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Bahrain – The Country of the Two Seas

Bahrain

Bahrain is a small Arab state on the southwestern coast of Persian Gulf.  Its name translates into “Two Seas”.

It has 30 islands and is considered an archipelago. It is located at one of the world’s top oil-producing regions. 

The Muslim country of Bahrain has a population of almost 1.6 million and a GDP valued at $38.57 billion in 2019.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bahrain’s government is constitutional hereditary monarchy.  “The system of governance is based on the separation of legislative, executive and judicial authorities and their cooperation under the provisions of this Constitution” (Mofa, 2020).

Economy

Bahrain has become one of the top 10 countries which advanced their business climate. It achieved a 76 score in Doing Business and gained the 43rd position globally. This is due to its nine business reforms that took place during 2019.

According to Isaam Abousleiman, the World Bank Regional Director for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “Bahrain is making great stride to improve the business climate for small and medium-size enterprises”. He then added: “These reforms will enhance the foundation for private sector-led growth.”

Bahrain’s GDP worth for 2020 is expected to be $2.57 billion lower than the $38.57 billion achieved in 2019.

However, the country’s 2021 GDP is predicted to be valued at $37 billion and increase in 2022 to $42 billion following an upward trend onwards.

According to Trade Economics forecasts, Bahrain’s Annual GDP Growth Rate will decline in 2020 and revive to 3% in 2021 and follow a downward trend in 2022 reaching 2.50%.

GDP Annual Growth Rate
Source: Trade Economics
Source: Trade Economics

Bahrain’s economy is highly dependent on processing crude oil from the countries around it along with the newly established sectors such as financial, commercial services, communication, and tourism.

Furthermore, according to Trade Economics, the Bahrain’s biggest GDP contributor is the Services sector with BHD 1815.41 million followed by the Mining sector with BHD 605.89 million and Manufacturing sector with BHD 492.42 million.

Bahrain GDP including Sectors

Employment

Bahrain’s unemployment rate has been increasing since 2017 from 3.7% to 3.9%.  By the end of the 2020, the country’s unemployment rate is expected to reach 4.30% and then decline to 4.10% in 2022 and onwards.

Taxes

According to PWC (2020), Bahrain does not apply taxes on income, sales, capital gains or estates.

However, a tax rate of 46% might be applied to both foreign and local businesses that perform activities within “the oil and gas sector and/or derive profits from the extraction or refinement of fossil fuels.”. The specific 46% is applied on the net profits for each tax year and it has no correlation with the taxpayer’s residence.

Early in 2019, the government of Bahrain imposed a 5% VAT rate on most goods and services apart from a range of certain products and services.

Employers have the obligation to contribute a 12% in social security for Bahraini workers and an obligation to contribute a 3% social security for non-Bahraini workers.

Additionally, there is a municipality tax of 10% on commercial and residential properties rented by expatriates.

Real Estate

The country of Bahrain created an online platform called Benayat, which is a Building Permit Portal allowing users to issue permits for all types of building projects. 

This portal enables applicants to find all the necessary information, regulations, and requirements in order to apply for a building permit. It also enables Bahrain Licensed Engineering Offices to review applications for construction permits.

It is an important change as now applicants can receive an answer sooner due to the redirection of the process from Government entities to Licensed Engineering firms. It was ranked 17th on the worldwide registering property indicator.

The real estate of Bahrain is expected to experience the effects of a declining economy and the lower activities in investment and development due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The real estate market of Bahrain is expected to revive and stabilize once the country’s economy recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to Property Trends, the establishment of RERA and the country’s new regulations helped to increase the investors’ understanding of Bahrain’s market and find the right investment opportunity.

Additionally, giving the figures provided by Property Trends 2019 Report, Bahrain’s rental properties both Apartments and Villas have seen a decline in 2019 comparing to 2018.

The only areas that have seen an increase in rent prices in 2019 are the Tubli and Um Al Hasam communities for renting apartments and Muharraqa and Sanad communities for renting villas.

Apartments for rent - Median Annual Rental Price
Source: Bahrain Real Estate Market Report 2019
Villas for Rent - Median Annual Rental Price
Source: Bahrain Real Estate Market Report 2019

Furthermore, Property Trend’s report states that the properties sales of the market has experienced a decrease in prices even though it has been generally more stable than the rent market in terms of prices.

Also, in 2019 there has been a drop in apartment sales price per square meter compared to 2018.

The only communities with an upward trend in sales prices per square meter from 2018 were the communities of Bahrain Bay and Dilmunia Island and Marassi Al Bahrain.

Apartments for Sale - Median Sales Price Per Sqm
Source: Bahrain Real Estate Market Report 2019

Furthermore, the villa sales prices declined in all of Bahrain’s areas with the most significant decline being in the Muharraq city from BHD 587 p. sq.m in 2018 to BHD 490 p. sq m.

Source: Bahrain Real Estate Market Report 2019

In addition, according to the Falak Studies, the key residential locations for expatriates to rent in Bahrain are: Reef Island, Amwaj Islands, Bahrain Bay, Al Riffa, Saar, Hamala, Juffair, Adliya, Mahooz and Hoora. These areas are characterized by affordability and luxury at a good location in the Kingdom.

The real estate market in Bahrain provides an array of properties from luxurious properties addressed to high end clients (HNWI) to medium-range properties attractive to buyers who could also be interested in competitive financing arrangements.

The Bahrain’s real estate market has become more organized and regulated due to the establishment of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA). 

The real estate prices now are lower than last year, but the projections indicate that once the country revive from the negative effects of the covid-19 pandemic, the flow of investments and the economic upturn will follow. This creates an opportunistic environment in which investments have the potential of high returns in the long run.

The New Kuwait Vision – Ιts Βusiness Οpportunities and Ιnvestment Potential

Kuwait

Facts

Kuwait is a small emirate located between Iraq and Saudi Arabia with its shores including the Kuwait Bay, a harbor on the Persian Gulf. The name of the country translates into “a fortress built near water”.

The country’s official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken with a minority speaking Turkish, Farsi and Hindi.

The Kuwait is well-known for its Hot Sand Dunes, Stunning Cityscape, and its enormous oil reserves.

This Arabic gem has a population of almost 4.8 million with only 40% being Kuwaiti. The rest of the country’s population includes: 35% from Middle eastern nations (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman, Jordan, etc.), 9% from India, 4% from Iran and the remaining 7% from other countries (such as the US).

It is also noticeable that the country’s demographics in relation to age indicate that the population is relatively young with approximately 2% of the population being over the age of 65.

Kuwait Long Term Plan

“Kuwait aims to be transformed into a financial and trade hub regionally and internationally becoming more attractive to investors”, according to Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In fact, Kuwait’s vision 2035 is based on the notion of encouraging the private sector to lead the economy, resulting in the creation of competition that will inevitably generate economic growth, maximize efficiency and productivity in all sectors of the economy.

Although, the country’s government emphasizes the importance of developing the country, it strongly supports the preservation of the national values and, social identity, while forming an environment that is attractive to current and potential businesses.

Moreover, Kuwait’s monarchy vigorously believes that the country has the main elements for achieving its aim by utilizing the country’s strategic geographical location, balanced international foreign policy, encouraging legislative body and comprehensive judicial system.

Subsequently, the development of the country requires that it achieves a number of goals i.e. increase in the development of non-oil sectors, improvement of the citizens’ living standards, involvement of the private sector into the national’s economic activity, implementation of residential policies, governments bodies restructurings and many more.  

It should be noted that all the country’s development strategies need to be in line with the values of the Arab-Islamic identity.  

