Buying Real Estate in Uzbekistan: In Central Asia that demonstrates global connectivity at CBRE and cross-border evaluation work for some of our largest global customers. In this blog, we wanted to shed light on Uzbekistan. Written in partnership with our partners in Kazakhstan, we explore the fundamentals of the country, the local real estate market, and prospects.
From silk road to reformed economy
Settled at the centers of the Silk Road, Uzbekistan is the most populated country in Central Asia with 34 million residents. Known for being strong in natural resources, it is one of the world’s largest generators of cotton and the second-largest exporter. Despite this, after the collapse of the USSR, the country’s economy struggled as it settled to live without Collective subsidies, slowing growth due to corruption and lack of reform.
To illustrate this, according to the World Bank, GDP per capita in Uzbekistan in 2018 was $ 1,532 compared to Kazakhstan of $ 9,812 – a country with half the population. However, this is changing under the government of President Mirziyoyev who has initiated a reform program to modernize the economy. In this blog, we look at the role that real estate is playing in it.
A real estate market ready for modernization
Like many countries in the CIS, the real estate market was scarce until the fall of the Soviet Union. Similar to the economy, the real estate market or we can say buying Real Estate in Uzbekistan required structural changes to create a competitive market to attract participants in all sectors. Tashkent is the largest city in the region with a population of 2.5 million people. Given that there have been many buildings since Soviet times, the city has long been ready for modernization.
The government is trying to achieve this by improving connections through several infrastructure projects. There are plans to introduce high-speed rail between Tashkent and Samarkand in cities such as Bukhara. Similarly, there is a plan to build a new airport in Tashkent by 2022, which is expected to increase the annual throughput to 10 million people. These infrastructure investments are supporting ambitious real estate projects in the country and Tashkent is currently undergoing a boom in construction as the government seeks to create a new hub for Central Asia.
In April 2020, a draft Master Plan for the redevelopment of Tashkent by 2041 was published. As per the plan, the government plans to increase the size of the city from 33,000 to 61,500 hectares to support population growth, which is set to reach 3.3 million by 2061. However, for this change is the Tashkent City Project – the redevelopment of one 40-hectare city center divided into eight areas, including a new business district, high-end residential living, and new retail and leisure offerings. Each area is being funded by a separate investor and developer and is planned to be fully completed by the fourth quarter of 2022.
Real estate boom by sector
This construction boom is being felt in all areas and it is affecting the real estate market by drastically increasing the current supply. Focusing on residential, office, and retail, we examine the impact on each area below:
Previously residential property in Tashkent was characterized by Soviet-era apartment buildings and detached single-story houses, accounting for 45% of the urban population. As part of Tashkent’s master plan, the developers want to significantly increase the existing stock. Currently standing at 47.5 m sqm, there are plans to increase the housing density in urban areas and increase it to 71.6 m sqm by reducing the share of low-rise housing. The city of Tashkent is set to distribute 480,000 sqm.
Typically, high-end residential range prices range between $ 1,100–1,300 / sqm, but prices are being quoted over $ 2,000 / sqm here.
However, to enable residential investment, the government has reduced control over the purchase of the real estate, and legislation was introduced in Q1 2020 to allow non-residents of Tashkent to purchase real estate for the first time. This is expected to increase investment in this area as individuals seek to purchase new construction housing. In turn, pricing is likely to increase as a result of increased demand.
Until recently, there was no standardized classification of offices in Uzbekistan; Often the building class declared by the landlord does not correspond to reality. This is changing as new developments are being drawn to international standards to attract a diverse tenant mix. Due to the varying standards of offices, rental rates range between $ 10–40 / sqm/month with c. $ 30 / sqm/month, and more is being obtained at good quality class space. The average occupancy rate for Class A and B office space in Tashkent is in the range of 80–90%. Also, the highest quality buildings with the best location have an occupancy rate of 95%.
200,000 square meters is currently under construction – most of which is part of the Tashkent City project and includes new buildings such as Nest One, Central Plaza, and Hyper Partners Center. Their deliveries are estimated to be almost double the current stock and, in turn, will help attract international companies to Uzbekistan. This is already demonstrated by the return of KPMG, as well as the arrival of Tange Bank and TBC Bank, an inherently growing demand for quality space. This is in addition to other corporates already operating in Uzbekistan, such as EY, PwC, Cisco, Toyota, and General Motors.
This trend is expected to continue as Uzbekistan’s economy grows and we expect that there will be strong demand from international companies for quality space. In turn, this may create an expansion in the market between high-quality and low-quality space, but it will attempt to establish a modern office market that is attractive to new entrants.
Historically, Uzbekistan’s retail market has been underdeveloped compared to other countries, as stock shortages have prevented retailers from entering. Low purchasing power and low penetration of international brands have contributed to the lack of development of Uzbek retail. To illustrate this, the availability of retail in Tashkent is equal to c. 35 sqm per 1,000 inhabitants but in Kazakhstan, it is 10x higher on average.
Efforts are underway to solve this, as more than 100,000 sqm of retail space is ready to come to market, the market volume has increased significantly. As part of Tashkent City, the construction of City Mall, the largest shopping center in Uzbekistan, is scheduled to be completed in 2022 and the Hyper Partners Center will form part of the mixed-use project.
Under the new development, reforms by the government such as simplifying the free currency conversion of the tax system, and liberalization of customs and tariff policy have allowed international brands to enter the country. For example, major Russian retailers such as Shkoladnitsa have entered the market, as well as Sportmaster who opened their first store in March 2020, and possibly Detsky Mir. Similarly, German brand Tom Taylor has opened a store, as well as KFC and Baskin Robbins. McDonald’s and Starbucks are expected to arrive soon.
Changes are also being reflected in the wider food sector. Improvements in the land law, namely the ability to bring non-agricultural land into private ownership from 2019, have accelerated the development of other Big Box stores. This is an example of Carrefour’s recent market penetration as it intends to open 7 stores in the country by 2022, creating 2,500 jobs.
This is important because it will provide greater diversification and sophistication in the market. It is expected that this trend will continue across the region as retailers seek to take advantage of consumer growth.
Know everything about Uzbekistan and guidance if you looking for Buying Real Estate in Uzbekistan at https://www.gov.uz/en