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Armenian Housing Crash Seen Differently by State, Private Realtors

When it comes to the housing market in Armenia, private and state realtors disagree on just how bad things are.

The country is still reeling from last month's economic upheaval -- on March 3, the Central Bank stopped supporting the Armenian currency, the dram, after it fell by more than 20 percent. Armenians call it their "Black Tuesday."

Before the crash, the country's economy was robust, with double-digit growth from 2002 through 2007.

Years of high property prices fueled a construction boom, which is booming no longer. State and private realtors, both struggling to price a surplus of homes, had given different takes on the country's housing market.

Private realtors tell RFE/RL's Armenian Service that housing prices are down some 30 to 40 percent, while a senior official with the state land registry, Ashot Muradian, says housing prices have actually risen by as much as 14 percent in areas outside the capital and the overall drop was only about 6 percent.

Real estate agent Vahan Danielian says that his agency just sold a one-room apartment in the capital -- going for $80,000 to $100,000 last fall -- for $40,000.

Apartments are seeing particularly heavy drops in price. Not only is the country's housing market in the tank, but many would-be apartment investors -- Armenians working abroad -- are tightening their belts "because there is a crisis abroad," says Torgom Hovannisian, deputy director of the real estate firm AS.

And what might the housing future hold? Realtors couldn't agree. Danielian said housing prices are still in free-fall, but Vahe Avetisian, director of the Shen property-evaluation agency, thinks that prices have hit rock-bottom. Once people realize that, he says, they will "start making transactions" and prices will "go up again."

-- Kristin Deasy

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