Security Key in Baghdad Real Estate; Sales Slowed by Attacks on Agents

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

Security Key in Baghdad Real Estate; Sales Slowed by Attacks on Agents


Byline: James Palmer, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BAGHDAD - Last year, Fadhel al-Saraf moved his family from its plush two-story, four-bedroom villa in the Amariyah quarter of Baghdad after unknown assailants killed his brother.

His house, valued at $476,000 in 2004, remains untouched and on the market. The asking price is down to $200,000.

On the other side of town, in Mansour, where prosperous Iraqis, high-ranking government officials and foreign diplomats reside along narrow, palm-lined streets, a similar house that sold for $100,000 in 2003 now fetches $350,000.

Glaring disparities like these have turned Baghdad's real estate market inside out and can be summed up in one word: security.

The rush to live in Baghdad's safer enclaves has caused many home prices in those areas to nearly quadruple since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The increase has been helped by an influx of foreign investment and wealthy expatriates.

Homeowners in Baghdad's more turbulent neighborhoods have not been so lucky.

There, relentless insurgent attacks, frequent kidnappings of affluent Iraqi civilians and the rise of Shi'ite militia execution squads during the past year have driven down home prices by more than half.

Complicating home sales across the board is a campaign of violence against real estate agents. Islamic extremists who oppose profits from land sales and dealings with foreigners have killed dozens of agents this year alone, brokers say. The slayings have prompted some agents to quit the business and others to sharply limit with whom they will work, further slowing sales.

Ali al-Kafagi, 45, a real estate agent in Mansour, said 15 of his colleagues were killed in Baghdad last year, including two of his cousins last April. …

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