Commercial Real Estate in Norway and Latvia
November 28th, 2013 by Diane Moore
Foreign investors are displaying an increasing appetite for commercial real estate ventures in some northern countries, such as Norway and Latvia. A sign that the gradual improvement of the European economy is being shown, and that’s why in this article we are going to discuss exactly these two promising countries.
Commercial Real Estate in Norway
Norway is a tiny country with respect to population, close to the Arctic Circle that has fascinating insights and opportunities for both investors/traders and social/political scientists.
With a population of a little over 5 million, the country boasts of having the best monetary/fiscal balance sheets in the world. It also has a free-floating currency which may potentially become a safe haven in comparison with the Dollar, Euro and others.
Norway may be popular for its northern lights and outdoor landscapes, but international investors love the country for its powerful growth rates. Ever since the industrial phase, the economy of the country has posted robust growth rates, which have regularly outperformed many of its neighbors in Europe, particularly during the period of recession.
The country has the second highest GDP/ capita and the fourth highest GDP PPP/ capita (including purchasing power) in the world. In addition, the unemployment rate is approximately 3%, and both hourly wages and hourly productivity are the highest in the world.
Advantages of investing in Norway
- Low inflation
- High rental level
- Sustainable tenant companies
- There are no special restrictions applicable to international investors of real estate
- The acquisition of shares of firms in Norway is possible without any restriction
- Absence of transfer tax on share acquisition in Norwegian corporations
Disadvantages of investing in Norway
- At present, the rents of offices in Oslo are decreasing
- The real estate market is not so transparent to some extent
- The local sellers are not much experienced with international firms
- There are risks associated to a housing bubble
- The view of international investors on the real estate sector in Norway
- Low national debt
- Economic Strength
- High private consumption
- Excellent infrastructure, particularly in the IT, logistic and traffic sector
- Low unemployment rate
- Well-educated population
- Tax/Legal environment same as that of the EU
- Efficient administration
- Comparatively minor domestic market
- High household debt
- Very high level of expenses
- No euro zone
- High hedging expenses at present
- The status of funds that are open-ended is unclear
Buying commercial real estate in Norway
Norway has a plethora of commercial properties for sale. However, most of it is pretty expensive. The buying of larger properties is best handled by an attorney, who has undergone strict training and stick to Norwegian rules.
For a foreign investor buying a property in Norway, it’s essential to secure a Norwegian identity by getting a “D” number. Foreign investors have to get this number from the Population Register located in the property of their choice. After they submit the necessary documents to the official, they will be issued a number.
After the buyer settles on the desired property, he’ll have to inform the real estate agent. Following the financial bid’s approval, the real estate agent will draft the sales contract, which has to be signed by both the buyer and the seller. The contract has to highlight the consequences if there is a breach of contract.
The deed will be issued to the buyer by the real estate agent after the signatories. A down payment of 10% of the property’s purchase price has to be put down by the buyer.
The property is then registered with the land registry by the agent after whom officials will grant a registry document. This document will mention the name of the new owner of the property. The buyer has to pay for the stamp duty for property registration and also the agent’s fee.
Some important commercial properties in Norway
Officially known as Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo Plaza is located in Oslo city center and has a height of 117 meters, which makes it the second tallest structure in Norway. The hotel has 676 rooms housed in 37 floors, with a total of 140 business rooms, 20 suites, 1500 beds, two signature suites and the luxurious Royal Suite.
The upper floors of the structure are slanted with pitched roofs on one end at a sharp ridge. The three floors of the building have an entrance, restaurants, a lobby and conference halls.
At present time, the building is owned by Wenaasgruppen and is overseen by Rezidor Hotel Group.
Forum Jaren is a skyscraper of height 65.4 meters in the city of Bryne. The tower, which underwent construction on 10 November, 2009, has 18 floors which contain restaurants, offices and meeting rooms. The base area of the building is 400 square meters.
The total expenses incurred on constructing the building stood at 250 million NOK.
Byporten Shopping is the newest shopping hub in Oslo, adjacent to Oslo Central Station.
It has more than 70 outlets, the popular Scandic Hotel, the largest Egon Restaurant in Norway besides a facility for underground car parking. The center is open from 10 AM to 9 PM on weekdays and 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays.
The Paleet Shopping Center
The Paleet Shopping Center is located next to Karl Johans Gate and complements the pedestrian shopping experience in Norway. It has around 45 stores and 13 restaurants.
Shoppers here can expect to find great clothes and accessories for men and women, flowers, porcelain, sportswear, jewellery etc. at inexpensive prices. The hub is open from 10 AM to 8 PM on weekdays and 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays.
