No one can see the future but, in an ever-changing economic environment, it can sometimes be difficult to make decisions in investment and plan ahead. Real estate is more tangible than other investment types, allowing investment in the happiness and wellbeing of oneself and one’s financial security and enrichment.
However, investment still fundamentally requires planning for the future and making educated guesses on where the markets will go. Today, we sat down with Mr. Lefteris Souttos, Director of Business Development at KARMA Developers, a mainstay of real-estate development on the east coast of Cyprus, to discuss the importance of careful planning, clear vision, and adaptability to the market.
Q: You have been a member of the Karma family for almost a decade. How have you evolved as a professional over this period?
I started my career in real estate in 2006. Over the years, I had the honour and opportunity to meet many interesting and dynamic professionals, working beside them and observing their way of doing business.
In this field, you need to be surrounded by a good team with disparate mindsets and skills. With different points of view and different strengths, the team teach each other to be better, seeing all sides of a problem, forestalling more future complications, and finding better solutions.
Real estate is a complex and dynamic environment. I am lucky that my professional career has been one of constant education and, more importantly, one that has equipped me with a solid knowledge of what to do and what not to do in my field.
Q: One does not grow independently from one’s environment. How would you say the industry has evolved during the time you’ve been pursuing your career in the real estate sector?
Real estate is one of the strongest collaterals in the Cyprus economy. When I first started, the Cyprus market was in a different place, rapidly modernizing to fit new standards of living and environmental protections.
Any market tends to be cyclical, with ebbs and flows in both demand and supply, as well as outside geopolitical and economic factors creating stumbling difficulties or opportunities. Over the past decade, the real-estate market has experienced both extremes; companies that were able to adjust, survived, and those that were more inflexible, did not.
Overall, I would say that, during my career, I have seen three main eras: one of expansion and modernisation, one of contraction and increased regulation, and another of even more expansion and increased quality of goods.
Currently, we saw a bit of contraction during this era, especially with outside factors like some financial policy changes in east Asia, but KARMA was able to easily pivot and remains strong and growing.
Q: Your experience in real estate spans over different ‘eras’ of the sector. What is your opinion of the current status of the real-estate market in Cyprus in general, and, more specifically, in the Famagusta area?
Over the course of my career, I have been able to see the Cyprus real-estate market not only grow, but truly modernise, creating higher-quality products with better technology, living standards and environment responsibility.
The public and private sectors move along side each other, and each needs the other’s support to exist and grow. The Famagusta area, in particular, has a multi-level basis for commercial, residential and industrial developments.
These developments are dynamic, constant, and in an ongoing state of change until they are delivered, since we are lucky enough to have the flexibility as an industry to adjust to our clients’ needs. However, I do believe that the public and private sectors still need to improve their collaboration in handling these constant changes to better adjust to market conditions.
As the current cycle ebbs, we are in the process of identifying what will be the new cycle and trend in real estate, creating new challenges and opportunities.
Q: Do you see a trend shift in real estate demand in Famagusta in the coming years? Some argue that tourism may still be king, but not uncontested.
The Famagusta area has been, of course, a beach destination, known for its holiday mood. Real estate has long been covering needs for holiday homes, retirement, relocation and permanent living, and this will probably remain strong because of the natural surroundings.
However, investment of companies and educational services cannot be discounted. Cyprus has a highly-educated and skilled population and, with the increase of permanent residents in the area, many children grow up to be native speakers of at least two languages. There are tremendous opportunities for companies looking for talented human capital.
Additionally, the area has a lot of potential to attract private universities and expand further into private education. Students from Cyprus and abroad find they can enjoy the serene natural environment and exceptional weather year-round, attracting a new active population that will further increase human capital.
Q: Karma has a strong clientele base abroad. International investors and partners are a pivotal part of the company’s development, and you stand on the forefront of this corporate operations pillar. How do you manage such a mission and how do you take it in as a professional?
Competing in an international environment is a constant source of education and self-betterment as a company. Essentially, each competitor offers a similar product, so we must learn to differentiate ourselves. What makes us different? Why should someone choose KARMA?
I have the pleasure of standing at the forefront of our team and introducing to much of our international corporate audience and I am honoured to say that, because of this team, professionals from all over the world have trusted us. We have engaged in partnerships with countries in Europe, the Middle East, the Gulf, and all over Asia, delivering on what we promised and constantly opening new business cycles with our partners and associates.
Q: Where does the biggest interest in Cyprus, and, notably, the Famagusta area, originate from?
Investors from different regions have different interests in terms of real estate but, interestingly, the Famagusta region has managed to become a destination for all of them. The needs are different – holiday home, permanent relocation, retirement, or investment – the area can provide for each of these.
In general, a good rule of thumb for international real-estate investment is to invest where the locals are investing. They know the market well, right? Well, much of our audience comes from the local market. This provides a huge boost of confidence to buyers coming from different international destinations in choosing to invest in our area as well.
Q: Adaptability on one hand, and a vision that becomes a plan that is successfully carried out, are the two feet on which companies walk into the future. Having said that, what is Karma’s vision on its new development paths and strategies for foreseeable future?
As we discussed before, adaptability and flexibility are important to respond well to changes in the market but, more than that, they are also an important way for us to provide a better-quality product to our clients.
We have diversified our portfolio into three large categories: Resort Collection, Lifestyle Collection and Signature Collection, each focusing on different amenities and client needs. However, within these categories, we also have diverse property types and sizes, providing a wide array of quality homes to satisfy our clientele’s diverse needs.
Taking into consideration that we are doing business in a constantly-changing environment, our vision is to build on our quality of work and the values of our people. With new challenges ahead, and with our motto, “Building Relationships”, we move forward, exploring more specialised options of development and planning to build on some fresh ideas.