Additionally, “Kuwait’s constitution is based on democrat principles” 

In fact, the country’s parliament is the most democratic among the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries but the ruling family holds firmly the reins of power in its hands, according to   Sharmaake SABRIE and Pekka HAKALA Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union Policy Department.

Tourism

Likewise, Kuwait’s development plan (New Kuwait 2035) aims to further enhance the sustainability of the country’s tourist product and attract overseas investments in the tourism sector, so as to mitigate the country’s risk dependence mostly to oil and gas sectors.

The aforementioned strategy of the government actually has started to add value to existing hotels with international recognition such as Four Seasons, Jumeirah Messilah, Hilton and other well-known brands.

Of course, the investments increase towards the hotel’s sector by the government ultimately targets the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth through the attraction of more tourists. Consequently, this will be resulted to the decrease of unemployment rate on a national level and to the increase of the employment rate of international professionals, meaning improvement of the tourist product. 

Similarly, the Kuwait’s plan includes the creation, evolution and expansion of its transport infrastructure such as Kuwait International Airport’s capacity to 25 million passengers, the railway network and Kuwait Expressway.

According to government predictions, the country’s tourism sector is expected to offer 90,000+ jobs until 2035. “The total contribution to tourism in the short-term GDP will be about two percent, with the possibility of raising it to four percent through developing the sector that will attract foreign investment.”

In 2018, the country of Kuwait acquired 3.34 million international visitors to the country and is expected to increase by 2028.

The domestic spending in 2018 was KD1.6 billion and it is expected to reach KD2.6 billion by 2028.

The foreign spending in 2018 was KD245 million and is expected to reach KD380 million in the decade ahead. 

If we consider the fact that domestic outbound travel expenditure was KD3.7 billion in 2017 and increased to KD3.9 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow over KD4.9 billion by 2028; there is definitely untapped potential for growth in the domestic tourism industry and GDP accordingly.

Economy

Kuwait is geographically small but wealthy and with a relatively open economy.  The country’s economy is mainly relied on its oil and gas industry. It has one of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves reaching a total of 101.5 billion barrels. 

It is considered to be one of the world’s top 10 largest oil and gas producers with significant low costs of production than any other oil province in the world. Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plays a valuable role in the country’s economy and labor market.

However, being so heavily dependent on the oil prices can have adverse results.  In the last few years, Kuwait has been experiencing economic challenges due to the drop in global crude oil prices which resulted in fiscal budget deficits.

This economic downturn has influenced the government of Kuwait to diversify the country’s economy and focus in different areas.  For example, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation’s strategy is addressing issues that affect the oil and gas industry such as the “continued long-term global demand for crude; shift of oil demand from Europe to Asia; rising global demand for refined products, petrochemicals and natural gas; and the inevitable move towards renewable energy resources”.

Furthermore, the drop in oil prices and the decline in oil production affected the GDP negatively.

According to World Bank Data, Kuwait’s GDP growth has been fluctuating for a few years now.  In 2018 the GDP growth was at 1.2%, declining to 0.4% in 2019 and expected to decline sharply in 2020 to -5.4%.

However, predictions state that the country’s GDP growth will follow an upward trend and increase significantly in 2021 to 1.1%.

GDP Growth
Source: World Bank Data

Moreover, there are various plans for progressing the performance of Kuwait’s economy.

Some of the plans soon to be and already established are the upgrade of stock exchange of the country, the investment placed in large infrastructure programs, the conversion of the country into higher value-added downstream production within the leading hydrocarbons industry as well as attracting foreign investment.

What is more, the oil exports are expected to revamp in 2021 based on the assumption that Covid-19 pandemic will decrease or even disappear and investment recovers. 

In addition, the diversification programs such as Kuwaiti 2035 vision are vital to the further development of the country and economic prosperity.

It is also noteworthy to mention that Kuwait’s Silk City Madinat Al Hareer is a project that will add value to the country by introducing the Burj Mubarak Al Kabir Tower (expected to be Kuwait’s next tallest building), a nature reserve, duty-free area, new airport and five other Kuwaiti Islands.

In addition, the project involves the construction of trade zone at the Mubarak Port, logistics area for goods, railways capable of transporting both goods and people and the construction of an industrial city that embraces small and medium enterprises.

Investment

According to Santander trade, Kuwait’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows decreased from $204 million in 2018 to $104 million in 2019. 

The limited diversity in the economy and the decrease of oil prices have been the main elements influencing the drop of inflows.

The majority of foreign investments were directed towards the oil and gas sector, real estate/construction and financial services. 

Although there was a significant drop of the inflows, however, the Kuwait government is now focusing on diversifying the economy and attract more foreign investments in a range of sectors. 

Some of the incentives provided to attract foreign investments are:

  • allowing 100% foreign ownership in a range of sectors (such as housing projects and urban developments, hotels, investment management etc.),
  • tax breaks,
  • stock market available to non-Kuwaitis,
  • foreign banks licenses and many more.

Also, according to the 2020 Doing Business report established by the World Bank ranked Kuwait on the 83rd position which is 14 spots higher than 2019. The reason for this development is due to the valuable change made in starting a business as well as obtaining credit and construction permits. 

To sum up, some of the strong points to take into account when considering to invest in Kuwait is the country’s stable and significant revenues gained through their oil reserves, its strategic role in the political sphere of the region, the young population with high average income and high domestic consumption, good quality infrastructure and a business environment that is open, positive and welcoming to foreign investments.

Tax

According to KPMG (2019), Kuwait does not charge personal/wealth tax on individuals’ income regardless their nationality. 

However, Kuwait imposes corporate income tax to businesses with foreign entities, that are not Kuwait incorporated companies enlisted in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

 “However, depending on the nature of the incorporated vehicle, a Kuwaiti or a GCC entity with activities in Kuwait may be subject to certain other levies such as Zakat / National Labor Support Tax (NLST) and Kuwait Foundation of Advancement of Science (KFAS) by certain types of local entities.”

Moreover, the income tax is imposed to all entities that have business transactions in Kuwait.

Furthermore, contributions to social security must be made for GCC nationality and Kuwaiti employees. The employer’s contribution is 11.5% and employee’s contribution is 10.5%. there are no withholding taxes and no value added tax (VAT). However, there are reports stating that Kuwait is considering implementing VAT but there are no firm introduction date and or regulations yet.

Kuwait’s network of double tax treaties (ratified only) includes Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Netherlands, Italy etc.

Source: Deloitte

Real Estate

“Kuwaiti market for real estate investment properties remains subject to broader demographic factors”, according to Oxford business group.

The market of real estate in Kuwait is separated in two main categories.

The first category is the private residential housing that is accessible for GCC citizens and Kuwaiti and the second category is investment housing which is lease-driven, anyone can have them, but it is mainly for expats. 

As stated in  Oxford Business Group, a significant amount of Kuwait’s population is expatriates, therefore, the growth in the investment housing (second category) plays a significant  role in the development of the country and the real estate sector, overall.

As observed, in 2019, the real estate sector of Kuwait had an outstanding growth with transactions of $12.04 billion in value. according to Kuwait Finance House (KFH).

Also, the amount of deals had an upturn of 6.4% to 6.77% over the last year. 

Although there was a significant growth in the sector however, the transaction value in 2019 decreased by 1.5% in comparison to 2018.

Furthermore, according to ProTenders, there is currently 2.296 active projects valued at $445.9 billion.

It is also important to mention here that even in the fourth quarter of 2018, the investment property sales increased by 19% to reach KD470 million ($1.5 billion), “making the fifth consecutive quarter of rising figures and a year-on-year increase of more than 300%”. 

Also, the real estate price index indicates a year on year rise of 3.7% while the amount of transactions increased by 127% over the same period.

