1. How do you view the Real Estate industry right now? Do you think it has bounced back from the post-2013 recession slump?
One can surely claim the industry as we knew it does not exist anymore. Nowadays buyers are more sophisticated, demanding and looking for lucrative investments that are financially sustainable. In addition to that, there is a definite trend on the luxury properties. The influx of HNWI has helped to change the real estate map of the island. Industry professionals who fail to cope with changes will be wiped out of the market sooner or later. It’s a buyer’s market where emotions do not fit it. The demand is growing for luxury projects that give great value to the buyer. I could also say that some companies which adapted quickly are in a far better position than the pre-crisis period. Of course, we can’t neglect the fact that we do operate in a citizenship-driven market, however, Cyprus could continue to attract foreign direct investments provided that we build a more transparent marketplace.
2. There appears to be a local trend towards high-rise luxury properties at present. Do you see this continuing in the foreseeable future?
I’m personally the biggest fan of high rise developments as I truly believe that a city, can’t be truly called a ‘city’ if there is no skyline. Thus, as the market’s demand will continue to grow, in an island where there is scarcity of land, the government authorities have to become more flexible and open minded on this subject. In fact, if you carefully study the island’s topography and landscaping you will notice that there is considerable scarcity of land in the areas of rural activity. Why we all have we failed to recognize the need to grow our towns vertically instead of horizontally, I believe it’s a matter that should challenge us and give more food for thought when designing the cities of the future. Skepticism and conservatism will not help us in this case. Cyprus is the only country in Europe that has no genuine master plan that takes into consideration the future development of its four major cities including the area of Famagusta. On this island we just need to release that we can’t produce land. Land is our precious commodity and has to be used wisely. Green technology, genius master-planning and eco-friendly materials all have to be combined together to protect our country’s only asset. Our land.
3. Isn’t there a danger that, once again, the industry may become over-reliant on foreign buyers?
On an island of less than a million inhabitants we can’t really expect a whole industry of real estate professionals to depend on the local market. Actually, the banking system is controlling the real estate market. It’s their long time position that has encouraged developers to look for alternative sources of finance through foreign direct investments. The industry professionals had two choices, die or survive. We have chosen the latter. Becoming extroverted and prepared to look for new markets in the south east Asia and Middle East was key to keep us alive. Thus, I would expect the trend to continue. One could argue about our dependence in foreigners, however, we have no choice but to work hard to make our product attractive. And for that reason genius has to kick-in to our developments. No more mass productions, no more cheap constructions, no more poorly designed developments. If we are keen on catching the attention of international buyers it is the right time to think about quality developments and boutique services that match our limited supply of land. We can cater for less investors, with bigger wallets. That should keep us going without turbulence.
4. How successful has the government’s Citizenship by Investment Scheme been? Do you think that it should be extended indefinitely?
It was actually Cyprus the first country in Europe that introduced the CBI in 2011. At the time it was a revolution and people who had access to it had to spend more than 10ml euros. The program adopted successfully and changed quality to match the investor’s need. There are currently 11 programs around the World that involve citizenship by investment and Cyprus is amongst the most successful one. It is our sovereign right to continue this program but I’m afraid people will cannibalize it before a competitive country introduces something better and more attractive. My personal point of view is that media have a big responsibility on protecting this program that proved as a savior of the Cyprus economy. Let’s all help the public to recognize that HNWIs do not impose a threat to our country of employment status. They are here not to compete with us, but to gain access to a privilege that can’t be offered by their country of origin. Let’s understand that their economic contribution is key to a country that produces nothing and imports everything. Let’s help the public opinion that they are not here to change our demographics. Once we achieve that we could work to make our CBI industry regulated in order to present a reputable solution to the rest of the world.
5. Of your many developments, give us some information about what you consider to be your flagship project right now.
Giovani Group holds a number of coast developments in the South East Coast of Cyprus, in Famagusta. We are currently have a unique flagship development called the Sun City Spa Resort and Residences. It’s a mixed touristic beachfront development that consists of a luxury five star hotel and 41 residential units. The project is currently under construction with 65% of it being sold to international and local buyers. The completion date is set for June 2019 and our management team has a vision that will help to change our area’s perception towards quality developments and services.
6. Please provide us with a brief company profile.
Giovani Group started its operations as a family metal workshop in 1986. It has continued to grow rapidly for 31 consecutive years. As of today the company is the largest employer of the Famagusta area on the non-tourism sector. Its group companies employ over 200 people and help to sustain the jobs of thousands more through its activities. Marking its 30th anniversary Giovani has officially launched 15 new projects in the market in 2016, putting it therefore way ahead of local competition. With offices in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Hanoi and Riyadh the companies continues to support an expanding network of 270 international brokers that help support the continuing influx of foreign investors in Famagusta.