Small, Pricey, But Extraordinarily Beautiful Investment Locales
PALACE Magazine|Issue 20

Fresh from my trip to Santorini, Greece, I was reminded of an interesting investment theme about property investment stretching beyond a location’s size or borders. As usual in my columns, I will discuss the investors’ side of the game rather than a location’s tourist appeal though they go hand in hand for identifying a quality investment.

Alexander Karolik-Shlaen

SANTORINI

For example, the small island of Santorini is famously known as an exceptional place to catch some of the most amazing and breathtaking vistas of the Aegean Sea. And perhaps to match its wondrous beauty, the island has got some equally breathtaking property prices.

The beautiful Santorini— a unique, croissant-shaped land the size of just 76 square kilometres (around one-tenth the land size of Phuket or Singapore) was formed by a series of powerful volcanic eruptions, of which its most significant and powerful, the Minoan eruption some 3600 years ago, resulted in a large water-filled caldera (volcanic crater). The island is basically a sunken volcano with its picturesque lagoon the subject of gorgeous images known the world over, and tourists lucky enough to visit all clamour for the chance to stay in accommodations with a caldera view, often paying a small fortune for this privilege. And what a fortune this privilege costs.

The island’s caldera-view room rentals go into thousands of Euros in high season and even restaurants in prime caldera-view areas charge prices that are more reminiscent of dining in Singapore or London. Some of the most exotic stays are in old caves (cave houses) that were refurbished to accommodate wealthy tourists. Many upscale hotels have just a few rooms, some even as few as four or five, which are usually booked solid throughout the high season. My check on the prices of some of the smaller higher end hotels and my discussions with local owners showed them asking for around one million Euros per key, or per room. And some are asking for much more.

You can find some private properties’ asking prices translating to over EUR 16,000 (approx. USD 19,000) per square metre! Gasp… are we talking about the economically challenged Greece here or the top of Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak or a palatial property in Monte Carlo?! What is surprising and perhaps reassuring is how strong property fundamentals such as location, scarcity and rental returns are able to overpower even a major bust of the macro economy.

That brings my focus to property in locations where interest in its real estate is regional or global. The demand factor is way beyond the borders of a given country and hence the price skyrockets to the highest global levels.

As an investor, I am always on a lookout for such type of properties. These areas can be regional or global centres of business, but what I noticed is that premium ones are often in nicer, beautiful locations and that makes them more attractive to international high net worth investors vs local investors. In our region, we have several such spots that attract as many if not more foreigners than local investors.

SINGAPORE

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