Commercial Real Estate in Latvia
Latvia is based on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and shares borders with Estonia on the north, Lithuania on the south, Russia on the east and Belarus on the south east. The population of the country is around 2.5 million, out of which 58% are Latvian, 30% Russian and around 4% Byelorussian.
The country is an important member of the European Union and its proximity to Russia along with the predominance of the Russian language make Latvia a great place for foreign investors-and even for non-residents of the European Union to enter the Russian market.
Property prices in Latvia have been rising over the last few years, with the most major increases being witnessed in Riga (the Capital), where certain regions experienced a price rise of 30% on an average in 2011. Latvia became a member of the EU in 2004, which eventually brought in a huge amount of foreign investments, with many multinational firms establishing offices or subsidiaries in the country.
An amalgamation of high GDP growth along with low rates of interests (less than 4%) has led to high demand for property. Foreigners are free to sell or buy properties in the country.
Advantages of investing in Latvia
- Unique cultural and geographical position
- Advanced transport infrastructure
- Free trade
- Export experience along with support
- Business Friendliness
- Cost effectiveness
- Innovation and R&D opportunities
Disadvantages of investing in Latvia
- Dependence on finance from other countries
- Rigidity of foreign exchange regime
- Businesses exposed to risk of exchange rate
- Considerable risk of poverty
- Co-operation of cross border law enforcement cumbersome and lengthy
- The view of international investors on the real estate sector in Latvia
- A constant tendency of price growth
- No restrictions on purchases of real estate
- Hassle-free approval of visa
- Competitive credit offers by local banks
- An open market with comparatively few barriers with a great potential for development
- Availability of resources which are scarce in additional markets like low-cost labor, land and timber
- Business culture similar to that of other European nations
- Administrative burden that is time-consuming, which reflects a lack of interest on the part of the state
- A dearth of national strategy and long-term policy with respect to consistent approach for attracting investments and even improvement of the education system
- Lack of high-qualified labor due to outward migration and inadequate state-funded steps
- Inferior nation-branding
Buying commercial real estate in Latvia
Foreigners are free to purchase, improve upon and dispose of property in Latvia as long as the property is acquired separately from the land on which it’s built. If foreigners want to acquire land directly, they need to get approval from the local municipality. However, there is an option for foreigners to lease land for up to 99 years without having to face any restriction.
After the buyer chooses the property, a preliminary contract has to be signed by both the purchaser and seller. The buyer makes a payment of 10% of the selling price of the property upon signing. This amount is held in an escrow account by the notary or lawyer.
After everything has been finalized, the purchaser’s solicitor draws up the Contract of Purchase or the Notary Act in the presence of a Latvian notary or in the local Latvian embassy of the purchaser.
Immovable properties have to be registered in the Land Book. Buildings and land are registered separately. In case the transaction of the real estate is unregistered in the Land Book, the purchaser may not be able to transfer the title or even enforce other rights on the property until the completion of the registration process.
On an average, it takes roughly 18 days for the completion of all the procedures required for the registration of a property in Latvia.
Some important commercial properties in Latvia
The Z-Towers is an upcoming skyscraper in Latvia of height 444m and is slated to be the tallest property in the country. The building, which is being developed by Towers Construction Management AS, will comprise of two circular towers of 29 and 31 floors. The total area of the property will be close to 100,000 square meters.
The image is the courtesy of skyscrapercity.com
The skyscraper is scheduled to undergo completion in 2014 and will consist of affluent residential apartments.
Swedbank Central Office
Swedbank Central office, a skyscraper in Riga of height 404m, underwent completion in 2004. It has a total of 27 floors and is made up of glass, steel, aluminum and concrete. This was the first high-rise property constructed in Latvia after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
The Hansabanka Company, currently renting around 15000 meter square of office space, had originally planned to construct a tower of 15 stories. However, the height was later increased and was the tallest structure in Latvia upon completion. The property has a parking space of 6735 meter square.
Basteja Pasaza or Passage is a shopping hub located on the edge of the Old Town, close to Bastejkalna Park. The mall has an array of European boutiques, with quality over quantity being the trend here.
Some popular retailers here include L’Oreal, Guinot, Maria Galland, Gelish, and Paul Mitchell among others.
Foreign buyers in Latvia
The number of foreign investors in the real estate market in Latvia has significantly gone up lately. According to the management of migration, the total amount of foreign investments in real estate in Latvia stood at 484 million EUR by the end of 2012.
Currently, the interest of foreigners in Latvian properties is so huge that many project developers have implemented some of their new projects that focus only on foreign investors. A majority of these international investors are Russian (more than 75%), followed by Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
The country offers these investors unique investment opportunities which have a strong likelihood of development.
Therefore, investing in the commercial real estate market both in Norway and Latvia offers huge opportunities to savvy investors. It’s high time for any investor to invest in his future-Norwegian or Latvian property.
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