A few words with real estate legend Imtiaz Rafi Butt, Chairman, Rafi Group & Honorary Consul for Malaysia, Lahore

July 02 - July 08, 2007

Q: There is a lot of confusion in the Real Estate market today due to the sheer number of new projects being announced, can you enlighten us or are you also confused?

A: In order to put things in perspective we have to understand what exactly happened in the Pakistani Real Estate market, today, we cant talk about real estate without factoring in the effects of the aftermath of 9/11. The incredible hype which dominated the market during 2002-2005 had its roots in the insecurity felt by Pakistanis abroad. Pakistanis living in a Post 9/11 Islamophobic West started sending large amounts of money back home which found its way into the property market. Remember at this point back in 2001, the property market was still in a state of decline with undervalued prices and no real demand. The sudden rise in demand by overseas Pakistanis was the catalyst for what became an artificial boom and everyone (including many who had no idea of the dynamics of Real Estate) jumped into the Market, prices sky-rocketed and inevitably the bubble burst, the market collapsed unto itself, leaving many people in the lurch.

There are many new projects coming out right now which were envisaged during the days of the 'hype'. Unfortunately many of these projects will fail suffering from unrealistic expectations and prices. One thing of note is that traditional investors always tend to stay near Real Estate due to familiarity with the business. These investors know that the Market is saturated and slow, yet has some significant opportunities even in this sort of a slump.

Q: Rafi Group has not announced any project in the past few years, yet there has been a lot of efforts put into your Defence Shopping Mall, why is that?

A: We didn't announce any new project during the 'hype' years due to the artificial nature of the market at that time. Today, in a saturated market, I don't think it is viable to launch a new project rather it could turn into a liability. I don't believe that a bad market means bad business; it is rather an opportunity to innovate and work harder to provide a better deal for you and your clients. As a company Rafi Group has invested heavily in Value added property, we have put in a lot of time money and effort into creating activity in Defense Shopping Mall, our booming retail business new Tes-mart has created unprecedented activity in a new project. Rafi Group has also designed an innovative and secure investment option especially for today's Real Estate market. We call it the 'Guaranteed Rent back plan', it is a unique Win/Win situation for both us and our clients, based on market rent returns, it corresponds with the Islamic economic system and offers incredible returns on your investment. This plan is ideally suited for people who have capital set aside and want a regular, safe and interest free income without the hassle of operating there own business. As an added bonus the retail outlet that the client invests in is historically estimated to appreciate in value at a staggering rate, doubles in almost three years. It is completely secure and guarantees returns from day one. I highly recommend anyone who wants to make a serious investment to have a look at it. An investor cannot find a better opportunity today.

As far as new projects go we are soon to fully launch 'Green Palms' in Gwadar, with all the modern amenities one could ask for 'Green Palms' will offer investors who want to be a part of Gwadar a safe investment platform with a company that they can count on to deliver

Q: So, how do you feel about Gwadar?

A: Oh, I have full faith in Gwadar Project. It is a bold new direction for Pakistan and holds the key to our future economic prosperity. Gwadar is being propelled not just by Pakistani economic factors but also international (particularly Chinese) political interests. Billions of dollars have already been spent and billions more have been pledged to the success of the city. I see great things in Gwadar's future; it will function as the engine of growth for Balochistan and will be the most important city in Pakistan's future as the energy Corridor of Asia. In the near future, Gwadar is going to be very hot property indeed, a lot of Arabs are investing in real estate development in Gwadar, keeping all this in mind Rafi Group went into Gwadar a few years ago and our Green Palms is very reasonably priced in order to cater the average Pakistani who wants to benefit from this fast rising metropolis.