Lebanon Life Must Go On

Lebanon Life Must Go On

Beirut City, Lebanon
Beirut City

Property sales in Lebanon reached impressive figures in 2007 despite the world-wide economic slowdown and continuing political strife. Property sales in 2007 reached $4.219 billion compared to $3.151 billion in 2006.

“Last year was the best year in both property sales and transactions since 2001,” said Elie Harb, the general manager of Coldwell Banker, Beirut.

Property sales in Beirut alone reached $1.6 billion compared to $1 billion in 2006. Sales in South Lebanon reached only $23.6 million – Harb attributed this low figure to fears another invasion, an understandable worry as far as we are concerned.

The Directorate of Real Estate at the Finance Ministry said that the number of property transactions in the country reached 154,158 in 2007, up by 21.4 % over 2006.

Bank Audi published the Finance Ministry’s report, and suggested the rise in real-estate activity could be attributed to several reasons: population increases; the relatively low Lebanese taxes; higher demand by ex-pat Lebanese; the improvement made in terms of property transfer operations; and the easing of restrictions on foreign property ownership.

The report stated, “Nevertheless, although the first half of the year saw a good 7% growth, the cumulative yearly double-digit rate is mainly coming from a 38 percent increase in the second half of 2007 in comparison with the same period of 2006.”

Harb said these transactions include both houses and land. Another estate agent said that many Lebanese ex-pats working in the Gulf still preferred to buy property in Lebanon.

“The Lebanese work for many years in the Gulf region and other countries to make a decent living and the first thing he or she thinks about is buying a house or land in Beirut or other areas,” said the agent.

“People will buy houses just as they buy consumer goods even if the prices are a bit high,” Harb said.

He believes that 97% of the property purchases were conducted by Lebanese nationals rather than foreign investors. This information could not be verified by other sources, and methods of calculation can vary widely.

The Finance Ministry’s real-estate department said this half-year rise, in turn, mainly stems from an 82% surge in the third quarter of 2007 relative to the same quarter of 2006. Any one would think there was a war going on at the time – which there was – the 34-day war with Israel during the summer of 2006. Although, in the last quarter of 2006, the number of property transactions more or less resumed its pre-war level.

The majority of collected property taxes in 2007 were in Beirut, with 42.2% of the total amount. It’s nice to know the tax collecting system keeps on functioning regardless of the war.

Building permits also increased last year. Figures released by the Order of Engineers of Beirut and Tripoli reveal that construction permits totaled 9,037,609 sqm during 2007 – up by 4.0% from 8,692,834 sqm in 2006.

“Life must go on,” said Mr. Harb