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 Real Estate projects in Hurghada
 H&R Magazine
Practically unheard of by anyone except the canniest of real estate investors a few years back, the Red Sea is on the verge of becoming one of the most popular locations worldwide for buying property. In fact, such is the staggering rate of construction here; visitors (and residents) could be forgiven for thinking that they are staying in one giant building site.Travel down your average street and you can almost guarantee that
you cannot see the end of the road for piles of bricks and rubble, cement dust and huge gaping holes just waiting to be filled with several hundred more ‘dream homes in the sun.’ There’s a new resort around every corner, and property agencies are springing up left, right and centre; but with figures quoted from 16,000 to 25 million USD exchanging hands, real estate here in the Red Sea really is big business.

So who is buying all this property? Over the last few decades there has been a staggering growth in the number of Europeans looking to purchase a second home in the sun. Early buyers were generally looking for a retirement or holiday home; and northern Europeans, especially the British, invested extensively in ‘safe’ destinations like Spain and Cyprus – just far enough away to escape the inclement weather, but near enough to still be able to enjoy an evening at the resort’s local pub and a plate of sausage and chips home from home.

A general malaise with the economic and political situations, earlier retirement ages and the cost of living throughout Europe reaching desperate proportions, have all led to an overall growth in those buying homes abroad. Also, it is now so hard financially to get on the property ladder in many European countries that there is a growing number of younger people emigrating and owning first (rather than second) homes abroad. A recent survey found that an incredible one in ten UK nationals is now residing overseas.

Buyers of holiday and second homes still account for the largest market share over here, and more and more, property is seen as the safest home for your money. With prices increasing across the Red Sea at incredible rates, everyone with a spare few pounds in the bank want to jump on the property ladder.

Rany Mehanna is one of the leading Real Estate brokers in the region and cut his teeth selling property in El Gouna, before setting up his own agency four years ago in Cairo. Now with an office in the new Hurghada Marina, and a second one in Sharm El Sheikh, Mehanna Real Estate has more than 600 properties for sale throughout the Red Sea.
Apartments and villas on Mehanna’s books range from 39,000 to 700,000 USD and include both enclosed residential communities and independent buildings.

Mehanna sold the majority of the initial apartments in the Esplanada Residence project situated behind Esplanada Mall in Hurghada and has an exclusive on marketing Hurghada Marina – both for residential and commercial customers (more on this development later.) Mehanna is also selling two more of the most exciting real estate developments in the area: Al Dora, a quiet, self-contained residential community to the north of Hurghada featuring villas and apartments; and The View. The latter is one of the most hotly anticipated projects in Hurghada due to its stunning location on the elevated land near to Felfela restaurant. In terms of spectacular views and access to the beautiful private beach, the 135 apartments and 75-100 villas at The View will be virtually unsurpassed in the region. Prices start from just 55,000 USD for a finished apartment.

Mehanna’s clients are seeking to purchase real estate not just as a holiday home, or as a rental property, or as an investment, but more commonly, as all three. “In the last year, foreigners made up 70% of our purchasers. The UK market held the largest percentage, then the Russians and thirdly the Danish,” says Mehanna. 30% is also quite a healthy percentage for the Egyptian market. Many are holiday home seekers, looking to weekend on the Red Sea Riviera, but they are also keen to maximise their financial return. “We also have a lot of local real estate investors. They know it makes sense to invest here because the international market has picked up so fast.”

70% is also the figure quoted by Orascom, holding company of El Gouna, as the percentage of foreign investors now owning part of this purpose-built resort. El Gouna was one of the first places to become popular for real estate investment in the Red Sea and with property values appreciating by 400% over the past six years; its prices now cater to the top end of the market. The resort covers an area as large as central London and offers every known facility and luxury, both for holiday living and permanent settlement. In fact, El Gouna is now home to nearly 3,000 permanent residents and it is this community-feel that still makes the resort so attractive to buyers, whether they are looking for seasonal or permanent homes.