Additionally, in 2019’s first quarter, Kuwait’s sales in real estate sector were moderate because of the decline in investment properties, falling by 47% to KD248 million ($816.8 million). The specific decline was also caused by the decreasing interest of foreigners to penetrate the market.

To sum up, indeed, there were fluctuations in the investment properties sales in 2020, however they do not determine or predict the future of Kuwait real estate market due to unforeseeable factors i.e. covid19 pandemic. 

According to Arabian Business, in 2019 the active construction projects in Kuwait valued at $494 billion.

Nowadays, there are many projects in the design stage worth of $243.5 billion, in planning stage worth of $63 billion and in the construction stage worth of $140.9 billion, in Kuwait. 

Moreover, as per Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) Kuwait is about to reclassified from Frontier Market status to Emerging Markets status in November 2020 Semi Annual Index Review (SAIR) as an emerging market.

Although the current real estate market situation of Kuwait seems to be vulnerable to various national and macroeconomic health care aspects; the emirate of Kuwait has enormous potential for exponential growth.

As an emerging market, many investors who aim high investment returns will definitely invest in such a market, since high rates of economic growth are foreseen, stock prices increase and GDP growth boost.

New Kuwait Development Areas
Source: New Kuwait Summit

Dubai Real Estate Market Overview

Dubai

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi (serve as the capital of the federation), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Each of the UAE operates as a sovereign constitutional monarchy. 

The Emirate of Dubai is situated at the Eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, at the southwest corner of the Arabian Gulf and it is the second largest emirate of the UAE with a population reaching 2.88 million (Dubai population 2020 estimation).

Luxurious, modern and wealth are few words that may describe Dubai.  Dubai is a city that uniquely and successfully blends the characteristics of futuristic metropolis – timeless flexibility, Arabian strict and discipline style.

Dubai is among the most popular business hubs of the world and in fact, many entrepreneurs are considering it as the international financial center of the Middle East.  It has a fast-growing economy; modern infrastructure and it is one of the most technologically advanced sovereign entities and cities of the area.

Moreover, Dubai successfully combines multi cultures and offers an enhanced range of business opportunities to individuals and companies. As a matter of fact, it is a favorable jurisdiction for expanding offshore businesses.

According to World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, Dubai was ranked at the 11th position due to its favorable tax regime and straight forward incorporation procedures. 

In addition, Dubai is a well-known destination for luxurious travel, leisure, and business due to its sunny weather, desert, hospitality, safety, skyscrapers, beaches, malls, rich culture, business opportunities and many more.

Macroeconomic Analysis

According to the UAE Central Bank’s initial estimates the overall GDP of the federation had a 2.3% increase in 2019, overcoming the growth of 2018 by 0.6%. This growth is primarily attributed to the expansion of the hydrocarbon sector, which is expected to grow further, in the near future.

Moreover, the UAE Central Bank stated that the other sectors had a relative growth as well in 2019.  In 2020, according to Oxfords Economics the UAE’s GDP is expected to record a 2.2% growth and a 0.1% reduction in 2021. 

Overseas Investors Benefits

One of the most common questions that international buyers ask is: “Is purchasing properties in Dubai a smart idea?”. The UAE federation was named the best nation in the world in 2019, according to the statement released by local authorities. Overseas buyers don’t have to think about their investment protection when purchasing properties, due to the city’s safe environment.

In addition, although VAT has been implemented, it does not extend to the rental income of residential owners. Therefore, this tax-free income gain is an additional advantage for purchasing property in Dubai as an overseas investor. Furthermore, Dubai remains one of the topmost cities to visit, live in and work, thus, adding to properties a strong investment potential value.

Dubai Real Estate Market

Affordable prices and residential supply are some of the reasons that places Dubai among the major players of the worldwide Real Estate market.

Nowadays, Dubai Real Estate Market consists of competitive property rates and convenient payment options. The reason for this is the steadily increasing supply of available properties with different distinctive characteristics that can satisfy investors needs and sense of taste. 

The residential structures in Dubai are mostly following the concept of building communities.  Communities are able to satisfy all the needs of their residents, with the simultaneous creation of community schools, shopping malls, restaurants etc.   Consequently, when investors are searching for residential units in Dubai, they view very well-established residential communities. Therefore, investors can form a clear understanding of the property value since they can view the potentials of the community / neighbor. 

This practice has added a great amount of confidence to investors since it diminishes the factors of speculations of how’s and why’s that are observed in other real estate markets, with no clear structures. 

Moreover, investors can calculate the location value and performance with the use of market indicators that specify exactly what to expect in terms of investment return.  

In the Real Estate Market, it is widely accepted that location is one of the most important factors that buyers look at before purchasing.  If the location is prime, for example in Dubai City, then this may indicate that the specific real estate property will perform well, as time goes by. Certainly, there are other characteristics that investors should take into account such as property facilities, design of the property, amenities, surrounding areas and etc.

However, it is noteworthy to mention that Dubai has many prime locations that investors are able to view, since the design of Dubai’s philosophy is based on the notion that each community must have its own parks, retail stores, dining, schools etc.  Someone may say that each community is an individual city by itself.  The potential that exists in this city with its unique and well-designed neighborhoods as well as the economic growth that has been experiencing are some of the key incentives for investing in Dubai’s real estate market.

There are several examples of well–integrated communities such as: Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC),  Dubai Sports City, Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah etc.

Although the location is a significant element to consider when investing, however, investors should also familiarize themselves with developers’ current and potential projects and reputation, examine the design of the community, as well as acquire knowledge for the facilities available and the surrounding area’s potentials and amenities. If all the indicators mentioned above are in good place, then investors can be assured that their property will retain its value through time and will have rent return as well as capital appreciation in case of sale.

Consequently, when an investor is thinking of buying a property in Dubai, the investor has the option of selecting from a wide and diverse property portfolio that conform to various preferences and budgets.

Dubai Forecast in Real Estate Properties

Dubai real estate outlook is extremely positive since the region has many potentials to further grow and develop. The real estate market of Dubai has an established position in the world map and is among the strong financial markets that can be compared with London, Hong Kong and New York.  Finally, the expansions and advancements that will take place on Dubai Metro, Expo2020 and Al Maktoum International Airport will further enhance the real estate market and add a positive impact in the years to come.

Greece – A Golden Destination with EU Schengen Zone Access

Greece

Facts

Greece is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is well-known for its gorgeous coast lines, sandy beaches, sunny weather, and the amazing nightlife.

Also, it is renowned for the unique natural beauties of its islands, rich culture, and local traditions. In fact, each island of Greece has different customs, culture characteristics and lifestyle that make it very interesting to visitors.

Moreover, Greece is very famous for its Mediterranean cuisine and the historical monumental sites, which date back to the 7th millennium BC, such as: Acropolis in Athens, Ancient Delphi and Epidaurus, Mystras, Ancient Olympia, Knossos Palace in Crete and many more. 

Greece is a member of the European Union since 1981, it has joined the Schengen Zone in 1992 and the Eurozone in 2001. The official currency is Euro.

Its official language is Greek, but a great percentage of the population speaks English, followed by French, Italian and German.

Greece has an exceptional infrastructure, which can support all business activities, especially in its mainland cities.

Additionally, it has an outstanding inland transportation, as well as an excellent transportation through air and sea. 

Equally, it has a reliable private and public medical system, which can support its citizens and visitors throughout the country.

The Educational system of Greece is very advanced and reputable all over the world. 

Greece is considered as a safe destination for travelers, since crime rates are considerably low.  Greek people are very polite, and they are distinguished for their hospitality.  When foreigners visit Greece, they feel like home and they are overwhelmed by the Greek hospitality. 

Even though Greece has been suffering from a monetary crisis in the last decade, it continues to be one of the most attractive and safe destinations in the world for investment, due to its location, safety, quality of life etc.

