Shhhhhhh!!! Can you keep a secret?
OK, so 12 months ago it was quite a closely guarded secret, but word on the potential of the market seems to have been spreading fast during 2007, even though it's still only getting a fraction of the attention that markets such as Bulgaria are getting.
Are you looking for a resort location with year-round sunshine? Are you worried that, not only are you way too late into the market for the mature territories such as Spain and Cyprus, but that you have also missed the main bargains in the second generation territories of Morocco and Turkey?
As long as you understand that, in order to achieve high returns, you need to take on a higher amount of risk, we have the perfect solution for you – Egypt.
When we first put the figures together for prices in Egypt at the start of 2007, we thought that we had made a mistake. Then beach-front property in either Hughada or Sharm el-Sheikh was still selling for just EUR600/m2. That was half the price of Turkey and 40% of similar property in Morocco.
During 2007, prices have started rising fast for top-end prime location properties as developers realize that Egypt is a market with huge potential, and now there are some luxurious developments with prices of over EUR1000/m2 in Sharm el-Sheikh. But still the entry costs for Egypt are incredibly low to all of the other markets that we cover on Propertastic!
The reason why property is so affordable here is that it is only recently that the Egyptian Red Sea coast has taken off as a resort destination. But it has taken off fast now due to the fact that the season there lasts 365 days per year and the prices are incredibly cheap, even when compared to Turkey. The great value that Egypt offers has made the country especially attractive to Russian and Eastern Europeans, with many charter flights coming into Egypt from these destinations. Tourism from the UK and Ireland is not yet so developed as Egypt is just a little too far for the budget airlines to be interested in the market, meaning that it is relatively expensive to fly to Egypt from there, although there are an increasing number of charter flights to the Red Sea Resorts.
Currently, here are two major resorts in Egypt – Sharm el-Sheik on the northern side of the Red Sea and Hurghada on the southern side. Sharm el-Sheik is the newer of the two; Hurghada having been established for longer. It looks as if Sharm el-Sheikh is going to be the more exclusive of the two resorts, which accounts for the fact that prices are already ahead of those in Hurghada, but this has to be tempered with the additional security risk of Sharm el-Sheikh being that much closer to all of the Middle Eastern troublespots. Another disadvantage to Sharm el-Sheikh compared to Hurghada is that foreigners are not allowed to buy property there on a freehold basis - it has to be bought on a leasehold basis with a maximum duration of 99 years.
Although Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada are the two locations that are currently seeing the majority of development on the Red Sea, it is inevitable that other resorts will start to take off, such as the Zafarana Beach Resort, which is located 135km north of Hurghada.
If you are interested in buying property in Egypt, then it is better to arrange financing back home or to make a deal with a developer who is able to offer full financing deals. While it is possible to obtain local mortgages in Egyptian Pounds, the interest rate of 14% means that it is probably not going to be financially viable to finance in this way.
These high interest rates are good news for overseas investors in Egyptian property. It means that even some of the most affluent Egyptians are unable to buy property themselves, meaning that they rent instead. This means that rental yields in the country are very high compared to other territories.
An alternative to buying on the coast is to buy in the capital, Cairo. This market has attracted the attention of the largest developer in Dubai, Emaar, who are building several upmarket developments around Cairo. While there are excellent rental returns available in Cairo, you really do need to do a lot of research regarding the best locations in the market. You have to remember that Cairo is one of the World’s biggest conurbations – significantly larger than either London or Moscow, so make sure you pick the right area.
So, everything about Egypt sounds great, doesn’t it? Low prices, high rental yields, rapidly increasing demand – wonderful! But, be careful. High returns usually come with high risks and investing in Egypt is no exception. While Egypt has moved a long way in order to develop its massive economy, the country still has a lot of problems. Much of the country lives in total poverty, there are many instances of human rights abuse, and terrorism remains an ever-present threat. The most serious instance of this was an attack upon several hotels in Sharm el-Sheikh in 2005, killing 88 people.
Another factor to take into account is that Egypt doesn’t have to comply with EU Building Regulations and there have been reports of some very dodgy construction techniques being used in some developments. You should consider getting a surveyor’s report done if you have any fears at all to save you a lot of grief down the line if the construction is sub-par. If you’re buying off-plan, ask the developer what guarantees they are willing to give on the property.
If you are buying existing properties, you really need to make sure that you work with a very good lawyer to ensure that you are buying exactly what you think you are buying. Egypt's Land Registry system is messy to say the least and you could end up with some very major and very expensive problems down the line if there are any unresolved ownership issues after contracts are signed and payments are made.
You will also need the assistance of a lawyer in order to guide you through the process of registering the ownership of your property as there are two methods of doing this. The first method registers you as the owner in the Land Registry. The downside to this however is that, as a foreigner, you are restricted to the number of properties you are allowed to buy in Egypt and you will also be unable to sell on the property in a period of less than five years. The second method, which is probably the better of the two, is to register your ownership with a notary but not have your name listed at the Land Registry. This avoids the restrictions placed upon you as a foreigner.
If you are naturally risk-averse, Egypt is probably not for you and you would be better off investing in one of the EU countries. But if you are more of a speculative investor, or are building up a property portfolio across more than one country, then Egypt is definitely worth looking at in more detail. With prices so low at the moment, a 10% deposit on a reasonably sized apartment in a prime location should cost you less than EUR5,000 in cash so, for most property investors, the amount of risk should be relatively low.
In summary, it's hard to find a better location in the World than Egypt at the moment if you are looking to make some serious medium-term gains.
Additional Background Information
The above contains our thoughts on the current state of the market. But, like any type of investment, there are no guarantees as prices are always influenced by a huge number of different variables.
You can keep abreast of developments in the market by checking out the articles in our News section where we’ve trawled the Internet for every story connected with property in Egypt so you don’t have to. By checking the news reports regularly and thinking through the consequences of each piece of news, you should be able to get a good idea as to how quickly or slowly property prices in the market are going to rise in the near future.
The information in this section only tells half the story, however as only a small proportion of Egyptians property news is translated in English, which means that the locals are getting a lot more useful information than foreigners are.
Investing in the wrong markets could make the difference between making tens of thousands and losing tens of thousands over the next few years. If you’re seriously considering investing in Egypt, then you should think of subscribing to our Premium Service so that you can get all the breaking news from the market at the same time the Egyptians are hearing it.
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