Mon 16 Dec 2019

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Eastern Ghouta’s Real Estate: Unprofitable For Sellers Yet Beneficial For Buyers

Hamouriyah city in the middle of Eastern Ghouta - 2015 (Enab Baladi)

Hamouriyah city in the middle of Eastern Ghouta - 2015 (Enab Baladi)

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Prior to the 2011 protests in Syria, Eastern Ghouta, especially areas close to Damascus, used to be a favorable destination for those wishing to buy real estate, mainly residential ones, because of their low prices compared to those in the neighborhoods of the Syrian capital.

Following the Syrian regime’s takeover of Eastern Ghouta in May 2018, the area is still considered an outlet for those wishing to buy. However, the devastation that affected the area’s housing and infrastructure prevents the real estate market from returning to normal.

Some of the people of Ghouta, who have lost their money and jobs and some of whom are now dependent on expatriate funds or aid, whether those forcibly displaced to northern Syria, refugees outside Syria or those who still reside in Syria, are forced to sell their properties. All this occurs at a time when laws and decrees are enacted, which might result in some owners’ loss of their properties in Syria, in case their ownership is not proven.

With the high movement in the sales market, real estate prices in Ghouta are a case worth studying and following up, at a time when most areas of Ghouta lack access to water, electricity and telecommunication services.

 

Closest locations to Damascus still desirable to date

After the Syrian regime’s takeover of Eastern Ghouta areas, the region witnessed stagnation in its markets. This has gradually revived talks about a sales movement in Harasta and Ein Tarma before it reached the town of al-Malihah in the southern district of Ghouta.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, a real estate engineer who was a former mayor in Eastern Ghouta said that the closer the districts to Damascus are, the higher their sales and prices would be.

The engineer, speaking on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, pointed out that despite its existence, this sales movement is still weak compared to what it was before 2011. He expected that the market would return if those areas are well served, highlighting the buyer’s desire today to benefit from low real estate prices before their increase in the future with the return of services.

There are more sales movements in the areas of al-Malihah, Harasta, Ein Tarma and Zamalka than in the deeper areas east of Damascus.

 

Prices rose compared to siege days

During the five-year siege of the Syrian regime forces from 2013 to 2018, the region witnessed a prolonged recession in the real estate market, with some selling cases, particularly in agricultural lands, which decreased the prices of apartments in favor of agricultural lands.

One of the main reasons for the stagnation of the market is the seller and buyer’s inability to legally register the selling process in court, affecting the legality of the sale, the granting of both parties’ rights, and the two parties’ dependence on the agency under which some contracts were canceled.

The maximum price per meter in the areas of central Ghouta during the siege, which witnessed a larger sales movement compared to the contact areas near Damascus, reached about 22,000 Syrian Pounds.

 

Low prices compared to exchange rate

Prices have started to rise gradually in 2019. According to three workers in the real estate market in Ghouta, interviewed by Enab Baladi, the current price per meter in the areas of Hamouriyah and Beit Sawa varies between 35,000 and 60,000 Syrian Pounds without cladding, while the price per meter in the city of Saqba varies between 40,000 and 75,000 Syrian Pounds.

Prices vary from one neighborhood to another in each city or town, depending on the location, availability of services and proximity to the capital and public roads.

During an interview with the local newspaper al-Watan on September 2, the mayor of al-Mleiha, Omar Asses, confirmed that many real estates were sold in the city.

He explained that the average price per square meter ranged between 70,000 and 125,000. The price may exceed these limits in some cases.

According to the atlas of building damage published by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in mid-March, Eastern Ghouta was the most affected area among the ones surrounding the capital Damascus. The number of the completely destroyed buildings amounted  to 9,353 in addition to 13,661 other destroyed entirely and 11,122 partially, with a total of 34,136 damaged buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

The selling price nowadays has changed compared to 2011, for the property loses 79.6% of its value following the Syrian currency’s exchange rate compared to the dollar.

The lowest price per square meter in the central area of ​​Ghouta was 13,000 Syrian Pounds, which is equal to 270 dollars (according to the exchange rate of 48 Pounds compared to the Dollar). The price per square meter today is at a minimum of 35,000 Pounds, equal to 55 US dollars, (according to today’s exchange rate of 635 Pounds compared to the Dollar).

This has caused real estate owners to suffer a record loss in case the value of the property is compared to the foreign currency.

 

Areas on the verge of collapse and destroyed infrastructure

Despite the lack of official statistics revealing the degree of damage in the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta, the region is considered as one of the most damaged areas, with infrastructure and residential neighborhoods drastically affected as a result of the battles and the shelling taking place between 2013 and 2018.

Establishing title 

The sales and purchases taking place in Eastern Ghouta during the opposition factions’ control are being questioned by the regime’s government because of fraud. In 2018, the Ministry of Justice started to equip the courts in Arabin and Harasta, and issued circulars to check fingerprints in sales and purchases. It has also addressed other issues, such as marriage solemnization and so on, reported the public newspaper Tishreen early this year.

The regime’s government reopened the land registry to restore the pace of sales, in addition to protecting the property of individuals, according to the pro-regime newspaper al-Watan.

On February 26, the newspaper quoted an unknown judicial source, highlighting tendency toward maintenance of real estate sale, explaining that the presence of a permanent record is very helpful.

According to the newspaper, the source pointed out that many cases related to the maintenance of sales were dismissed before opening the permanent register because there is no sign at the property indicating its status.

According to the judicial source, the issue of sales is going through close scrutiny, to protect the owners of properties in the region.

 

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