Similarly, Greece is considered to be a Business Hub for various industries and companies such as trading, manufacturing, tourist, energy etc.

Tourism

Tourism is one of the most important sectors for the Greek Economy. It produces high revenues and contributes significantly into the country’s GDP.   

Greece is highly dependent on its tourism sector; in 2018 tourism alone contributed €21.6 billion – 11.7% of the country’s GDP. This is €2.5 billion more than 2017. In fact, tourism in 2018, contributed directly and indirectly approximately €25.7 to €57.1 billion. 

Greece is a popular destination for many European and International visitors for their summer and winter holidays. Unfortunately, due to the consequences related to Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s tourism industry has been suffering.  There has been a decline in tourist arrivals due to the travel restrictions and a decline in domestic and international tourists’ expenditure.

Tourism numbers

Moreover, the downturn in tourism is expected to continue until the early months of 2021, which will then revive significantly reaching 308.000 persons per month in 2021 and 445.000 persons per month in 2022.

Economy

Greece’s economy is highly dependent on the country’s services sector and it has a high share of micro enterprises that are highly vulnerable to external factors. 

Prior to the pandemic that has taken over in the first months of 2020, the Greek economy was prospering with a GDP growth of 1.9%.  The growth was led by the domestic demand and the decrease of net exports and the growing tourism.  However, public debt and unemployment rates remain high.

GDP Growth

As per European Commission’s Economic Forecast figures, the country’s GDP is expected to decrease further in 2020 reaching – 9.7% and the unemployment rate will reach approximately 20%, in 2020.

GDP Forecast

Indeed, the current economic situation of Greece is uncertain and highly affected by various external influences. 

However, the European Commission’s economic forecast, states that 2021 will be a promising year for Greece and potential investors. The country’s GDP is expected to reach almost 8% and unemployment rate to decrease to 16.8% in 2021, while the tourism and trade sectors will experience a significant upturn. 

The Government of Greece took several actions to ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic is tackled in a balanced and measured way, whilst ensuring the stability of the country’s economy as much as possible.

For example, some of the measures that the government of Greece established to tackle the pandemic effects were special unemployment benefits and waivers of social security contributions, health care investments, payments postponement of certain taxes etc. Also, the government applied a 40% decrease in renting properties occupied by hotels, food catering and any other services who have been massively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

In addition to that, Greece has the major support of the EU. In fact, Greece received funding from the EU in order to get through the economic consequences brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Given the measures taken by the Greek Government and the support of the EU, the European commission  stated that the Greek economy is predicted to decrease by 9% in 2020 but in 2021 the Grecian economy is predicted to achieve a 6% increase.

Tax

The corporate income tax rate is 24% which is the same for Branch and Capital Gains tax rate. According to the table, individual income tax rate is as follow:

Individual Taxation
https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Tax/dttl-tax-greecehighlights-2020.pdf

The real estate ownership has two types of taxes: the main tax and an additional tax. 

The main tax is based on the characteristics of the property (i.e. location, zone price, surface, size, age etc.), whereas the additional tax differs from company to individuals.

According to Deloitte’s report on Greece 2020, “For companies the additional tax is calculated at a rate of 0.55% on the total tax value of all the company’s property. Property occupied by the company is subject to 0.1% additional tax.  For individuals, the additional tax is calculated on the total tax value of all the taxpayer’s property if the total value exceeds €250,000.  The additional tax rate ranges from 0.15% to 1.15%, depending on the value property”.

Investment

The investment levels are predicted to decrease due to the lower turnover and the uncertain future of the country’s economic prosperity.

However, the Greek government along with the EU institutions are taking actions to help companies to recover from the lockdown period and have an easier, more efficient recovery. For example, a new measure was applied for a 3-year suspension period of VAT on new building permits, aiming in enhancing and improving the housing market.

 In addition to that, , the completion of the Hellinikon Project (a multibillion-dollar project, which includes the creation of apartments, marinas and luxury hotels), is projected to positively increase the value of the surrounding areas and contribute to the overall increase of the real estate market. Hence, the completion of this project will certainly attract international investments and encourage the development of more areas to accommodate the needs of locals and foreigners.

Real Estate

The real estate market in Athens during 2019 had an increase of more than 25% in apartment sales.

Attica has been on the top of the list having the highest increase in house prices, due to the high demand  of short leasing and Greece residence permit scheme, “Golden Visa” The Golden Visa Scheme attracted non-European residents from various backgrounds and  main nationalities  Chinese, Lebanese, Russian, Turkish and Egyptian.

Furthermore, the real estate market is expected to experience a growth in prices in several locations throughout the country, especially at seaside areas where tourism is highly attracted.

According to the GrekoDom, Greece currently established a temporary stop to the readjustment exercise of property objective values. The specific activity entails that price zones will be reevaluated, due to the pandemic negative effects that caused a decline in low-level properties. 

In addition, the government decided on the decrease of ENFIA (Unified Property Ownership Tax) by 8%-10%.

GrekoDom stated that, “The new ENFIA decrease is expected to delete the tax burdens, which shall emerge from the increase of the objective property value in multiple areas of the country.”. Therefore, property owners i.e. tourist areas, islands and wealthy areas shall expect a tax relief burden. 

Also, the government has established an electronic system where individuals will be able to submit parental grants, declarations and transfer of properties in electronic forms, so as to make procedures more efficient and effective.

Finally, the Greek Real Estate market, especially in Athens, is expected to have a substantial growth due to the multibillion-dollar Hellinikon Project. 

The specific project will be like a sub city consisted of luxury hotels, casinos, marinas, and modern apartments.  Particularly, the specific project will potentially attract investors and interest for potential developers wishing to enter in the developing market of Greece. Of course, this increase will inevitably lead to the country’s GDP growth, as it will attract higher numbers of potential homeowners, as well as tourists both domestic and international.

New York – One of the most Dominant Markets of the World for Real Estate Investment

New_York

Facts

New York (NY) state is one of the most populated states of U.S and one of the world’s most crowded megacities, with approximately 19.5 million people in the metropolitan area.  New York is renowned as a financial multicultural capital, with strong influence leadership in the sectors of technology, commerce, tourism, art, entertainment, Research and Development, politics, sports, real estate and international relations.

The state is divided into five regions: Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.  

The major characteristics of New York city are the cultural diversity, along with creativity and entrepreneurship. 

In 2019, New York accomplished a world record of 13.6 million visitors according to 2019 Euromonitor International report. (source: https://bigseventravel.com/2020/01/the-most-visited-cities-world-2019/)

The Manhattan’s region is among the most expensive and powerful real estate markets in the world with a relevant stability on the prices and demand.  

New York has excellent infrastructure with 24/7 services in almost every mean of transportation, has 120+ universities and colleges and is the capital of Wall Street, NASDAQ and many other world-renowned companies.

New York Taxation and Legal System

The United States multiplicity legal system is based on federal law, written constitution, and state law.   The federal government, as well as each of the 50 U.S. states, have their own court systems.

The New York legal judicial system is divided into three levels; the Court of Appeals, which is equivalent to supreme court, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and Trial courts. The legal system is very extensive; thus, its court links makes it a vast and not so easily comprehended system. 

Likewise, the tax system is built on both federal and state level foundations, including several types of taxation i.e. sales, capital gain, income, and others. The state tax levels are entirely distinctive and have an autonomous authority on taxation charges.  This structure designates that every state has its own taxation system and retains the solid proprietorship authority of charging and changing taxes according to its needs and political beliefs. 

Legal and tax systems’ multilevel structures are very hard to comprehend; therefore, professional consultation is always needed.       

