland, our market witnesses a boom,' Kenaan said.
Kenaan said that since Lebanese banks started giving house loans to Lebanese working in the Gulf states, Europe, US, Canada and Australia, the sales of real estate have surged.
According to figures released by the state's Directorate of Real Estate in mid-June, there was a 41 per cent increase in property sales in the first quarter of the year compared to the opening three months of 2009.
In total, the 22,000 property transactions conducted throughout the quarter had a value of 2.1 billion dollars, the figures showed.
'The sales market focused in 2009 in Beirut and its suburbs, but now we are witnessing high real estate sales in areas north of Beirut, like Byblos and Batroun,' 55 kilometers north of Beirut, Kenaan said.
A study by Beirut-based real estate advisors RAMCO estimates that there are some 2 million square meters of residential property currently under construction in the greater Beirut area.
Much of this construction work is priced at 3,500 to 4,500 dollars per square meter. The RAMCO report, issued in mid-June, said that up to 45 per cent of all buyers were Lebanese expatriates.
Central bank governor Riad Salameh told an economic conference in June, 'the growth of Lebanon's real estate is natural and normal and will not collapse.'
Salameh has expected that Lebanon's economy will grow by up to 8 per cent this year owing to high capital inflows.
According to Salameh the deposits in the banking system rose 2.5 per cent from January to March to stand at 105 billion dollars, 63 per cent of which is in foreign currencies.
'We have high liquidity and this has helped bolster confidence,' said Salameh.
Lebanon's public debt burden is one of the heaviest in the world. The country's national debt tops 50 billion dollars, reflecting the cost of the massive reconstruction process after the 1975-1990 civil war.