Villa 20 is able to accommodate up to 20 people in its nine suites, four of which have their own pools. The select group of guests staying at the complex can also gather at its 40-meter infinity pool, its spa or its billiard room, before making their way to the large monastery table to enjoy dinner. Situated in the hills of Porto Heli, this stately edifice is the largest villa in the entire portfolio of the international chain Aman Resorts. Its owner is European.
A signature residence, Villa 20 belongs to a special class of luxury homes in Greece – the small, up-and-coming club of branded properties. Villa 20 is a part of Amanzoe, a luxury resort and hotel in Porto Heli, which constitutes the Aman Resorts’ first luxury complex in this country. Like all other Aman villas that are sold, the new owner is provided with all of the services offered by the chain – something sure to please the company’s devotees known as ‘Aman junkies’. Paris-based American architect Ed Tuttle designed the complex, and collaborated with the Greek firm Archiplus.
“On a global level, the market for branded properties is the most competitive one of all at the moment. And this is so because it offers a problem-free life, as these properties are managed by professionals,” notes Katerina Katopi, investor relations and marketing director at the investment firm Dolphin Capital Partners, which specializes in the development of luxury complexes throughout the world similar to Amanzoe in the Peloponnese.
“Sales at Aman have gone well, in the days of crisis-hit Greece. Great interest has been shown on the part of non-Greeks and Greeks abroad, from countries such as the USA, Australia and South Africa.” Grivalia Hospitality recently acquired 85 percent of the complex, with Dolphin Capital Partners retaining 15 percent of the ownership.
A total of 15 Aman villas have already been sold (construction begins only after the sale is complete), with prices starting at 3.2 million euros for a two-bedroom home. Today, eight villas are fully operational, two are under construction and work to build a third is set to get underway shortly. The rental rate for an Aman villa ranges from 3,000 to 28,000 euros per day.
Once Upon a Time in New York
Branded residences are not a novel idea. The USA – and New York City, in particular – has been a trailblazer, as a century ago hotels such as the Sherry-Netherland on Fifth Avenue and the Carlyle on Madison Avenue began offering apartments bearing their signatures.
Ultra-luxury hotel chains have retained a leading role in the field, and today Four Seasons offers apartments at the Palazzo Tornabuoni in Florence and at much-anticipated Twenty Grosvenor Square in London. During the last few years, this trend has made a noticeable impact on the world of fashion as well, as is evident through offerings like the “austere” Armani Residences or the “exuberant” Palazzo Versace (among others), both situated in Dubai – the land of the brand name.
In Greece, the history of branded residences to this day has been characterized by isolated endeavors on the part of a small number of Greek family businesses, and by the absence of international chains. One of the fundamental reasons accounting for the country’s minimal presence in this particular market has been the lack of a legal framework, as the legislation governing the construction of mixed-use tourist accommodation or resorts was passed only in 2011. The law now allows a tourist residence to be sold at the same time the building permit is issued. In the case of hotel complexes, such sales mark a quicker increase in revenues for accommodation that requires time to be completed.
“In Europe, this trend began in 1980, and this particular market holds a 10-percent market share and growing, with the USA and Asia enjoying the lion’s share. Hotel operators are the biggest players, and other sectors are also involved – such as the automobile industry, with names like Aston Martin,” says Alexandros Moulas, director of the International Development Consultancy department at the London-based British company Savills. “Each brand offers a seal of quality, in terms of its construction, service and property amenities.”
According to a recent study conducted by the British firm – which covers the Mediterranean from Portugal and Spain, countries on the Adriatic, as well Cyprus and Turkey – those aiming to buy branded properties are prepared to pay more (and a lot more, at that), and may be divided into investors, investors/users of the property, users of the property who also act as investors, and purely “lifestyle” buyers. Competition is intense in the European south for a branded residence in the sun, and the study indicates that Greece finds itself only at the beginning of a long course, and must combat chronic deficiencies and issues, such as political and financial instability, intermittent accessibility (the lack of year-round flights towards some destinations, for example) and high taxation.
Residences and Experiences
Besides serving as investments, residences also offer experiences. The owners of the Navarino Residences in the Navarino Dunes, located at the Costa Navarino in Messinia, will have the opportunity, with the help of experts, to cultivate their own products and – why not? – even create their own mini-label or brand.
Approximately 50 percent of the total properties to go on offer were sold when they were little more than blueprints, while construction has begun on the first residences, which will have a floor space ranging from 400 sq.m. to 1,400 sq.m. This will no doubt evolve into a made-in-Greece luxury brand. The complex will provide the owners of Navarino Residences (who hail from Greece, central and western Europe, and the USA) with access to the services, amenities and facilities of the complex, which also boasts two golf courses. The residences combine local architectural elements with the principles of bioclimatic architecture, and last year were proclaimed the best residential development worldwide by the International Property Awards. The Greek architectural firms A.N. Tombazis & Associates, Potiropoulos + Partners, ISV Architects, K-Lab Architecture, Κois Associated Architects and k-studio designed the homes.
A Sure Investment
“In prior times, there was no investor interest. Today, all new hotel projects, big and small, include villas,” notes Kostas Sideris, senior analyst at Algean Properties. “The first incentive for Europeans – and for non-Greeks in general – is a secure environment. This is an investment with a lower return, but one that is surer because it carries a lower risk.”
Soon, investors will be able to acquire one of the villas in the One & Only chain’s first Greek complex. It is expected to open in the area of Vroskopos on the island of Tzia (Kea) in 2020, with the chain working in cooperation with Dolphin Capital. At the same time, Greeks, Russians and western Europeans are already owners of residences at the Porto Carras Grand Resort in Halkidiki, with properties there first put up for sale in 2010; this opportunity continues today with a new development plan for residences with a floor space ranging from 90 sq.m. to 700 sq.m., and purchase prices at up to 7,000 euros per sq.m., and even higher.
As for distance, this is relative. Villa 20 in Porto Heli lies two hours and 40 minutes away from Zurich by air, while a flight from New York takes nine hours and 35 minutes; these total times also include a 25-minute helicopter flight from the Athens International Airport straight to the doorstep of Villa 20. “During the last nine months, there has been interest in investments and buying in Greece. What is on offer – such as a golf course or a marina – plays a big role,” adds Alexandros Moulas. “What is needed is an investment-friendly framework. Greece has potential, but it is a matter of political will and trust in the country.”
This article was first published by kathimerini.gr