New York Economy Brief Overview

It is widely known that New York’s real estate market is one of the strongest in the world.  The state possesses some of the highest square – foot pricing properties in the world that targets ultra-high-end individuals (UHNWI) who are wishing to invest and earn a substantial yield.   In fact, in 2017, New York City accomplished the record amount of over $1 trillion in property valuation. Therefore, it is justifiably considered as one of the most influential business hubs of the world, with gigantic entrepreneurship operations, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, Wall Street etc.

The top industries of New York city that contribute a significant percentage on the State Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are finance, trade, healthcare, real estate, media, publishing, manufacturing, and information technology.  Indeed, the prominent industries of New York are not just propelling the state’s economy, but they are affecting and establishing their standards on a national and global level. 

According to the statistics released by U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis of the second and third quarter of 2019, New York had a positive leverage of 0.5% on its real Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Percent Change in Real GDP by State 2019Q2-2019Q3
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Whereas, the contribution percentage changed in New York’s Real Gross Domestic Product, for Q2 and Q3 2019 in the construction, real estate, rental, and leasing industry, resulting in a negative outcome of 0.07% in total.

Contributions to Percent Change in Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by sector
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

In addition, according to the 2018 FINANCIAL CONDITION REPORT, Economic and Demographic Trends are defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

“In 2017:  New York State’s GDP was over $1.5 trillion, 8% of the U.S. total and ranked 34th in the nation for economic growth, with real GDP growth of 1.1% from 2016, less than half the national increase. The financial activities sector comprised just over 29% of the State’s real GDP. The second and third top industries, professional and business services and transportation, trade, and utilities, together make up 27.2%.”

Additionally, according to the BEA and NYC Controller, New York succeeded an economic growth of 2.4% in Q3 2019.

NYC Economic Growth Moderates

Why Invest in New York?

  • As far as the overall real estate sector is concerned, New York can be classified as the state of renters, due to the state’s heavily entrepreneurship and business activities. Even though there is a constant population mobility, the business and service sector in New York are constantly in a booming stage, while the real estate demand is always high and job growth is a fact and not just a trend, as observed in other states.
  • New York is a very famous state for its tourist attractions like Finger Lakes, Adirondacks, Empire State, Niagara Falls, Central Park, Broadway shows, Times Square and many more. There is a constant flow of tourists all year round; therefore, the tourist sector is constantly increasing.
America's Top 10 City Destinations - Arrivals (000)
Source: Euromonitor International
  • The unemployment rate according to The New York State Department of Labor, December 2019, is 3.7% which is relatively low compared to the other US states.  This implies that there is a potential employment growth that will inevitably lead to a firmer rental demand, given that the economic, political, social, technological, environmental, and legal environments remain relatively stable without major fluctuations.
Unemployment Rate by Country New York State December 2019
Source: https://www.labor.ny.gov/stats/PDFs/ur_map.pdf
  • According to the Victoria Shtainer Team at Compass insight information, New York’s real estate market is very strong and is expected to have a continuous growth, if it is not affected by the 2020 elections.

As a matter of fact, they stated: Looking back on the last year, decade for that fact, we saw the following: the market ended 2019 much stronger than it started the decade. The start of the decade was shortly after the Financial Crisis which rattled luxury housing markets such as New York City. 2019 was characterized by low transaction volume for most of the year, with a renewed sense of life observed as we closed the year. Prices were 15% higher at the lowest point of 2019 than they were a decade ago. Additionally, the Buyer’s Market fully took hold in 2019 in Manhattan, and interest rates continued to descend. 2019 did bring various legislative changes that hit the Luxury market hard including the Federal Tax changes as well as the passage of the Progressive Mansion Tax in New York.”

Moreover, a growth continuation is expected in 2020, but Compass team noted the importance of monitoring the market closely since 2020 is an election year.  Hence, the focus should be on the international economic and political events since significant fluctuations in those events may affect the behavior of the Luxury market more than the national average.  This has to do with the fact that the real estate market in worldwide centers is significantly affected and directly linked with the macroeconomic growth of the international market.

Source: http://thevictoriashtainerteam.com/blog/2020-nyc-real-estate-market-predictions

  • Moreover, the findings of the New Foreign Direct Investment analysis of the United States in 2018 and based on the U.S. Bureau of Economic analysis, revealed an increase of 8.7% in direct investment expenditures by foreign direct investors for acquiring, establishing, or expanding U.S. businesses.
New Foreign Direct Investment Expenditures by Type 1996-2018

“Missouri received the largest investment, but its value is suppressed due to confidentiality requirements. Whereas New York received the significant investment of $63.0 billion, Texas $31.1 billion and California $27.3.”

Source: New Foreign Direct Investment in the United States, 2019 | https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/new-foreign-direct-investment-united-states-2018

New York city is one of the most dominant real estate investor hubs of the world, with relative stable prices, capital appreciation and return on investment (ROI) through rental yield.  It is a fact that New York state, by default, offers numerous notable opportunities for wealth growth and investing.

Saudi Arabia | Targets Economy Diversification

Saudi_Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Arabian’s Peninsula’s biggest country. It has a population of 34.81 million as of 2020 which is higher than 2019 (34.14 million).

The Kingdom’s population is relatively young with 54.40% of the population being Male and 42.60% being Female.

Economic Facts

According to OPEC, Saudi Arabia owns around 22% of the world’s oil reserves which is estimated to be around 266 billion barrels. It is the biggest exporter of petroleum liquids in the world and its oil industry accounts for almost half of its GDP.

Saudi Arabia in 2019 recorded GDP value was $792.97 billion.  In 2020, thought the country’s GDP is expected to have a downward trend based on the pandemic’s effects on economy, prices, and trade. 

According to Trading Economics, Saudi Arabia’s GDP is going to reach $745 billion which is $47.97 billion less than the country’s GDP value in 2019.  Also, projections say that Saudi Arabia’s GDP will potentially revive and reach the value of $790 billion in 2021 and $820 billion in 2022.

GDP Value Worth

The unemployment rate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reached 9% in 2020’s second quarter which is a significant upturn from the first quarter of 2020 (5.70%).

The country’s unemployment rate is predicted to be higher, approximately 7.50%, by the end of the third quarter of 2020.  However, the predictions of Trading Economics state that the unemployment rate is expected to be around 5.60% in 2021 and slightly lower in 2022 reaching 5.50%.

Current and Potential Unemployment Rates

Real Estate

The Kingdom’s real estate market has a significant contribution to the GDP growth of the Kingdom and region’s developing capital markets.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic consequences, the Kingdom continues with its ambitious plans of encouraging property sales and rentals.  As a matter of a fact, the government of Saudi Arabia aims to encourage the non-oil sectors, in order to diversify and develop even more the country’s economy while creating jobs for millions of Saudis.

The decision of the government to diversify the economy was based on the drop in oil demand and prices.

In addition, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agreed on working towards achieving their ambitious 2030 Vision, which entails the development of many areas in the country including but not limited to: entertainment and culture, sports, education, environmental sustainability, real estate and tourism sector.

According to Knight Frank’s 2020 report on Saudi Arabia’s real estate market, the residential market in the main cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam Metropolitan Area (DMA) has seen a significant upturn in its sales prices.  Moreover, Knight Frank’s 2020 report figures states that in the fourth quarter of 2019, Riyadh experienced a 3.6% increase in its residential apartment sale prices and a 6.6% increase in its residential villa sale prices.

Furthermore, Jeddah’s residential apartment prices increased by 3.3% in the last year, whereas villa sales price by 1.8% Dammam Metropolitan Area (DMA) apartment sale prices increased by 2.8% and villa sales prices by 1.7%.

