Friday, January 20, 2012

Interview 21: Giannis Kriaras-Real Estate in the beautiful Crete Island


This time in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN), Giannis Kriaras the MD of a successful Real Estate company, KTIMATOEMPORIKI, is sharing with us with working and personal experiences and how can someone reach the top through difficult moments.

DPN: Gianni, you are the Managing Director in KTIMATOEMPORIKI COMPANY for the last 18 years. Tell us some things about your company.

GK:  When we founded Ktimatoemporiki in 1994, our mission was to deliver exceptional homes and workplaces at great value for money. Throughout these years, the response has been amazing and the feedback enlightening. Just like the very first day we went into business, our success stems from our clients. An important part of our expertise is in taking into consideration their needs and preferences, and offering the perfect housing solution. Our fanatical devotion to high quality standards and focus on the needs of our clients has paid off tremendously year after year, not just in financial terms, but also in human terms. It may seem old-fashioned, but our BIG reward is still the clients’ satisfaction. In recent years, we have all been witnesses to improvements in our living and working environments. Property is no longer a product, but a whole experience: a living and working experience. After all, our homes and our workplaces actually represent the stages of our lives. Our job, here in Ktimatoemporiki Company, is to make sure that we find our clients a property which is a natural fit at that particular stage of their lives.

DPN: What sacrifices you needed to take in your life up to now to make your company a successful one?

GK: A difficult career does not require more sacrifices than those one allows one’s self. There were times that I used to think that 24 hours in the day were not enough. However, I have come to realize that good time management is the means to successful prioritization of tasks and objectives. I think that with good will and a little luck everything is possible. In general, however, I believe that we ourselves largely make our own luck, so we should never miss those opportunities.

DPN: If a young person would ask you if it would be a good idea to start his career in the real estate sector what would you advice?

GK: Good behavior, that is good manners, treating people well, honesty and integrity, both in one’s business and personal life, will bring its own rewards. Don’t keep score in life. Love what you do. You have to follow those principles in life generally, and if you do you will be a happy and successful person.

DPN: Greece is facing really difficult moments. How do you predict the exit of this crisis?

GK: As well as problems, every crisis also gives birth to opportunities. Professionals can best benefit from those opportunities if they do not simply seek profits, but also improve the quality of the services they provide. From this perspective, therefore, the crisis does not scare me. The crisis simply requires the redefinition of professional objectives and adaptation to the international situation. Here in Greece it needs strategic brand repositioning: we need to convince the world that Greece is not only sun, sea, summertime and islands; it is also creativity, quality, innovation, sociability, taste and pride. We must promote all these fine qualities abroad, alongside our products and services.  In addition, the economic crisis has made Greece an attractive investment destination, as it offers businesspeople numerous investment opportunities stemming from Greece’s strategic geographic location and its competitive advantages. Greece is a natural gateway to the markets of South-Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, regions with more than 140 million consumers and a GDP reaching 1 trillion Euros. I am positive that Greece’s economic problems will soon be behind it, leaving it stronger. Greece is a rich country with great natural resources, most significantly 175 billion barrels of oil south of Crete, while the gold value in Thraki and Macedonia reaches 38 billion Euros. And, according to the Geological Institution of USA, the value of Oil and Natural Gas alone reach 10 TRILLION dollars.  In addition, Greece offers a vast wealth of mineral resources. Lignite, which is used for making energy in Greece, and bauxite, the raw material needed for aluminum production, are two minerals that are found abundantly in Greece. Other mineral deposits include ferronickel ores, magnesite, mixed sulfurous ores, ferrochrome ores, kaolin, asbestos, and marble. Mining accounts for only 1% of the GDP.  As the center of neighboring emerging markets, Greece provides access to populations where there is high demand for consumer goods, infrastructure modernization, technology transfer and innovation networks, energy, tourism and light industry. In parallel, Greek companies and banks are well established and play a key role in the markets of neighboring countries. Investors are increasingly discovering that Greece combines features unique in Europe. The country is a premier global tourist destination, is an emerging regional energy center, and has a highly educated and multilingual workforce.

DPN: More specifically how do you see the Real Estate industry in Greece at the moment?

