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GLOBAL PROPERTY REVIEW- 10th June 2019

June 10, 2019

Tunis

The Tunisian capital is one North Africa’s most promising real estate markets, though the political situation at any one time is a huge influence.

Just 13 years now since the opening of the country to foreign property purchase, demand from European and Middle Eastern buyers for second homes has been steady and has caused a general upturn in prices in Tunis, as well as other cities.

The market has evolved too, since the opening up to the rest of the world. Middle East construction companies launched numerous projects, such as the mixed-use Tunis Sports City, a $5 billion leisure, residential and retail complex.

They aimed to capitalize on a growing demand for high quality new builds for local and visitor alike on a bedrock of more traditional buildings and older towers of apartments. The upmarket Berges du Lac area has developed into a business centre, containing some global companies.

But the political instability during the Arab Spring was a blow, and by 2011, billions of dollars’ worth of projects - including the Tunis Sports City – ground to a halt. Still, tourism rebounded and today, the capital has visitors in spades, creating a decent market for holiday lets. Knight Frank two years ago estimated rental yields around 9 per cent, though other estimates were closer to around 7 per cent.

Numbeo, the property data aggregator, found average one-bed apartment rents in the city centre of Dn530 ($171), with three-bedrooms around Dn943 ($305), with net yields just over 5 per cent. Prices per square metre for purchase in the city centre average Dn2,220 ($719), compared to Dn1,542 ($500) outside the city.

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Cambodia

 

Cambodia’s stock as a holiday destination among global travellers continues to rise, creating a market for holiday homes and buy to let rentals, even if it’s still under-developed in key areas of infrastructure.

As a frontier market, it has one of the highest growth rates in the world, at an average 7 per cent over the last 25 years, according to the World Bank.

Phnom Penh, the capital, is arguably the most developed main city. Indeed, expansions to the train routes to cities such as Kampot and Sihanoukville has led to the rise of usage of the iconic, 70 year old Royal Railway Station, and just this month, a US-led firm announced a complete upgrade to the station, featuring shops, restaurants and bank services. Commercial real estate is just taking off as it competes with Asian rivals for foreign companies’ investment.

The city and country is a curious one, property-wise. There is a two-tier system of title deed – hard and soft title – with the latter registering property ownership only locally. 

Foreigners can buy apartments providing they are not on the ground floor, and new residential developments in the city are targeted to foreign buyers. Long term lease deals are also possible, and often suit investors aiming to refurbish and flip property. Land can be purchased through a company structure, whereby the foreigner will own 49 per cent, yet retain decision-making power.

There are older properties too, such as the very common Khymer style ‘shophouses’ – generally city centre apartments in low rise buildings. Rental yields average 5.33 per cent, according to Global Property Guide, though brokers recommend help at every step to confirm the title deed ownership of any target property.

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Muscat

The capital of Oman had a relatively strong last year in the context of year on year falls in price and demand, as well as in comparison with other major cities.

The average purchase price in the city during last year’s Q1 was up 67 per cent against 12 months earlier, according to the Ministry of Housing. Al Wusta, Musandam and Buraymi, by contrast, saw prices fall between 36 per cent and 63 per cent over the same period.

Despite the country’s political stability and proximity to Asian markets as well as neighbours such as Dubai, the country’s sluggish property market reflects and economy that has been slow to diversify away from oil has created fewer job opportunities to attract and retain expatriates.

Tight restrictions on foreign ownership of property to certain areas, and an aggressive government drive to replace foreign talent with citizens in the private sector, has also stymied market liquidity. Rents have been falling and tenants have held all the cards for the last three years. However, Cluttons’ Spring 2018 report noted that average rents nationwide fell just 1.1 per cent in the 12 months up to the end of Q1, potentially indicating a market bottom for now.

The higher sales in the capital probably accounted largely for the 6.5 per cent rise in prices for Q1 nationwide.  Cavendish Maxwell noted that improved visa rules should encourage further visitor numbers to the country, and indeed, the tourism sector is one of the country’s strongest. New legislation allowing REITs should add to total real estate inflow, but a declining foreign presence means the capital continues to struggle as a property investment destination.

 

 

 

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