By Nada Adel Sobhi
Where should I buy? A question that baffles every soon-to-be couple, every father looking to buy a property for his child, and every investor looking to make a profit.
The decision to purchase a property involves a number of aspects that determine the pros and cons of said property; location, access, facilities, surrounding commercial venues, and future resale value are just a few that come to mind.
In the current Cairo property market, older areas closer to the city center and newly developed districts represent opposite ends of the spectrum. The difference is not limited to the old historic designs and the age of properties close to the city center against newer more modern constructions of newly built areas, nor is it limited to the level of access, but it goes beyond that, including the size and condition of roads, landscape, urban planning, size of properties, buying and selling mechanisms, communities, traffic, proximity to schools, hospitals, office buildings, and malls.
Nevertheless, when comparing, for example, a district like Zamalek to the suburban district of Shorouk, certain similarities come to mind. Both Zamalek and Shorouk are located far from industrial areas; both boast a variety of public and international schools, as well as areas for leisure and entertainment, albeit differently.
Price Levels and Affordability
A core aspect when comparing different neighborhoods is prices, which are often shaped by many other aspects other than the pure cost of the brick and mortar.
Zamalek for example, is seen as an upscale neighborhood with a central location, it is also commonly perceived as a relatively safer area due to the heavy presence of embassies and residents of diplomats. Accordingly, the price per square meter is higher than neighboring districts. AqarMap puts the average price per square meter in Zamalek at EGP 13,700.
According to PropertyFinder, apartments in Zamalek have a starting price of EGP 1.25 million for around 150 square meters to EGP 30 million ($3.38 million) for 1,050 square meters. Villas, on the other hand, have a price range of EGP 42 million up to to a staggering EGP 175 million.
On the other hand, the decade-old district of Shorouk has an average price per square meter of around EGP 2,900, based on AqarMap estimations.
Villas and townhouses in Shorouk have a starting price of EGP 1.7 million for around 243 square meters to EGP 9 million for 830 square meters. Apartment prices are at roughly EGP 500,000 for 220 square meters to EGP 5.85 million for 1,020 square meters, according to PropertyFinder.
Location and Transportation
Among the differences between the two neighborhoods is the spaciousness of the streets and public areas. Zamalek is old and enjoys a cozy feel, whereas Shorouk in comparison is seen as a relatively new suburb with wider streets.
Shorouk is located near the Cairo-Ismailia desert road and the Suez road. It is around 20 minutes from Nasr City, Madinaty and other built-in communities such as Rehab.
Zamalek, on the other hand, is located near the city centre. It is an old neighborhood that is mostly known for the abundant presence of embassies.
There is no metro line direct to either Shorouk or Zamalek; although the latter is close to two stops on Cairo’s old metro line, namely: Sadat and Opera. Both neighborhoods may have limited direct public transportation; however, since the development of Shorouk, things have changed and more means of transportation have been added.
The suburban district covers a large surface area and accordingly enjoys plenty of parking spaces, as opposed to Zamalek where parking is a daily dilemma.
Schools and Universities
When it comes to buying a property, every buyer and parent, considers to the level of education in the area, whether in terms of schooling, public or private, or university education.
Zamalek boasts a large number of schools, including Pakistan International School, Amoun Private School, City International Schools, as private schools. It also has several public ones. When it comes to university, the neighborhood houses the Faculty of Fine Arts, Helwan University and is fairly close to Cairo University. It does not have any private universities of its own, but it is considered not far from universities located in 6th of October City.
Shorouk, on the other hand, has several private schools such as the Canadian School and Mena Language School among others, alongside a number of private universities as well, including the British University in Egypt (BUE), the French University (FUE) and is in close proximity to Misr International University (MIU) on the Suez road.
Preference and Level of Living
In terms of level of living, Zamalek, which is known for being home to many foreign embassies and consulates, is considered a posh and high-end, albeit old neighborhood.
Zamalek is seen to be the preference for many foreigners living in Egypt, owing to the large number of surround hotels and bars, as well as its closeness to consulates, NGOs, and schools, where many foreigners work. Shorouk is often seen as a good place for investment, owing to the large spaces it provides for families and its property price ranges.
On the other hand for a young couple, an area like Shorouk presence an affordable, spacious accommodation in a less congested area that is also close to all needed services and facilities.
Entertainment and Leisure
Another aspect for consideration, although not as important as schools and infrastructure, is entertainment. People want a place to hang out over the weekend, or late in the evening, without having to commute for hours. In addition, commercial venues significantly affect the future resale price of any property.
Shorouk enjoys several malls, cafes, and restaurants. The same can be said for Zamalek, which has all the popular and international names and brands; however, does not enjoy the presence of any malls.
Zamalek is characterized more by its boutiques, smaller shops and food outlets, all lined up on its narrow streets, giving it a city-centre and cozy feel.
Traffic and Parking
Traffic is a common problem in Egypt, regardless of neighborhood; however, due to the location of of Shorouk in the outskirts of congested Cairo, it is fair to say that traffic is not as bad there. It is still important to note that at rush hour the area witnesses significant congestion as well.
In terms of parking the spacious streets of Shorouk have made it easier for residents to comfortably park in most areas, regardless of the time of day.
Zamalek, on the other hand, is congested throughout the day with very limited parking possibilities, as the area is filled with banks, embassies, offices, restaurants, and commercial shops in every street, which attract significant commuters from outside the neighborhood.
Real estate by definition is a long-term investment, even if the intent of purchase is to live in the property. It is perhaps the main reason the real estate market has flourished in the current weak economy, properties gain value as time passes.
Nevertheless, many other aspects affect the percentage of increase in value, and more importantly the ease of resale.
Other than normal market inflation, devaluation of currency, and natural growth in monetary value of a property, a key aspect that affects the resale value is surrounding areas. With the visible expansion in development of new districts on the outskirts of Cairo, a neighborhood like Shorouk is bound to witness a steady increase in value, especially as New Obour City begins attracting a sound flow of residents and commercial activity.
Limitless of expansion is another driver of value, in an area like Zamalek the possibility of constructing new buildings will only come at the expense of older constructions, rendering the offering of new units to the neighborhood a limited possibility, and thus by default ensuring the constant increase in the value of properties in the area.
In terms of investment, both neighborhoods have a lot to offer, despite offering very different lifestyles. The choice of investment depends greatly on the intent of purchase; it maybe more suitable for a new family to move to the outskirts of Cairo for price, spaciousness, and quiet residential atmosphere. While for a single career driven individual, remaining in the city center, closer to all needed commercial venues, and most other areas in Cairo is the way to go.
For short-term investment, resale in an area like Zamalek is the safer way to go; however, for an investment more than ten years, Shorouk and other similar newer areas should redeem a higher resale value.