Time was when Beirut residents could only dream of making it out of the city within an hour. Traffic-clogged the roads of the capital and made commuting an impossibility for all but the most patient.
Times are changing. The rolling out of new four-lane highways from downtown Beirut to the outskirts of the capital has slashed journey times to less than half an hour in many cases. This is opening up much of the outer suburbs to real estate developers that are aggressively targeting the low-to-middle income segment, where demand for living space is strongest.
More and more Lebanese want to buy properties in the suburbs, focused on the Metn area from Mansourieh onwards, with a trend towards smaller apartments. This robust demand has been one of the key factors that has enabled Lebanon's real estate market to avoid the speculation-fuelled boom and bust of Dubai.
The Lebanese property market has shown impressive growth in recent years. Between 2005 and 2009, prices appreciated at double-digit rates, though from a low base amid the political paralysis and Israeli bombardments of the 2005-07 period.
Prices for 2010 are rising at a lower rate of 5-10 per cent in the first half of the year, but real estate sales--which grew by an annual 19.6 per cent average between 2004 and 2009-more than doubled in the first five months of 2010, according to Banque Audi's real estate report released in June 2010.
The number of transactions grew by 39.5 per cent in the first five months of 2010, translating into a 47 per cent surge in average sales value since the start of the year. These are the kind of growth rates Gulf developers can only dream of. …