GK:  The Real Estate sector has long been one of the main pillars of the Greek economy. Some people may not be aware that state owned real estate assets are estimated to be valued at 300 billion Euros, largely unexploited until now, which are going to bring new blood to the market. Real estate offers good yields even during the crisis, as the market has fallen just 10% during the last two years of recession, making it the best investment, on average, in terms of return, compared to the stock market and bank deposits. The Olympic infrastructure boosted construction activity during previous years. Now it is time to get the best out of it, while demand for new modern buildings and new projects in urban and rural areas of the country bring new investment opportunities. Building costs are going down because of the decline in investment in construction. Historical data shows that real estate pays better than all other investments in Greece, and the sector has proved quite resilient even during the current crisis. Despite a strong decline in construction activity and transactions, prices were set accordingly. Taking all the above under consideration, I would not say the real estate Industry in Greece is changing. I would say it is evolving.  Even in the current economic climate it is encouraging to see that Greece is a favorite, and it looks likely to stay that way. Even if current economic conditions cast some doubts, the popularity of the country is growing both as a tourism and holiday home destination and for inward investment. As regards the time to invest in Greece, now is definitely the right one. As the economic crisis has not left prices untouched, sale prices of some properties have been reduced, in some cases up to 50%. In all categories there are true bargains to be found and the properties vary from completed apartments and houses to renovation projects as well as villas, businesses, marinas, hotels etc. In addition, Greece offers an attractive Mediterranean climate, endless islands to visit, spectacular nature, a fascinating history, mouth-watering cuisine, and an eclectic urban mix which all combine to create a lifestyle that is unequalled. We have over 300 days of sunshine a year, one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and a choice of cosmopolitan lifestyles.   Our native population has lived through thousands of years of a rich history living in Greece in harmony with many races. Demand for property in Greece is increasing at a rapid rate and typical growth rates of 20% plus per annum in carefully selected locations can be observed.

DPN: I guess that foreigners are interested mainly to do also investments for pleasure in Greece, by buying a property in a Greek island. Which islands are popular and why?

GK: It is true that Greece has proven over the last years to be one of the more popular destinations for Europeans looking for a holiday home, a retirement home or an investment property. More specifically, demand for its beautiful islands is increasing at a rapid rate.  Every island has its own unique beauty and charm. There are Greek islands for every type of character: remote and quiet islands, touristy, party islands, unspoilt islands, romantic and many other types, so everyone can certainly find one to suit them. For example: Santorini for its romantic sunsets, the unique sunken caldera and the still active volcano; Mykonos for its vibrant nightlife, the traditional Cycladic architecture and its long, sandy beaches; Corfu for its Venetian architecture and Rhodes for  its rich medieval history. And of course there is the island of Crete, renowned for its mountainous landscapes, the coast with many beautiful beaches and rocky coves, its beautiful towns and charming villages and harbors, its excellent food and exciting nightlife, ancient sites such as Minoan Knossos, a relic of one of the greatest civilizations ever, and much more.

DPN: From which countries the foreign investors are coming usually from? Are there also Greeks that still are investing in Real Estate?

GK: Our clientele is from all around the world, particularly Europe, the USA and China.  They are not only individuals, but also private and public companies either already established in Greece, or interested in extending their business into the Greek market, due to its perfect location between three continents. It was not by accident that ancient Greeks used to say “Greece is the navel of the world”. As for whether Greeks are still investing in real estate, even though Greece is facing problems, which are of course also affecting the real estate market, it is not that Greeks are not buying at all. Indeed they still buy but are maybe more cautious when it comes to investing their money nowadays. Real estate in Greece remains a fairly sound investment.


DPN: Ed McMahon an American comedian stated that “golf courses sell real estate and that’s why they’re built”. Comment us that.


GK: Golf is not just a game of physical and mental skill, it is a whole lifestyle. The golf property market is well recognized as an important sector of growth for every country and there is fast development in this area, as golfing is fast becoming more and more popular. In Greece golf is fast becoming a popular sport and there are already some very good golf courses available and more in the planning stages. Greek golf courses are excellent during spring, summer and autumn; also the mild winters allow playing all year round. The country where the sun shines 300 days a year makes its way up to the world of golfing.


DPN: Describe us one of your latest projects.


