Business Opportunities in Lebanon – Year Eight

Although this event was in its 8th edition, it was the first year I participated.  It offered sessions about banking, real estate, business practice and public policy. I naturally attended the ones about real estate..what else? 🙂 They all took place in Room B.

October 20, 2010

Session 1: New product requirements in real estate.

Products specs: New trends and standards in residential development.

Panelists:

  • Namir Cortas – Estates
  • Elie Gebrayel – Erga Group
  • Radwan Suleiman – Century 21

During this session, Mr. Gebrayel spoke about “real estate from basic to lifestyle, evolving with clients needs”, he showed how the growth in Lebanon flopped form 2005 to 2008 for various reasons and how it was going to stagnate from now on while land and building prices remained high. Nowadays, the demand is for 200 m2 – 300 m2 homes in Beirut and 150 m2 – 180 m2 outside the capital. According to him, architectural requirements have also evolved. Graphs showed how Dubai was at its best while Lebanon was at its worst.

Mr. Cortas & Mr. Suleiman explained how the stagnation will lead to price correction, show the absence of urbanism is affecting the overall spirits of regions and that currently, banks are financing both developers and buyers.

Session 2: Structuring real estate companies.

Structures, legal and tax considerations of real estate companies.

Moderator:

  • Mouwafaq Yafi – LACPA

Presentation:

This session’s talk about taxation was given in Arabic. Everything was so technical, that it got to be quite boring!

October 21, 2010

Session 3: Real estate market study.

Results of a market study undertaken by InfoPro on sales, prices and trends in key areas.

Moderator:

  • Samer Abdallah – Review

Presentation:

Discussion:

  • Nabil Gebrayel – Coldwell Banker
  • Philippe Tabet – HAR Properties

Ms. Abu Mrad exposed the statistics InfoPro and explained the figures. It clearly showed that the real estate transactions, the value of real estate transactions have increased over the years. The highest number of real estate transactions was in Metn but the value remained in Beirut. Construction permits actually doubled! The number Panelists agreed that the government needed to supply public transportation, parking spaces and a legal system that protects brokers from “mickey mouse” brokers. Banks’ approval for loans should go from 6 weeks to 6 days. Mr. Gebrayel hoped the definitions and terms be standardized and unified to allow everyone involved in the business to “speak the same language”. He also stressed that statistics should be looked at and interpreted from where you are standing: Are you a buyer? Are you an investor? Are you a broker?

Session 4: Marketing real estate properties.

Modern sales and marketing tool and services for real estate.

Moderator:

  • Massaad Fares – R.E.A.L.

Case study developer:

  • Chahe Yerevanian – Sayfco

Case study sales:

  • Walid Moussa – The “REAL” broker

Case study marketing:

As far as marketing of real estate is concerned, everything changed. According to Mr. Moussa, the client is more educated and has more options to chose from. Therefore, developers should focus on the specs, the facilities, the architecture and installing an atmosphere of confidence with the clients in order to have a competitive advantage. Brokers should know the client before making any propositions and know their product from A to Z. For an incomplete construction, a 3D presentation would give a feel to client of what the project would look like and put him at ease. For a completed construction, a visit is the best.

Mr. Khalil explained how real estate marketing was about giving life to an idea and colored ocean strategies.

My overall impression:

Day 1: The welcome at the door was professional. Everybody was suited up, even participants…except me :P. Chairs setup was a bit squeezed. There was not proper space between chairs. Actually there weren’t enough chairs. At the start of discussions, we were given an idea about the panelist curriculum who in turn would talk about his company (too much advertising!). At many different instances the phone rang here and there too and the door kept opening and closing (annoying!) Oh and no handouts were given at the end of the sessions! 🙁

Day 2: Much better! Panelists were giving quality interactive presentations especially during session 3. It was the most interactive and generated the highest number of questions and passionate debate from the audience. I was happy that Ms. Abu Mrad mentioned (finally someone!) that the presentations will be available on the website for download.

As far as everyone’s concerned, there is no “bubble” in Lebanon. Many said that the “ingredients for a bubble are not there” and that speculations accounted for a maximum of 20% of the transactions…Is that a ray of light?

Guess who I bumped into? 😀

Other presentations:

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