New round of Israeli investments in Athens

Of the old buildings acquired at prices of 500 euros per sq.m. in downtown Athens over the past decade, Israelis are now moving into a new era of investment


3/24/20248 min read

Having closed a decade since their first real estate purchases in Greece, with prices then even at 500 euros per square meter in the heart of Athens, the foreign investors who bought in 2014 are now moving to the next phase, that of… maturing, while holding a dominant role at the moment in the center 's real estate.

Renovations of old buildings that are transformed into modern apartment buildings based on the new trend of serviced apartments, new accommodation with hotels or simply rooms for rent, rentals of independent properties to third-party investors or even sales of converted buildings to secure returns are just some of the movements this year moment of foreign investors - mainly of Israeli origin , but not only - in the center of the capital. Where now a... normal selling price around Omonia, on 3rd of September Street, for a fully renovated and furnished apartment, which can also be made available as a touristic apartment for short or medium-term lease, now exceeds 3,000 euros per square meter in the classifieds. The change that is gradually taking place in the center of Athens is also confirmed by the return of major players to prime real estate around Panepistimiou and Stadiou streets , including banks that are now discussing the utilization of emblematic buildings (in Edouardou Lo, Korai etc.) or others large groups such as PPC (in Christou Lada).

The Israeli players

Pioneers and the most active in the center of Athens for a decade now are the investors connected with Israeli funds. The latter started the real estate markets during the period of the complete collapse of the domestic real estate market (in 2013-2014) and are now in the next stage of their investment strategy, liquidating or renovating old properties that were acquired for 500 euros per sq.m. or even further down.

In fact, investment companies that had started in the previous decade as purely Israeli interests with a more speculative character, buying very cheaply with the intention of exiting by selling in a second year, have now evolved into key players.

These are investment projects that attract other, this time international, but also domestic capital, gradually progressing to renovations, with the focus mainly on housing and tourism, and secondarily on offices. One such typical example is the investment company Zoia , which gradually "built" from the previous, difficult decade of the fiscal crisis, a portfolio worth 200 million euros with over 40 buildings, mainly residential (close to 1,000 apartments throughout Athens), but also commercial real estate in the center of Athens , some of which have already acquired or are about to acquire a second life cycle. Thus, the 1977 building at 40 Amalias, opposite the Pillars of Olympian Zeus, which had burned to the ground in 2010, has has been completely reformed into an office building with bioclimatic features and now has a "green" Leed certification, earning relevant distinctions, the 101-year-old Megaro Isaia at 65 Patision near the National Archaeological Museum functions as a business space, the building of more than 2,100 sq.m. in Kallithea next to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is now being upgraded and transformed into 52 modern apartments, while the same is happening with the 1935 apartment building in Gennadiou in Exarchia which will include 30 houses.

The Brown Hotels "Urban City" complex near Omonia will include 206 houses, of which, according to information, more than 2/3 have already been sold to Greek and foreign buyers of various nationalities, including of course Israelis

In the next phase in terms of their presence in the Greek market, it seems that the investors who are behind quite a few accommodations under the management of the now well-known hotel chain of Brown Hotels , inside and outside Athens, have also passed, proceeding on the one hand with the liquidation of holdings and change of design for properties they own in Athens, but also new placements constantly looking for opportunities all over Greece. Indicative of the change of course is the development plan for the large building on Piraeus 44 that was intended for a hotel, but in the end the alternative of serviced apartments was chosen, in a part of the market that now seems to present significant prospects. The "Urban City" complex , where renovation work has already begun, will include 206 houses, of which, according to information, more than 2/3 have already been sold, to Greek buyers as well as foreigners of various nationalities, including, of course, Israelis. The complex also includes a series of facilities for the tenants, with swimming pools, jacuzzi, business lounge, meeting rooms, dining areas, etc. This is one of the largest - if not the largest - projects of this kind in the center, near Omonia, run by the investment company Astrea International Properties, with investment funds linked to WH Europe and further plans to develop serviced apartments in the capital or nearby destinations such as Loutraki.

WH Europe, in turn, has in its portfolio some of the most well-known properties where Brown hotels operate ("Brown Acropol" in Omonia, "Isla Brown" etc.). Among the investors behind hotels managed by Brown Hotels are funds linked to Aroundtown, one of the major listed groups in European real estate with Israeli investors, based in Germany and active in income properties in central European markets (Germany, the Netherlands , London). Accordingly, Aroundtown Greece is connected to the German listed company , which has been staffed since last year and is gradually being strengthened with a team of analysis, real estate transactions, etc., having finally come to stay in domestic real estate.

The "Brown" case

Brown Hotels itself follows on the same wavelength , which as a hotel management company is moving into a more mature phase in terms of its activities in the Greek market. The chain that was founded in 2010 in Tel Aviv by Mr. Leon Avigad and Nijan Perry , and gave a vote of confidence to Greece in the last difficult decade, is now moving forward with new partnerships (such as the recent franchise agreement with the Hilton group for the two hotels in Aghios Theodoros of Corinth and Chania), is reforming its strategy on a case-by-case basis, as is currently the case in Thessaloniki, while at the same time looking for new opportunities in new destinations, such as Halkidiki. In Thessaloniki, the investors behind Brown are freezing the project for the conversion of the preserved "Vienna" in the center of the city into a 5-star hotel due to the time-consuming procedures and approvals involved in its renovation, with the possibility of its utilization in a different way now open (p .e.g. renting possibly also as an educational unit). On the other hand, they will proceed with the other investment in the co-capital for the utilization of the former tobacco warehouse "Sakka - Michaelidis" intended for a 4-star boutique unit in about two years from today.

