Good news for middle income house seekers searching for affordable apartments: Sayfco Holding, the Lebanon-based high-end real estate developer is going back to its roots, said Chahe Yerevanian, Sayfco’s chairman. After having abandoned the middle income market for many years, the company is planning to launch a new housing project in Jdeideh (Metn) this month for mid-range budgets.
‘Abraj Jdeideh’ will feature five 15-storey towers and will include apartments ranging from 122 square meters, which will be priced at $140,000, to 166 square meters — priced at $180,000. Sayfco is not planning to stop developing luxurious housing projects, but is now entering a new market, which is projected to be healthier in the forthcoming years.
“Luxury [demand] will stop for a while because of the economic crisis. The prices [of high-end apartments] will never go down, but I think luxury will stop having a quick turnover,” said Yerevanian. Sayfco has finalized the plans and is waiting for the permits to come through in order to launch the project. Construction will start by the end of this year or beginning 2010 and will take around two years.
From politics to real estate
Even though Sayfco has not been involved in middle-income housing for some years now, this segment was the sole target of the company when it was first created. Ara Yerevanian, Chahe’s father, took the challenge upon himself, when he was elected a member of the Lebanese parliament in the 1950s, to provide housing for the middle income market, something which the government failed to do. He established ‘Ara Yerevanian Establishment’ and began building 200 to 300-unit residential developments, priced at around $30,000 per unit. When the Lebanese Civil War began, the family immigrated to Canada and started conducting its business there until they returned in 1995. The company was then renamed Ara Yerevanian & Sons. In 2000, Chahe took over the leadership of the company and started targeting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) clients, while also entering higher market segments.
“I foresaw that the luxury market is going to have a boom, so instead of building apartments for $100,000 to $150,000, we went up to half a million and from there we went to Clouds [Faqra Club]— 11 villas for $5 million each,” said Yerevanian.
In 2004, Ara Yerevanian & Sons was substituted with Sayfco Holding and all its subsidiaries were created: Sayfco Development, Sayfco Brokerage, Sayfco Financing, Marina Hills, Villa des Roches and Ahlam Lands. This move was the first step to restructuring Sayfco and turning it into a corporate entity, rather than a family business.
“I believe family businesses do not last more than two generations… once the kids and the cousins meet, and the wives come in, the company is gone,” said Yerevanian. Therefore, potentially, the management of Sayfco will be separated from its ownership and when Yerevanian retires, a non-family member may take his place. “This is how I see the future of Sayfco,” said Yerevanian.