Iraq/2: Des Res in Lively Area
Norwood, Graham, New Statesman (1996)
Fancy a bolt-hole in Baghdad? What about a cosy nook in Najaf? If you want a second home in Iraq, Mustapha Abbas is your man. This estate agent, a British-born son of Iraqi immigrants based in Essex, is offering homes in that war-torn country at prices ranging from [pounds sterling]50,000 to more than [pounds sterling]1m.
Abbas says Iraq has boomed since conflict formally finished; house prices in Baghdad are up by more than 600 per cent and those in Karbala by 1,000 per cent. Buyers so far have been property investors who hope to make a killing when the country returns to normal, expat Iraqis who want to return, and an emerging class of Iraqis who have grown rich from postwar reconstruction contracts. Abbas's firm is a beneficiary of such contracts, having been appointed to find accommodation for the US Army Corps of Engineers.
His website targets western buyers, prices houses in US dollars, and optimistically refers to plots of land as being "expected to sell quickly" and mansions as being "ideal for company employee occupation". The most expensive home Abbas has sold so far is a Baghdad mansion, for [pounds sterling]1.4m, allegedly about 20 times its value before the conflict.
Rental opportunities are also apparently booming. "There's a lot of demand for leasing properties," says Abbas, "especially in the commercial areas like Mansour and Karrada, and in the Green Zone. This is from international companies which are doing business in Iraq. …