As far as Athens is concerned, the recent news for the well-known hotel brand that has associated its name with the new hotels around Omonia for the last seven years, also acting as a stimulating injection for the region, is the new agreement with the new entrant to the Greek market Isrotel for three hotels around Omonia Square. Isrotel , allied with the Dayan business family from Israel, is entering the Greek market with an investment of 70 million euros and the creation of the new international brand Aluma Resorts & Hotels . The debut in Greece is made with three hotels in the center of Athens that change, precisely because of the change in their ownership regime, and pass from the management of Brown Hotels under the management of Aluma Resorts & Hotels.

This is the "Lighthouse" hotel with a capacity of 199 rooms in Omonia, which will operate very soon as "Skylark" , as it is renamed, in the 4-star category, as well as the other "Brown Spices" hotel between Omonia and Monastiraki, in Evripidou street, which will operate a little later in the spring as "Anise", 4 stars, with 63 rooms initially and the prospect of additional capacity reaching 105 rooms in total.

Later, until the end of 2024, Isrotel has planned the operation of the "ADIA" hotel , with a capacity of 218 rooms and 5 stars in Omonia, in a former office building on Lykourgou Street, in this case also taking over the management by Brown. In fact, Isrotel has immediate plans outside of Athens, for another hotel in Thessaloniki. Its future plans for new tourist investments include Crete and Cyprus -depending on the opportunities that will present themselves-, but also other European markets, in Portugal and Italy. It is noted here that the name of the Dayans had come to the fore and was widely heard in our country in 2021, when it claimed the much-discussed property of the former American Base of Gourni in Crete (in .s.: which ended up in REDS of the ELLAKTOR group). Investment funds connected to the family, with significant investments also in real estate through the Dayan Family Office, have quietly progressed in recent years in the acquisition of real estate in our country, including hotels operated under the management of Brown Hotels .

H Finders

Finders , which was started in 2014 by Mr. Amir Mamou as a development company, is closing a decade this year in Greece , with the main activity of investments, purchases and sales of real estate either after renovation or in the existing condition. Finders today manages 5 private funds having gradually built a respectable portfolio in the center of Athens – and beyond (residential, commercial, touristic). "In 2020 we decided to convert existing private properties into tourist accommodation", sources from the company report in "business stories". "After market research we decided that there was a gap between the services of hotels and short-term accommodation units and so we made the strategic decision to create a new brand that will fill this gap, called "Vision-Hosts of Superior Living".

This company offers its guests the comfort of an apartment with rooms from 23 to 57 sq.m. and the services of a hotel, e.g. cleaning, bathroom items, concierge services, online orders, but also an innovative real estate service. The first hospitality project for the company is "Vision Omonia" at the junction of Chalkokondili 36 and 3rd September Streets, which will probably operate from Easter, in a building that was acquired by 17 different owners in the previous decade and has been completely transformed. The hotel will have 42 rooms, studios and suites with a view of the Acropolis, a rooftop swimming pool, a gym, dining areas, while the visitor will have 24-hour service through a relevant application ( Vision Application ). The artistic direction of the hotel, where at the entrance there will be a life-size statue of Aphrodite of Milos, has been undertaken by Kirios Criton . "Vision Gazi" with 20 apartments in Gazi and "Vision Metaxourgeio" with 11 apartments in Metaxourgeio will follow later ."

So, after a decade of presence in Greece, the next phase includes two companies with joint management, Finders , which continues its activity in real estate and with Vision-Hosts of Superior Living , which now begins its steps in tourist industry.

The activities of the two companies converge through the Finders Real Estate Hub service, which will offer interested buyers the full range of real estate services (one stop shop) , from searching - finding a property, technical and legal control, handling all checkout processes, renovation and property management. "We estimate that in our first year of operation, offering approximately 85 accommodation units in the center of Athens, we will accommodate approximately 42,000 visitors. For Finders it is an audience that it would not be able to reach in any other case, however through Vision it will be able to present in the rooms all the properties for sale having a pool of potential interested buyers and taking advantage of the many years of expertise in real estate and development" , report from Finders . The future goal is for Vision-Hosts of Superior Living to expand in Crete, in Rethymnon and Chania, with luxury villas.

The Israeli Fattal group is also taking the next step in Greece, already having its flagship in Athens, the 5-star "Nyx Esperia Palace" in Stadiou, and the "Leonardo Kolymbia" in Rhodes. As of this season, the new venture of the group, which is also looking for new projects in the Greek market, is the "Seafos Luxury Resort & Spa" in Nafplio, while the first luxury hotel in Thessaloniki will follow.

As for "Seafos Luxury Resort & Spa" , it is about the gradual transformation into a luxury resort of the former "Kandia's Castle", acquired through auction in an area easily accessible from Athens, a strategy that Israeli investors believe in and trust .