Villas and Apartment Sales Prices and YoY% change as at Q4 2019

Knight Frank – Saudi Arabia Real Estate Market Review 2020

Additionally, according to the 2020 report of Knight’s Frank, Riyadh had the biggest growth in the value of residential transactions (36%) and Jeddah had the biggest growth in volume of residential transactions (9%).  However, Dammam Metropolitan Area (DMA) had the lowest growth percentage in volume of residential transactions estimated at -1%.

YoY% Change in the volume and value of residential transactions as at Q4 2019

Knight Frank – Saudi Arabia Real Estate Market Review 2020

The increase of volume and value of the residential transactions is due to the government’s introduction of various schemes to encourage the country’s real estate market.

For example, the Kingdom’s government continues the Sakani program which is responsible to allocate residential products (housing units, residential lots, funds) across the Kingdom.

The specific program aims at helping more Saudis to own a property with the goal by 2030, 70% of Saudis to be the owners of a property.  

Hence, the country’s government supports the collaboration between the Ministry of Housing and the Private Sector Program (Shrakat). The aforementioned collaboration is in place to offer housing solutions and products to the country’s citizens as per their needs, whilst taking into account their financial situation. 

It is important to mention that expatriates can purchase property in a number of areas in Saudi Arabia, with the exception of Mecca and Medina where foreign ownership is only allowed through inheritance.

The government of Saudi Arabia is committed to diversify its economy and ensure the development of the country’s non-oil sectors, whilst providing a prosperous and attractive environment for the residents of Saudi Arabia and foreign investors.  

Therefore, the government has introduced various programs to boost the real estate market and there was some real growth from December 2018 to December 2019.

Moreover, the government of Saudi Arabia seems to be very determined in developing the real estate market even more, not only in the short by in the long term as well, whilst maintaining its Arabic and Islamic identity. 

Beside that Saudi Arabi’s government focuses  on developing the country’s hospitality and tourism industries, through a number of actions and developments, such as easing the regulations for obtaining a tourism visa, provide the options to  foreigners to apply for e-visas and visitors from certain countries to be eligible for visas on arrival.

Further to this, the government intends to develop its leisure and entertainment facilities and complete projects that are going to make Saudi Arabia’s tourist product more competitive worldwide. Such projects include the Amaala, Al Ula, The Red Sea Project and many more.

The future of Saudi Arabia is very promising; therefore, an investment now will definitely provide a return in the long term. Its focus on achieving its Vision 2030 is the proof of that statement since the country is changing and putting a lot of effort in making it more attractive to potential investors, while improving the country’s social economical environment.

Qatar – The largest LNG exporter of the World

Qatar

Qatar is a country that combines traditional authentic culture with modernity.

It has an all year sunshine with hot summers and mild winters.  Its population is relatively young estimated around 2.8 million.

Qatar’s, economy is highly dependable on oil and natural gas reserves.

“It is the fifth largest gas producer and second largest gas exporter and largest LNG exporter” according to World Bank report. 

Qatar’s National Vision 2030 aims on the better utilization of its reserves, so as to build a more diverse and competitive economy by expanding its operations in other industries and services.

Qatar’s annual GDP growth from 1.5% in 2018, declined to -0.18% in 2019. This means that the GDP’s value dropped from $191.36 billion in 2018 to $183.47 billion in 2019.

Also, Trading Economics predict that by the end of 2020 Qatar’s GDP will drop to $160 billion, but it will revive in 2022 and reach the value of $195 billion.

GDP_Value

In fact, the Qatar’s economy has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a number of unfortunate results such as economic downturn, decrease in the tourism sector and the drop of energy prices. 

However, Qatar along with its neighboring countries, which are also rich in Oil and Gas reserves, is expected to revive easily. 

In fact, it is projected that Qatar will receive high numbers of investments from 2021 and onwards, when the confidence of potential investors will be reestablished, and the number of exports increased.

Also, according to Economy Watch “Qatar’s main industries include crude oil production and refining, ammonia, fertilizers, petrochemicals, steel reinforcing bars, cement and commercial ship repair”. 

Tax

According to PWC, “An entity that is wholly or partially foreign owned and derives income from sources in Qatar is taxable in Qatar”

Also, there is no corporate income tax to any entity that is Qatari nationals owned and GCC nationals Qatar resident owned.

Moreover, there are no income taxes on wages, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, wealth taxes or gift taxes, property taxes or transfer taxes and sales taxes, as well as VAT.

However, the Customs Duties tax is at a 5% rate and employers are obligated by law to pay social insurance for Qatari employees, but they do not have obligation to pay any social insurance for any other employee of different nationality.

Real Estate Market

The real estate market of Qatar is still negatively affected by the consequences emerged from trade prohibitions established in 2017 (by certain neighboring countries) and the fluctuations of oil prices. 

However, it is predicted that the 2022 FIFA World Cup infrastructure projects are going to increase the value of Doha’s real estate market and nearby areas. 

In addition, the government of Qatar has conducted a number of legislative and regulatory reforms mainly focusing on empowering the real estate market.

According to Oxford Business Group “In May 2019 the Cabinet approved a new draft law covering the regulation of real estate development, while proposing the expansion of  companies and entities permit to participate in tenders, auctions, practices, competitions and direct agreements”.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment made the acquisition of building permits and construction certificates much easier, with the use of a single online application. 

Also, the Qatari Government increased the freehold zones from 3 to 10, which means that non-Qataris can purchase freehold properties in more areas in Qatar. 

These areas are:

  • Qatifiya West Bay
  • The Pearl
  • Al Khor Resort
  • Al Qasar (administrative area)
  • Al Dafna (administrative area)
  • Onaiza (administrative area)
  • Al Wasil
  • Khraij
  • Jabal Thaileb (investment area)
  • Rawadat Al-Jahaniyah (investment area)

The higher number of freehold property zones is definitely a positive initiative since it may lead to the attraction of higher numbers of foreign investments in Qatar’s real estate market. 

In addition to this, along with this initiative, the government of Qatar amended the rules for obtaining visas, in order to further encourage foreign investments. 

The new rules of visa allow homebuyers to acquire real estate visas, which means that they can live in Qatar without a sponsorship when they purchase a property of a certain value.

Moreover, according to Gulf Times, Qatar’s current real estate market offers a fantastic opportunity for potential buyers and renters. The reason is that the current socio-economic circumstances caused by Covid-19 pandemic have devalued the real estate market, which means that you can get a better property unit in an affordable price.

Additionally, according to Global Property Guide News, the real estate price index of Qatar recorded a 3.67% decrease in the first quarter of 2020 and a 1.15% decrease in property prices in the second quarter of 2020.

However, the real estate market is expected to grow further and revive from the current devaluation in properties.  There are many projects which are going to transform the country and attract more investments.

For example, one of the biggest projects is the Gewan Island is going to accommodate 3000 citizens and 6000 guests. It combines 611 units, retail, hospitality, and entertainment amenities.

Another project is the long awaited Katara Towers at Lusail Marina District. The specific project incorporates several facilities and amenities i.e. five and six-star hotels, recreational and entertainment facilities, boutiques, movie theatres and restaurants.

It is noteworthy to mention that many of these projects are utilizing technology and new structural designs to incorporate the country’s climate, culture, and environmental consciousness. They are creating buildings that are environmentally friendly, providing shade in more areas, and growing the number of amenities available to tourists and locals whilst incorporating the country’s beauties.

These projects are only a small proportion of the upcoming projects in Qatar, but they connote a significant step into the process of upgrading Qatar’s real estate value.  Of course, the aforementioned – projects along with many others are considered to be the cornerstones for encouraging foreign investments and serve as positive indications of the country’s potential and prosperity.