El Gouna properties include apartments with marina, golf or lagoon views, and a multitude of villa designs by world-renowned architects. West Lake Golf Villas are designed by award-winning Egyptian architects Ramy El Dahan and Ahmad Hamdy, and offer the finest modern finishing and stunning lagoon views. Villas are approximately 171m2 in size and each boasts a private swimming pool. Prices start from 325,000 USD. Traditionally, buyers purchasing in El Gouna have previously been limited to choosing pre-designed homes, whether off-plan, or already built. The new El Gouna Mansions project has just been launched and will afford purchasers the luxury of buying a 1-3 feddans (just under 1-3 acres) spot of prime real estate and designing their own property, with virtually no restrictions at all on design.

There is still a large market that prefers to invest in land and produce their own bespoke property made to measure. Vast swathes of the land in the Red Sea region is now available to purchase in villa-size plots for either building your own home, or building commercial property to rent or sell on.

Over the past few years, the Magawish area in Hurghada has seen a particular boom in land sales. An average 400m2 plot goes for more than 120,000LE these days but three or four years ago, you could have picked up the same for 40,000LE.

Stefanie Hassan first moved to Hurghada in 1994 to work in the diving industry, married an Egyptian, and made the Red Sea her
permanent home.They bought their first property together, a three-storey villa in Hadaba, for 220,000LE four years ago. “There were few estate agents then; the local Baowabs took on that role and asked around for us for a suitable home,” explains Stefanie. “My husband estimates that the villa is now worth at least four times as much, but it depends on who is looking to buy it and how much they are willing to pay.”

With a growing family, Stefanie and her husband have recently bought a plot of land in Magawish, and with the current requirement to set down foundations within six months of purchase; they will start building their own villa soon. She says they were motivated by the need for some “extra garden space; and also the chance to design our own home just the way we want it.” Undecided whether they will keep their investment in the villa in Hadaba, the family intend to move to their new home in Magawish in early 2009.

Wael Koura is another investor in the Magawish area. Egyptian by birth, Wael recently moved to Hurghada after residing in the USA for 26 years. He decided to move here primarily as a lifestyle decision for his family, but also as the potential for investments (cost and return) is so great. “Last year I started a real estate agency by the name of Cleopatra Realty,” Wael explains. “The reason I chose to set up here is the potential for the real estate market is tremendous. My primary goal is to provide a quality service to our clients and guide them through the purchase process, with the reassurance that making their investment in foreign property is easy and worry free.”

Wael has snapped up several plots of land in Hurghada, in Magawish and also in the luxurious development of Sahl Hasheesh. The land in Magawish is being used to build a set of eight luxury apartments - Stella De Nadia -designed around a swimming pool, which will be available for purchase in the next month or so. Wael plans a similar project in Sahl Hasheesh.
Sahl Hasheesh is one of the most exciting developments on the Red Sea coastline. The Egyptian Resorts Company (ERC) has exclusive development rights for the Sahl Hasheesh bay, consisting of 32million m2, and it is currently building one of the most ambitious community resorts in Egypt. Only 15% of the total area will be built-up; extensive green space, water features and natural desert landscape will balance homes, hotels and community facilities.

A cinema complex, numerous hotels and shopping areas, two golf courses and an international standard marina and yacht club are just some of the facilities under construction. There will also be several more unique attractions including a ‘sunken city’ – an underwater reconstruction of the lost city of Atlantis – that will be visible to divers and snorkellers, and also from a boardwalk that juts out over the sea. Another
development will be a ‘little Venice’, with gondolas to transport guests around miniature canals surrounding boutique hotel properties.

Also in the Sahl Hasheesh vicinity is the breathtaking luxury lifestyle development Serrenia. Anchoring the Sahl Hasheesh bay at its southern tip, the 2.5 million m2 master plan is for an ultra-luxury community designed by the prestigious British architect Norman Foster and Partners. Dubbed ‘the world’s most exclusive waterside address’, this development will combine space age and ‘environmentally intelligent’ architecture with opulent facilities, the likes of which are usually destined for Dubai.

In addition to the residences that range from palaces and villas to apartments nestled in the lush and extensive landscape, the project includes a seven star hotel, a premier spa destination, an 18 hole golf course and a 330-berth marina. Construction has already started and is planned until 2010.

