ISLAMABAD: Renowned real estate expert and CEO of Eighteen housing project Tarek Hamdy believes that investment climate in Pakistan needs to adjust itself to attract more foreign investment in real estate sector of Pakistan. While exclusively talking to Daily Times, he shared his views about current economic situation of the country and its impact of real estate industry of Pakistan. Tarek Hamdy also shed light of latest update of development of EIGHTEEN which is state of the art housing society expanding over 600 acres, approximately 4890 canals or 2.7 million sq. yards located on Srinagar Highway, only 10 minutes from the Islamabad International Airport, 20 minutes away from downtown Islamabad and at the crossroads to Lahore and the northern areas of KPK. The pristine championship golf course is the heart of the development and represents the 35% of our land about 850 thousand sq. meters. Also integrated in this thoughtfully considered landscape are a medical center, a five-star hotel, a business center and a luxury retail village. Construction will take place on only 29% of land while 70% are green spaces. The maximum we chose to build is ground plus eight or ten. The expected amount of investment exceeds $1.5 billion, and we are very happy to be here, and we will make a difference. The EIGHTEEN clubhouse is unique and different than all the clubs across Pakistan. It’s an exceptional venue that has not been developed before in Pakistan. It is designed according to the norms of international standards, golf club houses that would provide different tiers of membership and we provide cigar lounges, bars, restaurants, relaxation areas, spas, pool and a lot of amenities. The amenities surrounding the golf club are sports amenities like tennis, football, paddle tennis, futsal, and some other playgrounds. However, the most important element in the clubhouse would be the golf academy. What is the current status on project completion? How much is already sold and when are people going to start living there? The actual timeline for the project’s development is about 10 years. We started immediately after COVID-19, as everything came to a halt due to the pandemic, however, in the past three years we have been able to make this project an enormous success. We have sold the entire inventory in phase one, including residential units. Currently, we are targeting the residential units of phase two and we are awaiting the approval of the interchange access to launch our commercial units. So, you could say that overall, we have completed and sold about 25% of the project. What gives EIGHTEEN the competitive edge? The competitive advantage of EIGHTEEN over other ongoing housing projects is our strict design and development guidelines. We do not compromise on our masterplan, layout, architectural vernacular, heights, footprints and built-up areas, so that the project does not become dense. In your opinion, what is the greatest threat to your business and industry? Political instability of the country and currency devaluation are key threats directly affecting the overheads and the cost of development because we are not charging customers in US dollars. And finally, the interest rates are very high. These are threats in general to the project. So, to mediate these threats and hedge these risks, we absolutely need to develop very fast, or we need to raise our prices, which is unpreferable. Recently, EIGHTEEN launched plots in the market which is a deviation from the initial strategy of selling furnished units. Is there a shift in strategy or is EIGHTEEN planning to redesign the project? No, there’s no shift in the strategy, the development was simply divided into two parts. We have the designs of the units ready for the clients to pick up. We have strict design guidelines and nominated contractors along with very specific designs for this development. How will you describe the availability of road access to EIGHTEEN project? As for the main access to EIGHTEEN, the project can now be accessed via two main entrances from the service road. However, our application to NHA and the Minister of Communication is now in process and is almost successful to the provision of an interchange that is on the boundaries of EIGHTEEN. An open loop over the interchange will provide access from all directions to enter the EIGHTEEN community, as committed, the cost of development shall be borne by EIGHTEEN. This interchange should be in action and in force within the next 24 to 30 months. How do you see the role of technology in the real estate and construction industry? I think the role of technology would be more in the technology of new materials, for more sustainable material equipment, for more reliable, nonpolluting carbon free footprints. The optimization of energy via technology is very important in terms of all the smart meters and in terms of all the IOT technologies that can actually secure the lighting and consumption. Recently a report by Ipsos highlighted that estimated tax evasion in real estate sector is rupees 500 billion annually mainly due to under invoicing. What are your comments about this? Well, we do not have this, as we have sales purchase agreements that are very tight with payment plans and every installment that we get from the clients is deposited in the bank, in special accounts out of which taxes are deducted immediately. However, many local housing societies and real estate projects are dealing in cash and grey money, which is the key concern that can be regulated properly. A strict check and balance on real estate transactions is need of an hour. How would you rate the Pakistani real estate market? The real estate market in Pakistan is very lucrative, very attractive but needs to be streamlined and properly managed from the government end. Pakistan’s real estate has great potential. It makes a huge contribution to the country’s economic growth and constitutes between 60 – 70% of the country’s total wealth, which is approximately between $300 – $400 billion. In addition, flourishing real estate sector means more employment opportunities eventually, making Pakistan more stable.