One of our latest projects is “the future”. And by that I mean solar and wind energy parks, which are at the forefront of transformative changes which are attracting investors from around the globe. With Greece emerging as the energy hub of Southeast Europe, deregulation in the production, transmission and distribution of electricity and energy supplies, and an aggressive drive for renewable sources to play a major role in energy supply, the country is at the centre of significant growth opportunities. One of the core components of Greece's energy profile will be solar, or photovoltaic, energy. Greece has a superb sun radiation capacity and it is estimated that one third of Greece's energy requirements could be met with solar power. Experts believe that the market will grow impressively and have a value of more than 4 billion Euros in just a few years. Wind, or aeolic, power is driving growth in the renewable sector as well and represents a huge investment potential in Greece. The superb wind resources in Greece are among the most attractive in Europe, with a profile of more than 8 meters/second and/or 2.500 wind hours in many parts of the country. Capacity increased by an average of 30% annually between 1990 and 2003 and almost 30% of total capacity was installed in the period of 2003-2004. 


DPN: Your company is located in the beautiful island of Crete. Talk to us a bit about your place.


GK: Crete is the largest island of Greece - the fifth largest in the Mediterranean - and is located in the south of the Aegean Sea. Crete is one of the most famous Greek islands and often visited in conjuction with Santorini. Crete is an island with an exquisite 1,000 kilometer-long coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays and peninsulas, which afford a multitude of soft, sandy beaches along the beautifully blue Mediterranean Sea. After all, it's among the finest islands in the world and has been established as one of Europe's most popular holiday destinations. And, of course, the island's historic importance as the home of the Minoan civilization with important archeological finds at Knossos, Phaistos and Gortys, is evidenced by the tens of thousands of visitors to these sites each year. There are many other jewels just waiting to be discovered by the more adventurous explorers of holiday treasures.
If you haven’t visited Crete yet, this summer may be the time to come and discover this fascinating Greek island. If it captures your heart, don’t worry. Come back next year and Crete will welcome you once more with its smiling Cretan sun, the sounds of the Cretan lyre, the scents of orange blossom and jasmine and a slice of cool red watermelon.


DPN: How will you define the real professional person?


GK: Above all, a professional is judged by the final result. Personally, I do not claim anything else, I do not aspire to be anything more. We strive to do our work as well as possible, and hope that the results are positive and perceptible. My definition of success is to do normal things exceptionally well. One is considered professional when the name of one’s company is a synonym for that profession and, naturally, when the name inspires respect, reliability and confidence in the market.


DPN: Describe us your typical working day.


GK: So many things are happening on a daily basis that it becomes very hard to stay on top of it all. A typical working day, though, always starts with an iced coffee. After that I prioritize the tasks to be completed with, of course, appropriate free periods built in to leave some time for other unscheduled tasks that may arise during the course of the day.  Aside from setting priorities, I review the progress of existing projects, and then check the calendar to refresh my memory on the upcoming appointments for the day and the week.   Other than that, my daily schedule is full of meetings with investors from all over the world, lawyers, consultants, and appointments to view newly assigned properties, phone calls, e-mails and the endless list goes on and on. But it all comes down to listening, interacting with people and exchanging ideas. It can all be summed up in one word: communicating. Luckily, because of my work I come into contact with many people from all walks of life. I encounter new ideas; become a better professional and in the end a better person. One does not need to seek profit. From my career I take full advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I try to minimize any disadvantageous circumstances I meet. 


DPN: How do you spend your free time?


GK: Good time management means I have plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. In my free time I recharge my batteries and relax. After all, a rested, relaxed person functions better, professionally, methodically and objectively.


DPN: How do you see the future for your company and for you personally?


GK: The truth is that I prefer to think of the present more; however I do have dreams for the future and wishes which I would like to be fulfilled. Above all health is the most important - as trite as this may sound - any other problems can be overcome with effort. Enterprise is good, but we must not lose sight of our personal life. I have personal goals that I want to achieve, for example to travel to every corner of the world. In general I want every day of my life to be as good as it can get, to enjoy every single moment. Carpe diem, as the ancient Romans said.


DPN: What is in your opinion the secret for success?


GK: As the real estate market leader in Crete, and one of the biggest real estate agencies in Greece, we do indeed have a secret ingredient for our thriving business: trust.


DPN: Any wish you could share with our readers for 2012?


GK: I hope to keep the best and forget the worse. This is also my world theory. I believe that the fortunes as well as with the difficulties of life make me a better person. And finally every change in life, good or bad at that specific moment, gives me the opportunity to re-evaluate my own life and take the best out of it. The important thing is that you make the most of the positives and minimize the negatives. This is also my objective for 2012. Above all certainly comes health; the rest will follow. A happy and prosperous new year and a positive balance at the end of 2012!

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