For those looking for a more affordable slice of luxury, the self-contained peninsula of Soma Bay, situated around 45 minutes south of Hurghada, is a haven of relaxation and top class sporting facilities that is almost completely surrounded by spectacular sea and mountain views. The overall feeling of freedom and space is enhanced by the fact that the land here is naturally stepped; something that is clearly taken advantage of in planning the various property constructions here.

Soma Bay currently has five different housing projects in development; everything from golf and marina apartments to fantastic villa projects that take full advantage of the beautiful natural location. In fact, Soma Bay is one of the few places in the Red Sea where you can get a villa plot directly adjacent to the sea. Prices for the apartments in Soma Bay start from around 110,000 Euros and villas from around 275,000 Euros.

Unlike some other developments, Soma Bay is committed to offering a low-density and exclusive environment, so real estate purchasers can feel relaxed in the knowledge that their property is unlikely to be a small part of a future urban jungle. On paper, there are only expected to be between 300-400 housing lots in total. Also part of the development is the Sea Breeze – an apartment hotel that will support the trend in buy-to–let investment. The apartments in this project will be available on a turnkey, fully furnished basis, and for purchasers there will be the added incentive of a managed rental scheme with guaranteed income.

So apart from the obvious 365 days a year sunshine, competitive pricing and the legendary friendliness of the laidback local community, what else attracts foreign real estate investors to part with their cash here in the Red Sea? It would seem that the relaxed nature of the locals also spills over into generous tax breaks, for incredibly, there is little or no tax to pay when purchasing a property in Egypt. In fact,
according to Rany Mehanna, the only outlay to the government is a registration fee that does not exceed 2,000LE – no matter the purchase price of your new home. Add to this the proximity to Europe; travel made easy by a regular service and cheap airfares; incredible water sports and culture; seemingly guaranteed returns on your investment and abundant rental opportunities; and finally, a cost of living that is around 25% of Western Europe. Not surprisingly, investment in real estate in the Red Sea is being likened to a modern-day Gold Rush!

One of the most positive results of all this extra money piling into holiday homes is that the benefits of increased financial investment in the region is felt by all – whether they are living here permanently, or just on vacation. Without the real estate boom we would all be poorer in terms of the facilities that are now becoming available in the area, better employment prospects and the overall improvements to the local environment, such as the new pedestrianised areas.

The Marina project, opened in June 2008, is one such development that will breathe new life into a previously underused area of Hurghada. It may be largely residential (apartments practically sold out in 6 months!) but the Marina also offers 6,000m2 of commercial space including restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and supermarkets. Courtesy of The Marina, Hurghada is a host of international brands including L’Aroma, Bordein’s Restaurant, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Nike, Springfield, Timberland, Dockers, Baraka Optics and more.

According to Rany Mehanna, The Marina “will completely change the concept of Hurghada. Currently the city does not really have an organised centre. You cannot walk easily around and you get hassled when you’re out shopping. The Marina will offer a promenade, rather like that of Naama Bay, Sharm El Sheikh. Somewhere to go in the evenings and relax in the cafes and restaurants, do some shopping and people watch. This is what is missing in Hurghada.”

Mike Imrie, a regular visitor to Hurghada for the last 15 years, chose to invest in the Hurghada Marina where he purchased a three-bedroom apartment. His friends also invested here. He says: “I have travelled worldwide for most of my life and yet I have been drawn back to Hurghada time and time again. The whole region has undergone a massive change in recent years and the beaches, shopping arcades; bars and restaurants are now comparable to anywhere else in the world. When deciding on the Marina project I liked the idea of living in a gated community with no maintenance worries and overlooking the fabulous Giftun Island – home to some of my more memorable dives!”

Mike continues: “I consider Hurghada to be an emerging real estate market with low prices for large areas when compared to Eastern Europe, and as a pure investment it has proved very rewarding. And that’s despite the fact that making money wasn’t the reason for me to purchase here! The fantastic lifestyle was my main motivation.”
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