By Aleksandar Pavlevski
The Kocev family moved from Skopje’s Karposh neighbourhood, which is close to the downtown area, to a more luxurious suburb on the foothills of Mt Vodno overlooking Skopje.
Like many others, the Kocevs cite Skopje’s traffic jams, air pollution and crowding as prompting their quest for change.
“The Vodno neighbourhood fits our needs most; it is few kilometers from the city centre and has much free space. The infrastructure is good and the houses have perfect characteristics mirroring luxury,” Silvana Koceva told SETimes.
“The Vodno houses are very expensive, but we needed the change and could afford it,” she said.
The change in how people live in the capital is expected to spread slowly throughout the country. Foreign and domestic construction companies have, for over a decade, capitalised on these changes as well as the lack of available space in city centres, extending construction elsewhere.
“The solution is planned construction outside the city, and yet still very close to the centre,” Robert Hot, head of the Hot and Hot Construction Group, told SETimes.
The company is building two complexes in the greater Skopje area where the houses and apartments will be 150-250 square metres, on average.
Austrian company Soravia invested over 30m euros in one of Skopje’s most luxurious neighbourhoods — the Soravia Resort.
The quality is high, Soravia officials say. The houses and apartments are spacious with many extra features, and are connected to the main road arteries.
“In the Soravia resort, there will be a spa centre with a little swimming pool, spaces for steam baths and fitness … several shops and a little cafeteria. Our company will take care of the complex, including maintenance, cleaning and 24-hour security, Soravia’s Macedonia branch General Director Peter Root told SETimes.
“We are satisfied by the dynamics of the sales. Of all the structures under construction, we have sold over 60% of the flats. They cost between 1,450 and 1,650 euros per square metre, depending on the location,” Root said.
Most of those interested in suburban living have successful private businesses, though some are professionals like doctors, as well as athletes.
“We do not want to divide our potential clients according to profession or in any other way. The important thing is these people can recognise the quality of life we offer in this community and they have enough funds to afford it,” Soravia’s Sales and Marketing Manager Vasko Davidovski told SETimes.
Davidovski explained that the preference to live in suburban communities stems largely from the desire for privacy, but also for a quieter, organised and maintained living quarters.
Other investors say less than 20% of people in Macedonia can afford a luxurious lifestyle in suburban neighbourhoods. However, that has not stopped others from seeking ways to fund the lifestyle.
As more construction is planned, companies expect buyers.
“I expect lower prices and more benefits than the flats like Vodno,” Zikol construction company Manager Zhivko Pandev told SETimes.
Experts warn however, that some locations are not very well connected with the city centre.
“Investors need to remember these neighbourhoods need good roads, as well as electricity, water, heating supplies, which is not the case with many municipalities,” Skopje Civil Engineering Faculty Professor Goran Markovski told SETimes.
“Infrastructure can always be built, but the more profound effect is the division into classes which impacts how people conduct their affairs. The wealthier are choosing to group in a kind of mini towns. When the lifestyle gains momentum, I expect it to include separate elite schools and the like, and they will separately involve themselves in societal trends and activities,” Igor Nikolovski, real estate agency owner and expert, told SETimes.
Real estate specialists say there is an additional reason for increasing interest in luxurious neighbourhoods.
“Investments in real estate are the safest during unstable economic conditions. While there is always the potential to create a bubble if mortgaging is left unchecked — something that happened in the Western countries — the population’s debt level in Macedonia is low and there is no danger of that,” Nikolovski said.