Amenities and Essentials

House_Amenities

If you are in the process of purchasing a new home, upgrading your existing property, or designing a new property from scratch, you will need to establish a distinction between needs and wants. Whether you are on a monetary budget or restricted by size, some features will increase the value of your home substantially.

As an asset, the residential property should correspond to your needs for functionality and enjoyment and provide you with a value that will make reselling or renting easier and at a higher yield. The amenities within and around the property have a direct impact on this value and should be treated as such.

1. Size: While looking for a property that will offer you the best value for money in terms of size, you need to be aware of your spatial needs and the costs associated with maintaining a home of a larger scale. Going for a bigger home sounds good in theory, but the costs of heating, furnishing, and maintaining a bigger home could hike up your monthly costs significantly. Not to mention taxes and levies that are directly associated with the size of the property.

Purchase a property that serves your needs, keeping in mind your future needs such as having children and needing to accommodate elderly or visiting family members.

2. Kitchen area: Forever a major focal point in a home, it is essential to evaluate the kitchen area with a focused eye. Look at the state of the appliances as they are a costly part of the property. Consider the finishes and cupboards in quality, aesthetic, and size. Pro tip: a pantry will add value to your property.

Do you require an eating area? Weigh up the size, orientation, and direct light that the kitchen enjoys before making a decision.

3. Living and Dining Areas: Are you planning on hosting dinner parties and family events? Your space requirements in these areas of the house depend on your lifestyle, however, there are a few things you should look at regardless of your size requirements, such as the floor materials and finishes and ceiling heights. Consider where you would like to position your electronics and other equipment in order to establish adequate outlets as electrical rewiring would be a costly task.

Pro tip: Fireplaces, hardwood or marble floors and any custom finishes increase the value of the home and play an important factor in heating and maintenance costs.

4. Bedrooms: Besides looking at the number of bedrooms you require, it is important to consider size in terms of fitting furniture, desks, and any other items you want to include in the room. Orientation, natural lighting, closet space, and En-Suite facilities also add value to a residential property.

5. Closets and storage spaces: Closets and storage spaces are considered to be amongst the top value-adding amenities that you should look at. Incorporating enough storage space in residential properties is essential to ensure a functional and organized home that can accommodate changing needs and use of space.

6. Bathrooms: Bathrooms are some of the costliest renovations you can do in a house, so it should be one of the main features you look at with a sharp eye. Any signs of humidity and water damage should be red flags. Additionally, finishes such as carpeting or vinyl can be unsanitary and prone to water damage. Make sure you open any cupboards and storage spaces in the bathrooms, check the condition of the fixtures, and if possible, turn on taps. Quality finished bathrooms will increase the value of the property, and however much you may like bold colors and patterns, these will usually make the house harder to resell.

7. Utility spaces: Besides a walk-in pantry that will surely be utilized to the max, look for utility setups according to the property. These include a laundry room or facilities which are now a must in most residential units. If the property boasts a garden, then a shed or adequate space in a garage will be needed for relevant tools and equipment. And of course, the garage, with two-car garages being the preferred configuration, is a valued amenity, scoring highly on the requirements scale.

8. Outdoor spaces: Gardens, Decks, Swimming pools, and Barbeque Areas are always strong selling and value-adding features of a house, but they should be adequately addressed in terms of maintenance needs and costs. While they are highly sought after in theory, the costs of maintaining these features could slowly be a burden on the homeowner. Ensure that the condition of these outdoor amenities is adequate and will not be needing in-depth maintenance any time soon. Also keep in mind the utility costs of maintaining luscious gardens and a pool, which will be adding to the monthly upkeep costs of the home.

9. Systems: Do you require central heat and air conditioning? Is an alarm system highly rated on your requirements list? Is the water heating system solar or electricity-powered? While some systems like alarms can be easily installed post-purchase, others will require structural and costly modifications.

10. The Neighborhood: Last but not least, it’s not by accident that the most prominent tagline in real estate is “location, location, location”. Whether you decide to abide by the time-tested advice of buying the cheapest house in the best neighborhood you can afford or keeping an eye out for trends and up-and-coming areas, where you decide to purchase property should be a key factor for your decision. In these locales, your property will appreciate in value and you would also benefit from amenities of a higher standard. Cool areas near nightlife might work for some but will not be as convenient when trying to raise a family or work from home. Likely, if you do not own a car, you would need to take into consideration the transit connectivity and the amenities of the area. Make sure you research such facilities as schools and stores and look at the safety of the area.

Home amenity requirements vary depending on your lifestyle, family size and needs, and of course your budget. While some add value to a home, others may offer comfort, convenience, and character. As the housing market evolves with green technology, smart home automation, and multifunctional spaces and furniture, some amenities can become the basic norm as others become irrelevant and obsolete.

Owning a home is a serious and long-term investment and should be treated as such, looking at value, return, future needs, and wants. But it should also be considered in terms of enjoyment, safety, practicality, and warmth.

After all, there’s no place like home!

Must-Have Features in Business Office Premises

Must_Have_Features

Most employees spend most of their time in their workplace. Some of them even consider their workrooms their second home.

Thus, business owners have the responsibility to ensure that their respective offices have all the necessary features to boost productivity and creativity among employees. Plus, a conducive workplace is also a testament to a company’s culture.

Ideally, your business office should have separate rooms for specific purposes which allow employees to utilize these areas simultaneously.

In this blog post, find out what types of rooms or amenities should be added to your business office’s floor plan.

Essential Features

Office designs should both accommodate the needs of the company and its employees. Cost-cutting to save money on the construction of these essential features may only hurt the company in the long run.

1. Meeting and Conference Rooms

Meeting rooms are of the utmost importance when it comes to daily business operations. These areas allow employees to collaborate on different projects and establish a better rapport.

To determine how many meeting rooms an office should have, tally the current number of employees and ask yourself whether there is a possible business expansion soon. It’s also important to know how often employees conduct meetings.

If you’re lucky enough to have sufficient space for multiple meeting rooms, having both large and small conference rooms can help make group presentations much easier.

Brainstorming and video-conferencing rooms are also becoming a staple for many offices. The former is a place where employees can generate ideas for the company, which often has a marker board. The latter, on the other hand, have web-cameras and monitors for online meetings.

2. Phone Rooms

Offices with an open space layout should at least have phone rooms to allow employees to take private calls. Having this type of room refrains one person from using a meeting room just to pick up a call, which could have been used for team meetings.

3. Reception and Greeting Area

Most offices have a specific space for entertaining guests. It should not, in any way, intersect with the main workspace to avoid distractions. Nonetheless, it should be comfortable enough for visitors for lounging while waiting for their host.

4. Kitchen

Bigger companies tend to have cafeterias or kitchens that can cater to their employees’ daily needs. Smaller businesses, however, do not have the luxury to treat their entire staff with food.

Nevertheless, an office should have a functional kitchen where employees can keep or make their food. It should at least have a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and other appliances for daily meal preparation.

5. Common Area

A workplace that allows staff to socialize, without affecting productivity, is also a must. Of course, a common area should not coincide with the main workspace. It should also be cozy enough to allow employees to take brief rests in between shifts.

6. Wellness Room

In an ideal work setup, dedicating a room for wellness is important. While this space does not have to be closely monitored by an in-house nurse, it should have the basic first aid kit and other health and wellness materials for employee use. A lactation booth should also be integrated to allow working mothers to feed their babies.

7. IT Room

IT rooms are secured spaces in an office that are often climate-controlled. This specialized hub stores all technology-related machines and equipment for business operation. High-cost computers and other electronics should also be kept and properly maintained in this room.

8. Webinar and Recording Room

Companies that conduct webinars and podcasts must also have a specific room for these tasks. Webinar and recording rooms, however, should be free from the noise just like a professional music studio.

