Italy v Albania – Who will be the property champion?
As their national football teams prepare to face each other in a friendly match on 18th November at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Albania and Italy each begin to size up the opposition. Just 45 miles apart at their closest point and separated only by the Adriatic Sea, these European neighbours may be closely linked in terms of their proximity but is that 45 miles really a world apart when it comes to their property prospects?
Albania’s port city of Durrës is the second largest city in the country, and one of the most ancient, with a history dating back to the 7th Century BC and city walls to prove it. The largest Balkan amphitheatre is situated here and the golden sands of its beaches as well as those of Lalzit Bay, located just to the north, draw in the crowds, helping to establish the city as a popular tourist destination, albeit one that has yet to reach the giddy heights of its Italian neighbour.
Directly across the sea, Bari is similarly a port city and Southern Italy’s second most important economic hub, not surprisingly twinned with its neighbour of Durrës. Part of the Puglia region, popular with second-home owners, such as face of ‘A Place in the Sun’ Amanda Lamb who has owned two properties here over the years, Bari’s beaches are a mix of pebbles and sand, yet its sights are plentiful, with the Petruzzelli Theatre one of the most lavish opera houses in Italy and the interesting architecture of Bari Cathedral a highlight.
Long-established as a tourist destination, the Puglia region saw in excess of 1.17 million tourist arrivals during January to June 2014, according to the Region of Puglia government tourism agency, Pugliapromozione, with an increase of 7% in visitor arrivals from overseas. Overall, however, Albania can be said to offer more scope for tourist growth, with Visit Albania reporting an outstanding increase of 75% in the number of foreign tourists visiting for holiday and day visits in Q1 2014, when compared to the same period of 2013.
Another indication of this growth potential is the recent establishment of a second tourist office in Albania, situated at Durrës port, which follows in the footsteps of the first located at the capital Tirana’s International Airport.
Both locations have much to recommend them to visitors, sharing a Mediterranean climate in which to explore their many sights, yet it is Albania that offers the lowest cost of living, making visits to its shores more affordable than Italy. On the travel map, however, the allure of both destinations has given them famous connections, with Clint Eastwood, playing Robert in film ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ telling Meryl Streep’s Francesca that he thought Italy’s Bari “looked like pretty country” and romantic poet Lord Byron having travelled through Albania, remarking on its beauty.
In terms of accessibility, both destinations score highly, with year-round flights to and from London and summertime schedules that ramp up frequency and ease of travel. Yet it is Albania that in fact tips the balance, with Albania’s Tirana International Airport welcoming up to five direct British Airways flights a week from London in comparison to the carrier’s up to thrice weekly flights to Bari’s Aeroporto di Bari-Karol Wojtyła.
Because of this, each has therefore drawn a second home market, with Puglia currently edging ahead with a more developed tourism industry (Dame Helen Mirren even has a second property there, noting that the locals are “incredibly hospitable and welcoming”). Yet with Albania comes greater potential in the market for investment opportunities and future growth.
Peter Walshe, Marketing Director for Albania’s first high-end resort Lalzit Bay Resort and Spa explains,
“On first glance it would seem that Italy has more to offer buyers than the Balkan nation, yet a great deal of this is that the market is more established. In recent years more and more people have been visiting the hidden European gem of Albania and discovering its ample charms and there is no sign of this ceasing. What’s more, these prospects became even more pronounced with the recent granting of EU accession status to the Balkan country heralding an exciting and prosperous future ahead.
“In fact Lalzit Bay Resort has convinced many Italian customers that Albania is their next holiday home destination. They tend to be attracted by the low property prices, the cleanliness of the beaches and some of the lowest living costs in Europe: a beer in Tirana costs just 0,60 euros!”
In the meantime, however, property prices in Italy’s Puglia region do reflect its more established nature sitting at around €60,000 for a typical 1 bed apartment and €100,000 for a 2 bedroom apartment. Prices for a typical 3 bed villa stand at approximately €280,000 and a 4 bedroom is priced around €400,000. Albanian prices, therefore, compare favourably for those looking to pick up a property bargain, yet with the same quality.
Lalzit Bay Resort and Spa, situated on the Albanian coast, just north of Durrës, with beautiful views of the Dajti mountain range, instead offers properties of the highest quality within a five-star resort. A low-rise development with a host of excellent facilities – from a beach club and tennis courts to boutique shops and top restaurants and bars – offers a range of property options, from 1 or 2 bedroom apartments to 3 or 4 bedroom villas, boasting spacious indoor and outdoor space, inspired by California’s elegant and modern beachfront houses.
1 bedroom apartments start at €49,000 and 2 bed apartments from €68,000, with 3 bedroom villas starting at €200,000 and 4 and 5 bedroom villas from €330,913, markedly cheaper than average Puglia property prices.
While it remains to be seen who will be victorious when the teams kick off in Genoa on 18th November, although Italy remains the undeniable favourites, it seems that Albania is the one of the pairing that comes out on top in the property stakes. With a great deal to offer like Italy, yet with a lower cost of living, rapidly growing tourism market and more affordable property options, it is Albania’s Adriatic shores that beckon for wise future property prospects.
For more information about buying in Albania and Lalzit Bay Resort and Spa call +44 845 125 8600 or visit www.lalzitbay.com