Prime Consult is a specialized Real Estate Consultancy Company based in Beirut that undertakes all aspects of real estate investments and landmark projects, from inception to completion.
Based on confidence, comfort, transparency and trust, the company inherits its expertise in real estate from its founder, Massaad Fares, a professional of this field who brings his 35 30 years of international experience into the foreground. Working in the USA, Europe and the Middle East has resulted in the establishment of numerous solid professional contacts on a worldwide level.
Massaad Fares is one of the founders and actually the President of R.E.A.L. (Real Estate Syndicate of Lebanon) and also a founder member of REDAL (Real Estate Developers Association Lebanon).
ifpinfo had the following interview with Massaad Fares.
What are the recent tasks undertaken by the company? And what are the major development projects that are under your supervision through any of your specialized services?
Prime Consult is currently managing three landmark projects and we consider ourselves very lucky to handle these projects. The first one is Sama Beirut which is a mixed used project mega project/tower consisting of offices, residential and only 6 high-end boutiques. The second is Point A which is an office building located near the Lycee Francais, the French Embassy, the Justice Palace and the numerous USJ campuses. We are preparing for the launching of a new project in Tabaris and we will reveal the details soon. Sama Beirut and Point A are under construction and shoring works have started in the new Tabaris project. There are as well two other projects in the pipeline, one in Jounieh, a large resort, and another on Metn El Sarih highway, a residential project spanned on a 100,000 sqm.
POINT A is a fully integrated office building. The ambition behind the project is to create an address where business succeeds. This commercial project is located in Achrafieh, surrounded by the numerous Saint‐Joseph campuses such as the FFM Campus, the Economy, Sports and Innovation Campus, the FLSH Campus and Berytech.
We are responsible for structuring the project financially and commercially in addition to the administrative works related to legal, government and regulatory issues. Commercially we are exclusively responsible for the marketing and sales of the projects. We and the technical team of each project work hand in hand, each party collaborating with the other to form a homogeneous group, we are as well involved in the financial and the quality control of the projects.
We have specialized teams to cater for each project in term of financial and commercial management, however, in case more input is needed, we hire the corresponding experts.
Talking about Sama Beirut, how do you assess the progress of the construction, the marketing and the sales of the project?
The ground works of Sama Beirut was launched in 2009. We went 7 stories underground on a 5,220sqm plot. This part of the work took us 3 years. The above ground construction is going on as scheduled and fast. MAN Enterprises (enterprise not enterprises) are doing a great job in carrying this task. The project’s consultant ERGA Group is also doing an excellent job in the design and the supervision of the project. Last but not least, the technical team DG Jones & Partners are also doing a great job. Sama Beirut has really a great team which has helped in creating relaxing working environment for the sales and marketing teams. We have already sold 50% of the building. The offices are selling very well and we had to add more office spaces to the actual plan. We also introduced some changes in the residential spaces and redesigned some smaller apartments.
There is this misconception that Sama Beirut is expensive. This is not correct. The residential prices on the 14th floor, where apartments start are at $6,000/sqm, while anywhere in Ashrafieh, the starting price of apartments on the first floor is $5,000/sqm.
At present, Sama Beirut’s Core Walls have reached the 48th floor. The Tower Podium is at the 46th floor. By June of this year, the structure of the tower will be completed, while the whole project will be delivered by mid of 2015.
All clients who bought in Sama Beirut, have purchased because they wanted to live in real glass tower and not simply a tall building. There’s a big difference between a tall building and a tower. A tower is a controlled environmental space that is high, while a tall building is just adding more floors to a building. The tower uses many design elements that are environmentally friendly. Sama Beirut will be LEED certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). Traffic flow is well studied and is managed to the maximum and owners will privilege from state-of-the-art amenities, security and energy-saving features.
The residential part of Sama Beirut is served with 6 elevators running at the speeds of 4 m/s and 5m/s, the fastest in Lebanon to date. How long should a resident wait for the elevator? International standards specify not more than 30 seconds. And this is applied in Sama Beirut.
Sama Beirut acts with responsibility when it comes to what can be presented to the community: waste water treatments, air quality, waste management, energy saving, façade characteristics, air conditioning system, generators, led lighting fixtures, fire fighting system, seismic system, home automation, etc.
A team of 16 leading international and local consultants as well as specialists from different disciplines are assigned on Sama Beirut, bringing the most sophisticated technologies to the tower
You are also the President of the Real Estate Syndicate of Lebanon, what can you say about the activities of REAL?
The syndicate is currently working with the Ministry of Economy regarding the buyers’ rights. We are pursuing a law that obligates every broker to provide all the documents and the fact sheets when selling a property like they do in the US or the UK.
Besides, we introduced a course at AUB (American University of Beirut) about the fundamental laws, rules and regulations of real estate brokerage. Now already the third session is offered to the students.
However, it is very difficult to organize the brokerage sector in Lebanon including the creation of a professional syndicate and licensing stipulated by law. We are in touch with MPs and ministers for drafting a resolution but we admit that it takes time, it’s a long process.
Complimentary to REAL, we also established The Real Estate Developers Association Lebanon (REDAL). The association aims to follow up on the sector’s demands and will suggest modifications pertaining to construction laws, zoning, taxes, and fees.
How do you asses the construction sector in Lebanon both as the GM of Prime Consult and the President of Real Estate Syndicate?
Due to the political and economic pressures especially the spillovers of the ongoing Syrian crisis, the construction and real estate industries in Lebanon have been severely affected but not to a degree of regression thanks to the demand oriented nature of the sector and thanks to the Central Bank’s (BDL) stimulus loan packages.
This stimulus package was very encouraging and has led to increase in demand for housing loans especially for small sized apartments. Actually, demand is driven by more affordable, smaller sized houses mainly in the neighborhoods of Beirut. And this trend seems to sustain as construction activity in the smaller-sized and more affordable segment is growing more rapidly than in the larger-sized home segment. The annual supply of this segment between 100 and 120 sqm is estimated at 15,000 units and most of these apartments are sold. Actually the market segment less than around $600,000/unit is still alive and vibrant. The residential segment between $1 and $1.5 million is very shake and not stable, while the luxurious segment has come to a standstill.
We have no fear of the future of the sector. Lebanon is a small country where land is scarce. It’s a demand oriented market where the population growth rate will keep the sector alive. But political stability could lead to economic growth and accordingly would create a buzz in the property market.