To make the most of this office room, companies should invest in high-grade headphones, microphones, and other related equipment for better multimedia outputs.

Other Features

Apart from those mentioned above, most modern offices are now integrating a more employee-centric office design that helps personnel find the perfect work-life balance.

1. Outdoor Space

Being in an office space all day can be challenging for many employees. Fortunately, more and more contemporary offices are now adding an outdoor space to allow their staff to free their thoughts and relax for a little bit. Typically, business owners build a patio or even a green nook to extend their workplace.

2. Bike Storage

In urban areas, many offices are now creating bike storage spaces for their employees. Due to the heavy traffic, some people are now choosing to ride their bikes as an alternative to driving a car or using public transportation.

With bike storage in place, employees now have one less thing to worry about.

3. Fitness Area

Generally, healthy employees are more productive and perform better. Thus, many businesses are encouraging their staff to take better care of themselves by adding office gyms for free fitness classes.

Having a company gym, nonetheless, is not essential, especially for small-scale enterprises.

4. Locker and Shower Rooms

If your business office has a gym, it’s best to include a shower and locker room too. But even without a fitness room, your employees can use this space to clean and prepare themselves after riding a bike from work or jogging during their breaks.

Tips on Designing Your Office Space

With all these office feature ideas in mind, you are now ready to design each room. Here are some useful tips to guide you through this endeavor:

  • Promote Productivity – Many factors affect your employees’ productivity, including their workplace. A more relaxed environment, however, tends to be more conducive for everyday work. Thus, installing more windows to allow sunlight to pass through the glass may have a positive impact on productivity. Plus, using natural light tends to reduce eye strain, glare, and tiredness.
  • Incorporate Adaptable Spaces – Business owners with limited budgets may still create adaptable rooms that can be used for many purposes. For instance, a small meeting room can also be used as a brainstorming space for teams.

Creating an ideal workplace is more difficult than most people think. However, putting your employees’ welfare above all can make a huge impact, boosting productivity and the overall bottom line of the company, while creating loyal and engaged employees, performing at their optimal and inspired level.

The 5 Best Places to Retire in 2021

retire

After a lifetime in the workforce, the golden retirement years are somewhat of a reward for many individuals. These are the years of enjoyment, calmness, and realization of the fruits of the hectic years of work. It is no wonder why many retirees are looking to move to overseas locations where they can better enjoy the lifestyle they desire.

There are many factors taken into consideration when making this life altering decision based on different requirements for each. These include the weather, cost of living, healthcare system, ease of transition, being close to your family and safety.

We have complied a list of the top 5 places to retire across the globe, showcasing the best characteristics of these locations that make them solid and popular choices to retirees worldwide.

Cyprus

Cyprus

This jewel country island in the Eastern Mediterranean could not be missing from this list. With a rich history and culture, Cyprus is uniquely characterized by the concept of “Filoxenia”, Greek for hospitality, paying homage to their Greek ancestry and culture.

Having 350 days of sunlight over the year, Cyprus boasts beautiful summers, mild winters – with a touch of snow in the mountains, and enjoyable springs and autumns. The size of the island makes mountains and beaches a 30-minute drive and airports at a less than an hour drive from any location on the island.

As an EU member state, Cyprus is a no-hassle retirement heaven for EU nationals and provides an easy 5-year renewable retirement visa process for other foreign nationals. English is widely spoken; the food and wine are superb, and Cyprus is rated the 5th safest country in the world .

There is an array of properties available for sale or rent at reasonable prices with options from small mountain villages to bustling seaside towns. With superb healthcare facilities, a strong infrastructure, moderate cost of living, a wide range for amenities and activities, Cyprus is a preferred retirement destination, with lively expat communities for those who want to spend their golden years under the rays of the golden Cyprus sun.

Vietnam

Vietnam

This southeast Asian gem is an emerging market with polite and welcoming people, as well as a significantly low cost of living.

The tropical climate, delectable yet extremely healthy local cuisine, and French-influenced wine culture make Vietnam an ideal destination for more adventurous retirees.

The beaches and mountains of Vietnam are spectacular, whereas the vibrant cities and relaxed mountain resort towns combine harmonically the traditional style with the modern. The capital of Hanoi has been coined as “The Capital of Thousand Years of Civilization,” yet Vietnam has not sold its soul to progress, even being the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2020.

Everyday healthcare is available at the hospitals of the major cities at very low rates, though for serious conditions and treatments, one might have to look outside of Vietnam to receive them.

The low crime rate, youthful population, international air connectivity, and the still pristine landscape make Vietnam an ideal retirement destination for those looking for a new lease on life and lifelong local friends.

Costa Rica

Costa_Rica

This Central American paradise is said to be one of the few places where you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the same time. The landscapes vary from tropical rainforests to mountains and sandy beaches, with the climates being just as diverse in different locations, proudly representing the name of the “Rich Coast” or Costa Rica.

Nicknamed the “Switzerland of Central America ”, having abolished their army more than 70 years ago and investing that money into education and healthcare, the country is a thriving, peaceful, and progressive nation, going as far as legalizing same-sex marriage and mandating LGBTQ equal rights.

Both Spanish and English are widely spoken, and the friendly locals interact widely with the lively ex-pat communities. The amenities and healthy local lifestyle make it an idyllic and easily accessible destination for retirees from around the world, while the low cost of living, affordable real estate offerings, variety in real estate type and price as well as residency programs make it a smart destination too.

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Florida | USA

Florida

Florida is considered to be the most popular retirement destination for US citizens. From all-encompassing retirement communities with their in-house health care and recreation to assisted living complexes and the ever-growing country club ‘villages’, Florida has it all figured out for a growing retiree population.

The year-round mild to warm weather is ideal for those looking to move to warmer pastures, while the diversity in flora and fauna make it even more intriguing. For the anglophone world, it is an ideal retirement place, with extensive access to healthcare, specialized and accessible facilities, and a lot of like-minded people to bask in the sun with.

Properties are available across the board in regard to cost and location, whether it is in iconic Miami or Sarasota County, fast-paced or laid-back hometown atmospheres. For the more adventurous there is always the possibility of a trip to Orlando and Disneyworld or hopping on a Caribbean cruise from any of the ports of Florida. The golf courses are luscious and widespread, senior citizens can enjoy age-appropriate exercise and entertainment, and connectivity to both US cities and overseas destinations is one of the best in the world.

Dubai | UAE

A bit of an oddity to such a list since Dubai is not generally recognized for its low cost of living but benefits from so many other distinctions that it has become an emerging destination for retirement. Strategically positioned in between Asia and Africa, this dynamic Emirate has everything a retiree might look for.

As an international air hub, Dubai is easily accessible from anywhere in the world, and its recent economic boom has been accompanied by new property development meaning newer homes with extensive facilities on and off-premises.

With majestic views over the Palms and World Islands, cosmopolitan restaurants, and every single activity you can possibly imagine i.e., exclusive shopping in state-of-the-art shopping malls, old-world spice shopping in Arabian Markets, golfing on designer courses world’s largest indoor ski resort, aquarium, etc. Dubai is for sure a destination to live in.

The main reason though why Dubai is an emerging retirement population lies in the fact that there is a high number of the young international workforce of Dubai’s multinationals, therefore many retirees chose Dubai in order to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Healthcare is widely available and easily accessible, whereas Dubai is included in many international medical insurance policies. Additionally, the 5-year renewable retirement visa scheme has recently been implemented and, there is no income tax. In addition, Dubai is in itself a welcoming location and a melting pot of culture.

Personal preference and interest play an ever-important role in deciding where to retire to. Factors such as cost of living, healthcare, weather, etc. may be important, but it all comes down to the place that awakens one’s heart and senses; the place you want to call home!